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 Today, in the relentless pursuit of ultimate running shoe performance, New Balance are undoubtedly an innovative powerhouse with a strong fanbase. In this article, we’ll be looking back to the brands origins and more specifically, taking a deeper dive into the modern day classic FuelCell line up.

So, if you’re reading this wondering what exactly FuelCell foam is and which shoe you should choose for your rotation, keep reading. We’ve got you covered!

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WHERE IT ALL BEGAN

In 2021 New Balance is a household brand name held in high regard by many for a combination of performance and quality. However, the sporting giant was originally birthed as ‘New Balance Arch Support Company’ in 1906 in somewhat unique circumstances.

It is said that founder William J. Riley, an Irish immigrant residing in Boston, sought inspiration for his range of arch support inserts as a result of his fascination for the poise and balance displayed by… well, chickens. Noting the way they strutted across his garden with their three pronged feet, Riley’s first product would be a flexible arch support featuring three key support points.

Originally sold to those with demanding day jobs consisting of substantial time on feet, by 1960 New Balance arch support products gained popularity within the athletic arena. Ultimately, it was this user-based demand which led to the unveiling of the premiering New Balance shoe, the Trackster.

The Trackster was the first running shoe of its kind with a rippled outsole configuration for superior traction along with a variety of different widths to accommodate a broad athlete demographic. A trend New Balance remain at the forefront of today.

Despite the success of the brands first entry into the running shoe world, it wasn’t until the day of the 1972 Boston Marathon when current chairman Jim Davis purchased the company that things really began to pick up speed. The city of Boston had seen a meteoric rise in the popularity of recreational running, enabling New Balance to delve deeper into producing more shoes, for more runners with clearly defined purposes.

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THE EVOLUTION OF FUELCELL FOAM

You should ascertain by now that convention defying innovation has been at the core of New Balance from the beginning. With the first implementation of revolutionary FuelCell foam in 2019, the brand set out to lead from the front once again helping all runners find their fast.

It’s no secret that the arms race to produce the ultimate race ready shoe has been raging for a few years now. The common denominator? A carbon plate of some description sandwiched within the midsole. However, it is now widely believed that most of those magical properties we’ve all come to love are far more a direct result of the midsole foam compound itself, whilst the plate serves to provide stability and propulsion.

So, what exactly is FuelCell foam and how does it work? FuelCell is a nitrogen infused TPU foam compound offering incredible versatility with enough protection for the long run whilst remaining responsive enough for track sessions. A highly skilled team from the New Balance Innovation Design Studio analysed top athletes’ biomechanics down to 1 10th of a second identifying three focus points. Impact protection, transition through the gait cycle and toe off.

With that being said, let’s take a look at the current crop from the New Balance FuelCell line up to explore how they can fit into your weekly running rotation!  

NEW BALANCE FUELCELL REBEL V2

The New Balance Fuelcell Rebel V2 is a lightweight, exceptionally versatile, neutral daily trainer well suited for every day runs and tasty tempo sessions a like.

The original New Balance Rebel was one of the premiering high performance trainers featuring FuelCell foam back in 2019, and it was a hit. Weighing in at less than 205g with a 6mm drop, the Rebel V2 keeps the DNA that fans of the original loved, whilst adding a further 2mm of stack to the midsole and a totally redesigned upper for added comfort and breathability.

It is always a highly risky move for a brand to tinker with such a successful model. We runners are a picky bunch and often don’t take too kindly to change. However, as you may have seen from YouTube reviews and running blogs far and wide, the New Balance Rebel V2 has gone down like a house on fire and right up there as a 2021 shoe of the year contender. And its only June.

If you’re a neutral runner who enjoys a super soft cushioned ride looking for that perfect do it all shoe, the Rebel V2 should be on your radar.

SHOP NEW BALANCE FUELCELL REBEL V2

NEW BALANCE FUELCELL PRISM V2

If there is one thing that could be said about FuelCell as a compound, for the runner who requires that bit of extra support, the compliancy of the foam may lead to stability issues and premature midsole compression. Enter the New Balance FuelCell Prism V2.

The Prism shares many of the characteristics that make the Rebel V2 and other offerings a pure joy to run in but with the addition of a modest helping of stability. You’ll find an unintrusive medial post comprised of a firmer density foam on the Prism to offer a more assured stride whilst maintaining a soft, bouncy and remarkably lightweight running experience.

For a subtle support shoe that’s both light enough and cushioned enough for whatever you throw at it, the New Balance FuelCell Prism V2 is a fantastic option!

