Friday, August 14, 2020

New Balance FuelCell Speedrift EnergyStreak Review: A Mysterious Surprise Pebax Plated Light Trainer

Article by Derek Li

New Balance FuelCell Speedrift EnergyStreak

Retail US$179.99 / S$279

The New Balance SpeedRift EnergyStreak is something that flew under the radar for the most part. When I was approached to review this shoe at the beginning of July, I must confess I had to look it up. Given all the sneak previews we are privy to, it’s quite rare to be taken by surprise like this. 

Featuring a Fuelcell midsole and a full length Pebax plate, it certainly has all the elements of a performance shoe. Read on to find out my impressions of this shoe. 

Tester Profile

Derek is in his 30’s and trains 70-80 miles per week at 7 to 8 minute pace in mostly tropical conditions in Singapore. He has a 2:41 marathon PR.


Advertised drop 6mm

Official stack height not available, but my estimate puts it at: Heel 26mm, Forefoot 20mm

Claimed weight US9 260g / 9.17oz

Sample weight US9.5 266g / 9.38oz

Available in the US now at New Balance here


Thin and comfortable upper 

Excellent outsole grip


Insole traps heat easily

First impressions

Derek: The shoe is very classy, and looks better in person than in the pictures. Fit is easy to dial in, and step in feel is comfortable. Fit is true to size, and overall volume is on the looser side, contrary to what NB claims in terms of giving a snug fit. That said, once you lace up the shoes, the overall wrap and lockdown is pretty good. There is an inordinate amount of suede-like fabric use on the tongue and around the heel collar, which makes me suspect that perhaps this is targeted more at the athleisure crowd than the hardcore runners, but I will reserve judgement until after I get some runs in. After all, there have been many shoes in the past that used suede (think Brooks Green Silence) that have performed incredibly well as performance shoes. Walking around in the shoe, you already notice some bounciness to the foam and that is always a promising start!


Derek: The upper here uses a very thin translucent woven mesh with practically zero overlaps over the mid or forefoot, and so the upper is actually quite unstructured in this regard. There are no ventilation holes in the upper but the thinness of the material works sufficiently well to negate any heat build up in the shoe during runs. There is no toe bumper in this shoe, but the relatively innate high volume of the forefoot means this is a non-issue. 

This shoe utilizes a gusseted tongue motif, and the gussets are elastic, attaching to the footbed on either side. The tongue itself has a complete suede construct with padding restricted to the body of the tongue. This works sufficiently well, and I experienced no pressure from the laces on the run. A similar design has been used by other brands in the past, e.g. Nike Zoom Elite 9. 

The entire heel collar is similarly made of suede like material, as is the pull-tab. I think the pull tab is largely cosmetic here as it is very easy to slip into this shoe even without the tab. That said, I think they could have done better to angle the pull tab rearward a bit more, as I do notice the tab rubbing on my heel a little bit during runs. It is not causing any friction, but just feeling something there is kind of off-putting during runs. 

There is a semi rigid heel cup that runs halfway up the back in a sort of triangular shape, and overlying that is a nice reflecting patch that I think works well for night running. 

The sockliner is something quite unique for a running shoe, and this type of sockliner is something I tend to see more in casual shoes, which makes me think it can double up as an athleisure shoe. The texture really feels like a thin layer of cork, and I can almost make out that it’s a thin layer of wooden fibers on top of a regular EVA sockliner. I’ve seen such sockliners in casual shoes like moccasins but never performance shoes. It does have its drawbacks from a performance perspective and I will cover that in the ride department.


Derek: The midsole is a full length single density layer of FuelCell midsole. From past experience we have already seen that FuelCell is highly tunable to different levels of firmness, from the very soft FuelCell TC to the relatively firm 890v8. Here, I would say the foam here is closer in characteristics to the TC than 890v8. 

The midsole is perhaps the most visually striking aspect of this shoe, as it has very radical sweeping curves with a pronounced shark’s fin rising up on either side of the midfoot, more so on the lateral side than the medial side. This is presumably to add sideways stability to the shoe, as the midsole is relatively soft in this shoe. The lateral fin is also where we can get a nice glimpse of the pebax plate (pictured here as a thin crimson layer). 

The overall vibration dampening and bounce of the shoe is pretty good, better than say Nike’s Pegasus 37, and while I have no issues with this shoe stability-wise, thankfully the fins do not get in the way of the ride. (I have had issues in the past with raised midsole sidewalls causing midfoot pain for me, e.g. Reebok Run Fast.)


