Wednesday, April 13, 2022

New Balance Fuel Cell Super Comp Pacer Multi Tester Review: Carbon Powered Race Flat Vibes. 10 Comparisons

Article by Peter Stuart, Derek Li, Ryan Eiler, Michael Ellenberger, and Adam Glueck

New Balance FuelCell Super Comp Pacer ($150)

Introduction

Peter: The SC Pacer is a brand-new shoe from New Balance. It’s a carbon plated shoe with a relatively low stack that’s meant to go fast. The shoe is built on Fuel Cell Foam, has a plate and debuts New Balances Hyper Arc technology. It comes on the heels of NB killing off the RC 1400, so there’s some expectation that it will fit into the slot of mid-distance racer. 


Pros:

Breathable upper: Peter/Joost/Derek/Michael/Ryan/Adam

Great race fit: Peter/Joost/Michael//Adam

Snappy ride, fast turnover: Peter/Joost/Derek/Ryan/Adam

Light: Joost/Michael/Ryan/Adam

Reminiscent of old-school flats: Michael


Cons:

Laces may be too thin: Peter/Michael/Ryan

Can feel harsh, in spite of FuelCell: Joost/Derek/Ryan/Adam

Sizing a little long: Derek

A little too roomy in the forefoot for a race shoe? Peter/Ryan/Adam



Stats

Weight: men's oz 6.81 oz / 193 g (US9)

Samples: men’s 199g / 7.02 oz US9.5 , 6.56 oz / 186g US8.5

Measured: 28mm heel, 20mm forefoot 8mm drop (Derek)

Available June 2022. $150


Tester Profiles

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 2:39 marathon PR from the 2022 Zurich Marathon.

Ryan Eller A hopeless soccer career led Ryan to take up running, and after taking a decade-long break from competing, he is back racking up mileage whenever he can.  He calls the 2018 Boston Marathon the hardest race of his life, where he finished in 2:40, barely remembering his name at the finish line.  More recently he has solo time trialed the 2020 super shoes, often sub 15 minutes for 5K and in 2021 marathon had PR’s of 2:27 at the Maine Marathon and 1:09 for the half marathon.

Michael is a 2019 graduate of Northwestern University Law School in Chicago and is a patent and intellectual property attorney. 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. He has a 2:23 marathon PR (2nd place) from the 2021 Lakefront Marathon in Wisconsin.

Adam: is a cross country ski racer from New Hampshire and graduate student at Dartmouth College. Along with skiing, he’s a big fan of endurance sports in general and does a lot of running.  He’s much faster at skiing, recently participating in the curtailed NCAA’s skiing for Dartmouth College, but can run a 4:43 mile, 16:20 5k, 1:23 half, and loves running in the technical white mountains of NH.  



First Impressions and Fit

Peter: Wowza…the SC Pacer jumped out of the box with its lime green and white upper with blue accents. A very pretty upper on a very light shoe. The real eye catcher under the hood is the Hyper Arc cutout under the heel of the shoe. 

There’s a big elongated gap in the foam under the heel with a plate underneath. According to NB, the plate under the heel is curved or rounded in a way that it’s like a spoon laying face down. This curvature flexes and flattens out when loaded and then springs back when released. It looks cool, but how does it fit and ride? 

Well, fit is sublime. The upper is soft and there is enough room over the toes that I didn’t have to size up (which I’ve had to do in the Rebel V2). So, fit is true to size. Shoe holds the foot well. First run was delightful. The Pacer felt fine in warmup and between reps, but in extended tempo sections of my run it felt…blissful. I’m excited to get more workouts in the shoe. 

Derek: The aesthetics are spot on with the SC Pacer, and it is really as light as it looks. Reminds me a lot of my last traditional racing flat from NB, the 1400v3. Step in feel is very comfortable for a shoe that is intended for shorter distance racing. 


