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New Balance FuelCell RC Elite 2

New Balance FuelCell RC Elite 2

Looking for a soft, cushioned responsive racing shoe? Look no further than the New Balance FuelCell RC Elite 2. By combining marshmallow-like cushion with an aggressively shaped carbon fiber plate, this shoe is a contender for the most comfortable super-shoe on the market.

With more than 30mm of FuelCell cushioning it's comfortable enough for a daily trainer, but light enough to race with. 

One of our reviewers said, the "midsole is where all the magic and voodoo is at. It's like if a marshmallow and a trampoline had a baby, and then that baby grew up and had a baby with the Nike Vaporfly Next%." 

They weren't wrong. 

Similar in both drop and stack height to the Nike VaporFly Next% and Saucony Endorphin Pro, it's sure to be a familiar sight at starting lines this year. 

New Balance FuelCell RC Elite 2

SUPPORT: Neutral
HEEL TO TOE OFFSET: 8mm (39mm/31mm)
WEIGHT: 6.3oz/179g women's, 8.3oz/235g men's
USE: Everyday trainer, road running, racing
SURFACE: Road, track, urban

New Balance FuelCell RC Elite 2

 

FIT

Matt: The fit of this shoe as a whole is ALMOST perfect. Now, when I say almost, take it with a grain of salt because my foot is not yours and I have my own funky shape going on. Starting with the toebox, it is soooooo wonderful. I mean compared to other super-shoes, it's like going from a studio apartment to a 2 bed 2 bath residential home in a nice upper-class neighborhood. I have an average to SLIGHTLY wide foot and I felt completely accommodated in this forefoot. Length is spot on. The midfoot is where, for me, there was a little bit of snugness right over the arch on the top of my foot at the base of the tongue. I had this same feeling in the Rebelv1 and the 1080v10. The Rebelv1 was unusable for me because of this, but in this model it's almost not there, and halfway through my first run I didn't even feel it. By my second run I must have broke the shoe in because I don't feel it now at all. Lastly, the tongue is fine and has no movement, but it does almost feel like it was a foregone thought. A gusset would add to it's overall perfection, but once again, it's almost a moot complaint with how great this shoe is overall. I feel like the minor discrepancies mentioned are fairly negligible and more than likely will only pertain to me and a very very small minority of individuals. If you have similar issues with New Balance as I have mentioned, then this shoe is mild in comparison and still 100% worth the ride. 110% worth the ride. It's just of note, but I'd still be more than comfortable recommending this shoe for anyone of any running performance level. 

Okay people, this midsole is where all the magic and voodoo is at. It's like if a marshmallow and a trampoline had a baby, and then that baby grew up and had a baby with the Nike Vaporfly Next%. It's THAT good. In all seriousness, the best way I can describe the feeling of this midsole would be that of a perfect cross between Nike's React and ZoomX foams. Maybe a little more dense than ZoomX, but it takes nothing away from the dynamic and fun feel you would and should expect from a high-end super shoe. The density also lends to a higher durability. That being said, this shoe is suuuuuper soft. If shoes can feel like butter, this shoe is like room temp margarine. ON POINT New Balance!

The sizing of this shoe is absolute perfection. Not too long, not too short. Right on the $$$.

Kayla: I normally have to wear a wide shoe but the normal width of the RC Elite 2 was roomy enough to accommodate my feet. The upper was very breathable and smooth. The midfoot felt comfortable; I was impressed with how smooth it felt.

Despite the roomy feel in the toe box the heel cup felt snug and secure. I did not notice any slippage during my runs. The sizing felt perfect, not too long, not too short.

I didn’t notice the tongue on the shoe which to me is a win. The tongue of the shoe shouldn’t be something we notice running so I appreciated that.

It was SOFT! It was a weird combination of super soft with a stiff midsole.

