Monday, July 18, 2022

New Balance FuelCell SuperComp Trainer Multi Tester Review: Carbon Plated, Super Max Cushion. 10 Comparisons

Article by Derek Li, Joost de Raeymaeker, Jeff Beck, Peter Stuart and Sam Winebaum

New Balance Fuel Cell SC Trainer ($180)

Editor's Note: Sam, Jeff. Peter and Joost join Derek's original review.

Introduction

Derek: The New Balance Fuelcell TC  (RTR Review) was and still is one of the best daily trainers on the market for me, with the main drawback being that its pillowy underfoot ride was a bit of a challenge for people who wanted a bit more stability in their daily trainers. This, plus the relatively low retail availability of the TC model, ultimately led people to gravitate more to that other outstanding plated trainer, the Saucony Endorphin Speed. To me this was a bit of a shame because I feel that the ride of the TC is more forgiving and ultimately should suit a larger audience than the Speed. 

That was in 2020 at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. Fast forward 2 years and NB has decided to throw out a completely different silhouette for their top shelf trainer in the form of the SuperComp Trainer, or SC Trainer. This shoe will sit as the primary workhorse in the SC line, alongside the already released SC Pacer (RTR Review) and the upcoming SC Elite v3 Racer (RTR Video Preview).

The SC Trainer joins the growing list of maximalist performance trainers on the market, feeding the belief that more stack provides more cushioning, and ultimately improves training and recovery. 

Sam: Maximalist indeed the SC Trainer has 45mm heel, so 5mm above the “legal race limit” per World Athletics.  It joins the adidas Prime X (RTR Review) with its yet higher 50mm heel and Nike’s Tempo Next % at 42mm in the stratospheric max, max  stack height club. The Prime X delivers a fantastic ride but one where compromises to keep its weight down by minimizing the upper and platform width require constant focus to keep aligned straight ahead or else.. 

The SC Trainer has a wider stance than the adi, a bit less stack height and a deep void  from heel through most of its length.  Above  the groove we see New Balance’s Energy Arc, a slightly concave at the heel carbon plate that bows flatter as the two sides compress outwards then releases forces. Upfront the plate delivers a long gentle rocker.  

Surprisingly I guess, the Trainer is reasonably priced at $180 and this even with its race shoe quality secure upper. How? Well the FuelCell foam, while having the same firmness and density characteristics and I found the same energetic feel as the racer RC Elite 2 and uptempo Rebel v2, is not a light supercritical type foam so the Trainer is not as light as it could be with more expensive foams checking in at about 10.45 oz / 296g. Still amazing for such a giant stack shoe.

Joost: Ever since seeing the SC Trainer in action at a New Balance event in Boston, a couple of days before the Boston  marathon, I’ve been curious about it and the implementation of the Energy Arc plate in a high stack shoe. It worked really well in the SC Pacer, a shoe I’ve been meaning to get back to and review properly. So, I was happy to get the Trainer for review and have put 50 miles on the pair I received in the few days since they arrived.

Peter: 

What is this massive green freakshow? Huge stack, looks like someone took an ax to the middle of the outsole? It was hard to know what to think of the SC Trainer when I first saw it at The Running Event late last year. The TC’s foam, which I really liked, shows up here and though it’s a bit heavy, it’s a pretty surprising and fun ride. 

Stats

Approx. Weight: 10.45 oz / 296g  US9

Samples: men’s 10.83 oz / 307g US9.5, 10.19 oz / 289g US8.5

Official Stack Height: 41mm heel / 33mm forefoot (47mm at highest point), 8mm drop

Manual Measurements (including sockliner) for men’s US9.5:

Heel – 45mm 

Forefoot – 30mm

Drop 15mm

Note: Official World Athletics measured heel stack 47mm.

Available now including at our partners at the end of the article


Pros:

Very stable for such high stack numbers: Derek/Sam/Joost/Jeff/Peter

Very smooth, long forefoot rocker : Derek/Sam/Joost/Jeff/Peter

Deep, soft and  bouncy cushion that is  effectively managed and directed by the Energy Arc and geometry: Sam/Joost/Jeff/Peter

Secure upper locks foot to the big platform, comfortable and breathable: Sam/Joost/Jeff/Derek/Peter

Max max cushion that is never a chore to move along slow or faster. Super fun to run smiles.  Sam/Joost/Jeff/Peter 

Runs lighter than it is: Peter


Cons:

Ankle collar could rub for people with low ankle bones: Derek/Joost

On the heavy side at 10.45  oz / 296g  US9. Not suitable for speed work, unlike Fuelcell TC : Derek/Joost/Sam/Peter 

Drop can feel a little too much for some people: Joost

Midfoot is slightly narrow and tight: Derek

Wish it had the lighter supercritical FuelCell foam, willing to pay the additional cost: Sam


First Impressions, Fit and Upper:

Derek: My first impression was this was one thick midsole. Visually, the stack looks immense, way more so than say the Adidas Prime X, which as it turned out later, had significantly higher stack numbers across the board. In my hand, the shoe felt a little heavier than I had hoped. Bear in mind, i bought this shoe with no notion of what the official stack or weight was going to be, so I really had no idea what to expect beyond what the shoe looks like on the retail website. 


