Sunday, April 23, 2023

New Balance FuelCell Propel v4 Multi Tester Review: 5 Comparisons

Article by Renee Krusemark and Zack Dunn

New Balance FuelCell Propel v4 ($110)


Zack/Renee: Soft yet bouncy underfoot experience

Zack/Renee: Upper has no bells and whistles but performs well in its simplicity 

Zack/Renee: Outsole performs fine on roads

Zack/Renee: Value


Zack/Renee: A bit heavy

Zack/Renee: Loose upper security and heel hold


Weight: men's10.7 oz 302.6g (US9.5)  /  women's 8.73oz / 247g (US8)

Samples: women’s 8.73 oz / 247g (US8)

6mm drop

$110. Available now.

First Impressions, Fit and Upper

Renee: During the testing period, I always looked forward to running in the Propel v4. At 8.73 oz/ 247g, the Propel is not a light shoe, and it’s somewhat above my preferences for weight in terms of a daily trainer. However, after the first run, the weight was a non-issue. I wore the Propel during runs from 4 to 19 miles and found it comfortable and fun. The upper is what I would expect from a $110 shoe. I didn’t have the best heel hold and even when I pulled the laces tight, I didn’t have the best hold across my midfoot.


While those might be issues for speed workouts, I didn’t mind the upper fit for moderate to slow paces, and that’s really the best use for the Propel v4. Runners with high volume feet might appreciate the extra room. The toe box width and height were great, and I don’t mind extra room in that area. If I can find  fault with the Propel, it would be the heel hold and upper security, but that might only be an issue only for low volume feet. 

Zack: I pretty much agree with everything that Renee wrote in terms of the upper. The upper is very simple and it performs fine but there was nothing really great about it, it’s just quite average. The only real issue I had was that the lockdown was a little off, as I felt whenever I picked up the pace the upper became a little loose and never felt quite secure enough. The  upper does have good amounts of padding throughout the tongue, collar, heel, etc., which makes for a comfortable feel on the foot. Renee brought up the good point of the toe box being quite roomy, which didn’t bother me that much, except for when I started dropping the pace when I wished the upper was slightly more secure. 


Renee: FuelCell is great, and the Propel has a lot of it. I consider this a moderate to high stack shoe. I had no issues running a 19 miler on hilly gravel roads with the Propel v4. The 6mm drop feels perfect for me as someone who prefers lower drop shoes on a daily basis. 

The midsole feels soft while walking (it’s also a great shoe for walking), but while running it feels firmer and rolls forward smoothly. The TPU plate probably has something to do with that. I didn’t think the TPU plate helped with speed, but it does help to maintain a consistent turnover. 

The midsole stack is plenty for comfort underfoot, and while running over ruts and gravel as I often, I couldn’t feel anything underfoot. Despite the loose upper and stack height, the Propel is very stable. 

Zack: Before this shoe, I had never experienced Fuel Cell foam in a trainer, with my only  experience being in the New Balance MD-X track spike . It has Fuel Cell foam the lighter supercritical flavor, but very little of it, so my impressions were good but quite vague. 

Form the start in the Propel v4, , I really enjoyed what I felt in terms of the midsole. The midsole is soft with a subtle amount of responsiveness which is appreciated, but nothing too crazy. 

Renee hit the spot well about the TPU plate, which, as she said, helped with keeping the shoe not too soft or mushy, as well as helping maintain an efficient and smooth turnover throughout the course of a run and without the extreme stiffness of a carbon fiber plate. 

I also sensed that the TPU plate helped add some stability, as it creates a slight “wall” on the lateral side of the shoe. Overall, I think the midsole was engineered pretty well, especially at a price point of $110 where in most cases more “generic” technologies would be used while in the Propel we have more premium (than the normal EVA) FuelCell foam and the TPU plate which both work well together.