Keith: The toebox fits my foot nicely. It definitely has that racing shoe shape but it is pretty high volume. If you truly have a wide foot, you will probably feel a squeeze on your pinky toe. The midfoot feels amazing. The arch hits in the perfect spot and cradles the foot for tons of comfort and support for miles! The heel cup is the same. It really wraps the heel in softness and provides a locked in feel. The tongue is so thin and soft with just a hint of padding so the laces feel comfortable on the instep. The upper on this shoe has a thoughtful design that is well constructed. It is ultra thin in the toe, as in you can see your foot through it, while it has a little bit tighter weave through the midfoot which provides a secure wrap-around feel. The heel counter is firm enough to add to that locked in feel of the heel cup, whereas the ankle collar is plush and I love the way this shoe flares out in the back of the ankle to cradle the Achilles tendon.

Like running on roads made of marshmallow fluff!! The cushioning in this shoe is so soft that it kind of blows my mind how much response I got from it. The heel is especially squishy. So much so that I can crush it with just my hand, like a stress ball. Combining this cushion with an aggressively shaped carbon fiber plate makes this a contender for the most comfortable supershoe on the market.

Erica: The toebox is smaller, pointed; the heel cup snug, perfect. The tongue is thin, a neoprene-like material. Upper is mesh, very thin yet supportive. Very breathable for warm weather. I found the laces difficult to pull tight. 

The cushioning is very soft and spongy, especially under my forefoot. Not much contact with ground but allowing you to run on pavement without any strain or disruption to foot strike/stride.

To me, these run slightly small.

 

New Balance FuelCell RC Elite 2

 

STABILITY

Matt: Stability wise, this shoe is heads and tails above the rest of the super-shoes thus far. For the stack-height and the durometer feel you get out of this shoe, it's very impressive how stable you feel going on runs of all speeds and lengths. That being said, you aren't going to be able to just corner on a dime, but you definitely don't have to think about your form near as much in this shoe as others in the same category. You for sure feel like a giraffe, but you know, not a newborn giraffe.

Kayla: The shoe does not feel stable in my opinion. The stack height of the shoe made for an unstable run.

Keith: Feels stable in the forefoot, but not so much in the heel.

Erica: I felt minimal stability in this shoe.

 

New Balance FuelCell RC Elite 2

 

SPEED

Matt: This is a fast shoe. Not the fastest, but it is a very fast shoe. It wouldn't be my first pick for a 5k or a 10k RACE just based on sheer responsiveness, but anything above that distance it is for sure in my top 3. (Alphafly, Vaporfly, RC Elite 2.) The difference here is that this shoe is much more universal feeling. I feel like if I wanted to treat myself, I could totally take this for something as mellow as a recovery run and it will do the job in spades. Whereas with other super shoes, it almost feels off to run slowly or moderately. Not this shoe. The RC Elite 2 as you covered no matter how lazy you feel during run time.

Kayla: I think this is a prefect racing shoe. I ran a quick 5k for my first run and loved the shoe. I think this shoe is built for tempo and racing speeds, that’s where it shines. Several days later I ran an easy long run pace and did not enjoy the feel of the shoes. It wasn’t painful but definitely did not feel as excited about them as I did my first day. I don’t know if it was just too much shoe or too soft of a feel, but something didn’t feel right.

Keith: This shoe is best suited for anyone racing a half marathon, marathon or even beyond, although it is totally comfortable at any distance and any pace.

Erica: Racing 10k or more. Long interval speed workouts.

 

New Balance FuelCell RC Elite 2

 

COMPARISON

Matt: Let's be honest, we all compare these super shoes to the OG Vaporfly Next%. This model in particular is, in my humble opinion, as close to the Next% as anything out there. It is a little more dense and slightly heavier, but as aforementioned, it does lend to a higher level of durability than that of the Next%. It has a better and more breathable upper than the OG Next%, and the jury is still out for me on the upper of the Next% 2 as I have not had a chance to review it. The fit is vastly superior to the Next% as I felt the Next% was a little short in the length. If I was hard-pressed to choose between the Next% and the RC Elite 2, I would have to choose the RC Elite 2 strictly for overall comfort. You just get that same dynamic midsole feel but with more upper accommodation. Now if I was pushing for a PB (personal best), it would be a toss-up and I can't in all honesty decide, even now. I suppose I'd strap one of each to each foot and call it a day.

