Fast forward a decade from now and 2020 is like to be a year heavily associated with the prevalence of carbon plated running shoes. The majority of shoe manufacturers using the technology for new releases seems to be growing every month and the discussion around Nike finding itself with a contender to the carbon plate throne continues to grow.
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Price: $199.99 | Weight: 259g/ 9.2oz (men) 206g/ 7.03oz (women) | Type: Road/Race | Stability: Neutral | Heel to toe drop: 8mm | Sizing: True to size | Alternatives: Hoka One One Carbon X, Brooks Hyperion Elite, Saucony Endorphin
Despite the fact it has a carbon plate, comparisons with the Nike Vaporfly Next% are limited when it comes to the FuelCell TC. As soon as you get hold of a pair, it's clear that it's not a lightweight shoe designed for race day. At 259 grams, and with and thick 30mm heel cushioning, the TC is a new kind of carbon plate shoe with a different focus.
The chunky overall build is more reminiscent of something like the Fresh Foam 1080v10 than Nike's speed shoe and it's more closely linked to the Zoom Fly than the Vaporfly, offering an all-round training shoe to New Balance's (hopefully) soon to be released FuelCell RC carbon plate racer.
The first release of the FuelCell TC comes in one colorway, a simple yet premium-looking black, white and blue design that features some nice detailing across the upper and outsole. It takes some elements from previous entries in the FuelCell range, including the exaggerated external wing on the outer side of each shoe.
Overall it's an attractive yet subtle look which doesn't particularly stand out but will inevitably be open to a series of new colorways in the coming months.
As well as the full-length carbon plate, the shoe incorporates FuelCell foam in the midsole, a healthy covering of rubber on the outsole forefoot and a breathable mesh upper.
From the first wear the FuelCell TC made an instant impression on us. Like with the Vaporfly Next% there's a noticeable bounce to every step and you can feel the benefits of the carbon plate straight away. It's an enjoyable experience that makes you feel like you're getting more from each step.
For slower training runs it offers a comfortable ride which makes you feel like you can go for longer, popping forward with a satisfying springiness. When you want to switch it up significantly and start to pick up the pace the FuelCell TC doesn't disappoint. The transition from comfort and enjoyment to speed is seamless and we've found that the shoe is a great option for faster sessions.
That said, it's important to note that if you're looking for a standalone lightweight racer, the FuelCell TC is a considerably bulkier option than what you'd expect from the Vaporfly or, we would assume, the FuelCell RC. It's a shoe designed to offer an all-round experience for the more general runner.
For most people it will deliver everything you need in a shoe and more, whether you're racing or covering long training runs. For elites, or people looking for marginal gains at race pace, it's a shoe for fast training that works alongside a lighter race option.
It's not often we try a shoe that instantly wins us over, but the FuelCell TC is a formidable piece of kit that delivers an exceptional all-round running experience. There really is nothing we didn't like about it and it's very quickly become our go-to road training shoe.
The fact that its aim is not to compete with the Vaporfly but to take carbon plate technology and apply it to more general usage makes it one of the standout shoe releases of the past few years. Carbon plate racers are very expensive and, for the more recreational runner, lack the durability that most of us might need when we're training.
The FuelCell TC offers a carbon plate option that's designed for anyone, showing that the technology has more benefits than a race day boost. At £180 it isn't cheap, but it'll last a lot longer than a race option and you can happily wear it for long training runs without the worry that you're spending money with every step.