By Jesper Petersen
By Jacob Halle
New Balance FuelCell TC is New Balance’s first take at a competition running shoe with built-in carbon fiber plate. We have tested the shoe for the past couple of weeks, and in this review you will get our honest opinion on the shoe. You can also read our comparison with other carbon plate running shoes like the Nike Vaporfly Next%, Nike Zoom Fly 3 and Hoka One One Carbon X.
Even before we commenced on the testing, we knew that the New Balance FuelCell TC would not be a direct competitor to the Nike Vaporfly Next%. “TC” in FuelCell TC is an acronym for “Training and Competition”, and while the Nike Vaporfly Next% is purely a competition shoe, the New Balance FuelCell TC is a shoe designed for BOTH training and competition. Therefore, it weighs around 50 grams more than the Nike Vaporfly Next% but you will, on the other hand, get SIGNIFICANTLY greater durability. That is a compromise.
In September New Balance will release an Elite version of the FuelCell TC, which will be named New Balance FuelCell RC and it will (at least on paper) match the Nike Vaporfly Next%.
But enough on that, since this review is about the New Balance FuelCell TC. And we can already spoil, that it is an exceptional running shoe that meets the (high) expectations.
The shoe is white, and, in my personal opinion, all race shoes should be white! It simply does something to me mentally. But as aesthetically pleasing it is from above (with the NB logo on top of the shoe), as equally boring is it from the side where nothing exciting happens design-wise. It is a shame, but it is still beautiful. New Balance has once again created a really comfortable running shoe. It fits exactly like it should – tight around the heel and forefoot but in a very nice way. You barely feel that you are wearing it. When I then started running in it, I realised that it is a bit heavier than normal tempo shoes. It weighs in at 258 grams (9oz) in a size 42 (UK size 8) which is mainly due to the very thick midsole and the relatively great amount of durable rubber on the outsole.
This does not hugely affect the performance. It is still explosive!
I agree with Jacob, that it is extremely cool to look at when you glance down at your feet. Other than that, the first thing that hit me was how EXTREMELY soft and springy it is under the heel. It even feels wild just WALKING around in the forest.
New Balance FuelCell TC - Upper
We are dealing with an exceptionally breathable mesh upper, which cools the foot nicely throughout longer runs and simultaneously directs sweat away from the foot. It is comfortable, sits nicely on the foot, and is very lightweight. Three important ingredients for a good tempo shoe, which you will be wearing over longer distances.
The upper is super thin and obviously very breathable. On my first run, I was struggling a bit with getting a handle on the lacing and the fit of the shoe. I think the shoe is quite roomy (especially for a tempo shoe). And therefore, I needed to tighten it nicely to get a tight grip around the foot. I actually had to stop twice to adjust the lacing in order to get a proper fit. But once I learnt how tight it needs to be laced over the instep, it fits really well. And like Jacob mentioned, you barely recognise that you are wearing it.
New Balance FuelCell TC - Midsole
This is where the magic happens in the new New Balance FuelCell TC. The soft and springy FuelCell foam and the stiff carbon plate in the full-length of the shoe combined gives it a fantastic explosive feel from the very first step! It automatically guides you forward. This happens in particular when you reach the very front part of the foot. One small negative thing is when you ‘fall back’ and land with full weight on the heel, it then gets very soft and you sink down quite a lot, which makes the run even heavier – but luckily, it is all just a matter of keeping oneself on the front foot and maintaining quick feet.
I am a great fan of this FuelCell material, which New Balance has included in the midsole on many of their newer running shoes in the Tempo category. It has an extreme level of BOUNCE, which ensures you get a really engaging running experience. And the combination of FuelCell and the carbon plate, simply makes the experience even better. As Jacob says, the shoe feels very soft and maybe even TOO soft if you land directly on the very back of the heel. Most runners do this (me included) when you run at a slower pace. Therefore, it is quite evident that this shoe is made for tempo run, i.e. run at higher pace. As soon as I pick up the pace, I feel the complete effect of the springy FuelCell foam and the exciting carbon plate. I then roll faster onto the ball of the foot, and will not end up applying too much pressure to the material under the heel. At a higher pace, I really feel the shoe ’bounces’ me forward and, without measuring it, I feel like I am taking longer strides when I run in the FuelCell TC. I launch off the ground more powerfully and glide a little longer. And this is even without it feeling any bit harder! That is a wild experience.
New Balance FuelCell TC - Outsole
In my opinion, the outsole has a bit too much durable rubber on the very front part of the shoe, which also affects the weight. The back of the foot is scarce with rubber, which has instead been incorporated into the midsole.
I agree with Jacob, that there is a great amount of durable rubber under the forefoot, and there is no doubt in my mind that this makes the shoe heavier than it could have been. Conversely, this also makes the shoe SIGNIFICANTLY more durable than most other carbon racers on the market. Without worrying too much about wearing the shoe out too quickly, you can easily run in this shoe several times a week. I would never recommend doing that with, for instance, the Nike Vaporfly, which is too fragile (and too expensive) for this.
Where does the New Balance FuelCell TC work best?