Step in feel was nice enough and the stretchy knit forefoot mesh really gives the toes plenty of room for splay; the fit is true to size. Versus other models in the New Balance stable, I would say the fit is noticeably snugger than the TC across the whole length of the shoe. Nevertheless, the SC shows hints of the RC Elite heritage where the toebox is relatively roomy, before tapering to a snugger midfoot and heel. In a way, it is very similar to what Nike did with the Tempo Next% but with a bit more midfoot volume. Walking around in the shoe, you will notice that this shoe has a significant long but somewhat soft forefoot rocker. It is very easy to tip forward in the shoe. The foam, while soft to the touch, does not feel overly compressive when you walk around and it just feels like a normal stable shoe when you are standing still. 


There is an internal toe bumper up front and the height at the toe box will be plenty for most feet and will give people plenty of leeway to use a variety of sock thicknesses with this shoe. 

The main mesh, as mentioned earlier, appears to be a double-layer stretchy knitted mesh, with the top layer having multiple relatively large laser cut perforations to aid ventilation. This upper will handle warm conditions just fine. 

The layering of the lace eyelets as shown above follows the same design pattern as the TC, where there are paired eyelet holes at each stage, allowing the lace to anchor the upper as a sort of underlay. 

I quite like this method of anchoring the laces, because it really does prevent the lace from moving easily within the anchor point, and, you also don’t get lace pressure on your foot at the anchor point as the tension, while pulling both sides of the upper together, also concurrently pulls the upper up away from your foot. In a practical sense, because the laces are pretty well held at the eyelets, you can get some areas of very low lace tension at the front or mid-foot if you so desire, and still get high tension lockdown at the terminal lace point where you are tying your knot. I think this is particularly useful for trainers, since we often like a little bit of slop nearer the toes for those easy or longer runs. 

Again, borrowing from the design of the RC Elite 2, there are only 4 rows of eyelets in the SC Trainer. This is a startlingly low number, but because the eyelets start much closer to midfoot (similar to the RC Elite 2), the spacing between the eyelets is still not very wide, and you can ultimately achieve very good lockdown here. x


The tongue is knitted and gusseted. Similar to how it’s done in the Adidas Prime X, it is attached to the toebox upper by a short section of stitches. Then it is anchored to the foot bed on both sides by wide bands of elastic knitted fabric. 

It is then further anchored on both sides to the ankle collar padding (dark blue). This anchoring is about an inch long on the lateral side and a farther quarter inch longer on the medial side. This should prevent the tongue from sliding into the shoe. 

Overall the midfoot has a more supportive and rigid feel to it, which is a big departure from the very soft and unstructured upper of the FuelCell TC. 


The heel has a knitted mesh base with an internal somewhat rigid heel cup but otherwise very little padding. The bulk of the padding sits as a layer of cushioning around the ankle collar, terminating very close to the terminal set of lace eyelets. I must confess, I had flashbacks to the Skechers GoRun 7 here, but ultimately the fit proved to be well executed with minimal heel movement when I was running. 

I noticed frequent rubbing under the lateral malleolus (ankle bone) on my left ankle when I was running, and isolated it to one little section of very stiff stitching right at the end of the cushioning around the ankle collar. This problem persisted despite multiple different sock thicknesses and even an additional layer of sockliner in the shoe. 

My theory is that I have low volume heels and the foam was compressing just enough that my ankle bone was compressing down on that area of stitching just as my foot sank into the heel with every step. 

Why on the left foot? Well, previous motion analysis showed that my left foot tends to supinate and pronate a little more than my right so there is overall more inversion-eversion going on in my left foot. In the end, I solved the issue with a combination of medium thickness socks and making sure I did not overly tighten the laces so that the ankle padding was not so tightly wrapped under my ankle bones. Just giving the padding a little more space at the ankles made the issue go away. I think this is mainly an issue for people with low ankle bones, and I also suspect that over time as the upper softens up and breaks in a bit more with use, the issue will take care of itself. 