Sizing is a little bit on the long side for me. This to me is emblematic of the general direction that the industry is heading in, sizing-wise. It was not too long ago that one had to size up in all the racing flats. Nike Zoom Streak 6/7, Brooks T7 racer, NB 1400, etc. Nowadays, I am almost having to size down. I can fit the Adidas Adios Pro and Takumi Sen 8 a half size down, and the same goes for Nike Alphafly, and Saucony Endorphin Pro+. Anyway, I have a little over a thumb’s width spacing at the toes at true-to-size, and i think most people would want to go down a half size with this shoe. Bear in mind there are only 4 rows of eyelets in this upper so there is only so much you can achieve with the laces. All that said, I have a very good first impression with the foam and ride. There is a little bit of subtle give in the foam, and the curvature and degree of forefoot flex in the shoe lends the shoe very well to forefoot loading, as you do when running hard. 

Michael: I was so excited when I heard rumor of this shoe - I’m on a New Balance-sponsored team, and while the RC Elite v2 is a terrific marathon option, it’s just too soft and squishy to really feel “fast” for shorter races. With brands finally moving to fill the space left by the death of non-plated flats (I sure do miss the old 4 oz. New Balance RC5000!), the SC Pacer is a breath of fresh air for those shorter races.  



Upper


Derek: This is a very minimalist and soft upper, reminiscent of what you get with track spikes. 


The front is just a very thin single layer of engineered mesh with large perforations that really make it breathe very well even in hot conditions. Where it is clearly different from a spike is in terms of toebox volume. 

You get a really nice wider anatomical shape with the forefoot so you can get plenty of toe splay here. There is a thin layer of internal laminate around the front edge of the shoe to lit the upper up a bit, though interestingly, unlike many other internal toe bumpers, the laminate does not extend proximally to go over the toes. (This is such a minor thing that i think most people won’t give it a second thought, but i recently had an internal toe bumper delaminate in a small section in one of my favorite long distance trainers and it was essentially hanging down from the top just above my longest second toe, and I found that even with medium thickness socks, the hanging edge of the bumper kept catching on my toenail. Nothing that would cause pain but it can be annoying at times. So with that in mind, I think not extending the toe bumper too far back is a brilliant idea.) 

Going backwards, at mid-foot there are some overlays for the branding of the shoe but by and large, the material is still very unstructured here. As mentioned above, there are 4 rows of eyelets for lacing, which is curious for a short distance racing flat. I gather they wanted to follow the same vein as the design of the RC Elite 2. Here, the toe box actually feels wider than in the RC Elite 2, and the materials are softer and less structured than in the RC Elite 2, so there is even more demand for lockdown from the laces. 

Moving on to the heel, the heel counter is semi-rigid and works well enough. You can see from the images that there is not a lot of padding around the ankle collar, which is what you would expect with a short distance racer, but I did not have issues with heel slippage in this shoe.   


Bottomline for me, the lockdown is acceptable, but not as special as in the RC Elite 2 where you got quite good lockdown with minimal lace tension. 

The tongue is also just a very thin layer of suede, so you do start to feel the lace pressure quite early with these relatively narrow laces (vs the fatter flat laces spec’ed on the RC Elite 2). I think for speedier folk, it would be a good idea to size down, and just go sockless and go hammer the Carlsbad 5000 or NYC 5th Avenue Mile in it, because it is one of those really comfortable uppers that most people will have no problems going sockless in.

Michael: The old-school vibe of the SC Pacer is represented fully in the upper, which is a thin, breathable mesh, with few frills. As Derek noted, the most obvious comparison is a track spike, though its not quite as tight-knit as, say, the pre-plated Nike Victory or Mamba line. Instead, it’s a lot like what we saw on the old ultra-light flats of the mid-2010s: the NB RC5000, the Mizuno Wave Universe, the ASICS Piranha. 


I was pleasantly surprised with the foot lock here; it’s certainly not fancy, and I think it could do with a slightly improved mid-foot wrap or fully-gusseted tongue, but across a couple races and several workouts, I never had cause to readjust (or even complain about) the lockdown or foothold here.


I agree with Derek that the sizing, while appropriate, would lend itself to a half-size down for a true race-ready fit. My 8.5s fit great, but I’d also be comfortable in an 8.0 with no socks or a really thin sock. Remember - every ounce counts!

