Friday, October 14, 2022

New Balance TCS New York City Marathon FuelCell SC Elite v3 Multi Tester Review with 11 Comparisons

Article by Sam Winebaum, Michael Ellenberger, Joost de Raeymaeker and Ryan Eiler

New Balance TCS New York City Marathon FuelCell SC Elite v3  ($250)

Editor’s Note:Testers include Michael Ellenberger 2:22 Chicago Marathon 2022 running in the SC Elite 3, Ryan Eiler 2.19 Maine Marathon 2022,  Joost de Raeymaeker 2:26 (Berlin 2019) and Sam Winebaum around 1:40 for a half these days.


Introduction

The SC Elite v3 is New Balance’s pinnacle long race and marathon shoe. In the Super Comp family, it shares FuelCell foam and the new Energy Arc plate and midsole geometry with the shorter race “flat” SC Pacer and distance trainer SC Trainer.

The SC Elite v3 succeeds the RC Elite v2 maintaining the same stack height, 4mm drop and nearly identical weight but now incorporates Energy Arc technology on a platform that is now about 5mm wider at the heel (for more stability)  and 5mm narrower at the forefoot (for more agility).

The key update is the new Energy Arc technology. It is a combination of deep and wide central groove separating both sides of the shoe and a carbon plate that is bowed in a concave shape at the rear of the shoe. The idea is that as forces are applied at landing the 2 “wings” of foam deflect outward and down with the curvature of the plate at the rear storing the downward energy and then releasing it as weight is removed. This is a key potential improvement to the RC Elite 2 which also had the same soft and resilient FuelCell foam but which was notably soft and a bit mushy at the heel for me lacking forward pop.

But there is more… The FuelCell supercritical EVA/TPU foam is now in what appears to be 2 densities with a slightly firmer layer under foot (above the blue and red line) and above the plate with the softer foam of the RC Elite 2 below the plate.  And upfront the plate geometry is also changed.

We get a new upper which is slightly softer and which now features a knit tongue in place of prior leatherette.


All the changes point to a still “friendly” riding super shoe now with more get up and go impulse.  In this initial review we share our first runs impressions 


Michael: The New Balance SC Elite v3 (a mildly confusing name, since there were no preceding SC Elite shoes) is the next-generation New Balance racer. The RC Elite v2 has been my go-to marathon (and, largely, any distance) racer, and it’s probably the racing shoe I’m most familiar with. Carrying on the SuperComp lineage that now includes the short-distance SC Pacer and the ultra-stack SC Trainer, the Elite v3 is a top-shelf, elite-level option that New Balance has designed to compete against the absolute best in the field. So - how does it perform?

Photo: Kevin Gunawan

My thoughts are below after racing them to a 2:22 PR at the Chicago Marathon, but in short, I think the SC Elite v3 is a definite improvement over the v2. Confusion of lineage aside, the v3 deserves a different name, because it is quite a different shoe from the v2, but one I distinctly prefer.

Joost: I was initially a big fan of the RC Elite v2, but found them a little sloppy and soft after a while, especially on longer runs. The softness is very welcoming for longer efforts, but at the same time leaves you longing for a little more pop.


After reviewing the SC Trainer, my favorite shoe of 2022 so far, I was very curious about what New Balance might have done to fine tune the experience to a race-oriented and race-legal model.


Not a lot has been kept from the RC Elite 2, except for stack height and soft FuelCell foam. Because of that foam, it feels slightly familiar upon walking around in them, but that’s where the similarities end. The SC Elite 3 is quite a different shoe in almost every way.