Kayla: I think this shoe is comparable to a lot of other super-shoes. Its like a New Balance 1080 but with a carbon plate. It’s softer than many shoes in the Saucony Endorphin series.

Keith: The shoe that I immediately compared this to when I put it on was the Nike Alphafly Next%, mainly because of the softness. While I would say the Alphafly may edge the RC Elite 2 in bounce, the RC Elite 2 felt much more comfortable overall, and I can actually take a corner in them without stutter stepping or fearing a blown out ankle. Other comparisons would be the Nike Vaporfly Next% 2, Saucony Endorphin Pro, Hoka Carbon Rocket, Brooks Hyperion Elite.

Erica: Brooks Hyperion Elite and Saucony Endorphin Pro are the most comparable to me.

 

New Balance FuelCell RC Elite 2

 

PREVIOUS VERSIONS

Matt: In comparison to it's predecessor, this shoe is above and beyond better. They went forward for the best on everything BUT the forefoot outsole. I really liked the forefoot outsole on the RC Elite v1 as it was super aggressive and seemingly could tackle just about anything with some real BITE to it. This shoe has more stack and a much more gentle feeling outsole, but this does pay homage to it's buttery smooth transitions. The stability in the RC Elite 2 is drastically better than the v1, even despite the extra foam. The v1 outsole had rubber that was longer in the heel on the lateral side than that of the medial side. So when you'd hit your heel, you would feel fine until transitioning past the medial rubber into midsole, whereas the lateral rubber was still offering some firmness which would jar you into pronation as you fell into the soft foam on the inside. The v1 was definitely meant for strict forefoot striking, despite the uber-soft heel. The RC Elite 2 is far more universally appeasing in that regard, as the heel is vastly superior in it's smooth transitions and its fairly equivalent length outsole rubber on it's respective sides. To summarize, this shoe pretty much throws the v1 into extinction as far as I'm concerned!

Keith: The RC Elite 2 gets a big overhaul in cushioning, traction, and outsole from version 1. New Balance maximized cushioning by adding 7mm of stack height to v2 giving it a whopping 39mm of stack in the heel and 31mm in the forefoot. They also lowered the drop from 10mm to 8mm while changing the shape of the carbon fiber plate to a more swooping shape. The forefoot gets a more traditional slab of rubber to replace v1's rubber mini-cleats.

 

New Balance FuelCell RC Elite 2

 

WHAT WE THINK

Matt: In the week I have had this shoe, I've run anywhere from 5k recovery runs to a half-marathon tempo day. Perfect roll at all speeds and just such a nice soft bounce. As said before, this shoe doesn't have a favorite pace or distance whatsoever. Just a strict universal badassery. 

In conclusion, I would recommend this shoe for anyone with two feet. And I say that just for the sake of the saying, because even if you have one foot, this shoe will have you hopping along happily and with baby smooth transition. More generally speaking, shoe is for anyone with 225$ and a new shoe itch to scratch. Far and away worth the money!

Kayla: My first run in these shoes was WOW! I headed out for a couple quick miles midweek and found myself hitting race paces almost effortlessly. I understand why runners use shoes like these to compete in. I was extremely excited after that first run.

My second run, a longer one, wasn’t painful or unpleasant but it didn’t leave me with those butterflies I felt after my first run. I could feel weight of the cushion as I passed 6 or 7 miles, something that I didn’t expect or like. The drop and the stack height if the shoe made me a little unsteady. A 10mm drop is a lot for me as I normally max out at 4mm.

This shoe is for a runner serious about setting PRs. I would recommend this shoe to someone looking to cut time or qualify for a race. Personally I wouldn’t run farther than a half-marathon in the shoes but it might be perfect for long distance runners that want the soft feel.
 

