Monday, April 26, 2021

New Balance Fuel Cell MD-X Track Spike Review: Carbon Plated, Super Foam, Titanium Pins Super Spike!

Article by Zack Dunn


Editor’s Note: We welcome Zack Dunn to the RTR Test Team. Zack is a high school middle distance runner from Indiana.


New Balance Fuel Cell MD-X ($180)


Pros:

Zack Soft and responsive FuelCell midsole foam

Zack: Snappy, powerful carbon fiber plate with plenty of traction

Zack: Nice, comfortable sock-like upper 

Zack: Lightweight and fast


Cons:

Zack: Non-removable/replaceable spikes could be a turn off for some buyers

Zack: Noticed that after every race the tongue had slid down almost to the bottom of the laces.

Zack: One of the most expensive track spikes on the market at $180. 

 


Tester Profile


I am a junior in high school. I’ve been running for 7 years, and focused solely on running after giving up on years of baseball and wrestling. I race distances between 800 meters and 10K  whether it be on the track, the roads, or on cross country courses. I do most of my training on the roads, some training on the track, and occasionally run trails logging anywhere from 40-60 miles a week. My typical training consists of easy days, long days, workouts (fartleks, tempos, interval training, etc.). My typical training paces range from 7’30 a mile on easy days to sub-5 minutes a mile on fast interval days, and with many paces in between. My personal bests are 2:02 for 800m, 4:30 for 1600m, 9:50 for 3200m, 15:57 for 5K, and 34:10 for 10K. 


Stats

Sample Weight: men’s 136g / 4.84 oz (US 10.5)

Available May 1st 2021. $180 


First Impressions and Fit


Zack: In terms of first impressions I like everything about this spike, right out of the box. It looks fast and it has a nice simplistic design. 

As far as fit, at first try on, it slipped on like a sock and I instantly fell in love with the knit upper as it was true to size and had a great lockdown. 


Upper

Zack: The upper is a sock-like knit. I really enjoyed it as I found the upper to be really comfortable yet lightweight. The fit is snug and supportive. 

The upper has a sleeve / sock like collar which surprised me with how well it kept the foot in place. There There are many perforations throughout the upper so breathability should be no issue. I also really liked the tongue and found it to be very comfortable.  

The downside of the tongue is that after every race it had slid down almost to the bottom of the laces, thankfully i didn't notice it very much while racing but it was a weird patternI kept noticing, and even after adjusting the lacing. 

Overall, other than the tongue sliding, I was happy with the upper and found it very comfortable and lightweight.


Midsole

Zack: I really enjoyed the midsole of this spike. This is my first experience with New Balance's FuelCell midsole compound and I can say I really liked it. It is the same autoclaved (for lightness) resilient and bouncy EVA/TPU blend as in their top end RC Elite 2 marathon racer (RTR Review) and Rebel v2 trainer(RTR Review). I found it to be soft and provide a forgiving landing while not feeling mushy or too soft. 


I think New Balance did a great job of putting the right amount of midsole into this spike to make it excel at middle distance 800 meter-3K races (i personally wouldn't use this for 5K just because i prefer a less aggressive ride for that long of a distance but there will be people who would really enjoy it for this). I think it is comparable to Nike’s Zoomx foam which many people enjoy. Though a track spike isn’t the optimal shoe to judge a midsole on responsiveness (due to so small amount of foam and further that it is the spike plate that really provides the responsiveness), I can tell this midsole does put some pep in my step. Overall I was pleased with the midsole. 


Outsole

Zack: The outsole / spike plate worked well. I think New Balance did a great job putting time and effort into its engineering. It is a full length carbon fiber plate with 6 titanium pins co molded in with a design New Balance optimized for  800 meters to 5K distances after working with many of their elite athletes. It was designed to provide great efficiency and propulsion. I can fully attest to this as I had found it provided great responsiveness during my races. 

