Thursday, April 01, 2021

New Balance FuelCell RC Elite v2 Multi Tester Review: A Fast, Forgiving, Fun, Purple Marathon Super Shoe!


Article by Jacob Brady, Jamie Hershfang, Adam Glueck, Michael Ellenberger, Joost de Raeymaeker, Peter Stuart, Derek Li, Sally Reiley


New Balance FuelCell RC Elite v2 ($225)


Introduction

Jacob: The RC Elite is New Balance’s top of the line carbon-plated racing shoe. The first version, released in summer 2020, was highly anticipated and took months to become available. It was a fairly classic modern design with a lightweight, soft, bouncy midsole and propulsive character. For a carbon-plated distance racer, it had a relatively firm forefoot and with just a 32mm/22mm stack height, was far from the 40mm legal limit and only just into the max cushion category. I really enjoyed the RC Elite 1—I raced the virtual NYC marathon in it and felt relaxed, smooth, and comfortable while running at a solid pace despite being undertrained. It is fast and fun at shorter distances as well.

The RC Elite v2 takes the shoe to the next level. It sees the addition of about nine millimeters of stack height to the forefoot and seven to the heel, now nearly reaching the legal limit with 39mm at the heel. The midsole is the same super soft, supercritical and autoclaved EVA/TPU blend FuelCell formula as the first version and thus with more stack and less drop, v2 has a dramatically softer underfoot feel. It is truly modern and exciting—let’s get into details.


Jamie: Without having the opportunity to try out the RC Elite 1, I was super excited to test out this second version. Having run hundreds of miles in the Nike Next%, including a 100k time trial and my recent Chicago Lakefront FKT (37 miles), I have been eager to find the next carbon plated shoe that can compete with the comfort of the Next%. The RC Elite 2 seems to take the Fuel Cell line above and beyond. I loved training in the Fuel Cell Rebel 2, soon to be released, and the addition of a carbon plate to such a fun shoe sounded like a dream. Let’s see if the RC Elite 2 lives up to my expectations!


Adam:  With the RC Elite 2, New Balance has taken the cushion and propulsion right up to the legal (IAAF) limit of stack height.  The midsole of this shoe looks huge and it feels dramatically propulsive and cushioned.  The highest stack height road shoe I’d had previously was the endorphin pro at 33mm heel 25mm forefoot, so this was a drastic increase over my next tallest shoe.  Most importantly, it’s purple with beautiful mismatched pink and orange outsoles!  Let’s see if the RC elite 2 is as fun to run in as it is colorful.  

Michael: One of the latecomers to the plated-shoe races, the New Balance FuelCell RC Elite made itself a fan-favorite. In the few road races since it debuted (given the global pandemic), I think the RC Elite was the most common non-Nike variant on the starting line. Against that backdrop, the RC Elite 2 debuts in 2021 to an (even more) crowded field. Add to its predecessors’ success the wild success of the FuelCell Rebel v2, and this shoe absolutely had my attention.

Joost: Like Jamie, I also didn’t get to test the first model of this shoe, but have run in a number of the other super race shoes available, so I was really looking forward to getting these on my feet to see if New Balance had cooked up something exciting. Some of the competition is very strong. 


I’m a big fan of the Adidas Adios Pro and the original Nike Vaporfly 4%. In my opinion, even Nike itself didn’t get things completely right with the successors. Especially the Alphafly has so far failed to convince me of its merits. That has left plenty of time for other brands to catch up, give their spin on the supershoes and maybe even improve on the concept. Let’s see what the RC Elite 2 is made of.


Derek: Although i did not formally review the RC Elite v1, the general consensus was glowing enough that I went out and bought myself a pair to try at full retail anyway. I liked it well enough as an uptempo and speed trainer but there was something about the geometry that didn’t work so well with my running style. Specifically, I found the shoe to feel excessively low in drop despite the advertised numbers, in that the heel felt quite low and one had to really focus on a more mid-forefoot strike pattern to engage the shoe properly. This was somewhat frustrating for me, because the upper is one of the best and most fuss-free among the super shoes for me. 

Well, in less than a year, NB has decided to revamp the shoe, focusing on the 40mm stack height limit, and I am really excited to see how things have changed for the shoe. As a reference, I generally like shoes that use a very aggressive forefoot rocker, and I find this to be more important than any special bounciness that the midsole packs when it comes to assisting you forward. My lifetime marathon PB still belongs to the Nike Zoom Fly 1, incredibly enough.


Pros:

  • Soft, stable and forgiving landings with plenty of reboundJacob/Adam/Jamie/Joost/Peter/Derek/Sally
  • Should prove a fine carbon plated trainer as well:Jacob/Adam/Jamie/Joost/Derek/Sally
  • Supportive yet comfortable and roomy performance oriented upper: Jacob/Adam/Jamie/Joost/Sally

  • Super smooth easygoing ride: Jacob/Jamie/Michael/Joost
  • Easy transitions, no sense of an overly soft heel and even atslower paces. Long spring toe off with no plate harshness felt, nice combination of soft front rebound and spring Adam/Michael/Peter/Sam/Derek/Sally
  • Plate and front softness works well with the foot Michael/Joost/Peter/Derek/Sam
  • Surprisingly stable for such a soft foam shoe (both heel and forefoot)/Joost
  • Great carbon race shoe choice for mid pack marathoners.Jacob/Adam/Peter/Sally
  • Great carbon race shoe for faster marathoners. Joost
  • Transitions even more quickly at higher speed and cadence:  Adam
  • Nice wide forefoot. Joost

Cons:

Miss the special nubbed outsole of v1 and its grip, understand the new fuller coverage may be needed to stabilize the forefoot Jacob/Michael/Peter/Sally

Stack height and softness of foam make hard cornering slightly unstable:  Adam

Plate doesn’t transition as well running downhill:  Adam/Jamie

Occasional rocks get lodged in the hole in the midsole:  Adam/Michael

Not a lot of options for different lacing patterns: Joost

Upper is not as snug as RC Elite v1 Derek

Stats

Approx. Weight: men's 7.8 oz/ 221g (US9)  /  women's / (US8)

  men’s  7.55 oz / 214g (US8.5), 8.54 oz 242g (US11), 9.1 oz / 259 g (US M12)

  women’s:  6.8 oz / 192g (US W8)  

Weight RC Elite 1 sample:7.1 oz /202g (US8.5)

Approx. Full Stack Height: 39/31

Stack Height RC Elite 1: 32/22

RC Elite v1 stack height 

Available May 2021. Pre-Order at our partner Running Warehouse here $225

  

Tester Profiles

Jacob is a runner and general endurance sports enthusiast. He runs a mix of roads and trails in the Portland, Maine area. He has been running every day for two and a half years and averages around 50 miles per week. Jacob races on road and trail at a variety of distances. In the past two race seasons has done several marathons and shorter (≤ 50km) ultras and mountain races. He has a PR of 2:51 in the marathon and a recent half TT PR of 1:18. In addition to running, he does hiking, biking (mountain/gravel/road), surfing, and nordic skiing. He is 25 years old, 6 ft / 182 cm tall and 155 lbs / 70 kg. You can check out Jacob’s recent activities on Strava here.

Jamie is 28 years old and currently running 100+ miles per week. She has run many marathons, with a PR of 2:49 and has recently moved up to the ultra distances. She completed a solo 100k in 7:36:40 and set the Chicago Lakefront Trail FKT. She is training to qualify to represent team USA at a world championship. Outside of training, she is the store manager at Fleet Feet Lakeview in Chicago.

Joost is a Belgian in his 50s living in Luanda, Angola, Africa, where he faces the heat, humidity and general chaos to run anything between 60-100 miles per week. He’s on a mission to win in his age group in the 6 marathon majors and has completed half of his project, with a 2:26:10 PB in Berlin in 2019 at 51. He ran in primary school, but then thought it would be a lot cooler to be a guitar player in a hard rock band, only picking up running again in 2012, gradually improving his results.

Adam is a cross country ski racer and huge fan of endurance sports in general.  Although he’s a much better skier, he can still run a 4:43 mile, 16:20 5km, and a 1:23 half (in this shoe).  He loves running fast on the roads, and far in the white mountains.  He trains about 700 hours a year, about 1200 miles of running and 4000 miles of skiing.  Adam is 6’/183cm tall, and 183 lbs/83kg.  You can see what adventures he’s up to on strava here:

Michael is a 2019 graduate of Northwestern University Law School in Chicago, with an interest in patent and intellectual property law. Prior to law school, he competed collegiately at Washington University in St. Louis (10,000m PR of 30:21). He recently finished 2nd at the Chicago Half-Marathon in a PR of 67:43, and was the top Illinois finisher in the 2017 Boston Marathon (2:33:03, 82nd overall). He recently secured a 2:31 marathon PR at the Austin Marathon. 

