The magic is in the midsole on the New Balance FuelCell: the dual-construction combination of the company’s lightweight REVlite EVA plus firmer nitrogen infused TPU provide great responsiveness and underfoot feel. Our testers generally like the overall comfort after working out some initial wrinkles due to general stiffness in the heel collar and midfoot. A 6mm drop is right in the sweet spot for midfoot or heel strikers. The FuelCell is probably too heavy for a racing shoe, but well positioned as an everyday trainer that helps you feel faster and lighter.
The FuelCell uses New Balance’s VL-6 performance last, and length is true to size. The heel cup is wide, stiff, and high in the Achilles area; it stays in place very securely but its rigidity caused some friction for users until a break-in period was achieved. Wide, single-piece overlay panels on the medial and lateral side of the laces wrap the midfoot in place very firmly, although users with wide feet may find the forefoot uncomfortably snug. The volume of the toe box is ample without being boxy or sloppy and provides a performance feel with the mesh being smooth and secure.
Minimal padding around the ankle collar locks the foot in place well, but caused some rearfoot friction as described above. The mesh uppers are highly breathable in the forefoot, but testers report the midfoot overlays feel hot and heavy in warm conditions. A seamless sockliner is smooth and comfortable against the foot, and cushioning through the heel and forefoot provide pleasant comfort underfoot.
Responsive cushioning is our favorite feature of the FuelCell, which feels cushioned and low-to-the-ground at the same time, while offering bouncy propulsion with each step. The combination of midsole materials makes the shoe feel highly responsive without being excessively firm. Our testers noted great conservation of energy from impact through transition, with a firm landing and good spring at toe off. The moderate toe drop strikes a sweet spot for midfoot runners and heel strikers alike.
TPU foam in the midsole is New Balance’s answer to Adidas Boost and Saucony EVERUN material, and provides the smooth ride and firm overall feel our testers appreciated. Recessed REVlite foam in the heel brings the foot closer to the firmer FuelCell material at impact, whereas the forefoot zone is cored out for more direct responsiveness at toe-off. The FuelCell shoe is very stiff out of the box, but after a breaking period the ride is smooth and buoyant, with a minimal amount of flexibility in the forefoot. The cushioning is much firmer than most lightweight trainers, which compromises comfort on shorter runs but helped our testers feel less fatigued at the end of longer outings. The underfoot feel is consistent from impact to toe off, and the extensive outsole rubber gives a secure ground grip and further smooths the transition from heel to toe.
The highly responsive midsole gives the FuelCell shoe a fast feel, and the secure fit and strong outsole grip make quick leg turnover a bit easier. The FuelCell is on the heavy side in this test group, but would be great for runners who are not accustomed to racing shoes for use in fast training sessions or long distance road racing.