Peter: The upper is an elegantly simple and soft feeling mesh. Incredibly comfortable and plenty breathable due to the fairly large perforations in the mesh. The padding in the heel collar is just enough to hold the back of the foot and stay comfortable. The tongue is barely there thin. The laces are very, very thin. This hasn’t been a problem and I haven’t had the shoes come untied at all, and I haven’t had to double knot them. Despite having only 4 rows of eyelets, I found that the laces secure the midfoot very well. The upper feels light, fast, breathable and comfortable.  Sizing is good for me. I had to size up in the NB Rebel V2, but the SC Pacer is just right at true-to-size. 

My only real issue with the upper is that between the very large holes in the mesh and the slightly baggy feel of the mesh on the forefoot there can be a little bit too much room in the forefoot for me. It never feels sloppy, per se, but I wonder if it could feel just a little more locked down. This would come into play in the faster races like 10k and 5k I think. 


Ryan: I agree with some of what my fellow reviewers have stated – the upper is exceptionally comfortable, and runs long thanks in part to a thin, minimal upper. Consider sizing down if you’re on the fence.

The downside, which Peter noted, were the relatively large perforations covering most of the upper – especially the toe box. They make for a highly breathable and comfortable fit, but it made for an upper which was far too stretchy for my liking. When running at faster paces, which this shoe is designed for, my forefoot floated around more than was comfortable, and left me feeling like I didn’t have full control. This was especially apparent when running on cambered roads, when the weakness of the mesh on the lateral side became apparent. I think this upper swings too far in the direction of minimalism for the sake of weight savings. The strength provided by the overlays seems to be sacrificed by the perforations in the mesh, even further back into the midfoot. The byproduct is an uneven, strained lockdown that didn’t feel sufficient for faster running. Luckily, the feel was more secure and didn’t cause any problems. The laces are thin and feel like they’re being overworked, and in my opinion don’t reach far enough down the length of the foot’s bridge to secure things up front.



Adam:  I agree with Derek and Peter on the upper, it’s tremendously breathable, but not as special as the RC Elite 2.  I found that I needed more lace tension to get a good fit, and because the tongue has extremely minimal padding, it was easy to feel pressure on the top of the foot from lacing it too tight.  Thankfully, because the shoe has a relatively low stack and good stability, the upper doesn’t need to have the precision of a higher stack road or trail shoe, so as long as I laced carefully, it didn’t end up causing any issues.  Given the low weight and breath ability, I think the upper suits the shoe well, and I had no issues with blisters or rubbing.  


Midsole


Derek: Someone will have to correct me here. It looks like there are 2 types of foam here but my totally unscientific squeeze and poke test seems to suggest that the foam density is the same for the green and white foams. So it feels like a single density autoclaved Fuel Cell foam, and the softness for me is a bit firmer than in the RC Elite 2, Rabel 2 etc, which are in turn firmer than the Fuelcell TC. 


Sandwiched in the middle is the curved carbon plate, and there is a nice window underfoot for you to see the plate. 

You will note here that the new tech being used is what NB coins Energy Arc. I am still not quite clear on whether this energy arc refers to a newly adopted curvature to the carbon plate to generate greater leverage compared to the older plate shape, or whether it is related to the canyoned shape of the foam to expose the plate. Maybe both! 


I would think that the canyoned shape of the foam plays a big role in terms of deformation of the foam under load such that it dissipates the pressure more evenly as the foam flattens and increases its footprint both externally and internally towards the center. The plate here is rigid but not excessively so; there is clearly a bit of give when you load the forefoot and there is a nice pop when you push through to toe-off. 


Do not expect a whole lot of cushioning here, especially with a carbon plate lurking in the midsole. At my manually measured stack of 28/20mm, it is one of the lower stack shoes out there. By contrast, the Hoka Rocket X was measured at 30/25mm for stack, and the NB Rebel 2 was measured at 28/22mm for stack. The underfoot feel is firm compared to many of the higher stack super shoes, but still noticeably better vibration dampening compared to some e.g. ASICS Metaracer.   


Michael: For a shoe launching specifically to target short-distance races, I was expecting less cushion here. Undoubtedly, there’s less shock-absorption than on the RC Elite 2 (which remains one of, if not the softest plated racer there is), but the SC Pacer also doesn’t come across like, say, the New Balance FuelCell 5280, which clearly prioritized speed over cushioning. There’s ample stack here, and even on some longer workouts, I didn’t dread the recovery miles or cooldown back home wearing the Pacer.