Joost is a Belgian in his 50s living in Luanda, Angola, Africa, where he faces the heat, humidity and general chaos to run anything between 60-100 miles per week. He’s on a mission to win in his age group in the 6 marathon majors and has completed half of his project, with a 2:26:10 PB in Berlin in 2019 at 51. He ran in primary school, but then thought it would be a lot cooler to be a guitar player in a hard rock band, only picking up running again in 2012, gradually improving his results.

Peter lives in Austin, Texas and has been a sub 3 hour marathoner as well as a 1:25 half marathoner in recent years.

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.

Sally is a lifelong runner and mother of five who ran her first marathon at age 54, and has now run the past seven Boston Marathons and one Chicago, with a 2017 Boston PR of 3:29, good for 8th in her age group. Along the way she has raised over $240,000 for Massachusetts Eye and Ear Hospital running with Team Eye and Ear. A relative newbie to road racing, she has achieved All-American status in the 10K (44:04) and 5K. To commemorate her 60th birthday she ran the NYC Marathon in November finishing 2nd in her age group with a PR time of 3:28:39.  Sally is a compact (petite) runner at 5’2’’ and 105 pounds.


First Impressions and Fit


Jacob: I was pumped to test the RC Elite v2 for many reasons: the FuelCell line by New Balance so far has included many shoes I tested and thought were excellentreally fun, comfortable, and fast or unique. The TC was my pick for top road shoe of 2020; I’ve run the majority of shoes in the line. Lastly, a heel height grazing the max allowed stack height of 40mm by World Athletics indicates the ride will be something special.

The aesthetics are a blast and appeal to me in a subdued but funky style. Pure purple. 

The different accent colors—pink and orange—vary from right and left, most striking with the forefoot outsole color. I love it.

On foot it is roomy and very airy in the toebox, not a precise racer fit. The lace area is shorter than in most shoes and thus the toebox is longer. The roomy forefoot is completely appreciated for training or long distances and is strikingly roomier than the RC Elite v1. 


This can be good or bad, depending on the intended use of the shoe and the individual runner’s foot type/width. It is true to size overall, just surprisingly unrestricted/open for a racer. 


Underfoot the RC Elite v2’s nature as a plush beast is revealed. It is exceptionally soft and bouncy. This feeling is most dramatic in the forefoot which feels softer than any shoe I can remember running in. This is immediately different from the RC Elite v1, which had a relatively firm forefoot. It is overall a huge change from v1, which I’ll address in depth in the Comparisons section.

Jamie: I was super excited to be testing the RC Elite 2. I’ve run in a few different carbon plated shoes from all the different brands. The Nike Next%, Allphafly Next%, Saucony Endorphin Pro, HOKA Rocket X, HOKA Carbon X, Asics MetaRacer, Brooks Hyperion Elite, and New Balance has yet to be checked off the list. While all these shoes have been unique, I have yet to find a shoe that I feel comfortable enough wearing longer than a marathon distance. 


Fresh out of the box, if there’s anything that draws my attention, a purple shoe, my favorite color! It’s aesthetically appealing, and a shoe I would pull off the wall in any store. The max stack height of the shoe (40 mm) resembled the look of the Next%. Upon step in, my immediate reaction was how well it fit my foot. The wider toe box and roomy fit, made it feel comfortable enough for a daily trainer, but light enough to run fast in. I loved the bounciness of the Fuel Cell cushioning, super soft, super responsive, and felt like a natural fit to my foot. 

Adam:   I was lucky enough to receive the RC Elite 2 on my Birthday and could not have received a more exciting present.  Immediately the flashy purple color with mismatched outsole colors (pink and orange) stood out, as well as the massive stack height.  The foam is soft and responsive to the touch.  Putting the shoe on, it felt incredibly bouncy but stable and the upper is supremely comfortable.  They felt so fun that I couldn’t help bouncing out the door to see how fast they could go.  


Michael:  In Minnesota-Vikings-purple, the unboxing experience was one of the year’s best. At first try on, I was pleased to see that the fit was largely conserved from version 1. It’s definitely race-ready, but the fit is more trainer than racing flat, and I think that’s a good thing.

Joost: A shade of purple  a 1980’s Prince would wear and with probably nearly as much stack height as some of his boots: the RC Elite 2 is definitely not a dull looking shoe. The top of the line New Balance racing shoe will stand out on the starting line of the (hopefully) many races that will occur as the covid pandemic subsides. As I mentioned in the introduction, these are my first plated New Balance shoes and they certainly looked impressive. They are very shiny in the midday tropical sun, with about every part of the upper reflecting back the light.


Getting into them was quite easy, in spite of the very short and narrow lacing area. 

There are  only three loops, so accommodating my Stryd and a RunScribe pod I’ve just received for testing on the same foot was quite a challenge. The forefoot felt surprisingly roomy for a race shoe and the general feeling is of softness underfoot. I’m not a heavy runner, currently at around 64kg (141 lbs) as I start my base period for the (fingers crossed) fall races I plan on running and walking around in them, I really sunk into the foam. Marshmallowy soft, but how do they behave while running? Read on.


Peter: Stunningly good looking, lots of great aesthetic details, fit is true-to-size and very, very comfortable on step in. Just walking across the room it is clear that they have that weird, amazing and magic running on the moon vibe that I’ve had glimpses of in other shoes, but haven’t really experienced since the OG VaporFly. 


Derek: I was really excited to test this shoe. A higher stack version of the RC Elite with a reworked geometry? What’s not to like? My first impression was that this tone of purple is even more stunning in real life than it looks in the photos. And that asymmetric touch with the differential left/right colour choice for the NB logo is just icing on the cake. 


Step in feel is very comfortable, and it is clear the overall fit is a little more spacious compared to RC Elite v1 especially in the toebox. The famiiar springiness of the Fuelcell foam is definitely there, though here the plate serves to keep your heel from sinking down into the shoe, which is a real plus. Walking around, i got reminded of how i felt the very first time i walked around in the OG Baby Blue Vaporfly 4%’s. Now it’s time to see how the shoe performs on the run!

Sally: I was excited to test this shoe, as I had really liked last year’s Fuel Cell TC and RC Elite, and LOVE the new Fuel Cell Rebel 2. IMO, Fuel Cell rocks. And wow, the aesthetics of this shoe do not disappoint! Sparkly purple, pink and orange - a nod to the Minnesota Vikings in my home state and Dunkin’ Donuts in my adopted state (Mass.). And then there is the stack - wow, love the effect on my (somewhat deficient) height! These felt great right out of the box, soft and cloudlike and bouncy. The anticipation of the first run is palpable…


Upper

Jacob: The RC Elite v2 upper employs a largely unstructured, thin, knit material. It is a highly breathable design being light and airy with wide holes in a few sections of the toebox. 

The lacing is asymmetrical and the lace area is short which doesn’t give much control over the forefoot tightness. It is a unique style. The rear of the shoe fits precisely and comfortably with lightweight but medium structure—a similar fit to the RC Elite v1, TC, and Rebel v2.

The fit is overall comfortable and relaxed. There are just enough rigid elements to hold the foot well. A free and unrestricted feel is prioritized over locked-in preciseness for this shoe. New Balance says “barely there support” and this matches my experience. I find dialing in the lace tightness takes a few tries to get the balance of foothold and comfort. The thin tongue gives some lace bite if I prioritize a snug fit. I also cannot run sharp corners at speed without really thinking about the fit and foot placement, though the high stack contributes to the difficulty. 

Jamie: The upper is super light and airy. The lacing width is fairly small, which makes it a little hard to control the lockdown on the foot, especially for such a deep toebox. I definitely have to echo Jacob’s statement about the thin tongue. I had some slight irritation at the top of my foot after tying the shoes a bit too tight. Definitely noticeable running downhills, but just fine on flat surfaces. With maybe a little more cushioning under the tongue, the upper would be perfect. But this is really the only complaint I have about the shoe. 


Adam:  Jacob and Jamie covered this really well.  This upper feels like it’d be comfortable for distances of a marathon and beyond.  The upper is barely there, and allows your feet to swell and move around a bit over the course of a marathon.  I can’t run particularly sharp corners/U-turns at speed, but that’s probably more the fault of the stack height than the upper.   I don’t think it’d work well on a trail shoe, but that level of precision is not a worthy tradeoff in a road shoe where the flexibility and comfort is more important.  The laces thread through the tongue itself, which keeps it from slipping to either side (which it may do otherwise since it’s not gusseted).  I found the padding of the tongue to be a little thin as well, but if I made sure not to tie it too tightly, it was ok.  This is an excellent upper, and I irrationally love the purple  

Michael:  While the mesh is snug, the fit is relatively roomy, especially up front with the wider toe box and volume in front of the laces. I didn’t have issues with the tongue causing any irritation, but the width of the laces at the top of the shoe (where the “V” of the laces are at their widest) did cause some general sensation of looseness. Even so, I didn’t have issues with my foot moving laterally, or any heel slipping.