Pros:

Still the friendliest and softest super shoe, now more long race ready Sam / Ryan / Michael / Joost

Energy Arc is effective. Kicks the runner off the soft (and now 5mm wider) heel quickly and plunges the foot to an agile toe off through the soft foam and plate: Sam / Michael /Joost

Surprised it is a 4mm drop, feels higher, likely due to the Energy Arc: Sam

Marathon worthy upper: consistently secure and comfortable all over: Sam /Ryan/Michael /Joost

Likely to suit a wide range of paces and running styles at marathon effort: Ryan / Joost


Cons:

Still a bit too soft, especially up front. The FuelCell foam overall, or swapping firmer and softer layers, could be somewhat firmer to increase response and front pop: Sam/Michael /Ryan

Laces perform an outsized amount of work in lockdown: Ryan/Sam/Joost

Blisters below the lateral ankle, specially on cambered roads and in turns: Joost/Ryan

Not enough drop, given its super-soft nature: Ryan/Sam

Very hard to get into on the first couple of runs: Joost

“Relatively” heavy by the numbers at around 7.7 oz / 218g (US9) for its less than max 35mm (measured) heel but in the end extra cushion not needed: Sam

Stats

Approx. Weight: men's oz 7.7 oz / 218g (US9) 

  Samples: men’s 7.48 oz  /  213g US8.5;  8.18oz / 232g US 9.5

RC Elite v2: 7.43 oz /212g men’s US8.5

Stack Height: men’s mm 35 heel (measured) / 31 mm forefoot (spec. 4mm drop) 

$250. Available Oct 18. 2022 including Running Warehouse US HERE.


First Impressions, Fit and Upper

Sam: Resplendent in bright red and blue TCS New York City Marathon livery with silver New Balance logo overlays the colorway is bright yet classy and fast looking.

The upper mesh construction is similar to the RC Elite 2's, an exterior mono mesh open grid with an inner bonded layer. There are no inner underlays. It is a bit softer and more pliable than the prior RC Elite 2’s more plasticky feeling upper and conforms to the foot better.

The tongue is a stretch knit that is attached by bonding to the upper just below the lacing system. No stitching to attach is used beyond a trace seen inside where the blue cord lace loop holders are located and seen on the inside.

The lacing system does not use eyelets or have the going laces in and out of the upper touching the foot.  All lacing stays on the top and outside of the shoe. The blue stitched section anchor the red cord through which the laces pass. 


There is no rear lace lock hold but I found essentially the equivalent as the lacing draws the rear forward.

The lace up is very easy and the fit is comfortable through the combination of knit tongue and lacing system. By using the stretch knit tongue,  New Balance allows for some foot swelling while keeping the lower portion non stretch and secure. The lower mid foot is slightly more secure than the RC Elite 2. My sense is New Balance may have reduced the volume there a touch with the new stretch knit tongue providing the top of foot volume some may need. Clever and quite effective. I do wish the knit was a touch less stretchy. 

The heel counter has a stout lower rigid overlay with above more pliable materials. In combination with the lightly padded collars we have a secure rear fit. The flat sockliner is lightly glued in. 

The rear fit is maybe not as bombproof as the Alphafly 2, for example, but more secure than the comparatively more minimal rear construction of shoes such as the Endorphin Pro 3 and for sure the Adios Pro 3. 

The toe box is generous, and now softer less plasticky mesh while very similar in fit, it is more comfortable and equally as secure.


I found the overall fit true to size and a bit generous for my narrower right foot. Interestingly during my longer test run they felt a bit too loose at the heel initially but by cinching the laces (recall the knit has give in the mix) and after some foot swelling along the way, the fit improved. This is a marathon focused upper and fit

Ryan: This NYC themed colorway gives off patriotic vibes, and is meant to be noticed with its distinctive and bold shade of red. I found the upper to be very appropriate for marathoning – its sock-like feel and soft mesh are blissfully comfortable, and proper tensioning provides uniform levels of lockdown. 

At the rear, the strength of the heel cup was noticeable as I struck the road, significantly compressing the thick, soft FuelCell midsole. I’ve always been a fan of the flared heel design, which prevents achilles issues. Despite having a very thin, stretchy sewn-in sock-like tongue, I didn’t experience any issues with lace bite, although it did feel like the laces were doing more work than was ideal. I think it was somewhat of a mistake not to offer a bit more padding on the bridge of the foot.


While the large metallic NB logo works well to stabilize the mesh, I do wish that the mesh was a bit less stretchy. For me, V3 rides the line of being perhaps a little too soft and accommodating, but I also think it was smart for NB to claim the mellower end of the super shoe spectrum. A lot of folks will appreciate its relatively mellow personality, especially on tired legs. I appreciated how solidly the rear of the shoe is built, standing in contrast to the weaker heels of the Endorphin Pro and Adios Pro, which I’ve recently been using for long runs.