Keith: The RC Elite 2 may be the most enjoyable carbon plated racer I have put on my feet yet! While it is not the most responsive shoe I have run in, it's up there. Combine the performance of this shoe with the comfort provided by the cushion and upper; let's just say I caught myself daydreaming about my next run in them! They felt great on my easy runs and for some fast intervals and Strava chasing sessions, but the real test was a back roads half marathon in which they performed superbly, with the exception of picking up a large rock in the midsole cutout. Aside from that minor inconvenience, the new rubber outsole was grippy and protective on everything but the loosest gravel. At the longer distance I felt incredibly smooth from one stride to the next and my foot strikes were as light and springy at the end of my run as they were at the beginning. My legs were left fresh enough that I didn't feel like taking my usual post long-run rest day and I was able to hit the roads again for some bonus weekly mileage. I am extremely excited to reach for these on an upcoming race day!

This shoe is for anyone who doesn't want to sacrifice comfort for a PR. It is best suited as a marathon racing shoe and I would reach for it in a heartbeat for anything beyond the marathon. I 100% recommend this shoe.

Erica: First few steps were mind blowing although I knew I couldn't judge the shoe by a few steps. So light and fluffy! This is the lightest shoe I've ever put on my foot. I went for a 4 mile tempo paced run and wore thin socks to absorb the shoe fully. It was a warm day and the mesh, thin upper allowed my foot to breath. No hot feet! I did some strides after to get a total feel for quick cadence and speed. The shoe didn't propel me forward like some racing shoes but it did provide an absorbing, bouncy forefoot that allowed me to increase my speed and cadence without effort. I ran on pavement, grass and dirt road and didn't feel much different as far as fatigue or the effort from my feet. Toe box was a snug fit, pointy - not ideal for me. One may want to try a 1/2 size bigger. Overall highly recommended for long distance racing or longer repeats/tempo runs.

I recommend this shoe for serious marathoners, 1/2 marathoners, 10k racers, collegiate athletes looking for tempo and long repeats, and anyone needing a general workout shoe.

 

MEET YOUR REVIEWERS

Matt blog pic

Matt

28 year old
Wears men's size 10.5
My name is Matt Leftwich, I’m 28 and I have been running since 2017. I have come to love it more and more everyday, and although it started out as a hobby, it has grown to become a strong passion in my life. I run anywhere from 30-50 miles a week on average, all varying paces. I have a sub 6 minute 5k PR, and I have yet to run an official marathon, although the distance is not foreign to me. Running helps me to manage the general stresses and anxieties of the day, and adds a sense of structure to my schedule and overall being. Running takes the mundane away, and gives full control for as long as is manageable. It’s not always easy, but running favors courage and callouses pain amidst it’s own hurt. To have the ability to lace some shoes up, and go run 5 miles, or 10 miles, or 20 miles, is one of the most liberating and primal feelings available to us as humans. And that freedom is literally in our hands, on our feet, and right outside our doors. 

 

Kayla blog pic

Kayla

28 year old
Wears women's size 8.5
I love running pretty much everywhere. One of my favorite things to do on vacation is explore the town in my running shoes! I started running in college 10 years ago. I’ve worked at Running Lab for about eight years on and off between undergrad and grad school. I love the conversations and adventures I have with my running friends.

Keith blog pic

Keith

37 year old
Wears men's size 11
Running has always been a part of my life. When I was younger it was mainly a way to stay in shape for soccer; running track in the off-season was a way to train hard and stay competitive. I liked it, but it wasn't until my first marathon in my late 20's that I really fell in love with running. Since then I have completed 7 marathons and a 50 mile ultra while also competing in countless 5k, 10k, and half-marathon races. I enjoy running just about anywhere except the treadmill. I prefer trails in the woods to the road and my favorite spot is the Corsair Trail System in the Huron National Forest near East Tawas, MI. I also frequent the many trails we have in Southeast Michigan. I currently work at Running Lab and have worked there for a total of just over 2 years. My favorite thing about running is that it can be super competitive yet the running community is so supportive of each other.

 

Erica blog pic

Erica

48 year old
Wears women's size 9.5
I am a life long runner beginning in middle school, moved on to excel in HS as an all state XC and track athlete followed by Division 1 opportunity at Western Michigan University. At WMU I was on a MAC championship XC team and participated at Drake relays. As an adult I continued my passion for running with Sprint triathlons and 2 time Boston Marathon finisher. Now I'm on my 10th year of coaching, starting with Girls on the Run, middle school track and HS XC and track.

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