Joost: I’ll probably repeat much of what’s already been said about the upper. It’s a knit upper with a glossy finish. 

It appears as if it’s been dipped into some sort of shiny coating, giving them a glossy finish which I also assume may give the thin upper more structure. It doesn’t impact breathability in tropical conditions at all. I remember the knit upper of the second generation of Vaporfly 4%, with Flyknit received some criticisms from runners for soaking up rain and getting heavy, so maybe this is also New Balance’s way of dealing with that. It’s definitely roomy up front and the already narrow and short lacing area will not allow you to pull the laces extra tight. That would probably also be a bad idea, since the tongue has no padding. It didn’t create any issues for me and my wide feet, though, but if you have very narrow feet, you might want to check out if the RC Elite fits well. The heel collar is well padded, secures the foot without issue and doesn’t irritate the achilles. 


Peter;  Well, I’ll be. It’s a knit upper that I don’t hate! I was convinced it was a mesh upper because it looks great and doesn’t suck--but it is indeed a knit upper. Aside from the aesthetic wonder of it all, the upper is functionally excellent as well. 

There’s plenty of ventilation by way of various sized holes in the upper--from barely perceptible little pinholes on the sides of the foot to larger holes providing excellent ventilation over the toes. The knit isn’t overly stretchy, so I don’t have the feeling that my foot is sliding around in the shoe at all. It’s held lightly but firmly. The heel is padded enough to solidly hold the foot and the heel collar is moderately rigid--aided by thicker materials and the walls of the midsole rising up in the back of the shoe. While others have had issue with the thin tongue, it’s been a non-issue for me. The asymmetrical lacing works well for me and I had zero issue with fit or security. I put them on, tied the laces and ran. No issues at all. 


Derek: The others have already described the upper in great detail. I shall focus instead on the fit and feel. The volume of the heel and midfoot are snug and really give terrific foothold without feeling restrictive. In this respect, the feel is pretty much in line with how the RC Elite v1 feels in terms of wrap and fit. 

The toebox is markedly different though; the last is wider in the toebox so there is a lot more splay for the toes, and this gets only further accentuated by the thinner a slightly more elastic upper. The good news is that because the lacing eyelets only start at midfoot, there is still very good forefoot hold as there is only continuous mesh over the entire toebox area. 


I see this shoe fitting a fairly wide range of foot shapes, and even people with wide feet should be able to get away with a little less lacing tension at midfoot, simply because there is no loss of lockdown in the toebox. The only group I think might suffer a little is people with narrow toes. The wider toebox may allow for too much lateral toe movement that may make cornering feel sloppy for these people, something that in a different shoe might have been ameliorated by tightening the laces across the forefoot more but clearly cannot be done in this shoe. 


As others have said the upper is very ventilated and should work well for even the warmest of running conditions. All in all, this upper works great with my flat feet. No heel lock lacing necessary for me!

Sally: This is a fantastic upper that does it all well. The others have covered the specifics well, so suffice it to say I had no issues whatsoever with it. I have a narrow foot, so I worried that the generous midfoot room would be a problem, but my foot felt secure and comfortable. The heel hold is excellent. Yes, the broad tongue is unpadded and thin, but I did not feel any irritation or lace pressure at all. Super comfortable, secure, well ventilated upper!



Midsole:


Jacob: The RC Elite v2 uses the same FuelCell-class midsole material as the Rebel v2 and RC Elite v1: a supercritical autoclaved EVA/TPU blend which is low durometer/firmnes (35), low density, and high rebound. It is a truly modern foam and is a blast on the run. The RC Elite v2 has a towering 39mm heel stack height on a wide, stable base, with a carbon plate! It is an epic setup and does not disappoint on the run.

The midsole is soft and plush but surprisingly stable with a directed bounce. The forefoot has a lot of midsole above the plate and feels especially soft and a bit squishy. It can be compressed individually by each toe when standing around. The RC Elite v2 has the softest forefoot of any of the carbon plated racers I’ve run, though I’m missing the Alphafly as a comparison point. Fortunately the RC Elite v2 midsole does not feel overly soft on the run, especially not in the heel. It is in no way mushy and transitions very well—effortless and quick.


The midsole has a cushioned, protective, and comfortable feel while on the run. It has the now typical propulsive plate configuration with the plate curved and closer to the foot at the heel than at the forefoot. The RC Elite v2 has some forefoot rocker to encourage an easy toe-off, but it is not too pronounced; it is not a particularly snappy racer feel or geometry. In fact it is fairly relaxed and forgiving, while still being effortlessly quick.

Jamie: Typically, I wouldn’t run very long in a new shoe for my first run, but after my initial impression putting on the RC Elite 2.. I took it out for a 35 mile run! On a hilly, paved route, I averaged 7:10 pace and felt great the whole way.I am currently training for a 100 mile race and some ultras later this year, it’s exciting to put on a shoe that I can comfortably wear for long periods of time. 

The midsole resembles a lot of what I loved about the Rebel v2, with a more responsive underfoot feel and stack height that made me want to bounce around. While soft, it is very responsive at all different paces. I found it hard to run slow, but if I needed to jog in these, the cushioning under the heel would make this shoe a great option for heavy heel strikers. At faster paces, the midsole doesn’t feel overly soft, actually a bit more firm. It has a slight rocking effect, which makes me feel more efficient at all paces. Like every carbon plated shoe I’ve tried, downhill running didn’t enhance the effect of the carbon plate, but the cushioning carried me over the long run. I could envision myself wearing this shoe for ultra distances very comfortably, and believe the durability of the RC Elite 2 to be greater than the competitive Nike Next% that I’ve worn for years. 

Adam:  Jacob described the foam and construction of the midsole very well, so I’m going to try to avoid repeating everything he just said. The midsole of the RC elite couldn’t be any thicker and still be legal to race in.  This is as much foam as you can stick in a shoe.  I broke through an icy puddle running in these and didn’t get the upper wet because there’s 39mm of foam in the heel.  The carbon plate is aggressively slanted but the midfoot-heel of the shoe isn’t remarkably curved.  The toe curves up but the outer foam is flatter on the bottom.  At slower paces, the midsole is remarkably forgiving and seems to bounce through the transition from stride to stride.  Unlike the endorphin pro, it feels pretty good at forgiving at paces above 7 minutes per mile.  Once you increase pace and cadence sufficiently though and start landing closer to the midfoot, the plate and the foam give you a lightning fast transition.  

Doing some testing with Run Scribe I found that my flight ratio for my NB Rebel 2s was 22-24% over 3 runs, and in the first run where I tested the RC elite 2, it was 33.5%.  This indicates that I’m spending 45% more time airborne since the shoe transitions faster from heel to toe.  Considering that the Rebel V2 is lighter, this is a particularly impressive efficiency metric.  Some other RTR testers and I are doing more analysis with runscribe and hope to post a comprehensive article comparing fast and fun shoes.  As for how the midsole feels, it’s smooth, remarkably stable given the stack, and never feels harsh or firm.  It’s not quite as responsive as some less tall shoes, but it feels smooth and efficient especially at speed.   In terms of comfort, the fuelcell foam is incredibly plush, but the plate controls it in a way that it feels more taught and stable than the Rebel 2  which is remarkable considering the stack of the RC elite 2 is 62% higher. 

Michael: As noted above, the midsole feels a lot like the Rebel v2, which is already one of my all-time favorite trainers. The carbon plate (and perhaps slightly denser midsole blend) does lead to a more responsive feel underfoot, but even coupled with a hefty stack height doesn’t make the shoe feel out-of-control (which I often came across on the Adios Pro, making it difficult to train in). While none of these carbon plated shoes are ideal for easy jogging (except, perhaps, the FuelCell TC), I found the RC Elite v2 to be plenty soft and comfortable for the recovery miles in between.

Joost: These are exciting times to be running and reviewing shoes. I’ve been a big fan of the exciting supercritical foams out there. In this case FuelCell and a huge amount of it. What’s not to like? You might think this much of it would create a less than stable shoe, but think again. The midsole feels very soft even upon touch, but a wide forefoot and the geometry of the carbon plate make the RC Elite 2 stable enough to run, even at slower paces. This is a great all round shoe for training and racing and as Jamie said comfortable for very long training or racing efforts. The cutout in the center of the midsole is great for seeing your carbon plate sitting there and probably saves some weight as well, but might be a potential small rock repository on gravel roads. 