The plate is present and obvious, but not excessive - I’d compare it to the presence in the RC Elite 2 in that way. When you’re jogging (or cooling down, or walking), you can feel the overly-firm shank try to roll you forward, but at any sort of medium pace or faster, it gets out of the way sufficiently enough that you won’t feel uncomfortable or frustrated by it. As with most of its recent additions, New Balance has done a great job blending materials here.


Peter: We have a few different things going on here. Fuel Cell foam as seen in RC Elite and Rebel V2 combined with a plate under the forefoot and the energy arc aspect of the plate in the rear part of the shoe. 

The real question is how do all of these things come together in the SC pacer? Starting up front, the lower stack height of the Fuel Cell foam combined with the plate under the forefoot makes for a rip it and grip it just right firmness in the forefoot. 

The forefoot cushioning is forgiving enough so that the ride doesn’t feel harsh, but not at all soft to feel like it is robbing you of efficient propulsion. In a way it’s exactly what I’d hope it would be, and updated and modern feeling version of the RC 1400 forefoot. Moving back to the Energy Arc: 

The Energy Arc, as I understand it, is a curved carbon plate that sits under the rear of the foot and over the big cutout of foam towards the heel. The curvature of the plate allows it to bend and load and then snap back upon release. You can feel it working if you stand still and load weight on the heel of the shoe. It’s propulsive and spring-like. The down side is that, as someone who lands farther up on the shoe–and especially with a shoe intended for shorter distances, I’m not convinced I can feel the Energy Arc working on the run. I’m sure if you are landing on the heel you’d feel a pretty good push. I’m not sure I notice it.  All of that said, I think the elements of the midsole are really well tuned to the intention of the shoe.


Ryan: I think Michael describes the character of the plate well – the stiffness is somewhat muted by the softness of the FuelCell, and it excels for harder efforts. At easier paces, it tends to get in the way and doesn’t work as nicely.


It’s no surprise that the FuelCell pairs great with the carbon plate. The combination of springy, energetic foam wrapped around a hearty slab of composite material makes for a racing shoe with a ton of snappy energy, especially at toe-off. As Peter noted, and as is the case for me, if you don’t naturally strike toward the heel of the shoe, the EnergyArc concept won’t do much for you. 


Which is a shame since this is a shoe for short and fast stints on the road, where the heel is of lesser importance than the mid/forefoot. Despite the soft, thin layer of FuelCell in the forefoot, there isn’t a ton of ground feel with the carbon plate’s energy-distributing effects. In that sense, it feels similar to the RC Elite, however the RC is far softer underfoot.


Adam:  I largely agree here.  We have (comparatively for the times) a very low stack midsole, and the carbon plate leaves it feeling much more controlled, but also much firmer than the Rebel V2.  The most novel feature of this shoe is the Energy Arc, where the carbon plate is bowed up in the center, allowing it to squash down then rebound forward.  I noticed, similarly to Ryan, that it rebounds powerfully from heels strikes, but I also note that I don’t find myself heel striking at the high intensities and speeds where I’d want to use this shoe.  The forefoot is very dynamic, but landing directly on it can still feel firm.  It feels like an exceptionally efficient racing flat, but not an incredibly bouncy or propulsive one.  



Outsole

Derek: There is a lot of exposed midsole here. There is soft rubber lining the forefoot, and 2 smaller wedges at the medial and lateral heel, but that’s it. I want to point out that the rubber coverage is quite thin, and does not protrude out much beyond the base of the midsole below. I have been using the shoe sparingly, and still see a bit of wear after each run. In particular, the exposed midsole abrades easily, seemingly much more so than in the RC Elite 2 and this is something I am paying close attention to, but so far it’s not very promising for long term durability. I don’t expect this to be a high mileage type of shoe. Grip is pretty good even on wet surfaces though. All in all it’s what you would expect for a pure racer, but I would use it for specific race-specific workouts or just for race day rather than for every workout due to durability concerns. 


MIchael: Through two races and a couple workouts (one treadmill), I’ve had no issues with the grip or performance of the outsole on the pacer. However, and as Derek notes, I would be cautious about outsole durability, and avoid races that are particularly rocky, or run on paths that aren’t paved… there isn’t a lot of rubber covering here, and so while grip isn’t lost, an ill-placed rock could significantly shorten the lifespan here.