The only downside to this configuration is that the titanium spike pins are non-removable and co-molded into the carbon plate which New Balance says is to save weight. Titanium is 40% lighter than stainless steel for equivalent strength plus to make them removable one would have to add screw in metal sockets for replaceable spikes.. This said, I wonder if the weight savings from using non replaceable titanium spikes would truly be a noticeable amount of weight underfoot while racing for most track athletes.  Personally, I would feel better knowing I have longer-term durability/changeability in a track spike (especially one that is $180) rather than some weight saved, but that is just my personal opinion and this spike is first and foremost designed for New Balance’s top elites where such considerations are less of an issue. Overall though, I was pleased with the outsole/spike plate.


Ride

Zack: I really enjoyed the ride for my 800m-3200m races, and for distances in between. I found it provided exactly what I want for middle distance races. It was lightweight yet supportive and has a fairly good amount of cushioning. I found it to be snappy and definitely helps my running efficiency in the later stages of races when i'm fatigued. The snappiness of the plate also helps with the last kick of the race where you get up on your toes and start to push harder off, it's quite a nice feeling. 


Most mid-distance / distance track spikes on the market lean more in focus towards being on the more aggressive and faster side or to the more cushioned, comfortable side. I think this spike strikes a perfect balance at 800m-3K, and even 5k. Because of the softer foam compound, it will work great for longer races 3K-5K, and because of the snappy carbon fiber plate and lightweight construction it can also excel at shorter races 800m-1600m. Overall I was pleased with the ride of this spike.  


Conclusions and Recommendations


Zack: Overall, i think this is an amazing track spike for what it was made for, 800 meters to 3K distances, and maybe 5k if you like a more aggressive spike at that distance. It is comfortable and lightweight while at the same time being snappy and fast. The only cons of this spike are the non-removable spike pins, the weird movement of the tongue while racing, and the high price of $180. Other than those three things (which really don't affect performance rather they're more my preferences), it truly is close to as good of a middle distance racing spike that you can get.

Zack’s Score: 9.6/10 


Comparisons

Index to all RTR reviews: HERE


Nike ZoomX Dragonfly 

Zack's Score: 9.8 ; Weight: 141g / 4.98 oz (Mens US 10.5)) 

Zack: The construction of the two is similar, they weigh almost the same (Dragonfly is .1 oz hevier) , they have full length plates with their brands respective “super foam” and both have lightweight and breathable uppers. 


In terms of feel though, they feel very different. I have found the Dragonfly to be more bouncy and more comfortable/supportive while the MD-X is springier and more aggressive. That’s why anything from 3K-10K, i would go for the Dragonfly, anything under 3K, I'd go with the MD-X. Oh, also the Dragonfly is $150 while the MD-X is $180 so in terms of pricing, the Dragonfly wins. I feel like the Dragonfly is more versatile, and also $30 less, so i would take the Dragonfly before the MD-X.


Nike Zoom Victory 3

Zack's Score: 9.2

Zack: The Nike Victory 3 has been arguably the most popular mid-distance spike for the last couple of years. Before any of the “superfoams” came to be (in track spikes at least), this was the highest quality mid distance spike you could get. It features a 3/4th length Pebax spike plate combined with a Cushlon midsole. So obviously, it's not as fast as the MD-X, or even as comfortable and there is a quality difference but there’s also a $55 pricing difference to consider, not to mention the Victory spike is probably the next best thing behind the emerging “super spikes.” Though the Victory is $55 less, I would still choose the MD-X as the winner in this match up. It's just a lot snappier and can produce faster times than the Victory and so I think it is worth the additional $55.


Fuel Cell MD-X available May including at our partners 

Running Warehouse and New Balance below


Photo Credits: Zack Dunn, Michael Ellenberger

Tested samples were provided at no charge for review purposes. No other compensation was received by RTR or the authors for this review beyond potential commissions from the shopping links in the article. The opinions herein are entirely the authors'.

Comments and Questions Welcome Below!
Please let us know mileage, paces, race distances, and currently preferred shoes

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