Peter: Wow, wow, wow. Fuel Cell, when dialled in right, is just a blast to run in. I liked the RC elite V1 a lot, but found them to be a little tough to turn over super fast. They were fun, but not revelatory. The NB Rebel V2 is one of my favorite shoes this year--or any other year really. They are so bouncy and fun--but they can be a little hard to tame. The Elite V2 takes all of the best aspects of both of those shoes and combines them into one fantastic shoe. This all starts with the midsole. NB have clearly figured out how to best harness the magical properties of their proprietary super-foam. 


The Elite V2 sits on a huge stack of foam, but the carbon plate clearly serves to tame the ride while at the same time making the toe-off very, very snappy. I think the place that this combination will excel--and might not get enough notice-is in the reduction of perceived effort and the related lack of stress on the body. The midsole is, indeed, soft. This makes the shoe feel extremely forgiving--and can make it feel like you’re not going as fast as  you are actually going. I know I’m getting into ride characteristics here, but the ride is certainly influenced by this gorgeous slab of superfoam elegantly married to a carbon plate.


Derek: The RC Elite 2 retains the same incredibly soft and springy midsole used in RC elite 1, and in the new Rebel 2. It would not do this shoe justice to simply say that the midsole simply has higher stack. 

I have a strong suspicion that the shape or angle of the carbon plate sitting in the midsole is noticeably different from RC Elite 1. There is noticeably less sinking of the heel when running, versus both RC Elite 1 and Rebel 2. I suspect either the plate is now more curved, or the plate is rotated more in a clockwise manner relative to the ground, such that the rear platform of the carbon plate sits higher and closer to the heel of the foot, thus preventing excessive sinking of the heel on impact despite the softness of the foam. The forefoot rocker in this shoe is also more noticeable than in RC Elite 1. It’s hard to say whether it is purely a matter of some tweaking of the curvature of the shoe, or increased plate stiffness or some complex interplay with the rubber outsole. Either way, it works really well, and I think we are starting to see some of that shared DNA with the Rebel 2, another shoe which I think has an effective forefoot rocker despite not having any plate at all. 

In summary the new geometry takes all the springiness of the Fuelcell foam, and gives it a much more forward directed focused propulsion, something that I felt was a little lacking in the RC Elite 1 when making comparisons to other top tier racers like the Vaporfly 4% or Saucony Endorphin Pro. 

Beyond this, the added stack of the new RC Elite also does as expected, and provides a much more cushioned underfoot feel compared to RC Elite 1, and people who found v1 to be a little less cushioned than ideal for longer distances will really appreciate the added cushioning of v2. 



Sally: How to describe this midsole? One superlative after another! The max stack height and softness of the incredible Fuel Cell foam in combination with a carbon plate makes for a rocket launching blast off. The midsole is cloudlike cushioned while bouncy and responsive, simply a delight under foot at a variety of paces.


Outsole

Jacob: The RC Elite v2 outsole is overall similar to the outsole of most of the FuelCell line, having comprehensive rubber coverage in the forefoot, exposed midsole through the midfoot and center of the heel, and two pieces of rubber along the perimeter of the heel. The rubber in the RC Elite v2 forefoot is surprisingly thick for a racer and has nice texture, visually inspiring good traction.


The most striking component of the outsole is a deep channel at the midfoot which goes all the way to the carbon plate, revealing the plate’s curved design. The channel continues through the center of the heel which lowers weight and softens the underfoot feel.


The outsole rides smoothly, helps stabilize the soft midsole, and has good traction. It is not focused on maximum weight saving, but that isn’t the goal of the RC Elite v2. 

Jamie: After nearly 100 miles (see above) in the RC Elite 2, it’s very apparent that the outsole durability is amazing. Fuel Cell tends to just feel softer longer than any other cushioning I’ve tried. The outsole protects it enough to prevent significant wear from the pavement. I’ve tested on all different surfaces and feels very stable on the roads and softer surfaces. No issues with traction even after all the rain we’ve gotten this Spring. 


Adam:  The RC Elite 2 outsole reminds me of the Rebel 2.  Jacob described the coverage well.  The rubber thickness is good and shows no visible wear after 50 miles of running.  Because the midsole flares out a bit, the shoe is quite stable and to keep the weight down, there’s a hole cut into the middle of the foam up to the plate.  It’s cool to be able to see the plate, but I did catch a rock here in one of my runs.  Not a huge deal, but I would not run this shoe on gravel unless you want to take that gravel with you.  

Traction is good for a road shoe, but I wouldn’t recommend it for mud, gravel, or trail. The mismatched colors are striking and fun as well.  So far it grips reasonably well in wet and shows no visible signs of wear.  

Michael: There’s been snow, rain, wind and dust since we’ve had the RC Elite v2 in to test, and I’ve tried to get the RC Elite out in several different conditions (even if only for strides in my L-shaped alley). Fortunately, I found grip to be solid in all instances. I liked the outsole aesthetics of the diamond-patterned v1, but didn’t find a massive change in taciness here, and I imagine the durability to be considerably better.

Joost: The RC Elite 2 outsole has a good amount of rubber in different joyful colors for both feet and a pattern that saves a little weight. The outsole is grippy on pavement and roads and it didn’t feel slippery at all on a recent run just after a tropical downpour with lots of puddles and mixed sand on the road. As Jamie already found out because of the incredible amount of miles she’s been running, it’s also very durable. Another reason the shoe might be as good a trainer as a racer.



Peter: I’ll just say it: I miss the outsole of the Elite RC V1. I loved the little nubbins on the bottom of that shoe and found them to provide outstanding traction. Sure, this outsole is great, probably more durable, and by far the best looking outsole out there--but it is a little less grippy on wet pavement. The outsole on the V2 is really, really good and reasonably grippy on slick pavement but it gives up just a little bit of the ‘grip n’ rip’ feeling from the previous version. As for the two different colors on the outsole rubber--I love it. Must be fun to run behind, but also makes me happy every time I put them on. It’s the little things!


Derek: I don’t have extensive miles on this outsole yet but I will say that people lamenting the loss of the very special outsole of the RC Elite 1 will not be disappointed with the grip quality of this rubber outsole. It may not look as snazzy, but it definitely gets the job done. I believe that there is also improved outsole stiffness with this rubber coverage on the forefoot that may have contributed to the improved forefoot rocker feel with the shoe. Overall, no complaints from me. 

Sally: I am a huge fan of the mismatched outsole colors. I live on the Atlantic Ocean and am a sailor - this is kind of like port and starboard. I did love the little nubbie things on the outsole of the RC Elite V1 (Dynaride?), but I had no issues with the traction or the durability of this V2 outsole. We will all defer to Jamie (my heroine - OMG, 100 mile races?!) to vouch for the durability of this outsole. And it is NOT loud, which is something I care about (hear that, Vaporfly?).


Ride

Jacob: The RC Elite v2 has all the components of a fantastic modern high stack shoe and the ride meets the high expectations. The ride is ultra-plush, friendly, and effortless. It makes running fun and running fast easy.

I have done a variety of runs in the RC Elite v2 and overall I love how smooth and comfortable it is. It is easygoing but moves along well and makes it feel like my legs hardly have to do any work. My test runs included a 5k workout with a mile a race pace, marathon pace blocks, strides up to max speed, a 12-mile upper endurance cruiser (6:30 min/mi) run, and a relaxed, easy endurance 10-miler (7:10 min/mi—the slowest I could run in the RC Elite v2 without focusing on going slow). I hit the paces in my workouts and had an enjoyable time every run.


The RC Elite v2 is fast and easy to run fast in, but it does not have as much of a racer feel like many of its competitors or its predecessor. It doesn’t forgo comfort in ride in favor of raw speed. From my testing experience I would not choose the RC Elite v2 for racing any distance less than a half marathon. I will however keep training in it for cruising long runs or marathon pace blocks, which I don’t do in any of my other plated racing shoes. The RC Elite v2 is also my current top pick for a road ultra and I think it would be fantastic for this as it is comfortable, has bottomless cushion, and is leg saving. It is fast, but it isn’t as light, quick, or aggressive as some other shoes, such as the ASICS Metaspeed Sky, Nike Vaporfly NEXT%, or even the RC Elite v1. This could be just a feeling and only a race experience will tell if it only feels slower or less snappy because it is so smooth, and that it is actually capable at 10k and 5k paces as well—it is an interesting feeling though.