Derek: The outsole on this shoe is the shining star for me. Very complex, and looks like it is actually very labour-intensive in terms of the manufacturing processes involved. I will try to break it down for you below, but the end result is something that is visually striking, and the best gripping outsole I have ever used in a road shoe, even better than the likes of the Reebok Run Fast and ASICS MetaRacer. 

So the breakdown. Here it goes. You’ve got triangles of varying sizes, smaller up front and larger towards midfoot. Towards the heel, it actually transitions to flat rubber with triangle imprints. Simple enough right? Look closer, especially at the forefoot. 

Some triangles have a depressed center, while others have extra rubber rising up in the center with horizontal grooves. Here’s the difficult part. The triangles with the depressed centers appear to have a firmer rubber compound, and I imagine the hollow center allows you to compress down on the firmer rubber and create micro- regions of very high pressure (read: extra grip). The ones with the grooved triangles are different. The grooved rubber is soft, likely blown rubber, and you can see they are distributed mostly to the medial side of the forefoot, and that gives you that extra bit of bounce and propulsion as you start your toe-off on the medial part of the forefoot. So why the difference? Well, it is little known that in the terminal phase of toe-off just before the shoe leaves the ground fully, the foot naturally inverts and supinates. That is the natural angle of the maximally plantar- flexed foot. Here is a picture of Mr GOAT from Berlin 2019 to reinforce that fact.


(Photo credit: NN Running Team)

So you want that extra grip in the lateral forefoot so it doesn’t slip. (Speed Elite Hyper are you listening?)

That’s the breakdown. I don’t go much into the heel because heel outsole as it is pretty self explanatory from the pictures with firm rubber covering the entire heel. 

Now, ingenuity aside, just think about the number of manufacturing steps involved in making such an outsole! It really makes you wonder why NB don’t blow their trumpet a little more with this outsole. This outsole is fantastic, and I think this outsole could be a real hit on American Ninja Warrior if they could put it on a Zante platform. (Yeah like you haven’t noticed the number of Zantes on that show….)


Derek: I like this shoe more than I thought I would for a 6mm drop mid-weight trainer. 

Despite the Pebax plate, there is still decent flex through the toe box to make it quite comfortable for slower runs as well. There is a tamed bounce to it that makes it much more stable than a FuelCell TC, and even though it doesn’t have that carbon plate, the shoe has enough snap to it in the form of the Pebax layer to make it a rather fun all-round shoe. It may not have the rocker feel of the 890v8, but it should feel like a faster, more aggressive version of the Propel v1. It works really well for the middle miles and handles pace pickups really well, though I think I would still go for something a bit more aggressive in terms of stiffness for fast runs. Transitions are pretty smooth and the geometry should work well for a variety of stride patterns although it works best for midfoot strikers. Bringing the outsole into the ride picture, it has a very stable ride, and works pretty well on non-technical trails as well.

Two things that I noticed that you will want to know though. Firstly, the upper while thin, and by no means warm, does seem to trap water inside the shoe, in the sense that it doesn’t drain well from inside the shoe. Here in Singapore, my socks get soaked on every run, and you can see from the picture (the gray) that there was some water build up in there.

It doesn’t really affect the performance, but it’s something to be aware of. Secondly, the stock sockliner with the wooden texture does trap heat a bit more than your usual running sockliner. I didn’t notice any heat build up until the 40 minute mark on my first run, and while it didn’t disrupt the run, I was increasingly aware of it. I swapped the sockliner out for a regular EVA sockliner and this issue went away. Neither of these 2 issues are likely to be a problem if you live in a temperate country though.


Derek: This shoe really flew under the radar and may well be a more affordable, more stable version of the FuelCell TC for many people. It doesn’t have as bouncy a ride, but it is plenty cushioned for most runs. Aesthetically, it is easily the best looking NB running shoe at the moment, and NB has been hitting it out of the park with some of their recent designs. I’d say it is definitely something to try if you want a bouncy ride, but need a bit of stability especially at midfoot.

Derek’s Score:8.92

Ride 40% 8.8

Fit 40% 9

Value 10% 8 (quite pricey)

Style 10% 10


New Balance Speedrift EnergyStreak vs. NB FuelCell TC (RTR Review)

Derek: I wear US9.5 in both shoes. Overall I still prefer the more bouncy and dynamic ride of the TC. The main difference is stability, and while the Speedrift is a neutral shoe, there is sufficient stability to its midfoot to make it corner significantly better than the TC. I I think the Speedrift is a viable option to try for people who found the TC a little too untamed a ride.

New Balance Speedrift EnergyStreak vs. NB 890v8 (RTR Review)

Derek: I wear US9.5 in both shoes. I like the 890v8 better for speed work and fast runs, but for regular training and easy runs, the SpeedRift is a much more cushioned and bouncy shoe and is just an overall more versatile shoe.