Peter: These are for sure a shoe that I’d bring out for tempo workouts and races and leave home for the daily training runs. Grip is excellent and always feels secure but, as pointed out by my fellow reviewers, there’s only enough rubber to get the job done here and they’re not going to last for hundreds of miles. If you save them for workouts and races though, I think you’ll get plenty of bang for your buck. 

Ryan: The minimalist theme continues underfoot, with an outsole that’s likely to grain and wear faster than most other shoes. The strategically placed patches of rubber at the toe and sides of the heel are sufficient, but don’t stand out in the categories of grip and durability. For these reasons, I’ll retain the Pacer in my closet for fast workouts on dry, clean surfaces.


Adam:  The Pacer doesn’t have a ton of rubber underfoot, but I’ve found that it grips well on track and dry clean roads.  In snow and ice, it’s not great, but passable.  Unlike the RC Elite 2, I have not managed to get rocks stuck in the window where the plate is visible, which is a notable improvement. 

Ride

Derek: If you are expecting a leveraged assisted ride in a super light package, then I am sorry you will be disappointed. The ride is still quite traditional in terms of cushioning, but you will appreciate the plated stiffness and rebound of the forefoot. It’s not overly rigid, and again I compare it to the ASICS Metaracer here where the plate is very rigid and rockered. In the Pacer  there is a bit more natural flex through the toes so that rocker is not so artificial, but you still get a very nice snap through the toes when you toe-off. 


What is lacking for me is the “fun factor”.  With shoes like the Skechers Razor or NB Rebel 2, you get noticeable bounce even at hard efforts under the forefoot, but here the bounce isn’t quite coming through, perhaps overshadowed by the presence of the carbon plate, or perhaps the stack is too low for the Fuel Cell foam to shine. Coming off several years of training with high stack shoes, I would only use this shoe for 5k or shorter races. I love using it for intervals in the 1-3 minute range, but for the longer intervals, I still find myself reaching for more stack like the ASICS Metaspeed Edge or Adidas Takumi Sen 8. Bear in mind that with the current stack height, it would not be legal for track racing. 


Michael: The SC Pacer does a terrific job blending old-school racing flat feel with new age technology. There’s enough bounce here to let you know this is a next-generation flat (and your performance will reflect that, surely!), but it doesn’t stand out as something funky.


I really only have positive things to say about the toe-off and energy return here, and others are similarly enthused, but I will make a note - I’ve raced in these three times now, with the longest being a 10-miler, and unlike any race I’ve ever run in the RC Elite v2, my legs - and particularly calves - were definitely sore after a hard 52 minute effort. Now, some of that can be chalked up to lack of fitness (my Strava will tell you all you need to know about that!), but I don’t think this is a shoe you want to run more than a half-marathon in, and honestly, I think it’s pretty squarely a single-digit-mile-race option. A really good one! But not some marathon superstar in hiding.


Peter: The SC Pacer’s ride really hums at faster paces. They are fine through warmup and cool down, but are terrific at pace. The ride is, as I’ve said, reminiscent of the RC 1400 with some more propulsion due to the carbon plate. The upper disappears and the shoe feels like a natural extension of the foot at faster paces. There’s not the moon-bounce of some of the plated marathon racers, but I don’t think that’s the point of the SC Pacer. Turnover is faster feeling than in the RC Elite’s but the cushioning is not as protective. Overall a pretty fun ride for me.


Ryan: The most notable characteristics here are a snappy turnover and propulsive toe-off, which are certainly valuable attributes in this type of shoe. What is also notably absent, though, is a sense of that forgiving, energy-conserving bounce (I agree with Derek here). Especially in the forefoot, the relatively thin stack of soft FuelCell doesn’t have the magic of other super shoes, and is instead focused on lowering inertia. The heel of the shoe still manages to offer some sprightly bounce, although I spent most of my time in the Pacer with my weight further forward, trying to keep the carbon plate engaged. The heel felt a touch less stable than expected, which is probably accentuated by the large midsole cavity which nearly splits the heel in half. While the ride of this shoe shines at 10k-or-faster speeds, and transitions wonderfully, the ride dynamics are unsettled by the upper’s underpowered mesh material.