It fit true to size, and will accommodate a range of foot widths given the flexibility of the mesh and its reasonably spacious toe box.

Joost: Opening the box, the shoe looks great, in the bright red, white and blue NYC marathon themed colorway. One thing immediately obvious is the same brand overlays on the upper as in the Elite 2, but that’s where similarities end. The upper material is slightly different as well. Where the Elite 2 had little open holes and was a bit plasticky feeling, the Elite 3 seems to have an extra very thin layer of mesh over the holes and the general feeling is also softer. 

The toe box is almost as generous as v2, but midfoot volume seems to be lower and more secure, in spite of a very flexible knitted tongue. 

I wasn’t a big fan of the little tongue of the Elite 2 and this solution works a lot better, with one disadvantage though: the first couple of times I tried to put on the Elite 3, I had to pull very hard on the little lug on the heel and on the tongue itself to get my foot in. Then you have to pull the tongue up in order to get it to stay flat.


Lacing wasn’t a problem, although the laces are rather short and use a lacing system with a cord instead of holes. I could actually almost run the shoes without laces with my foot volume.

The heel cup is bent slightly backward and avoids achilles irritation, but I had serious problems with blisters below my lateral ankle bone. The part where the heel collar meets the tongue is set a little too high and cuts into the skin when I ran corners of cambered roads. After around 60 miles, this hasn’t softened up enough to be runnable for longer distances. A pity, because the shoe feels very good and dialed in otherwise.’


Michael: Having studied the NewBalance.com posting before these arrived, I was slightly concerned about the fit and lockdown of the upper - rather than traditional eyelits, the laces are held in place through sewn loops. In practice, that’s not a huge deal - it is a bit tricky to keep the laces relatively flat (and when they roll, you can feel the change in pressure across your forefoot on the fully-sewn tongue), but I actually found the v3 to fit and corner better than its predecessor. I’ve seen images of pros testing prototyped pairs with the v2 upper atop the v3 midsole… to be honest, I do think I’d prefer that, but the upper is not a drawback here - it’s just not quite as slick as it was on v2. The fit, both length and width-wise, was quite good, and I’d go true-to-size.


I tested these primarily at the 2022 Chicago Marathon, where we had pretty temperate weather, so I can’t totally speak to the breathability, but I expect it to be quite good.


Midsole

The midsole is a dual density Fuel Cell foam with the top layer (above the red and blue line) firmer than the layer below the plate. The lower layer is very similar in firmness, if not identical, to the RC Elite 2’s full midsole of a single density of FuelCell . Both flavors of FuelCell foams are soft and have lots of rebound. 


The firmer top layer for sure helps improve response and tames the mushy feeling of v2 but I wonder what swapping its location would do. 


In my short A/B test run with the SC Trainer I was surprised that while much heavier and yes it is a higher drop actually had more pop and response. 


I examined them more closely and I think  this is due to placing the firmer foam below the plate and closer to the road instead of the opposite in SC Elite 3.

The SC Elite 3 remains at a 4mm drop and I measure a 35mm heel, the same as v2. This means a non up to max “legal” 40mm heel height as most super shoes are doing but with about equivalent forefoot height and cushion to shoes such as Alphafly 2, Vaporfly, Endorphin Pro 3 all with 8mm drops. Given how the Energy Arc functions there is plenty of forgiving heel cushion, so and in the interest of saving weight, I do not think adding there is necessary and I like heel cushion!


Ryan: While it doesn’t knock up against the 40mm stack limit, the large cavity running down the center of the midsole adds a satisfying depth of cushion. I did get a surprisingly stable feeling from the heel, despite its supremely soft character. The Energy Arc design claims to distribute impact energy outward, creating the sensation of a wider stance than a conventionally plated stack can offer. The deep channel underfoot didn’t feel nearly as radical as I expected it to, and seemed to work largely as intended.