In the name New Balance FuelCell TC is the acronym “TC”, which stands for “Training and Competition”. Therefore, it is naturally best for the quick runs. I have tested it on the racetrack, short tempo runs, and long tempo runs. It functions really well on any distance-running, and it has become my new preferred shoe for the quicker workout runs. I would definitely not use it for the slower-paced jogging, as it is a strange experience, and I would instead stick to other models with greater shock absorption and stability.
I have also been testing the New Balance FuelCell TC in various runs: high intensity intervals, 5k and 10k tempo runs, and marathon-pace. But also slow recovery runs. And as we have mentioned a couple of times, it is indeed a running shoe for the quick runs. To me, it performs the utmost at half marathon and marathon-pace, where I can simply cruise ahead. The shoe performs an exceptional protection and comfort when I run long distances. And in comparison with other more traditional tempo shoes, I feel remarkably less sore in the legs when I get home from a run in FuelCell TC. Therefore, in my opinion, it is almost the perfect running shoe for half marathons or marathons, but also as a training shoe on the journey up to the run itself.
Keep in mind, however, if you are running a route with a lot of twists and turns, the New Balance FuelCell TC will not be the greatest pick. The high and soft sole seems unstable when you make a sharp turn, in which case you need to be extra careful not to twist your ankle.
Comparison: New Balance FuelCell TC vs. Nike Vaporfly Next%
I have heard a lot about the Nike Vaporfly Next%, and I was therefore really excited to test the New Balance FuelCell TC, and compare the two shoes.
Left: New Balance FuelCell TC. Right: Nike Vaporfly Next%.
When a brand releases a new shoe with a built-in carbon plate, it is always relevant to compare it with the Vaporfly, since that is the feeling and pace everyone is chasing. The FuelCell TC is, however, not exactly on that level. The weight is too great and the softness in the midsole is perhaps a bit too spongy – if you can phrase it like that. But the New Balance FuelCell TC’s overall running feel, is the closest you will get to the Nike Vaporfly. It will, therefore, be an obvious training shoe for the ones who already own the Nike Vaporfly, and do not wish to needlessly wear them out.
Left: New Balance FuelCell TC. Right: Nike Vaporfly Next%.
As previously mentioned, the FuelCell TC is not meant to be a direct competitor to the Nike Vaporfly. (The elite model, New Balance FuelCell RC, will be released later this year). I would probably instead compare it to a shoe like the Nike Pegasus Turbo, which is one of my favourite shoes for the faster runs, as it tempo-wise comes good. In this category, I believe the New Balance is on par with the Nike Pegasus Turbo and perhaps the FuelCell TC is even slightly better!
Left: Nike Vaporfly Next%. Right: New Balance FuelCell TC.
Comparison: New Balance FuelCell TC vs. Nike Zoom Fly 3
I have, in contrast to Jacob, not tried running in the Nike Vaporfly Next% but I have, on the other hand, run many kilometres in two other shoes with built-in carbon fibre plate: Nike Zoom Fly 3 and Hoka One One Carbon X.
Type-wise the New Balance FuelCell TC and Nike Zoom Fly 3 seem very comparable. Both shoes are quick tempo shoes, which are good for competitions, but at the same time durable enough for using them in training. The FuelCell midsole is, however, in my opinion a lot better than the React midsole in the Nike Zoom Fly 3! It is softer but springier and engaging to run in.
Left: New Balance FuelCell TC. Right: Nike Zoom Fly 3.
Comparison: New Balance FuelCell TC vs. Hoka One One Carbon X
Both the New Balance FuelCell TC and the Hoka One One Carbon X have a carbon plate in the full-length of the shoe. The two shoes, however, feel quite different under the foot. The New Balance FuelCell TC feels very, very soft and springy while the Hoka One One Carbon X feels quite hard and rigid under the foot. The New Balance FuelCell TC has more of a ‘bounce’ effect, while the Hoka One One Carbon X has a stiffer and more tough sole, which gives an effective and quick roll under the foot.
Performance-wise I do not feel that there is a great difference between the two shoes. Therefore, if you have to pick between the two shoes, the choice is whether you prefer a very soft shoe (FuelCell TC) or a more firm shoe (Carbon X).
Top: New Balance FuelCell TC. Bottom: Hoka One One Carbon X.
New Balance has really managed to pull it off with their first carbon plate running shoe. I am indeed a big fan, and look very much forward to when their Elite race model is released! Whether they will eventually catch up with Nike shall be left unsaid, but one can hope – in any case, they have a great foundation with this FuelCell TC. The New Balance FuelCell TC will definitely make an entrance in my rotation between running shoes, and it is without a doubt one of the coolest tempo running shoes I have ever tried.
I think, like Jacob, that New Balance has done a brilliant job with the FuelCell TC. It is simply a great running shoe, which I will be running plenty of kilometres in henceforth! In my eyes, it is something near the perfect tempo and competition shoe for the casual jogger and the serious runner who wishes for a soft, engaging, and pacey running shoe. The elite runners and super joggers (for whom every second counts) will probably prefer the upcoming New Balance FuelCell RC for competitions. But as a training shoe for all the quick runs, the New balance FuelCell TC would be an obvious pick.
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