Jamie: After quite a few long runs, some faster workouts, and a couple easy runs, the RC Elite 2 has jumped the list to become one of my favorites. While it might not be super snappy for shorter races on the roads, it’s definitely a game changer over longer distances. With my current focus on some road ultras, the very accommodating toe box, bouncy underfoot feel, and overall comfort makes it very fun. It’s a super smooth ride for slower paces, and actually makes the effort so much easier on simply just casual easy runs. I will definitely be using this shoe for longer workouts, steady long runs, and even some ultra racing. It saves my legs from a lot of pounding on the roads and makes it a super enjoyable ride. 


Editor's Update: A Jamie just ran this in her RC Elite 2!


Adam:  The RC elite 2 is a blast to run in and is a remarkably comfortable shoe.  If I was to pick a shoe for a road marathon or ultra, this would be it, for the reason of comfort alone.  The cushion feels impossible to flatten or bottom out, but is always able to rebound to the next stride.  I’d be very comfortable using this shoe for long training runs just to feel bouncy and save my legs.  Their efficiency is what makes them so fast.  The RC Elite 2 feels like a big shoe with a lot of foam that shouldn’t feel comfortable for shorter faster distances, but that efficiency and bounce seems to work for all paces.  

I just ran a half marathon PR in them (1:23) and it felt remarkably smooth.  Hours later, my legs are sore from the muscular effort, but my joints don’t hurt, my feet feel great, and they really reduced the pain I felt after a long hard effort.  I do think the plate/foam combo works especially well on climbing.  I don’t have great downhill road running technique, but the rocker doesn’t feel as effective on downhills as it does on flats or climbs.  The high stack height allows the plate to be more sloped, which means you don’t need a ton of speed to roll over it.   Practically, this means I can run these shoes easy, and they make those easier runs faster in the process.  


Michael: Not much to add here that hasn’t been said. The ride here isn’t quite as sharp as the Adios Pro or the Next%, but the cushiness of the midsole and just overall comfort of the footstrike make me think those targeting the marathon (or even half-marathon) won’t miss it. It’s a gentle rolling sensation, but still propulsive enough to allow for fast running at a high cadence.


Joost: I’ll echo most of the impressions of the others. A fun ride, effortless up to at least half marathon pace. 

I picked up the pace during one of my recent runs to a little under 5:30min/mile pace for a while and they felt easy. Strides didn’t feel as snappy as in some other shoes, but the RC Elite 2 will probably become one of the goto shoes for my next marathon training block. I’m currently dealing with 2nd toe 2nd metatarsal pain (capsulitis of the 2nd toe) on my left foot and the combination of softness of the midsole and rigidity of the plate of the shoe allows me to run almost normal mileage. What more can I ask for (apart from not having 2nd toe 2nd metatarsal pain to start with).

Peter: Yep, they are not a 5k shoe, but they require less effort and seem to cause less fatigue (in my very unscientific testing) than other shoes. The ride of the Elite V2 makes me smile. Pretty much every step is fun. There’s a ton of cushion but I feel connected to the road and I feel like I could crank out mile after mile at MGP without fatiguing. They ride like a more refined and protective Rebel V2. 


Derek: This shoe has the closest ride feel to the original Vaporfly 4% for me, which is ironic because the big complaint I have with the VFNext% is that the 8mm drop is too low and compromised the rocker benefit of the original 4%., and yet now we have another 8mm drop shoe that seems to manage to pull it off. While the VF4% has a way of letting your foot collapse forward into the toe-off phase, the RC Elite 2 doesn’t. 


Even though it is a fairly soft shoe, there is actually not that much sinking into the foam for me, but more of a springiness that also concurrently takes advantage of the stiffness of the forefoot rocker by way of the embedded carbon plate. Instead of collapsing forward, you get propelled forward instead. 


The end result is a very efficient, smooth and cushioned ride that takes out all the harshness of the road. I really like how the shoe motors along for long tempo workouts. You really feel strong even when you are way past the 10 mile mark and still having to grind out that HM-10k pace effort in a long interval set. At slower recovery paces, the shoe has a soft bounce to it but you otherwise do not notice the magical rocker; that really only comes alive when you start going fast. 


If there is a shortcoming, I will say it feels like too much shoe for shorter distance races under half marathon. I think at really fast paces, I would want a little more ground feel and proprioception, and a something a little lighter and sleeker and snugger in the toebox, but all this is purely personal preference. 


Overall, I think the shoe is still incredibly versatile and would be an excellent (if not the best, considering its good reported outsole durability) long distance trainer and racer.

Sally: It seems that we are all in consensus that the RC Elite V2 is a fun shoe that has you overperforming for the perceived effort put in. The ride is soft and bouncy with a pronounced toe spring and smooth forward rocking motion. THere’s nothing like the feeling of checking your Garmin watch to discover with delight that your pace is much faster than you thought! And the ride is a comfortable I-could-run-forever ride, seemingly forgiving on the legs.


Conclusions and Recommendations


Jacob: The RC Elite v2 is a fun and fast shoe that is easy to run in and ultimately smooth. It is a great progression for the FuelCell line, taking the flagship plated racer to a next level in maximally cushioned, modern marathon racer design. It is the smoothest and most forgiving of the plated racing shoes I’ve tested, taking the title from the adidas Adizero Adios Pro. I think it will have great utility in long races—marathon and up—as it allows me to run along at a fast pace without feeling like my legs are putting in too much work. The underfoot comfort and level of cushion for a shoe that moves along so easily is remarkable. It has value for long runs and marathon training as well. I don’t feel like it is as fast at shorter distances than most of its competitors, such as the Metaspeed Sky, Adios Pro, or Vaporfly NEXT% or 4%, or even the RC Elite v1, but it may be for some runners depending on their preferences or absolute pace. I think slower runners might really appreciate it, as a marathon racer especially. Overall, the RC Elite v2 is a great cruiser and unique in the plated racer realm for how smooth and easygoing it is.

Jacob’s Score: 9.5 / 10

Ride: 10 (50%) Fit: 8.5 (30%) Value: 9.5 (15%) Style 10 (5%)

 

Jamie: New Balance made a good one with the RC Elite v2. It takes what I love about FuelCell and combines it with a responsive carbon plate to make a shoe that lives up to my expectations. It’s super fun over all distances, from daily easy runs, long tempo runs, and ultra racing. It definitely competes with the Nike Next% in terms of bounciness and propulsion. I don’t think it would benefit as much for shorter road racing, but saves the legs from the pounding over the long haul. I really appreciate the design and the overall fit for someone with a wider foot. Overall, the RC Elite v2 is a super fun and fast shoe, a great addition to the carbon plated world, and a big next step for New Balance. 

Jamie’s Score: 9.55/10

Ride: 10 (50%) Fit: 9 (30%) Value: 9 (15%) Style:10 (5%)


Adam:   The RC Elite 2 somehow manages to be my fastest distance racing shoe and my most comfortable easy/long run shoe.  My favorite part is the way it saves your legs from the harsh impacts of running at speed, but the way the bounce and energy return are effortlessly efficient is pretty great too.  The stability is good, and I wouldn’t be worried about rolling my ankle in these.  This is the shoe that showed me that the optimal stack height is higher than I thought it was, and the combination of comfort and speed make it extra fun to run in but also forgiving enough to do so a lot.  

Adam’s Score:  9.63/10

Ride: 10 (50%) Fit: 9.3 (30%) Value: 9 (15%) Style:10 (5%)

 

Michael: If I was racing, say, a 50K (something that is thoroughly in Jamie’s domain), I think the RC Elite 2 would be an absolute no-brainer. For the marathon, as we know, the field is much tighter. Even so, I’m as confident as ever (and I think I felt similarly for the v1) that you won’t feel disadvantaged standing at the starting line besides someone in the AlphaFly (and you’ll be considerably quieter, too). I know this isn’t the most wholehearted praise, but understand - that’s a lot of ground to make up in just a few months. New Balance has built an absolute top-end racer here, and I’ll be happy to run it when racing resumes.

Michael’s Score: 9.7/10

 

Joost: A fast do it (almost) all shoe that’s fun to run in and has an easy ride. The RC Elite 2 is as good a training shoe (albeit expensive for that purpose alone) as a racer. If I were to be training for something like the Comrades Marathon (90km in Durban/Pietermaritzburg, South Africa) or the Two Oceans Marathon (56km, Cape Town, South Africa), both unfortunately still canceled due to covid, these would be the shoes I’d do a lot of training mileage in and also lace up on the starting line. For the marathon or shorter, the choice becomes a little harder and quite frankly, I don’t know yet what I’ll be wearing for my next one, but the RC Elite 2 is definitely on my shortlist.