The resulting experience is one of bottomless cushion at the heel, which loads and rolls the foot onto a similarly soft yet slightly less stable midfoot. I do wonder why NB didn’t choose to ‘max out’ the heel stack, and in doing so make the midsole a touch firmer. The geometry of the Energy Arc seems effective at adding stability – this is how I’d imagine an elephant’s foot strike feels, as its foot splays out to provide an enormous platform. But as a runner who likes to keep his center of gravity forward, I had to remind myself not to let myself start sinking into the soft heel. I think the RC would greatly benefit from a few more millimeters of drop. 


Joost: The FuelCell midsole feels about as soft as in v2 of the Elite, but the different geometry and the Energy Arc plate make it a much more stable option. When walking around in the shoe, you can really feel the heel widening when you put weight into it.

The 4mm drop feels quite different from the high drop SC Trainer, and it also has a much less pronounced rocker, mostly due to the fact that there’s only 4mm to play with. Nevertheless, the transition feels natural and in spite of the very wide longitudinally split midsole, you never get the feeling that you’re running on a pair of “rails”. 


Michael: I’d push back slightly on the “as soft as the v2” claim - undoubtedly, New Balance remains on the “soft” side of the racing-shoe spectrum here, but I do think the dual-layer midsole here adds some firmness that really benefits the v3. Whereas I dreaded running corners in the v2, since the mush made the turns tough, and accelerating uncomfortable, I did not get that same sensation here. Would I prefer a bit more of a mechanical “pop” that may come a firmer shoe? Definitely. But I think this stands as an improvement in midsole composition over its predecessor. 


Now, for the 4mm drop… I actually entered Chicago with some concern about the 4mm, both because I tend to prefer higher-drop shoes for racing, and because I have seemingly endless Achilles tendinitis, that is benefited by a higher offset. But, whether it was the adrenaline of the race, or the platform of the shoe, I was pleased to feel (or perhaps, not feel) the lower drop here. It wasn’t an issue in training or racing, and frankly, it feels nearly identical (to my feet) to the 8mm of the v2.



Energy Arc and Geometry

Sam: The new Energy Arc technology is a combination of deep and wide central groove separating both sides of the shoe and a carbon plate that is bowed in a concave shape at the rear.

The idea is that as forces are applied at landing the 2 “wings” of foam deflect outward and down with the curvature of the plate at the rear storing the downward energy and then releasing it as weight is removed. The deep groove also saves weight.

Compared to the RC Elite 2 the SC platform is 5mm wider at the heel (90mm) and with Energy Arc in the mix, the same (70mm) at midfoot, and 5mm narrower at the forefoot (110mm). 

RC Elite v2 (left)  SC Elite v3 (right)

What the combination of Energy Arc and new geometry led to,  and what I felt on my longer test run,  is a more stable less mushy heel and a more agile quicker feeling forefoot. At every pace,  the Energy Arc got me off the heel quickly to midfoot even with the very soft foams in the mix.


Upfront, I could feel the foot easily sinking into the soft foam with the plate geometry up front a bit more mellow and longer rolling than the RC Elite 2 during my A/B test run. 


Given the large central gap I was worried about stability but even on some steep downhills on a dirt road I had no issues.


Outsole

The outsole is relatively soft in feel with coverage in all the right places. I am not sure of the purpose of the very firm central front piece. It is possible with a strong forefoot strike and the soft lower foam the plate may come in contact with the ground and thus this rubber to protect the plate from impacts in that area as carbon will shatter.  Durability remains to be seen.


Ryan: After about 70 miles, the moderately thick sections of blown rubber have held up well, with some minor graining and the toe and lateral heel. There appears to be an island of this same rubber protecting the carbon plate in the forefoot. This is a smart move in my book, as the similarly exposed section of plate in the forefoot of my Saucony Endorphin Pro 3s got fairly banged up from some harmless looking rocks. The ridged slab of forefoot rubber provided an excellent feeling at toe off.

Joost: The outsole has less coverage than v2, due to the split nature of the midsole. There’s an extra bit inside the groove, on the Energy Arc plate, probably to deal better with little rocks. The pattern of the outsole grooves has also changed from the previous version and is more in line with the SC Trainer. If that shoe is anything to go by, durability shouldn’t be an issue. 