New Balance Speedrift EnergyStreak vs. ASICS NovaBlast (RTR Review)

Derek: I wear US9.5 in both shoes. The NovaBlast is similar to the TC in that it can feel unstable for some people. I think the NovaBlast is more cushioned than the Speedrift, but both are pretty bouncy, and it feels easier to pick up the pace in the Speedrift. Overall, I think the Speedrift is a more versatile shoe.

New Balance Speedrift EnergyStreak vs. Nike Pegasus 37 (RTR Review)

Derek: I wear US9.5 in both shoes. I should point out that I am now only using the women’s wide (D width) version of the Peg 37, which is a bit softer and more flexible than the men’s version. This is a really close call. I think both shoes are similar, though the Speedrift has a more comfortable upper, and a more bouncy midsole. The main thing I prefer with the Peg 37 is the 10mm drop which works better for me as my form gets sloppy towards the end of runs. Otherwise I feel that the Speedrift with the slightly more cushioned forefoot is the superior option. 

New Balance Speedrift EnergyStreak vs. Nike Zoom Fly 3 (RTR Review)

Derek: I wear US9.5 in the Speedrift and US9 in the ZF3. The ZF3 upper doesn’t quite work for me as I get a bit of heel slippage in it. That said, the ZF3 is the faster shoe with the propulsion and bounce from the carbon plate and React foam shining through. Overall though, I think the Speedrift is more versatile and works better for slower runs and is more comfortable in terms of fit, and holding pace for moderate pace runs.

Available in the US now at New Balance here

Read reviewers' full run bios here
The product reviewed was provided at no charge for testing. The opinions herein are the authors'.
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Anonymous said...

How does this shoe compare to the other nylon plated shoes? GoMeb speed 6, endorphin speed,AZoom next? Would also like some comparisons to the razor 3, hyperion tempo & the run fast v1/v2. Thank you.

Derek Li said...

Those models are all very speed focused. While the SpeedRift can handle speed work for some people, I don’t consider it a speed shoe (racer/lightweight trainer) but rather more of a daily trainer like a Pegasus that can do a bit of uptempo work.

Vs GoMeb Speed 6
I would go up half a size in Speed 6 vs SpeedRift. Very different shoes. Speed 6 is thin and snappy good for up to 5000m and short intervals. SpeedRift more for daily runs and maybe the odd tempo run at half marathon or marathon effort. The Speedrift is a lot more cushioned and softer. Neither of these shoes is particularly stiff.

Vs Endorphin Speed
I wear US9.5 in both models. The Speed has a similar bounce to the SpeedRift but a nicer, faster more refined rocker, and significantly stiffer embedded plate. It’s also a lot lighter. Between the 2, the Speed is by far the better shoe. The Speedrift has a roomier fit though, vs Endorphin Speed.

Vs Tempo Next%
I wear US9.5 in both shoes. The Tempo fits snugger in the midfoot, but forefoot volume is about the same. The Tempo has a lot more cushion and is a lot stiffer with a better rocker and much more responsiveness. Maybe a bit firmer under foot than the SpeedRift. The Tempo is by far the better shoe for all purposes.

Vs Razor 3
I wear US9.5 in both shoes. Razor 3 Has similar bounce, but is more flexible, has a snugger fit, and is a lot less cushioned. Razor 3 for fast workouts and racing up to 10 miles for me, but SpeedRift again more as a pure trainer.

Vs Hyperion Tempo
I wear US9.5 in both shoes. Hyperion Tempo is more uptempo focused and speed focused much like the Razor 3. It is firmer with less noticeable bounce than both Razor 3 and SpeedRift. It is a bit stiff mainly because of the outsole rubber coverage, stiffer than the SpeedRift to me. Hyperion Tempo is a good option if you want a more stable ride but likely too harsh for daily training for most people. I find in general the SpeedRift to be a more enjoyable bouncy ride than the Hyperion Tempo.

Vs Reebok Run Fast v1
I wear US9.5 in both shoes. I do not own the v2 as v1 has some fit issues for me. The side fins of the midsole cause my feet to ache, and I cut them off v1 in my pair actually. The Speedrift is an overall more cushioned and bouncy shoe but is way heavier at 2+oz more. Stiffness about the same between the 2 shoes. I would use Run Fast as a pure speed or tempo shoe but find it harsh and a bit dead for daily running. SpeedRift is thicker and less jarring of a ride, and much better as a daily trainer. Between the 2, no question I prefer the SpeedRift for overall versatility.