Renee: Not much to report for the outsole. The rubber coverage is generous enough to add to durability while adding some comfort and shock absorption (although the thick midsole and TPU plate do most of that work). I have no wear after 50 miles, even after running on gravel. 

Zack: The outsole of this shoe very much has a standard configuration, with nothing to crazy about it. Rubber covers all of the vital areas that experience the most wear and tear. This is a good thing to see, because it does annoy me when some shoes put an outrageous amount of midsole rubber when and where it is simply not needed. So this is nice to see, as it saves some weight. The rubber seems to be fairly durable as after 64 miles I see very little wear. 


Renee: The ride is smooth. I wasn’t super excited about the shoe after weighing it, but it runs much smoother than the weight and stack height suggest. I found the midsole comfortable for long runs (19 miles) at moderate to easy paces. I ran a few strides after my 6-9 mile runs and surprisingly didn’t mind the weight or stack height. I don’t think the TPU necessarily helps with speed propulsion, but it does create a smooth transition and turnover.

Zack: In the general running shoe market I do not think this shoe is one to go crazy about, but when considering it is $110, I think it performs really well for its price point. I agree with Renee made that the ride is really smooth. 

I would say in terms of feel, the shoe had a primary feeling being soft, but not overly soft. It also has a subtle secondary bounce to it, most likely due to the quite premium FuelCell midsole foam. 

I used the shoe for several different types of runs, from distances ranging 6-16 miles, and at a variety of paces.  I can say the Propel v4  is somewhat versatile, at least for a budget shoe. The first run was a 6 mile easy run, and the shoe felt pretty good, even with the TPU plate, it did not feel too stiff at easy paces. I also did a 16 mile long run, with a cutdown starting at my normal run pace (7’15 / mile) and my ending paces being at a slower tempo pace (5’40 / mile) with the shoe covering all those paces well.

However, since the shoe is somewhat heavy, it definitely took more work to hit faster paces than in an actual workout shoe. I also took it for a “mini fartlek run” where I had done 10 x 1 min fast with 2 min moderate, and once again the shoe was not bad.  It was still comfortable and the TPU plate helped slightly by adding some propulsion, but it simply was just too heavy to go fast in, as the  my legs fatigued slightly faster and it is not the snappiest of shoes. With this being said, the shoe does have very good versatility, and though it’s not the best for faster paces, it can definitely get them done in a fine manner. 

Conclusions and Recommendations

Renee: At $110, the Propel v4 is a good choice for runners who like higher stacked shoes for daily miles. I thought the Propel worked great for any type of run aside from speed work there my personal preference would be a lower stack, lighter weight shoe. 

The TPU plate does help deliver a smooth transition, and I think some runners can use it for mid distance tempo runs. The upper security wasn’t the best for my low volume feet, but that wasn’t an issue for anything aside from faster paces and strides. Bonus: I found them comfortable to wear casually and for walking when the FuelCell feels softer underfoot then than while running.

Renee’s Score: 9.2/10 (-.10 upper fit, .20 heel security, -.50 weight)


Zack: In all, this shoe performed very well, especially at the price of $110. It had many great aspects and few aspects that I disliked. I really enjoyed the midsole, as it was cushioned but thanks to the TPU plate it never felt overly soft at all and has a nice bounce to it thanks to the use of FuelCell foam.

It also has a pretty average, but well made upper. There was nothing wrong with it, but nothing too great either. My only gripe would have been that I wished for a better midfoot lockdown. It was also overall somewhat versatile, as it worked for pretty much anything except fast paces (which for me was tempo and faster, but I can see many liking it for tempos?, as it is a heavier shoe. Overall, I think this shoe can be a great choice for many runners , especially those looking for a cushioned trainer at an affordable price of $110. 