Michael: After approximately 35 miles, I have some mild scuffing on the lateral edge of the shoe, but no noticeable wear where I wouldn’t expect it. Like most racing shoes, I tend to take a conservative approach to lifespan, but I think if you mix these in for some training sessions and goal races, you should be able to notch at least 150 miles comfortably - and more, if you want to just extend them into workouts. I prefer a fresh racing shoe as best I can manage.



Ride, Conclusions and Recommendations 

Sam: I have taken the SC Elite v3 for 3 runs so far: about 3 miles at moderate pace and a hilly, humid 7 miler at 8:54 per mile pace (somewhat slower than my expected marathon pace these days) in Hanover, New Hampshire where I went to college. 


Finally I did a series of 2 mile A/B test runs comparing it to the RC Elite 2, Endorphin Pro 3 and SC Trainer for my video review and for the Comparisons below

The ride is friendly, something I said about the RC Elite v2 which we called the “friendliest” of super shoes at the time. What we meant by that is that the soft high rebounding foam is both protective and never jarring, the ride easy to move at many paces, and the upper fit is generous. 


The same applies to the SC Elite v3 but with a quicker more agile feel, a more stable less low feeling overly soft heel that while, yes, still soft and forgiving the ride is now amplified with Energy Arc which more easily snaps one forward to transition that is for sure. 

 I ran some steep downhills and uphills and while of course not like a plateless shoe steep downhills were clearly not as awkward as in other plated shoes if back on the heels while uphills were easy with a quick turnover. There is almost a sense the plate was actually flexible and forgiving up front which it is not as this is a rigid rocker shoe so the soft foam may be providing that sensation as firmer and denser foams add to overall rigidity . 


Unlike many super shoes, here one does not have to really load the plate with a strong mid to forefoot strike to activate it, or get past it to toe off at slower paces. This said its return is not as explosive as many. You just roll and spring away nice and smooth rather than pop up and away.  This tells me that the SC Elite 3, in combination with its stable, easy to move past heel despite the low drop, is also, as was RC Elite 2, a solid option for mid pack to slower marathoners and most everyone for training, only now with its soft midsole better directed and more performant.  


It is not as aggressive or for that matter prescriptive to a certain strike type as certain super shoes are. New Balance chose to offer yet again a friendlier softer option in a marketplace loaded with shoes designed quite frankly primarily designed especially for top elites. Its weight is competitive for sure, its foams and plates state of the art, and its ride fun for sure while fast if not quite as aggressively explosive as some. 


I do wish the FuelCell was a touch less soft overall (switching location of layers might solve this as might firmer foam) and thus that it was more aggressive in response as it ends up a bit too “friendly” even for slow old me for racing. 

Sam’s Score: 9.27 /10

Ride: 9.1 Fit: 9.5 Value: 9 Style: 9.8



Ryan: Without much of a rocker or toe rolloff built in, the SC is best used by mashing down onto the foam/plate and allowing its softness to transition you forward. The tall, low density FuelCell in combination with the stiff plate results in a feeling that’s totally disconnected from the road. As I alluded to in my midsole comments, the transition of the low 4mm was a little too soft and relaxed for my tastes. The softness itself isn’t an issue, but I found myself balanced a bit further back than usual – and further back than I prefer. In contrast to a shoe like the Adios Pro, which encourages a certain type of pronation and transition, the SC will accept a far wider range of running styles – and paces, for that matter. Sam describes it when he notes that it’s ‘fast, but not explosive’. The RC Elite (this shoe’s predecessor) has always been known to appeal to anyone looking to run a marathon, and this new SC follows in those footsteps. In terms of super-shoe versatility, this one is hard to beat.


Ryan: For folks who are turned off by the strong personalities of other carbon plated marathon shoes, the SC is a fantastic option. The ride it delivers is truly hard to dislike. A welcoming, stable feeling underfoot inspires confidence for high mileage, and is perhaps easier on the legs than any other midsole out there. Yet it still offers a nimble, low-inertia feeling on foot. I wish the upper was better structured, but for what it sacrifices in robustness it gains in comfort. If NB can figure out how to work a higher drop into a 40mm heel – look out Nike and Adidas.