Sam: The Trainer has one fine carefully conceived upper for the giant stack. The heel area is high and semi rigid to keep the foot well aligned out back. The somewhat stretchy gusset tongue (all one material) and mid foot overlays provide plenty of not overwhelmingly midfoot support while upfront the soft and somewhat stretchy toe area is held in place by a fairly substantial and long toe bumper which stiffens the lower down you press it. 

Forefoot volume is moderately wide and the stretch of the mesh  adds more. The midfoot has plenty of room and it too is secure and comfortable. The high heel counter and collars are a bit on the rough side as far as cushioning and finish although I have had no issues beyond noticing, as Derek  did, that the top of  the ankle collar seam a bit more than I would like.

 Given the construction, not sure no show type socks are the way to go with this shoe.

The fit is clearly true to size for me and should be for even moderately wide feet. I do wish for a tiny touch less central very front of toe box pressure through a bit more height there and a bit less of toe bumper wrap. This said the fit is the sum of all the details described above, all of a piece, comfortable, very breathable and just what the platform needs.

Joost: Derek and Sam have touched on all the geeky technical details of the upper and foam, so on to subjective bits and pieces. The lime green colorway with the blue and black details and the silver heel midsole bit really makes for a very good looking shoe. 

The fit is true to size for my US M9.5. It’s just long enough, but there’s a lot of space in the forefoot, even for my wide feet and enough volume there and in the midfoot.


I had the same issue with the heel collar as Derek and on the same foot to boot. After my first run in the SC Trainer, my left ankle had a bleeding cut right underneath it. After comparing both shoes, I noticed that the stitching of the heel padding that goes all the way forward to the tongue was slightly different in the left and right shoes. The right one seemed a little flatter and wider, so I performed some minor surgery with a pair of scissors and cut away a bit of the sowing in the problematic area in the left shoe and it’s ok now. It might be a QC control problem, or just the way the shoes are sewn together that produces this issue, but there’s nothing a little cutting won’t fix.


Walking around in the Trainer and running the first few steps, you can feel the sheer amount of midsole stack and also the very big drop, something I haven’t been used to for a while. The shoe feels soft, but secure and stable, in spite of making you a fair bit taller.

Jeff: I’d agree with above comments, the SC Trainer fits true-to-size even with slightly wide feet. I didn’t experience any of the heel collar issues, and Sam’s prediction is correct, the forefoot has enough room for slightly wider feet. However, it took me a little bit to get past the midfoot tightness, which psychosomatically kept making me think it was a narrow toebox (likely because I’ve run in so many narrow toeboxes - I feel pressure and immediately blame the front of the shoe) instead of where the pressure really is. That said, it isn’t dealbreaker levels of pressure, and I prefer it over the opposite, because it really does help keep the shoe securely on the foot - and at this stack height that’s the major priority.

The upper construction is well documented above, and it really is an interesting construction. The fit and finish is top notch, similar to the highest price point Mizuno shoes over the last decade, where each component has that extra level of quality most manufacturers don’t bother with. The tongue pull tab is appreciated, though I wouldn’t hate it if they’d included a heel pull tab as well, with the tight midfoot the double tabs would assist in putting them on each time.


Peter: Yep, they've said it all. I have had zero issues with the upper. I agree that slightly higher socks might be helpful, but aside from that it’s lace up and go. The lacing is efficient and easy to dial in and my foot is well held in all the right places, and never uncomfortable even on long, hot and humid Texas runs. True-to-size for me. I agree with Jeff that a heel pull tab would be a nice addition to the upper. 



Midsole


There is a lot going on here in the midsole. It is not just a matter of slapping a curved plate in the middle of the foam. First I will address the visual impression of the very high stack midsole. The measured heel stack is an impressive 45mm. (Official WA measured stack stands at 47mm). Other notable shoes i use as trainers stand at:

Xtep 160x Pro 40mm heel

Saucony Tempus 40mm heel

Adidas Prime X 52mm heel

Nike Tempo Next% 42mm heel

45mm is impressive but really, it’s only a couple of pennies thicker than some other trainers on the market, and of course it is still under the Prime X’s mammoth 52mm heel stack. 

The SC Trainer just looks very thick because the midsole sidewalls are raised quite a bit at the heel, and the footbed is quite scalloped here, presumably to aid heel stability. 

While the entire midsole has one consistent density of foam, a very curved carbon plate sits sandwiched in the middle, and then there’s the large midsole cutout, running the length of much of the midfoot and heel, giving you a glimpse of just how curved that carbon plate is. 

It is my understanding that the large canal created by the cutout of foam serves the main purpose of absorbing the deformation of the midsole during the compressive phase of the foot strike. 