Adam: I agree with Derek and Ryan here, the SC Pacer feels like a great traditional racing flat, with noticeable snap and propulsion from the plate at high turnover, but it doesn’t have that joyous propulsive feeling of the Metaspeed Sky or Next% or the endless relaxing cushion of the RC Elite 2. Due to the low stack height, I found the stability to be excellent.  While the plate does give the shoe good turnover, I do find that it is harsher and lacks some of the fun of shoes like the Rebel V2 and Endorphin Speed.  It is lovely to have a direct and lightweight shoe, but don’t expect this to feel like a marathon "super shoe" as above.  



Conclusions and Recommendations

Derek: It is a great short distance workout or race shoe, with everything geared toward conservation of energy and weight savings. The ride is lacking a bit that fun bounce that we have come to expect from the new generation of racers and trainers, but makes up for it with a snappy stable ride. I am concerned about the outsole durability of the shoe, but perhaps I am just asking too much from what is  a stripped down all out short distance racer. 

Derek’s Score 8.92 / 10

Ride 8.8 (50%) Fit 9 (30%) Value 8.8 (15%) Style 10 (5%)


Things I would like to see improved: 1) More eyelets for the laces. You really need 8 rows for a short distance racer. 2) Better outsole durability. Maybe just put carbon rubber there. I don’t think the ride will be much harsher given how thin it is. 


Michael: I’ve come away impressed by the SC Pacer. It’s exactly what I wanted from a plated non-marathon flat, and definitely keeps New Balance competitive in the road racing game. Is it perfect? No, the lacing is weird (can be hard to get locked down properly), and it is a bit harsh, as I’m finding after a hard race. But it’s undoubtedly a great shoe to add to your arsenal if you do a lot of 5K/10K/10 mile racing. Between this and the RC Elite v2 (and forthcoming options which I’m yet to test!) New Balance is doing a great job putting focus on competitive running performances. 

Michael’s score: 9.4/10.


Peter: While they do lack the “oh my god what the hell is this wonder-rocket on my foot” factor. The SC Pacer has a lovely ride that updates the vibe of the RC 1400 and makes an excellent choice for races up to the half-marathon. I’d probably race a half in the RC Elite and would definitely take the RC Elite for the full marathon–but the SC Pacer is a great workout and short race shoe. It’s comfortable, breathable and likes to go fast without being at all punishing. 

Peter’s Score 9/10

Ride 9, Fit 9, Value 9, Style 9.

I’d like to see the shoe  get just a hair more cushioning up front so I could take it out for longer races. 


Ryan: This is a shoe with a great combination of midsole materials which provide a zippy, low inertia ride. However, the overly-stretchy upper and lack of secure foothold tend to overshadow the shoe’s brighter aspects. With a few more refinements, I think this could be a winner and compete with the Takumis and Streakflys of the world, but for now, I’ll only be using the Pacer mostly for fast workouts on tame surfaces.

Ryan’s Score: 7.8/10

Detractions for weak upper mesh material, not enough eyelets/lockdown, lack of bounce from the ‘EnergyArc’ design as compared to its competitors, and durability concerns.


Adam: It’s bold of New Balance to make this shoe with all their technology focused on short distance racing, and I love how lightweight and snappy it is.  For 3km and 5km, I’d strongly consider it, and I love it for track workouts, but by 10km, I’d rather have a more propulsive cushion.  I could see this shoe being much improved with slightly better upper lockdown and a tiny bit more cushioning in front. 

Adam’s Score:   9/10

Ride 9, Fit 8.75 , Value 9.5, Style 10.



10 Comparisons

Index to all RTR reviews: HERE


NB 1400 (RTR Review)

Derek: The last 1400 I owned was the 1400v3 and I had to go up a half size in that model. In this model, I am ok at TTS but maybe better off going a half size down. Both shoes are fairly similar in ride; firm and responsive, but the SC Pacer has better vibration dampening, and has a wider last to accommodate more foot shapes. The plated ride of the Pacer definitely gives it an edge in terms of generating more pop at toe-off. The 1400 outsole seems more durable for me, but overall in terms of performance, the SC Pacer is definitely the better option. 