Ryan’s Score: 9.2/10 (Deductions for tongue construction, less than ideal drop)

😊😊😊😊😊


Joost: I agree with Sam and Ryan. The SC Elite 3 is probably one of the friendliest super shoes out there, catering for a wide variety of paces and gaits. I’ve used it for a variety of workouts, from fast track workouts to marathon paced long runs and easy runs. It does them all very well. The ride is soft, easy, forgiving, with a hint of a rocker. It doesn’t get in your way and the plate does its work well.

While preparing for the Chicago marathon, I considered quite a lot of different shoes and the SC Elite 3 was very high on my list, but the blister issue I had below both my ankles made me go for another shoe. It was one of the 3 pairs I put in my suitcase and I did my last tempo workout in them, because I really appreciate the ride that feels very natural to me, unlike some of the other options out there.

Joost’s Score 9.3/10 

(Ride 9.8/10 - 50%, Fit 8.5/10 (ankle blisters) - 30%, Value 9/10 - 15%, Style 10/10 - 5%)

Smiles Score

😊😊😊😊 (only 4 because of the ankle blister issue)


Michael: As I’ve stated before, I’m on a New Balance-sponsored racing team, so when it came to choosing a shoe for Chicago, it was v2 versus v3 for me. That choice was relatively easy (newer is always better, right?) but in practice, I was supremely pleased with the performance of the SC Elite v3 (even though I didn’t quite have the day I imagined). It’s friendly and soft, to be sure, but the rails and embedded carbon plate add enough rigidity that you can still run aggressively in it (as, unfortunately, my 4:55 opening mile evidences!). 



There’s a lot to like her in the v3, and for the first time, I genuinely think that New Balance has leveled the playing field here (even if Emily Sisson went with the SC Pacer (RTR Review) for her new American Record, and bless her heart, because my legs would be unusable for days!). If you’re a runner who wants a competitive, fast, and dynamic racing shoe but also tends to prefer a softer, more gentle ride, I think this is a terrific choice.

Michael’s Score: 9.5/10

😊😊😊😊😊



11 Comparisons 

Index to all RTR reviews: HERE


New Balance FuelCell RC Elite 2 (RTR Review)

Sam: If you liked the RC Elite 2 but wished for more distinctly racing focus you most likely will be pleased. The general character of the shoe: soft, high rebounding FuelCell doesn’t change but we now through Energy Arc and the firmer foam below the foot get a more performant rear of the shoe and a longer rolling front of the shoe. It will also still remain a great trainer.


Joost (M9.5 in both): The energy arc and the more race oriented ride of the SC Elite 3 make it a very worthy upgrade of the RC Elite 2. Unless going for an ultramarathon or so, v3 is the better choice.


Michael: Agreed with Sam and Joost, entirely. V2 was a fun shoe, and certainly makes a comfortable cruiser for long run workouts, etc. - but the v3 is a mich improved racing shoe. Go v3.


New Balance FuelCell  SC Trainer (RTR Review)

Sam: The Trainer is a big 2.6  oz/ 76g heavier in my size and has about 10mm more heel stack height and double the drop all of which is a lot and is noticed. It for sure is the training companion to the SC Elite. 


Its FuelCell foam has a very similar feel (softness/density) but is not the supercritical version of the SC Elite.  Interestingly while of course heavier and not as agile I found the reverse combination of foam in the Trainer (softer above, firmer  below) and higher drop overall gave a more responsive feel with its front having more pop than the reverse combination in the SC Elite during my A/B test run. Both true to size with the Trainer having more volume and a slightly better (and higher) heel hold.

Joost (M9.5 in both): The trainer is my favorite shoe of 2022 so far. I wouldn’t have been able to log the mileage I did for the Chicago marathon without it. 

As Sam said, it has more pop to it because of the higher stack and the different use of the FuelCell foam. I wouldn’t use it for any race, though. The Elite is there for that and does that very well. 


Michael: Joost and I actually compared notes when we met in-person at the Chicago Marathon; I wanted to love the SC Trainer but just couldn’t get the fit right; it dug into my heel worse than any shoe before. For that reason, I can’t give a true comparison into Trainer vs. Elite, except to note that I fortunately did not have the same pain from the v3.