Joost’s Score:  9.55/10

Ride: 9.7 (50%) Fit: 9.5 (30%) Value: 9 (15%) Style:10 (5%)


Peter: The NB RC Elite V2 knocks it out of the park for me. The upper looks great, it fits like a dream, it’s fun and fast to run in and leaves me feeling fresher than other super shoes. I have had zero interest in running a marathon this year, but running in this shoe has made me want to go run a marathon. It was fun to do some back to back comparisons with some other shoes. The RC holds and fits my foot WAY better than the Nike’s and feels better at easier paces than any of the other super shoes. A total win. My only knock is that I miss the outsole rubber (and its traction) from the V1

Peter’s score: 9.8/10


Sally: I was ready to name the NB Rebel 2 the 2021 Shoe of the Year back in 2020. Well, NB has produced a serious competitor for the title from its own ranks. The RC Elite 2 can be the fast and fun race shoe for many, as well as being versatile enough to be the long training run shoe for others. It is comfortable, forgiving, quick, smooth, and fast with a beautiful (positively purple!) upper that holds and supports your foot unlike any other carbon plated shoe. The ride is soft and naturally flowing. This would be my choice for an “entry-level” carbon plated race shoe, ideal for those who have delayed buying their first carbon plated shoe. This shoe does it all, and does it with style, comfort, and ego-stroking speed. 

Sally’s score: 9.75/10.0


Derek: It’s almost difficult for me to think of any way the RC Elite could be improved, beyond bringing the weight down. And now we have finally mentioned the weight of the shoe. It is after all a full ounce heavier than the VFNext% and 4%, and that’s really what it boils down to. Increased underfoot cushioning vs lighter weight. A lot of it will come down to personal preference, and maybe even foot shape as the Nike’s tend to favor narrower feet. 

I personally like how the high stack of the shoe doesn’t make it feel too… unnatural. With the new World Athletics rules, there are only a small handful of shoes that are pushing that stack envelope: the Nike Alphafly and Tempo Next%, Adidas Adios Pro, ASICS MetaSpeed Sky and now the RC Elite 2. Out of all these shoes (unfortunately I haven’t had the chance to try the ASICS Sky),

I dare say the RC Elite has the smoothest, most natural feeling ride of the lot. It may not necessarily be the fastest or “best” but it is easily the most comfortable and easygoing. Each of the other max stack super shoes has a tendency to feel awkward if your gait doesn’t quite match its geometry. Alphafly for example, may feel very difficult to turnover if you are a big time heel striker as it has an incredibly soft heel. Adios Pro works best in my opinon for midfoot strikers as there is a relatively flat section from heel to the metatarsophalangeal joints where landing and transition can feel a little “block-y”, and the forefoot rocker is placed very far in front which favors elites but may not work to its full potential for mid-packers who don’t quite get up on their toes for the entirety of a full marathon. 

And the list goes on. The RC Elite 2 is one shoe where I feel it is smooth enough that it will continue to feel smooth however you land and transition in it, and that is where I think it shines vs the others. 

Derek’s Score 9.83 / 10

Ride 9.8 / 10 (50%) Fit 9.8 / 10 (30%) Value 9.9 / 10 (15%) Style 10/10 (5%)


12 Comparisons

Index to all RTR reviews: HERE


New Balance Fuel Cell RC Elite v1 (RTR Review)

Jacob: Despite using the same midsole material, the RC Elite v1 is surprisingly different in construction, fit, and ride. The RC Elite v1 is much snugger overall and narrower in the forefoot which is what I expect from a racing shoe. It fits my foot very well and I ran a marathon as my first run in the shoe my first time lacing it up and had no issues. 


The RC Elite v2 is more comfortable when I get the lace tightness right and is preferred for a trainer especially for long runs. It is roomier in the toebox but is never as secure as the v1. Underfoot the RC Elite v1 has a much firmer forefoot and greater difference in feel between the forefoot and heel. The v1 heel is strangely soft and slightly unstable, though not problematic for me, and it has incredible bounce off the heel. The RC Elite v2 has less drop and a much softer forefoot. It has a less aggressive rocker and more rebound overall. The RC Elite v1 is more traditional and I prefer it for shorter races. It is less chill especially at slower paces than v2 and less forgiving. For the marathon I’d go v2, for anything less probably v1, though I’ve only raced v1 for a marathon and haven’t raced v2 for anything yet.

Michael: The v2 is undoubtedly a superior marathon shoe than the v2, but for shorter distances - even the half-marathon - I think the v2 should be in the mix. The first version brings a slightly peppier and more aggressive ride, but (as detailed in our review!) is certainly a comfortable enough option to cover the distance. The newest version improves on the original, but they’re both just terrific options.


Peter: I really like V1, but I love V2. It’s more fun to run in and the softness and bounce make it easier on the body. It looks better too. A great iterative success from NB. 


Derek: v1 is good but v2 is really great, and it’s not just the additional stack. The whole shoe just rolls through in a much more deliberate and directed manner that simply feels more efficient. Needless to say, v2 is by far the better shoe for me, at pretty much everything except maybe the really short fast workouts where the added outsole traction of v1 makes a bit of difference.  


New Balance FuelCell TC (RTR Review)

Jacob: This is an interesting comparison as the TC and RC Elite v2 are both top of the line easy cruising shoes. They make running fast remarkably smooth and easy. The TC is lower stack and more subdued underfoot than the RC Elite v2 though still high-cushion. Both are soft and bouncy but the RC Elite v2 has a crazy level of cushion and smoothness. Both shoes—in fact the entire NB FuelCell line—fit me very well (true to size). The TC upper is more robust and softer, overall a 10/10 fit and preferred to the RC Elite v2. Most significantly the TC tongue is softer and not prone to lace bite for me, whereas I have minor issues with the RC Elite v2. An important negative of the TC vs the RC Elite v2 is that the TC is much heavier (1.8 oz / 51 g in my US M12), not race-weight like the RC Elite v2. However, I have never felt the TC weight a burden or even a negative for training—I truly love the ride. The weight lowers its ability to compete with the top racers, though. 


For the trainer use case, I find the TC better all around, feeling less dramatically soft and less extreme than the RC Elite v2. The TC can do it all, though I’ve liked it most for long runs and marathon pace block workouts. The RC Elite v2 is my pick for racing at any distance. For training it overlaps well with the TC for marathon pace workouts and long runs but is less of a good pick for the daily random run or easy days.


Michael: As named, the TC is the perfect training companion. It’s not aggressive or harsh in any way, but still keeps you rolling forward and maintaining a quick cadence across any pace or distance. Get the RC Elite v2… and get the FuelCell TC.


Peter: In a lot of ways this is the best ride comparison. The Elite V2 rides a lot more like the TC than the V1 did. As the V2 is way lighter than the TC it is much easier to turn over. The RC is even bouncier than the TC. Train in TC, Race in RC. throw out all of your other shoes...I kid. 


Derek: It’s really strange but i double and triple checked and i still can’t believe that the TC and the RC Elite 2 have the same heel stack. The RC Elite 2 heel feels so much higher and more has a more prominent bounce back than the TC. Honestly, I really like the TC for daily runs and medium pace long runs, but the RC is so good that I’d happily pay the extra $25 to use it as a trainer as well. The ride of the RC is more directed while the TC has a more natural ride. You will read in my initial review of the TC that i complained that the plate wasn’t stiff enough through the forefoot in the TC, and i think that really makes the difference in the rocker performance between the RC Elite 2 and the TC.


adidas Adizero Adios Pro (RTR Review)

Jacob: The Adios Pro is firmer with less sink-in soft feel and a slightly snappier feel. Both are very smooth and easy to run fast in. The Adios Pro feels like a faster shoe to me, and I had great success racing a 10-miler in it. Both are on the heavier, max-cushion side. I think the Adios Pro is a more versatile shoe, able to run shorter distances with more connection to the ground on toe off. In the RC Elite v2 I feel like I’m relying on the trampoline spring off the toe rather than more direct power as in the Adios Pro. They’re similar overall having easygoing rides inspiring effortless speed. The RC Elite v2 performs better at training paces for me. The Adios Pro fits me more securely and is easier to dial in the fit (less prone to lace bite). I like both but am leaning towards the Adios Pro if I had to choose one for racing any distance.


Michael: Agreed with Jacob; the Adios Pro has a denser midsole and more aggressive lean (especially with those carbon rods promoting a quick toe-off), which make it a little less friendly at slower paces. I think ultimately the Adios Pro does feel faster, but it’s really a close call. For those who need it, the New Balance has slightly more room up front.


