Having logged more than 300 kilometres in the New Balance FuelCell TC over the summer, I have a firm impression of what is in offer. How does this shoe compare to its competitors? Read on to find out if the TC justifies a spot in your shoe rotation.
New Balance FuelCell TC: Fact Sheet
Fit and Upper
The single-layer mesh upper of the shoe provides breathability and comfort. A rigid heel cape combined with extra padding ensures a stable lock around the heel. Compared to shoes in a similar range, the shape of the last is voluminous from front to back.
My overall impression of the fit is that comfort is the priority, rather than performance. More aggressive racing shoes typically feature a tighter fit, but New Balance has sacrificed this in the name of versatility. And that priority is even expressed in the naming of the shoe; TC stands for Training and Competition.
A contrast collar in a similar material as the thin tongue, envelopes the top of the upper and rear part of the shoe. The result is a sharp-looking shoe that can just as easily slip into your casual wear collection as it does your running rotation. The laces are functional, and I have no trouble dialling in the correct tightness to ensure a good lock-in.
Sole and Ride
Those who have paid close attention to New Balance shoe releases over the past year or two will notice that their “FuelCell” midsole material has been a subject of discussion. The characteristics of the foam seem to differ from one release to the next.
The explanation is that New Balance tosses the “FuelCell” brand on several different formulations. Inevitably, the result is that some shoes with apparently the same type of midsole foam will feel softer and more responsive compared to others.
Cushion and Bounce
When it comes to the TC, New Balance struck gold. As you slip into the shoes, you notice the plush cushion from the first step. Not unlike the original Nike Vaporfly 4%, the heel softness feels overwhelming when you’re just walking around.
Thankfully, however — and just like with the Vaporfly 4% — that feeling disappears as soon as you transition from walking to running. The key properties of this shoe are unbelievably soft cushioning paired with an amazing response. Where other maximalist shoes feel like sponges, the TC returns the energy of your down steps. Again, similar to what made the Vaporfly such a unique, and widely praised shoe.
A massive and durable rubber outsole covers the full forefoot of the shoe. The heel features medial and lateral reinforcements to protect the foam. While this outsole construction offers traction and durability, it contributes to the only significant downside of the shoe: weight.
A Literal Heavyweight
Compared to competitors in the durable trainer and racer-hybrid category, the FuelCell TC is heavy. Coming in at 283 grams in a US men’s size 9, it’s a significant extra load compared to the best in class 221 grams of the Saucony Endorphin Speed.
And if the featherlike Vaporfly Next% (181 gr.) has already spoiled you, the TC is going to feel downright massive in comparison. The weight is, however, well distributed. As a result, you avoid that bottom-heavy feeling that characterises the Nike Zoom Fly.
Of course, we’re splitting hairs here. The shoe is lightweight compared to traditional “heavies”. But noticeable differences like the ones mentioned above can factor in when you’re trying to identify the perfect shoe for a particular use case.
Wear and Tear
The shoes look remarkably well after 300 kilometres of use. There are almost no visible signs of wear. In terms of ride and feel, they have lost some of that magic “oomph” cushioning and response. But they are still enjoyable to run in, and I bring them out on days I want to treat myself.
Verdict on the New Balance FuelCell TC
If you’re looking for a fast and cushioned plated trainer that can double as a race shoe, the TC is unlikely to disappoint. The shoe features most of the properties that characterise the best modern-day distance racers. Soft, but responsive cushioning combines with a comfortable fit to make this a true allrounder.
The compromise of added durability compared to pure racing shoes comes at the cost of added weight. However, for runners who prefer to save the most expensive (and less durable) options for race day — or those who want one shoe for both training and racing — the TC is an excellent option.
Check out all the specs at the official New Balance website.
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