Saucony Endorphin Pro 3 (RTR Review)

Sam: Also featuring a soft high rebounding foam, the Endorphin Pro 3 has 4mm more heel stack of its similar supercritical foam so a bit more cushion and this was felt during my A/B run. An 8mm drop shoe it has the same spec front stack but seems more cushioned up front likely due to bulge in cushion towards the rear of the forefoot. Its plate, even with the higher drop, is more aggressive requiring more of a mid foot to forefoot strike to really activate. The SC Elite 3 is clearly more agile and quick feeling even if its forefoot is considerably more mellow in feel with a longer, easier rocker. Both true to size with the Saucony having somewhat more overall volume, a similar toe box, less pliable upper and not quite the overall hold of the SC Elite.


Joost (M9.5 in both): The Endorphin Pro 3 and the SC Elite 3 have more in common than most other super shoes out there. The foams feel similar, but the extra bit of foam stack in the Endorphin makes for a more cushioned feel. The Elite 3 has a ride that’s slightly more catering to a variety of running styles. 


Ryan (M9.5): The Endorphin Pro is much more deliberate and directed in the ride that it delivers. This can be mostly ascribed to its firmer foam/plate, as well as the rockered ‘Speedroll’ shape at the toe. In the forefoot, the Endorphin’s deeper cushion was noticeable, especially when mashing the midsole on downhills. Rebound in the Saucony is much quicker and firmer, and doesn’t provide as soft of a feeling underfoot, despite being a higher stack. While both have a fairly spacious, accommodating upper, the build of the SC’s heel cup is superior, and lockdown in the SC also seems better overall. I’ve had serious durability issues with the Saucony’s upper after only 100 miles, which I doubt will be the case with the New Balance. The outer on the Endorphin Pro also started wearing through at the toe after 110 miles, which seems slightly less than acceptable to me. Overall, the SC is a more casual choice that has numerous benefits over the Saucony, however the Saucony’s higher stack performs exceptionally well and I would argue wins on pure speed.


Xtep 160X 3.0 Pro (RTR Review)

Sam: A huge surprise, the 4mm drop Pro has a max 40mm heel stack height so more forefoot and heel cushion depth and feel than the SC Elite does. Its foam is somewhat firmer with more rapid rebound while its plate is more aggressive than the SC Elite but not the highly prescriptive rigid feeling plates of the ASICS Metaspeeds for example. So one could say it sits right in the middle. Its upper is superb and its outsole likely will outlast the SC Elite 3’s. The Xtep leans longer distances than the SC Elite for me due to its protection and its heavier weight at 8.4 oz US9.


Joost (M9.5 in both): Like Sam, I was hugely surprised by the Xtep 160X 3.0 Pro. I haven’t felt this excited by a shoe since putting on my very first pair of baby blue Vaporfly 4%. It definitely feels a lot more aggressive than the Elite 3 and you need to put more power into the midsole in order to get the most out of it. The Xtep was also on my marathon shoe shortlist and almost made it to number 1, if not for the fact that it runs slightly short in my M9.5 (which is 27cm in Chinese sizing, instead of the usual 27.5cm).


Nike Vaporfly Next % 2 

Sam: My current half marathon top choice, the Vaporfly is lighter, and not quite as stable as the SC Elite. The key differences are at the forefoot and with the front plate. The Vaporfly plate is just above the outsole and as such provides considerably more pop than the SC Elite. As it keeps its soft Zoom X above the plate it has an equivalent cushion there. As an 8mm drop shoe with its bottom loaded plate its geometry suits me somewhat better as I can roll more easily forward than in most over choices. The SC Elite does the same but due to its plate location higher up is not quite as dynamic but  abit easier to roll.


Joost (M9.5 in both): The Vaporfly is a bit more aggressive feeling in the forefoot and seemingly gives you a little more pop. It was very hard to pick a favorite for my marathon, but in the end, I went with the adage: When in doubt, go Vaporfly.