Peter: This is tough for me because the NB 1400 was a nearly perfect shoe for me in its later iterations. I ran two marathons in earlier versions of the 1400 and countless tempo and track workouts as well as races in the 1400 and they had a magic “just right” quality for me. They had just enough cushioning to get me through pretty much anything and felt like a natural extension of my foot. So the SC Pacer had a big hill to climb for me as the de-facto replacement for the 1400. Mission accomplished for the most part. The SC Pacer is a modernized and updated go-fast shoe in the vein of the 1400. The upper is actually more breathable and comfortable and the cushioning is similar. The grip and outsole durability are better on the 1400, but since they’re not making them anymore I’d say that the SC Pacer is a better bet!


NB Fuel Cell RC Elite 1 (RTR Review)

Derek: I am TTS in the RC Elite 1, and am better off a half size down in SC Pacer. RCE1 is definitely more cushioned and bouncy, and very different from the lower-to-the-ground and firmer feel of the SC Pacer. I think for most people, the RCE 1 is probably the more versatile shoe because it covers a wider range of workouts and maybe covers a wider range of race distances too. I think the SC Pacer will appeal more to the younger student athletes who are doing their 60 minute “long” runs at 6:00/mile and workouts at <4:30/mile. RCE1 will be favored by your age groupers doing 40-60min 10k races. 

Adam:  Very different but complementary shoes.  The RC Elite 2 loves smooth and fast cruising for 10km and longer.  For shorter distances, I’d take the SC Pacer.  


Ryan: I’m in agreement with all of Derek’s observations above. The RCE1 is a much more approachable shoe, and while it provides the same level of snappy toe-off, the midsole is more luxurious than that of the Pacer. The Pacer has a slight lead when it comes to minimizing inertia, but the RCE1 is plenty light, and is just as comfortable with better securement of the foot. One major difference between these two is the outsole – the Dynaride of the RCE1 is tenacious, durable, and versatile, whereas the Pacer’s outsole is a more minimalist rubber, and isn’t as well rounded. Price aside, I’d take the RCE1 over the Pacer for almost any type of running.


New Balance Fuel Cell Rebel v2 (RTR Review)

Adam:  The Rebel v 2 is one of my favorite trainers, and the pacer has a similar foam with slightly lower stack and an added plate.  The SC Pacer has better stability and feels much more directed forward from the plate vs. the unconstrained bounce of the Rebel 2, but also ends up being much harsher and less fun for me as a result.  If I was racing or doing intervals, I’d definitely pick the Pacer, but for fun training up to moderate intensity, the Rebel is more versatile.

Ryan: I agree with Adam – the Pacer is great for harder efforts, but for more moderate running, the Rebel v2 is hard to beat. While both shoes have similarly soft midsoles, the plate in the Pacer changes its characteristics entirely. Whereas the Rebel v2 feels exceptionally supple and forgiving underfoot, the Pacer feels far more focused on going fast and doesn’t react as kindly. If speed is of paramount importance, then reach for the Pacer, otherwise the Rebel v2 is certain to be a lot more friendly and fun.


Ryan: I agree with Adam – the Pacer is great for harder efforts, but for more moderate running, the Rebel v2 is hard to beat. While both shoes have similarly soft midsoles, the plate in the Pacer changes its characteristics entirely. Whereas the Rebel v2 feels exceptionally supple and forgiving underfoot, the Pacer feels far more focused on going fast and doesn’t react as kindly. If speed is of paramount importance, then reach for the Pacer, otherwise the Rebel v2 is certain to be a lot more friendly and fun.


NB Fuel Cell RC Elite 2 (RTR Review)

Peter: Very different feeling shoes that complement each-other well. The Pacer is great for faster turnover, shorter races and all-out efforts while the RC Elite V2 is a plated, cushioned marathon racer that feels great for long speedy workouts and races. I’d wear the Pacer for up to 10k and Elite V2 for half marathons and above. 


adidas Adizero Takumi Sen 8 (RTR Review)

Derek: I am a half size down in the Takumi Sen 8, and also better off a half size down in the SC Pacer. The Sen8 is noticeably more cushioned and bouncy, but the upper and fit is more finicky and difficult to get a good lockdown for me. I like the Sen8 for longer workouts (and it also does well for short intervals), while the SC Pacer shines more for short intervals. I think they serve different purposes well for me. Pacer for 5k and shorter, Sen8 for 10k or longer. 


