The New Balance FuelCell RC Elite v2 is the long-awaited second generation of the brand's full-length carbon plate race shoe. Like its predecessor, it's a shoe designed for race day, incorporating a host of features for runners looking to hit PBs.
The most noticeable feature of the shoe is the thick wedge of Fuelcell midsole cushioning built to deliver a high level of bounce and responsiveness on race day. That midsole foam works alongside the full-length carbon plate to provide energy efficiency and comfort.
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The shoe has also seen an aesthetic overhaul in terms of both color and detailing, making it one of the most eye-catching options you're likely to see at the start line of a race.
We've been putting the New Balance FuelCell RC Elite v2 through its paces over 40 miles of running. Is it worth investing in as your next race shoe? Let's take a look.
The original FuelCell RC Elite received a great deal of praise when it was released in 2020 and offered a vision of the future that wasn't dominated by Nike's Vaporfly and Alphafly options.
New Balance has taken learnings from the original FuelCell RC Elite and made a number of updates to the FuelCell RC Elite v2, to the point where the design and style of the shoe are more reminiscent of the original than a direct follow-up.
The most significant update is in the form of the FuelCell foam that now gives the shoe a stack of 39mm. The foam is noticeably softer than the previous version and makes it one of the softest options out then when it comes to race day.
To save on weight produced from the increased stack height New Balance has removed a large chunk of foam in the central section of the shoe.
Like the FuelCell RC Elite, there's a full-length carbon plate that's designed to help propel runners forward and deliver an efficient and propulsive toe-off.
The upper is made from a breathable knit that's similar to that found in most lightweight race shoes, and also combines a good level of reinforcement and padding around the heel collar.
There's also a generous covering of rubber across the forefoot of the midsole foam to promote durability and a lighter section of rubber in the rear of the shoe.
As you'd expect from the appearance of the FuelCell RC Elite v2, it's an incredibly soft shoe. The midsole foam is by far one of the squishiest options available at the moment, gently sinking the foot into the ground with each step.
However, unlike the Nike Alphafly Next%, the combination of the foam with the full-length carbon plate is a noticeably subtler experience. Although the soft material offers a high level of cushioning, the carbon plate is almost indiscernible as you run. That is by no means a bad thing, but it is different from what we've come to expect from most carbon plate super shoes.
Over long distance efforts at any pace, the FuelCell RC Elite v2 takes the brunt of the impact almost seamlessly, protecting the legs and keeping them fresh for many miles. It's an enjoyable experience that almost makes you feel like you're floating along the road.
Despite that soft bounce, the shoe doesn't feel like it's propelling you forward in the same way that you'll find in the Nike ZoomX Vaporfly Next%. It's a more relaxed benefit that promotes a fluid, comfortable experience as opposed to pushing you forward. ‚Äď something that makes the shoe better suited to longer distance racing than short efforts at full pelt.
The FuelCell RC Elite v2 is a joy to wear whether you're racing or heading out for a slow training running, although you probably want to minimise daily training miles in it due to the durability of the foam.
Comfort doesn't just come from the midsole foam. The upper design manages to balance a generous, breathable fit whilst having enough structure and support to feel secure. We were especially impressed with the firm feel of the heel section and cushioning around the collar of the shoe.
The New Balance FuelCell RC Elite v2 is an impressive upgrade to the previous version of the shoe and delivers an incredibly soft and enjoyable ride over longer distance race efforts. Comparisons with the Nike ZoomX Vaporfly Next% and Nike Air Zoom Alphafly NEXT% are inevitable, but the New Balance FuelCell RC Elite v2 is a shoe with a different focus ‚Äď promoting a consistent and enjoyable motion that stems from deadening the impact of racing over propulsive forward motion.
If you'd rather watch than read, you can see a full review of the New Balance FuelCell RC Elite v2 in this detailed video from our friends over at The Run Testers (don't forget to subscribe for more guides for runners).