To me, allowing the foam to deform sideways both medially and laterally should, in theory, provide for greater vibration dampening and (through the greater transient increase in ground contact surface area) improved stability. 


In terms of feel, the midsole is a bit firmer than that of the TC, and even the RC Elite / Rebel v2. The stiffness of the plate is also more perceptible here. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Overall, you get a less marshmallow-y type of underfoot feel than you would expect. There is springiness there, but definitely a very confidence-inspiring and stable platform. The main selling point of the ride is actually in the very pronounced forefoot rocker created by the geometry and the carbon plate. I will cover that under the Ride section.

Sam: As with the upper there are many carefully considered elements to pull off a stable, propulsive midsole and ride with such softer foam and big stack height.  For sure the midsole is soft but it is in no way marshmallow-y. I particularly like the heel feel here, on the softer side and energetic. Never as sense of over compression, low or unstable even at slower paces, looking at you NB More v3. There is no back weighted feel that is for sure due to the deep “canal”.  

The dual sided wings of foam for sure are forgiving on landing and then with the reactive action of the slightly concave plate you are quickly kicked forward even at slower paces. The plate for sure not only stabilizes the rear and midfoot but its long gradual rocker eases on forward smooth as can be. The forefoot and toe off is easy and maybe a bit too soft for my tastes. Yes energetic and stable but it seems the quite deep front extension of the central cavity and the thin quite soft blown rubber outsole with soft foam directly above takes some pop out of the toe off for me and this despite the plate being quite bottom loaded. It's super pleasant but not as explosive as I might have expected. The forefoot is the one area where the Prime X trumps the Trainer as its Lightstrike Pro foam is slightly firmer and more responsive in feel if yet more cushioned whereas here the forefoot has a more bouncy soft feel.


Jeff: Sam nails it, while the shoe compresses a lot (especially my pair with my large frame) it doesn’t feel like it goes too far. The foam-to-plate ratio does a good job keeping it stable, but don’t confuse stable with boring. I found them plenty bouncy and soft.


Joost: I agree with Derek. The SC Trainer feels firmer than the RC Elite and Rebel 2 with the plate feeling a lot more present too, which is probably just as well, considering the extra 5mm of stack height. It might also have to do with the different type of plate and the fact that the midsole is basically split in two lengthwise almost all the way to the front. I’ve used the Trainer for all types of workouts, from track strides to long slow runs and it felt stable even in the bend on the track, which I wasn’t expecting, also because of the stack height. The combination of the almost fully decoupled midsole and the plate is the determining factor here.


Peter: Late to the party here, so all has been said. The big surprise here is that it’s not a mushy mess. I find that the foam compresses just enough to provide for long and comfortable miles without being at all mushy. Yes, firmer than the Rebel. I can only really feel the compression of the plate if I land on the heel (which I don’t often do), but late in runs it is nice to have some give without it feeling like I’m losing energy. 


Outsole

The outsole performance of the SC Trainer is pretty average. First up, there is the forefoot rubber which, to their credit, covers quite an extensive area on both medial and lateral aspects of the outsole. The compound used is a little bit firmer than your typical blown rubber, but not as harsh as traditional carbon-injected rubbers. It actually feels like the same compound used for the TC forefoot outsole.  It does a good job on dry surfaces, but there is a bit of slippage when the roads are wet. 


Durability wise, it is decent. I have some wear showing at 100 miles in the shoes, but nothing major. If the wear of the TC is anything to go by, I should get at least 300 miles out of these. Quite honestly, for the kind of tropical climate I live in, 300 miles in a knitted upper is enough to keep the local wildlife away. The rubber at the heel seems to be more of your standard fare carbon-injected rubber. Suffice to say, it will not be the limiting factor for this shoe’s durability. I had previously expressed my concerns about outsole durability in my review of the SC Pacer. Fortunately, I don’t see the same sort of accelerated wear in this shoe. 


Sam: Not much to add to what Derek has to say. I do think as noted in the midsole section that the forefoot rubber could be either firmer or thicker for both wear and potentially more response.  At about 35 miles I am seeing some toe off scuffing.


Joost: 50 miles in and no noticeable wear so far on the outsole, which is a good indicator. Grip seems to be ok, but I haven’t run the Trainer on wet surfaces yet, on account of it being the dry season over here. The forefoot rubber doesn’t do much in the way of adding stability, but as far as I’m concerned, that’s not really necessary.


Jeff: As a supinator the lateral side is showing a bit more wear, but nothing to be alarmed about. Even the exposed midsole wear isn’t major. I experienced some wet path/wooden bridge, and had no slippage on either surface. It isn’t a shoe I’d recommend for the dirt, but I spent a few hundred yards on dirt due to a construction detour, and didn’t find the shoe lacking for that in the outsole department.