Zack’s Score: 9.1/10


5 Comparisons

Index to all RTR reviews: HERE

Nike Pegasus (RTR Review)

Zack: These shoes are both great daily trainers, but very different in how they feel and are engineered. The Propel is more of a higher stack, soft and cushioned, plated trainer while the Pegasus is a slightly firm, no plate, lower to the ground, yet responsive daily trainer. I think It comes down to preferences.  If you want a closer to the ground, more flexible and responsive ride then the Pegasus is the way to go,. If a softer, high cushioned ride sounds better, then the Propel is the choice. 

Renee: What Zach said. The Pegasus (v38/39, I haven’t ran in the newest version) has a much more secure upper fit. The Pegasus’ ride is somewhat inflexible and clunky for me. The forefoot flex is great, but the midfoot flex . . . not so much. The Propel’s lower drop is smoother, but the shoe is overall much heavier and slower in comparison. 

Saucony Endorphin Speed (RTR Review)

Zack: I would say that comparing these shoes seems quite viable, as they have similariteis. They both have non-carbon fiber plates (TPU and Nylon), PEBA superfoam (Saucony) and enhanced more conventional foam (Propel) and both are tuned for uptempo/daily runs rather than racing. However, they do feel different to me withPropel does much better for slower and overall daily running, while the Speed excels at uptempo paces. I feel that the Propel is less aggressive and the foam is much softer while the Speed has more overall responsiveness to it.

If I had to choose one single shoe though, I would go for the Propel, as I feel it excels at daily running but also does not feel terrible at tempo paces whereas I did not really enjoy the Speeds at slower pace. It did best for me at  tempo or faster efforts. 

ASICS Superblast (RTR Review)

Renee: One shoe is $200, the other shoe is $110. Both shoes are high stack with plenty of cushion underfoot. The Superblast is much lighter and runs very light and quick despite the stack. The Propel is heavier and rides smooth, albeit slower. For tempo paces at long distance, I’d choose the Superblast. For easy day runs or daily training, I’d choose the Propelv4. Sizing is comparable. 

Saucony Tempus  (RTR Review)

Renee: The Tempus is a light stability shoe that also runs comfortably for neutral runners. Both shoes have high stack and comfortable midsoles with smooth transitions. The Tempus is pricer and offers a more secure upper in a much lighter weight. To save money, the Propel is the better choice as a daily trainer. For uptempo paces, I’d choose the lighter weight Tempus. Sizing is comparable. 

Salomon Aero Blaze  (RTR Review)

Renee: I tested the Aero Blaze and Propelv4 at the same time. Both shoes have enough stack height for a variety of distances. The Aero Blaze has better ground feel and a higher drop, and it works better for a variety of paces. The Propel v4 is a heavier shoe and works best for more mellow paces. The Aero Blaze is a pricer shoe, but it does offer a more secure/quality upper and more rubber coverage at  the outsole. 

The Propel V4 is available at our partners




Tester Profiles

Renee is a former U.S.Marine journalist, which is when her enjoyment of running and writing started. She isn’t that awesome of a runner, but she tries really hard. Most of her weekly 50-60 miles take place on rural country roads in Nebraska, meaning mud, gravel, dirt, hills, and the occasional field. She has PR’s of 1:30:59 for the half marathon and 3:26:45 for the marathon.

Zack Dunn: is a college freshman/ runner at Lewis University. I’ve been running for 8 years, and focused solely on running after giving up on years of baseball and wrestling. I race distances between 800 meters and 10K  whether it be on the track, the roads, or on cross country courses. I do most of my training on the roads, some training on the track, and occasionally run trails logging anywhere from 65-80 miles a week. My typical training consists of easy days, long days, workouts (fartleks, tempos, interval training, etc.). My typical training paces range from 7’30 a mile on easy days to sub-5 minutes a mile on fast interval days, and with many paces in between. My personal bests are 4:20 for 1600m, 8:42 for 3000m, 15:27 for 5K, and 25:24 for 8k.  

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Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

no comparison to SC trainer?

Krischen said...

A comparison to another Fuelcell based trainer such as the Rebel V3 would have been appreciated.