Nike Alphafly 1 and 2 (RTR Review)

Alphafly 2 is 7.76 oz / 221g US8.5 so about 0.3 heavier than the SC Elite but on a heel 5mm higher, a wider platform, and with the same forefoot stack (8mm vs. 4mm drop for SC). The Alphafly 2 is more cushioned at the heel and more stable that is for sure. It has deliberate mechanical feel which is effective with a broad stable landing and a combination of rebounding air pod and now some toe off roll which its  v1 lacked. While many elites race to records, it is also, as the SC Elite 3 is,  an “approachable” super shoe for the masses. The SC Elite v3 is more natural feeling, more agile and less massive, while the Alphafly is very consistent, very stable and less connected to the road. For a marathon I would choose the Alphafly 2 over the SC Elite 3 but for shorter distances I would flip a coin.


Joost (M9.5 in both): Both the Alphafly have a completely different ride from the Elite 3. Although the Alphafly 2 is a more “democratic” shoe than the 1, it remains fairly mechanical riding. I find the Elite 3 more enjoyable and would not hesitate to pick it over the Alphafly.


ASICS Metaspeed Edge + (RTR Review)

Sam: The Edge + is considerably firmer and more rigid although it still has ample cushion from its near 40mm heel. Its forefoot is about the same height as the SC Elite 3.  I prefer its upper but its ride is comparatively joyless and requires a midfoot strike plus high cadence to really work well, neither of which I have much of as a more heel striking older runner. And watch out,as I found out in a very hot 10K, if you slow down and get back on the heels you will go nowhere fast whereas the SC Elite 3 will far more easily keep you rolling.


ASICS Metaspeed Sky+ (RTR Review)

Joost (M9.5 in both): The Metaspeed Sky+ is a bit reminiscent of the Alphafly 1, where you really have to put a lot of energy into the ball of your foot in order to get moving fast. It’s a matter of taste, but I prefer the Elite.


Michael: This is a close one for me; I knocked out a lot of my big workouts leading up to Chicago in the Sky+, and really appreciate its propulsive midsole. But, like Joost said, I think it takes a little more work to activate, and especially if I were to choose a shoe for a less aggressive runner, I’d pick the New Balance.


Adios Pro 3 (RTR Review)

Sam: The Adios is more mechanical and rigid and while more deeply cushioned, again it’s a shoe near the max 40mm vs 35mm here at the heel. The Pro as with many of the more elite focused shoes requires a solid mid foot strike and fast paces  to work well and is more mechanical and abrupt in feel than the SC Elite 3. I ran a 4 mile race in them and was fine and fast for me but for longer distances the more mellow and easier to roll SC Elite would be my choice.


Ryan (M9.5): The Adidas is far more prescriptive and opinionated than the New Balance. Whereas the SC is the type of shoe you can step into, lace up, and rip – the Adios Pro takes some patience in getting used to, and feels far less natural underfoot. Both the upper and midsole of the New Balance are far friendlier and accommodating than the comparatively harsh mesh and explosive, sculpted midsole of the Adidas. And in comparing the footprint of the SC’s ‘Energy Arc’ to that of the Adidas, the NB wins on stability by a considerable margin. All of this said, I strongly believe that the Adios Pro, however less friendly, is a faster shoe when used properly – meaning that a strong midfoot strike is necessary to get the most out of the shoe. Both shoes have an appropriately accommodating volume in the forefoot for marathoning, and the differences in the outsole performance is trivial. If you’re looking for a more versatile, eager-to-please shoe that asks less of you, pick the NB. However, if you care about shaving time more than anything else, the Adidas is the way to go. Both shoes fit true to size.


The SC Elite v3 is available October 18th
New Balance HERE 
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Watch Sam's Initial Video Review of the SC Elite v3 

Some samples were provided at no charge for review purposes. Sam's was a personal purchase. RoadTrail Run has affiliate partnerships and may earn commission on products purchased via shopping 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:

Anonymous said...

The ankle bone rubbing in SC trainer is a major issue. Did NB carry the faulty design to this shoe also or is the ankle blister issue different?

Ryan (RTR) said...

@anonymous-
It was a fairly minor issue for me, and I only really noticed it when the road had a high amount of camber. Even then, it was only on my left side, and only happened once. I don't think Michael encountered this problem at all, and he's a fan of the SC I believe. I can't personally compare to the SC as I haven't run it yet. Hope this helps.