Peter: Wear seems pretty minimal so far and I’ve been on blazing hot gravel and pavement. It hasn’t rained here since these showed up, so I have no idea how grippy they are. Considering there’s a huge hole down the middle of the shoe, it feels remarkably full-ground contact. I also haven’t had any issues with picking up rocks in the cutout. 


Ride and Conclusions


Derek: The New Balance SC Trainer rides like a well-oiled diesel engine. It has an incredibly smooth and natural rocker that just rolls your foot through its stride very easily. Hats off the NB here, because if the geometry of other maximalist trainers are anything to go by, it is not easy translating traditional geometry designs to a high stack platform. For me, the key here is not having an overly soft heel. 

Somehow the wider platform and the curvature and position of the carbon plate blend very well to create a heel that actually does not compress a lot, but you don’t feel the harshness. Vibration dampening is superb, but a lot of it has to do with the plate having a very aggressive curvature.


The plate, in combination with the very aggressive heel to forefoot geometry, creates a lever to quickly unload the heel and transition to the forefoot. I get a lot of Vaporfly 4% vibes here. 

Since the plate at the heel sits closer to your foot with less foam in between, contrasting to the forefoot where there is more foam between your foot and the plate, the forefoot feels noticeably softer and springier in this shoe. 


You don’t feel the difference as much standing still or jogging, but once you start cruising at a moderate pace, it becomes very noticeable. It goes without saying that the shoe feels a lot lighter than what the scale is reporting. 


I think it will still struggle to do uptempo paces or speed work, but there are other shoes more suited for those purposes. I see this shoe as a very good steady state long distance cruiser for you to bang out those easy-moderate pace 20-milers. 


The shoe is also among the most stable of the high stack trainers on the market. It probably has the widest heel in its class. (I don’t have the Hoka Bondi X so don’t quote me on that). 


No high stack shoe is going to corner like a low stack shoe, but with the scalloped heel and wide flared outsole, the SC Trainer has good lateral stability for taking corners without having to slow down too much. With that in mind, we can see that the SC Trainer has become quite specialized in its purpose, and is not quite a direct replacement for the Fuelcell TC, which is more stripped down and versatile by comparison. 


Overall, this shoe is unlikely to find traction with the runner who is looking for that one goldilocks do-it-all shoe. Rather, it will be more suited for runners who already have dedicated race shoes and workout shoes, and want something that is created solely for that staple weekend long run. Direct comparisons to other similar shoes on the market are below. 

My Score: 9.25 / 10

Ride 9.2 (50%) Fit 9.5 (30%) Value 9 (15%) Style 9 (5%)

Road Scoring Rubric


Sam: I echo Derek’s conclusions. Quick off the heel despite its height and softness due to the Energy Arc with smooth transitions at all paces, even slower ones, due to the pronounced and effective rocker. I do think the forefoot is a bit too soft without as much distinct reaction and pop as I would like and especially so  at faster paces.  


Regardless, and understanding we are at a relatively high weight and high stack, the Trainer has an incredibly pleasant and fun ride that speaks to “regular miles” day in day out and not for most to speed work. Very, very deeply and forgivingly cushioned, soft yet smooth flowing with the Energy Arc carbon (and related giant softer stack of FuelCell) all of it is for sure not just for marketing show and is highly effective at a variety of paces and distances. The entire “system” is very well executed with Energy Arc, a new and I think game changing approach to “plates” as it more than just sticking a plate in foam as it integrates so well to the deeply canaled geometry while providing a long easy to roll front rocker, the rigid feel often the bane of non race focused carbon shoes but not so here. 

The Trainer sits in a sort of new category of hugely stacked practical trainers. Not solely an easy on the legs recovery shoe or a carbon shoe just because, it can serve runners  on many daily runs at many paces and distances if you enjoy lots of soft, energetic leg saving cushion that moves lively with neither the massive foam nor the plate in any way a burden to super fun runs.


it is not the “speed” max cushion racer/ trainer the friendly, and considerably lighter and more expensive racer the RC Elite 2 is (and the SC Elite 3 will mirror the Trainer with a bit less stack and lighter foam)  or the lively, light and flexible uptempo marvel the Rebel v2 is in a New Balance rotation, or any rotation. Where it does belong is as the highly useful, never boring, easy on the legs and easy to roll, max cushion with tons of smiles every run (for me anyways)  versatile trainer. 


While I would love to see it lighter through a slightly lower stack or full supercritical FuelCell, it is both reasonable in weight and is a very solid value for a carbon plated shoe with many run uses. Highly recommended.