Joost: (M9.5 in both) The Adios Pro is definitely more aggressive. For shorter distances, I would pick it over the RC Elite 2, but the longer the distance, the more chances of me picking the RC Elite 2 over the Adios Pro.


Derek: I agree with how Michael puts it. I think you really need to get up on your toes to get the full benefit of the Adios Pro, but the RC Elite is more forgiving and works better at non-elite paces in that it has a rocker/curvature that starts farther back and does not require you to have an aggressive forward lean to activate the rocker. 


ASICS Metaspeed Sky  (RTR Review)

Jacob: Both are carbon-plated super shoes but with very different styles of ride. Notably, the RC Elite v2 is a friendlier shoe overall, both in fit and ride. The RC Elite v2 uses a softer midsole material, so it feels more plush underfoot. The RC Elite v2 has a wider forefoot and more relaxed (though still performance) fit. The RC Elite v2 ride is easygoing, forgiving at a wide range of paces, and extremely smooth. 


I consider the Metaspeed Sky a speed-first shoe—it aims for the lowest weight and highest performance for elite marathoners. Comfort of ride and performance at slower paces come after the primary goal of speed. The Metaspeed Sky feels much snappier and quicker moving—explosively energetic. 


The RC Elite v2 is quick-moving but feels more effortless, gliding me along. For racing, the Metaspeed Sky is my pick for the 10k and below for sure. The RC Elite v2 is my pick for the marathon and up. The half is a toss-up for me given the experience I have in both shoes so far (for reference, I have a recent half time of 1:18). For slower runners, especially those who prefer a more forgiving ride, I think the RC Elite v2 would be a better pick for all race distances. Faster runners or those favoring a slightly more traditional and less extremely soft feel may prefer the Metaspeed Sky. The Metaspeed Sky wants to go fast and requires more work to fully utilize its speed potential. For training, the RC Elite v2 has utility for cruising long runs while the Metaspeed Sky will stay on my shelf, waiting for race day. 


Michael: The MetaSpeed Sky feels (and is) lighter and more nimble - not necessarily in the style of pre-plated racers (a style I think the new Magic Speed (RTR Review) embodies well enough), but certainly in the vein of a goal-race, bet-the-house option. While the MetaSpeed Sky maintains that hefty stack that keeps your legs from being too beat up, it’s still a racer first. And while the RC Elite v2 is also a true marathon racer, it feels a little more easy-going and accommodating at slower paces. I think both should be about even for 26.2, but for anything shorter I think the weight and feel of the ASICS would win out. I’ll likely tout the New Balance for my next marathon… hopefully this fall!


Peter: I’m still getting my head around the MetaSpeed Sky, but I’m more drawn to the RC Elite V2. The RC is much friendlier at easy paces (warmup, cooldown, etc) and while Sky feels really good at MGP, the Elite V2 feels more fun to me. 


Sally: Two amazing shoes! Both TTS W8 for me. The Metaspeed Sky is more of a get-down-to-business race shoe for that PR attempt, the RC Elite 2 is the more versatile I-can-race-you-any day but I can also be your high performance trainer shoe. The RC Elite 2 has a more spacious, more forgiving upper. If I had a half marathon or shorter race on the calendar right now, I would choose the more serious Metaspeed Sky (I am NOT an elite racer with a most recent marathon time of 3:28, but I sure feel elte in that shoe!) , but for a marathon? My feet might prefer the soft bounce and peppy pop of the RC Elite 2.



Puma Deviate Nitro Elite (RTR Review)

Michael: The Deviate Nitro Elite is considerably firmer and lower to the ground; while the plate is prominent, the entire shoe does feel more traditional (and more trainer-like) than the clearly-next-generation RC Elite v2. Of course, the Puma has Nitro foam onboard, which is massively springly and fun - and despite its (relatively) small stack, does give some great comfort and protection from pounding. The lower stack Puma is about 1 oz /  28g lighter. I’d absolutely take the RC Elite 2 for 26.2, and probably 13.1, but anything less and I’d run the Puma!


Saucony Endorphin Pro (RTR Review)

Jacob: The Endorphin Pro is firmer, more harsh, and more challenging to run in. It is stiff with a geometry that feels best with a certain form. The RC Elite v2 is much softer and bouncier with a smoother feel that is more forgiving to footstrike and feels easier to cruise along in. The RC Elite v2 is roomier in the forefoot which I prefer—both true to size but the Endorphin Pro is a bit narrow for me. Which to choose depends on your preferences and run style. If you want firmer, more pronouncing rolling rocker, and stiff closer to the ground feel, go the Endorphin Pro. If you want soft, easy, smooth, cruising, go for the RC Elite v2. I prefer the RC Elite v2 ride and fit for all use cases.


Jamie: I couldn't have said it any better than Jacob. The Endorphin Pro is very stiff, while the RC Elite v2 is much more forgiving and bouncy. Both true to size, with the New Balance having a wider/deeper toe box.


Adam: Jacob described the differences between these very well.  I love the Endorphin Pro, and I’d still probably take it for any distance under 10km.  The Endorphin Pro is stiff and responsive, and feels like a traditional fast shoe in that it’s somewhat harsh and responsive.  The Speedroll rocker feels great at speed, but over 7 minute miles for me, it’s harsh and struggles to transition.  The RC Elite 2 is much bouncier and more forgiving, more stable, and has more room in the toebox.  The RC elite 2 is happy and smooth at every pace, and while both of these shoes will push you to go faster, the Endorphin pro doesn’t like going slow. 


If you’re grabbing these for a race or speed day, both will be amazingly fun, but if you want a shoe you can comfortably train in, that has enough extra cushion to save your legs, and is effortlessly efficient at half marathon and longer pace, the RC Elite 2 is a blast.  


Joost: (M9.5 in both) If you feel especially pumped before a training run or a shorter race and feel like turning over those legs fast, go with the Endorphin Pro. It makes you want to keep up with the pace it wants you to go at and not the other way around. Otherwise, the RC Elite is a better option, with an easier going ride and lots of softness.


Derek: Endorphin Pro has a really good rocker action going but it can feel a little harsh for longer efforts, and the outsole can be a little slippery on wet roads. RC Elite is a more forgiving shoe, with a lot less ground feel. I think the Endorphin Pro is still the better shoe for 10-K and below, while RCE2 is better for the full marathon. At the half marathon distance, it is a bit of a wash and comes down to personal preference. I’d prefer the RCE2.


Saucony Endorphin Speed (RTR Review)

Peter: I put these to the test right next to each other on 1k repeats at HMGP and it was a pretty stark difference. While the RC Elite V2 felt pretty normal to me while I was running in them, switching out to the Endorphin was like stepping into a minimal shoe. Way lower to the ground, faster turnover and more road feel--but more perceived effort and more wear and tear on the body. Ultimately it’s hard to believe that two things called super shoes or speed shoes or marathon shoes, or whatever could feel so different. I would use the Speed in a 5k before I’d use the Elites, but for anything longer it would be the RC Elite all the way. 


Derek: The Endorphin Speed is a great trainer, but it’s actually quite obvious that the nylon plate lacks the pop and stiffness of the Endorphin Pro’s carbon plate when you start comparing workout performance. I think RC Elite 2 is a much better all-rounded shoe compared to the Speed, being more cushioned and lighter at the same time. Of course, all this comes at a cost premium and there’s a reason why the Speed is so popular at its relatively cheap $160.


Nike ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT% (RTR Review)

Jacob: As a single shoe for all distance racing, the legendary NEXT% is still my top pick, though it has competitors at each distance. The NEXT% is leg-saving and forgiving for the marathon as well as snappy and energetic at short distances. It is the lightest of the high-stack plated racers as well—a hard combo to beat. However, the razor-focus on speed has some potential negatives. Compared to the RC Elite v2, the NEXT% has a snugger, narrower fit (may be a positive for some foot shapes) and a more aggressive but less comfortable and stable underfoot feel. The NEXT% is less smooth at slow paces than the RC Elite v2. I don’t find the NEXT% a great shoe for training—it feels almost fragile in it’s lightweight design and narrow heel—whereas the friendly RC Elite v2 works well for a cruising long run at endurance pace. For racing, I’d pick the NEXT% for the half and under, but am curious to try the RC Elite v2 for racing a marathon. 


Jamie: The NEXT% has been my favorite shoe from 5k on the roads to ultra marathon racing. I race in them up to about 100 miles and use them for long workouts and training, with my last pair getting over 400 miles. Soft, but also firm, it provides a very snappy ride. It’s saved my legs from hard efforts, and sped up my recovery process. It’s light, and super fun, but definitely save them for the big days. Compared to the RC Elite v2, the NEXT% fits narrower. I would go true to size in both, however, I prefer the width of the New Balance. After running in many race shoes over the years, the NEXT% has given me zero feet issues. They definitely feel better at faster paces than the RC Elite v2, and I wouldn’t necessarily wear NEXT%  for casual runs. I would definitely wear both for ultra racing, the RC Elite v2 for training runs, and the NEXT% for pace specific workouts. 