Ryan: I prefer the Sen 8 here for its superior lockdown and cushioning. The Adidas has a much more robust construction than the NB, despite coming in at nearly the same weight. The midsole in the Takumi is more evenly balanced, and I feel has a more stable ride than that of the Pacer. While the Pacer is arguably more comfortable, thanks to its supple mesh upper and simpler design, the Sen 8 is worth the slight tradeoff here because of its refinement at faster speeds.


adidas Adizero Takumi Sen 7 (RTR Review)

Ryan: The Sen 7 has a drastically lower profile and less bounce/forgiveness than the Pacer. These two competitors take drastically disparate approaches in achieving speed over relatively short efforts. As a result, they have very different use cases – the Pacer excels on tame asphalt thanks to its snappy toe off and protective FuelCell, whereas the Sen 7 handily wins when lockdown or grip come into play. The Sen 7 has one of the best foot securement systems on the market today and even excels for track workouts, whereas the underpowered upper material of the Pacer feels too flimsy for such running. I’d take the tenacious, inspiring speed of the Sen 7 in most cases, unless I was running 10k+ on the road, in which the Pacer might win out simply because of its bouncy and forgiving midsole.


Puma Liberate Nitro (RTR Review)

Derek: I am true to size for Liberate, while I am better off a half size down in the SC Pacer. Pacer has a better fit and lockdown for me, and both shoes are good for short workouts. I like the SC Pacer better by far. It is more cushioned and you don’t feel as beat up especially in the calves after a hard workout in the shoes. The SC Pacer has the snappier forefoot and you can definitely tell that the plate contributes here where you get more pop off from the toes. Liberate outsole seems to be a lot more durable though, and is probably the more cost effective option for most people. 


Saucony Endorphin Speed (RTR Review)

Derek: I am TTS in the Endo Speed v1 and v2, while i am better off a half size down in the SC Pacer. I think Endo Speed is clearly more cushioned and much more suited for longer distance training, while the SC Pacer is more tuned for short intervals. The SC Pacer outsole seems grippier, especially in wet conditions, but the Endo Speed outsole is more durable. 

Adam:  The Endorphin Speed has more cushion, is more versatile in speed and foot strike, and definitely a better and more efficient training shoe.  For track intervals and 5km and below races, the Pacer feels direct, grippy, and responsive. 


Rebook Floatride Run Fast Pro (RTR Review)

Derek: I am TTS in the Pro, while I am better off a half size down in the SC Pacer. I was very very fortunate to be one of the few to test the Reebok Floatride Run Fast Pro back in 2018. It is truly a rocket ship and I still use it on and off for special workouts, and it exemplifies how even with a super thin midsole, it is possible to generate a bouncy underfoot feel, if you execute it well. The zero drop makes you work for your results, but the cushioning in the Pro is incredible for its weight and stack. The SC Pacer represents the newer breed of short course racers, which use a leveraged rocker feel to help you hold speed for longer. Overall, I think the Pacer is effective in terms of assistance, and is also slightly more cushioned underfoot. That said, the Pro still has the better outsole grip, it is far lighter and if it’s wet or technical, there is no question I will reach for the Reebok Run Fast Pro.


Vaporfly 4% OG 2017 

Derek: I am TTS in the 4% OG, and better off a half size down in the SC Pacer. Both have similarly good fit and lockdown for me. 4% has better durability for sure, with more extensive rubber coverage. Pacer definitely feels faster when doing short workouts, but when you compare HR data and the clock doesn’t lie, the 4% is still very very hard to beat. IF you could still find it, the 4% would be my first choice hands down. 


The Fuel Cell Super Comp Pacer will be available June 2022

Tested samples were provided at no charge for review purposes. others were personal purchases. RoadTrail Run has affiliate partnerships and may earn commission on products purchased through affiliate links in this article. These partnerships do not influence our editorial content. The opinions herein are entirely the authors'

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1 comment:

Tom said...

Was hoping for a comparison to the metaracer, which is my current go to for track days. Was ASICS just 2 years ahead of the game?