Sam’s Score: 9.5 /10

Ride 9.6 (50%) Fit 9.3 (30%) Value 9.3 (15%) Style 9 (5%)


Joost: I can’t really compare the ride to other very high stack daily trainers, since my shoes have all been “legal” so far. That being said, I agree with Derek. The ride is easy and rolls through nicely. I’ve been very pleasantly surprised, because I was expecting a shoe this high to be unstable and easy to roll an ankle in, but so far, I’ve felt very secure. In spite of the foam feeling quite soft to the touch, the ride isn’t particularly soft once you start running in them. To the contrary, it feels quite firm when you pick up the speed a bit.


Like Derek, I think they are best suited for those long steady runs, but I’ve been very happy with them for my recovery runs as well during my past 112 mile week. My feet have been very thankful for the extra cushion.

Joost’s Score: 9.5 /10

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


Jeff: New Balance has clearly been tinkering with their foam/plate ratios, and the SC Trainer seems like the best iteration yet. While it is heavier than the RC Elite v1 or v2 or the Fuel Cell TC, it’s a much more substantial shoe that brings plenty of underfoot protection and plenty of bounce. It’s hard to say that the rocker is subtle with a straight face, but it really is. As this geometry was gaining popularity a few years ago a number of runners found they had to alter their stride to really take advantage of it, I don’t think that is the case here. Just go run, the shoe will do its thing.


As far as a 10 on the value scale? At $180 it is $20-70 less than shoes it hangs with, and in many cases beats, and brings a state-of-the-art shoe at ~$20 more than a big cushioned trainer - while being every bit as capable as a daily trainer. If you’ve been wondering if a plated shoe if for you, this is a great place to start.

Jeff’s Score: 9.75/10

Ride: 9.8 (50%) Fit: 9.5 (30%) Value: 10 (15%) Style: 10 (5%)


Peter: The SC Trainer is a surprisingly agile and fun daily trainer. Given the massive stack height and unusual construction, this could have been a gimmicky nightmare–but it is not. The SC Trainer runs very smooth and bounces through the run for miles and miles and miles. My only knock on the shoe is the weight. While it feels lighter than the scale would indicate, I can definitely feel it when I’m going uphill. That said it feels like a great daily trainer complement to a lighter race day shoe. It’s remarkably difficult to get the balance right on a high stack shoe like this, and NB just nails it. It’s a protective and bouncy shoe that manages to protect your feet and legs while never feeling mushy. 

Peter’s Score 9.5/10

I’d love them to be a little lighter, but they are a terrific daily trainer and recovery run shoe.


Watch Sam's SC Trainer Video Review (10:05)



10 Comparisons


ASICS Glideride v1 (RTR Review)

Derek: I wear men’s US9.5 in both models. Both shoes are near identical in weight, and both feel like shoes that weigh much less. Glideride has a more generous overall fit, while SC Trainer is noticeably lower volume especially at mid-foot. Glideride is the softer shoe, with a more bouncy ride. SC Trainer, while firmer, has a more aggressive rocker, and actually keeps my legs feeling fresher in the latter parts of runs. Overall, I find the SC Trainer to be a better leg-saver, and it  is actually easier to hold a cruising pace in the SC given its more effective rocker geometry. Glideride, while softer, has a tendency to sap my energy by the 13-14 mile mark of a run. With SC Trainer, my foot sits higher and doesn’t sink in as much and rolls through a little more efficiently. 


Joost (M9.5 in both): Both quite heavy and rockered. My opinion is a little different from Derek’s. I don’t think the ride of the Glideride is the bouncier one. I do agree that it has a more effective rocker geometry. The Trainer would be my choice for most runs.


Jeff: I reviewed the Glideride v1, but also the more recent v3 (RTR Review), which is much improved from the first version. The GR3 was a big step forward for mating bounce with rocker, but the SC Trainer just takes it that much further. I raved about the third Glideride, but the Trainer has it beat hands down.


Adidas Prime X (RTR Review)

Derek: I wear men’s US9.5 in SC Trainer, and size down to 9.0 in the Prime X. Prime X’s upper is less structured and has  poorer lockdown, especially at the heel. Prime X has the softer, bouncier and very much more untamed ride. It’s incredibly fun, but sometimes you feel like maybe you have to think too much about how to tame it rather than just run. It also doesn’t execute the rocker as well as the SC Trainer. SC Trainer’s ride by comparison is a lot more intuitive; the shoe moves you along in a natural and smooth way where you don’t have to think about how best to land and how best to toe-off. I love both shoes for their rides. 