Joost: (M9.5 in both) With all the great shoes that have been coming out, the NEXT% sometimes risks getting a little long in the tooth, until you lace them up. They are still a fantastic pair of racers and since I’ve run my fastest times in them (2:26:10), I would still be tempted to use them again for my next marathon. However, I’m planning on running 2 fall marathons a week apart (if everything goes according to plan) and I might use different shoes for both. The more forgiving ride and the wider forefoot of the RC Elite 2 might give it the edge for my second race.


Derek: I think there is a little better forefoot pop in the VF Next% though it feels flatter in the transition department compared to the RC Elite 2. It really comes down to the weight saving benefit of the VFNext% vs the better rocker and cushioning performance of the RC Elite 2. I think for the full marathon RC Elite 2 makes a really strong case,especially if it's a strength course. Anything shorter, and i think the VF Next% still reigns.


Nike Air Zoom Alphafly Next (RTR Review)

Jamie: While Nike might argue that the Alphafly is the next step up from the NEXT%, I definitely understand why many elites choose to keep racing in the NEXT%. While the stack height and cushion make it feel super bouncy, especially with the air pod underneath the forefoot, it just feels like a lot of shoe. In comparison, the RC Elite v2, feels lighter with a much sleeker design. I had some issues with the upper in both, with the rigid upper of the Alphafly creating some hotspots, and the under lacing of the RC Elite v2 biting the top of my foot a bit. However, the fit of the New Balance feels much more natural and I definitely think tightening them a little differently would resolve the issue I had. I would recommend staying true to size in both. Currently I wear the Alphafly for some longer tempo workouts, as I feel like they aren’t quite as responsive for paces faster than half marathon effort. I would say Alphafly is very similar to the RC Elite v2, however, I wouldn’t be comfortable wearing the Alphafly for distances longer than the marathon. 


Derek: I think the Alphafly works best for a particular type of stride, and that’s a stride that can really load the forefoot and take advantage of the airpods. That’s not my stride unfortunately. I do appreciate the incredibly good cushioning of the shoe, and I feel really fresh throughout long workouts, but I can't seem to get comfortable at fast paces in it. RC Elite 2 is definitely the better shoe for me.


Vaporfly 4% FK (RTR Review)

Jamie: I’ve never been a big fan of flyknit uppers. From the vaporfly to regular training shoes, it just never quite fit my foot right, or felt secure enough. I found that the Vaporfly 4% FK broke down very quickly, was fairly tight on my foot, and felt like the ride wasn’t quite as fun because of it. Because of the width issue, I ended up going half a size up in the flyknit version of the Vaporfly, but stayed true to size in the RC Elite v2. In comparison, I also found the upper and fit of the RC Elite to be much more accommodating. While the Vaporfly 4% FK might have just been an upper difference from the original Vaporfly, the durability and the cushioning aren’t quite at the level of the RC Elite v2.


Joost: (M9.5 in both) Fate has it that I never raced in the 4% FK, but I used a pair for most of my longer and faster paced work during my last racing cycle (2019 sure seems like an eternity ago) and loved them for that. I agree with Jamie in that durability and cushioning of the RC Elite 2 are far superior.


Derek: I never raced in the VF 4% Fk either. The Flyknit upper just doesn’t work for me in the 4% last and I get major heel slippage no matter how I lace it or what kind of socks i use. I am resigned to using my Fk’s for short workouts but I would never use it in a race situation. RC Elite 2 is much more user-friendly for me.


Brooks Hyperion Elite 2 (RTR Review)

Michael: The Brooks Hyperion Elite 2 and New Balance RC Elite v2 are actually somewhat comparable in aggressiveness and stance; I found the Brooks to be plenty squishy for long sessions without sacrificing that carbon propulsion. Even so, I think the New Balance covers everything the Brooks does, and then some. The upper is more comfortable and snug, the ride is softer and more accommodating, and the outsole is markedly better. Brooks is great - New Balance is better!


Jacob: The HE2 is on the verge of not feeling like a super shoe compared to the RC Elite v2. It has notably less softness and bounce. It has a more pronounced roll. I raced the HE2 once, for a 20-miler and after that experience which lacked the effortless speed and leg-saving effect I expect from a high stack plated shoe, I am not inclined to race it again over the other options available (however I found new life for it as a track workout shoe). I agree with Micheal overall, both in that they are similar in aggressiveness and that the RC Elite v2 is more comfortable, forgiving, and has a more durable, higher traction outsole. The HE2 may be a better 5k pick but the RC Elite v2 is my preferred shoe overall.


Derek: I still like the HE2 for workouts and the occasional long run. It is very stable and has good vibration dampening, but the foam just lacks that spring to make the shoe stand out enough in a world where even the Nike’s are starting to get shown up. No question the RC Elite 2 is by far the better (and cheaper!!) option.


Hoka Rocket X (RTR Review)

Jamie: This shoe has become part of my regular shoe rotation for longer steady efforts, or where I want to throw in some fast intervals. It has a soft landing yet very propulsive. The Rocket X has the response I enjoy for faster turnover, yet can handle going longer distances. A narrower fit, but not too tight. True to size. I would definitely wear this for some shorter road races, up to a marathon. In comparison, the RC Elite v2 has a bit more cushioning that feels better over longer distances. Toebox is definitely deeper and wider than the Rocket X. I do appreciate the sleek fit of the Rocket X which really makes it feel like a racing shoe, not something I would wear for easy runs like the RC Elite v2.

Joost: (M9.5 in both) The Rocket X is one of the other shoes that hasn’t aggravated my 2nd toe capsulitis much. It feels more like a traditional racing shoe, in spite of being plated. For a shorter race, I would pick the Rocket X, but anything of a half marathon and over would have me go for the RC Elite 2.

Derek: Rocket X feels a little too traditional to be in the same conversation for me. It is simply a snappy and cushioned traditional racer, but lacks any significant assistive elements to the ride that make it stand out. RC Elite 2 is by far the more fun and more forgiving shoe. 


Hoka Carbon X 2 (RTR Review)

Jamie: The Carbon X 2, designed for ultra marathon racing, differs greatly in the overall fit, and ride. I appreciate the fact that I could run in both shoes for daily miles, long runs, workouts, and easy recovery miles. The Carbon X 2 is generally a narrow fit overall, true to size, but definitely snug. It rides very firm, which is quite enjoyable on some softer surfaces, but leaves a bit more to be desired on the roads.


Derek: It’s strange but I’ve been using the Carbon X 2 a lot of late. The shoe actually gets bouncier and smoother the more you use it. Despite how good the Carbon X 2 is, the RC Elite 2 is on another level when it comes to cushioning and performance. I’d say the RC Elite 2 is better at everything here. Including outsole durability.


Watch RTR Editor Sam's RC Elite 2 Initial Video Review (14:29)

The RC Elite 2 releases May 2021


Photo Credit women's version: Sally Reiley who will join review with her take soon.


Tested samples were provided at no charge for review purposes. No other compensation was received by RTR or the authors for this review from New Balance. The opinions herein are entirely the authors'.

Comments and Questions Welcome Below!
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5 comments:

Mikael Koskinen said...

Thank you for the review. Interesting shoe, though I think the availability is a going to be a big question mark. The RC v1 wasn't readily available at any point last year and where the review states that "[first version] took months to become available", I would argue that it took almost a year for it to become available in EU. Because, for some reason, it has just now appeared on New Balance's online shop, listed as New and available in all the sizes. Price is still 230€.

Seems to be a good start from NB to this year, with RC v2 and Rebel v2.

Mikael Koskinen said...

I must admit, I remembered that the RC v1 was released much earlier last year than it actually was. The actual release date seems to have been 9/2020, so it didn't take almost a year like I suggested in the earlier comment. Sorry about that.

Interesting that NB decided to refresh the RC so quickly but I haven't seen any comments about TC v2.

Sam Winebaum said...

Hi Mikael,
NB refreshed RC to have a shoe competitive in the up to IAAF limit super shoe game for the Olympics. They told us their testing indicated the weight gain was balanced out by increases in economy and efficiency
Sam,, Editor

Malcolm said...

Joost - how does it compare with Hoka Mach 4 ? Thanks mslcolm

70's Teen said...

Does the midsole softness and bounciness resemble that of the Invincible? I'm looking for something Invincible-like but lighter that would work for fartlek or other up-tempo training.