SHOP NEW BALANCE FUELCELL PRISM  

Prism v2

NEW BALANCE FUELCELL PROPEL V2

Now, we don’t mean to dive too far down the running shoe nerd rabbit hole but when it comes to FuelCell foam, the compound itself can be finely tuned for different models which in turn, impacts the durometer or ‘softness’ of the shoe underfoot.

The FuelCell midsole found in the Propel V2 has a slightly firmer, more responsive feel to some of the aforementioned shoes on our list. Weighing in at 271g, the Propel V2 is still well on the lighter side of daily trainers in a similar category.

Your foot will be met with a warm hug like fit thanks to the bootie construction of the upper and solid rubber outsole coverage combined with NDurance heel technology provides superior durability in those pesky typical high wear areas.

At a tastefully bank balance pleasing RRP of £100, the New Balance FuelCell Propel V2 is a wonderful weapon for your running shoe rotation on the days when you feel like upping the tempo.

SHOP NEW BALANCE FUELCELL PROPEL V2

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NEW BALANCE FUELCELL TC

In the current age of running super shoes, it has never been more vital for a brand to provide an adept, more durable training companion to its top tier race day offering. Aptly named the ‘TC’, standing for training & competition, the New Balance FuelCell TC is exactly that.

The FuelCell RC Elite, which we’ll get into shortly, is New Balance’s bonified super shoe with all the traits you’d expect from a modern-day marathon racer. The FuelCell TC shares many of those characteristics with a 30mm/20mm stack of beautifully plush FuelCell foam in the midsole for a 10mm drop, a lightweight mono-mesh upper and full-length carbon fibre plate. Where things differ is on the outsole, where the TC features more hard-wearing rubber coverage for increased durability.

At around 280g, the FuelCell TC is catered more towards training than out and out racing, as the name would suggest. In our opinion, it’s no bad thing to train in a slightly heavier shoe for that mental edge come race day but the TC could absolutely be a fantastic race ready option for those who prefer a slightly more robust and stable feel.

Overall, the New Balance FuelCell TC is as good as it gets as a harmonious training partner to the RC Elite V2 and more than capable of helping you through those big daunting speed sessions.

SHOP NEW BALANCE FUELCELL TC

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NEW BALANCE FUELCELL RC ELITE V2

Now, this is the big one. The original FuelCell RC Elite made some serious noise in the running scene with a super lightweight construction and unbelievably forgiving underfoot feel coupled with a carbon late. However, feedback consistently centred around the desire for a little more stack height and a refined fit.
With the all-new New Balance Fuelcell RC Elite V2, the brand have taken on these real runners insights to totally revamp the shoe and by all accounts, it seems they’ve nailed it.

A roomier forefoot and toe box area provides a more accommodating fit when compared to its predecessor, perfect for when the feet begin to swell on those long, hard efforts. The heel counter features surprisingly plush cushioning and a slight flair to maximise comfort and avoid any achilles rubbing.

Getting down to where the magic really happens, let’s talk about the FuelCell midsole and believe me, there’s a lot of it. You’ll find a whopping 39mm stack height in the heel and 31mm in the forefoot for ultimate protection when you need it most. The carbon plate sandwiched within the midsole has also been finely tuned for prolific propulsive properties (that was a mouthful) throughout the gait cycle.

The FuelCell RC Elite V2 will be found on the feet of some of the world’s elite distance runners this summer and we think it could prove a real contender for the carbon plated racer throne.

SHOP NEW BALANCE FUELCELL RC ELITE V2

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NEW BALANCE LERATO

The New Balance Lerato is the newest addition to the growing FuelCell family. With carbon plates common practice in race day shoes, New Balance are switching the script with the Lerato creating a durable, daily trainer utilising the proven efficiency gains from a carbon plate to soak up those miles and leave your legs feeling fresh as a daisy after pounding the pavement.

A highly stylised, luxury design orientated, premium shoe which absolutely screams quality from the moment you lay eyes on it. New Balance made a statement when they released the 990 back in 1982 as the first running shoe to cost more than $100. The Lerato almost feels like a modern-day update to a classic concept incorporating materials found only in the highest performing footwear.

It is certainly not the lightest shoe on the roster coming in at 334g, but with substantial outsole coverage and no expense spared construction, it’s sure to last for many hundreds of joyful miles.

SHOP NEW BALANCE LERATO

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New Balance continue to be a real force in the increasingly competitive running shoe market with a vast selection of acclaimed releases. You can explore the full New balance running collection today at Pro:Direct Running.

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Tom Folan

My names Tom, former professional football freestyler turned long distance runner. As a self-proclaimed running shoe aficionado, I love keeping up with the latest performance innovation and product releases almost as much as I enjoy running in them. With a running specialty retail background, I hope to provide some valuable insight and aid you in finding your next favourite item of running kit!
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