Prime X is like a bear on gummy berry juice, incredibly hard to reign in. After running like a bull in a China shop, you start to appreciate the predictable efficiency of that Prius that can go 500 miles in a full tank of gas. Then you get to week 6 of a 12-week marathon build where all the easy/steady runs are copy and paste, and you think thank god there’s gummy berry juice! So again, I like both shoes a lot. If Prime X had a better upper, I think it would be a clear winner for me, but for now, SC Trainer is a more hassle-free experience. 


Sam: Yet more fun and energetic but not easy to tame and ride consistently and even securely the Prime X is the ultimate super max ride but is neither as versatile or as practical as the Trainer. Compromise adidas a bit with a wider platform and more secure if maybe heavier upper, accept the weight gain, reduce its $250 price  and it could pull ahead.  


NB RC Elite v2

Joost (M9.5 in both): The Elite is a marshmallowy soft shoe and for a racer, has ample space and volume in the forefoot. I think of all the racers, it has the most generous fit. That being said, the Trainer has a more different approach to using a plate in a high stack shoe which really seems to work for me. I actually enjoy running in the Trainer more and I’m looking forward to the SC Elite v3 race shoe.


Jeff: While I can’t match Joost’s speed, I would agree with his assessment. That said, I find running fast, or my version of fast, easier and smoother in the RC Elite v2 than the SC Trainer - but considering Trainer is literally in the shoe’s name, I’m not going to hold it against it.


Peter: SC Trainer during the week and the RC Elite on race day. It’s a perfect pairing. It’s wine and cheese, Chips and Salsa, Maverick and Goose.


Adidas Boston 10 (RTR Review)

Derek: I wear men’s US9.5 in both models. Boston 10 is one of those shoes you either love or you hate. A lot of people commented about the weight v10 put on over v9, but guess what? SC Trainer is heavier, still. I like to think of SC Trainer as a premium version of the Boston 10. The SC Trainer does almost every thing the Boston 10 does, better. Better rocker, better cushioning, more comfortable upper. The main area where Boston 10 wins is its outsole; the Boston outsole is incredibly effective and durable. If you train a lot on dirt roads or light trails then Boston would be a better option for you. Otherwise, I would go with the SC Trainer all day long.


Joost (M9.5 in both): The SC Trainer is the better shoe, except for the outsole, as Derek stated. 


Nike Tempo Next% (RTR Review)

Derek: I wear men’s US9.5 in both models. Like Boston, the Tempo is also very polarizing. I love my Tempo Next% 's and still use them quite regularly. The geometry works well for my stride and it doesn’t feel awkward or cumbersome at all. I get that the heel contact area can feel somewhat block-y and that may be what puts people off. Well, that’s where the SC Trainer may change your mind about this type of firm heel-soft forefoot type of geometry. The SC Trainer has a mellower heel than the Boston’s and Tempo’s, and I think the wider, smoother, more stable heel will make it more appealing to a wider range of stride patterns. The underfoot feel of the SC Trainer is overall less springy than Tempo, but also more consistent in feel where the heel to midfoot to forefoot feel very much connected, unlike Tempo where the heel and forefoot sometimes feel like they belong to two different shoes. In terms of overall versatility and efficiency and performance, I think the Tempo Next% is still the better shoe, easily handling uptempo work without feeling out of place with some slower runs. In that respect, Tempo Next% is still the better shoe for me. SC Trainer excels in terms of heel stability, and outsole grip. The wider platform definitely makes cornering in the SC Trainer easier. SC Trainer is not great on wet pavement, but the Tempo Next% can be downright slippery on the wrong surfaces. 


Sam: If you are a super max fan clearly choose the Trainer for daily regular runs and the Tempo Next% for Tempo. More mechanical, less all of piece with its focus on the front rebound yet with a stable firmer heel, highly reactive and very fast the big Tempo Next % is far less mellow and easy going than the Trainer. 


New Balance FuelCell TC (RTR Review)

Derek: I wear men’s US9.5 in both models, but I also fit half a size down in the TC with thinner socks. I’ve already done some comparisons in the review, but in essence, the TC has a more relaxed upper, while being softer and springier underfoot. The TC is also lighter and more versatile as a shoe in handling faster efforts. By contrast, the SC Trainer is best used for longer endurance runs that don’t involve a lot of pace variation.

Sam: Agree with Derek adding the TC heel is not as slow pace friendly while its front rocker and plate more aggressive and sharply felt. Ideal shoe the Trainer with Energy Arc on a lower stack height closer to TC’s.

Peter: The SC Trainer pushes further into ‘trainer’ territory than the TC, though I really liked the TC for long runs. I don’t really miss the TC when I run in these, but while I would run a half marathon in the TC’s, I wouldn’t race in the SC Trainers.


Skechers MaxRoad 5 (RTR Review)

Derek: I wear men’s US9.5 in both models. The SC Trainer has better vibration dampening and a more effective rocker. I kind of feel like the Maxroad is let down somewhat by its low heel-toe drop, and it would be a more effective shoe with a 8-10mm drop. Overall, the SC Trainer is a more enjoyable and smoother ride for me. 

Sam: I agree with Derek and add that Max Road podular midsole outsole design, while lightening the shoe contributes to its considerably lower heel feel and particularly at slower paces and less stable ride. 

Jeff: I didn’t mind the lower drop, but worn A/B against the SC Trainer the MaxRoad 5 feels more like “KindaCushionedRoad 5”. Just like the old car adage “there’s no replacement for displacement”, the massively cushioned stack is hard to beat for big and bouncy trainers.

Peter: I like the Max Road just fine. I feel less beat up and have more fun running in the SC Trainer. 


Saucony Endorphin Shift (RTR Review)

Derek: I wear men’s US9.5 in both models. Endorphin Shift is one of those shoes that also rides lighter than the scale suggests. Both shoes actually have very similar heel stack, but it is the softer and more forgiving SC Trainer that wins the day. The SC Trainer also shows why a higher heel-toe drop almost always works better for a rocker shoe. The exception being the Tempo Next% with its 4mm drop. 

Sam: Similar rocker based max cushion concepts the Shift is denser in feel, more stable and less energetic and bouncy. Its rocker is front focused, the SpeedRoll,  vs the longer more mellow but carbon plated rocker roll of the Trainer. Both are great options with Shift more “serious” in feel and maybe also purpose and Trainer more fun and playful. And like Derek I appreciate the Trainer’s higher drop.  


Hoka Bondi X (RTR Review)

Sam: At about the same weight but with a lower stack height,  the Bondi X has a giant rear outrigger to go with its carbon plate. The heel was clearly more backweighted than the Trainer and overly soft and slower to transition and it has a less effective, more rigid rocker feel. At $200 it is also $20 more than the New Balance. Clear choice of Trainer for me here. 


Jeff: Completely agree with Sam, the SC Trainer feels like what the Bondi X hoped it was. Hoka’s behemoth absolutely feels backweighted, especially when worn against the SC Trainer. Save the $20 for sure, stick with the New Balance.


New Balance Fresh Foam More v3 (RTR Review)

Sam: The lower 4mm drop More is soft that is for sure. I found its heel very low at slower paces, far lower and less easy to move past than the Trainer’s heel. Upfront it has a ton of fun bounce at faster paces. At $165 there is really no contest, choose the slightly heavier yet more cushioned and fun even back at the heels Trainer.  The More v4 is coming this year and will get softer Fresh Foam and much more of it increasing in stack height so that comparison to Trainer will be interesting..


Tester Profiles


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.


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. Please check out Joost's coaching service here.


Jeff is the token slow runner of the RTR lineup, and as such his viewpoints on shoe and gear can differ from those who routinely finish marathons in three hours or less. Jeff runs 30 miles per week on roads and trails around Denver, CO (and sometimes on the treadmill when the weather gets too much for a Phoenix native). Jeff only got into running in his 30s, as a result his career PR's are 4:07 for the marathon and 5K at 23:39. Jeff has finished several ultra marathons, from 50K up to 50 miles, and is still debating if he wants to go down that road again.


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


Sam is the Editor and Founder of Road Trail Run. He is 65 with a 2018 3:40 Boston qualifier. 2022 will be Sam’s 50th year of running. He has a decades old 2:28 marathon PR. These days he runs halves in the just sub 1:40 range training 30-40 miles per week mostly at moderate paces on the roads and trails of New Hampshire and Utah. He is 5’9” tall and weighs about 164 lbs, if he is not enjoying too many fine New England IPA’s.


The SC Trainer at New Balance  HERE 
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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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2 comments:

70's Teen said...

I totally agree with your reviews of this show - very stable given the stack, as I've worn on grass and dirt with no trouble. Firmer than the RC Elite, but still soft and with good bounce. The upper is really nice. I wish the arches were a little higher, but arch supports can fill that gap.

Anonymous said...

Very nice and interesting review, thanks a lot!!
Question please.
Because I am a little confused from different opinions.
How soft is the midsole can you please refer 2-3 shoes that provide similar softness?

Personally I love soft shoes like rc elite v2, Vaporfly, alphafly, novablast
Thanks again for your fantastic reviews!