Monday, July 10, 2023

New Balance FuelCell SuperComp Trail Multi Tester Review: Carbon & Super Foams Done Really Right for Trail! 7 Comparisons

Article by Jeff Valliere, John Tribbia, Adam Glueck and Jacob Brady

New Balance FuelCell SuperComp Trail ($200)


Jeff V:  New Balance have thrown their hat into the ring in the carbon trail super shoe competition with the SC Trail.  While I find the term “Super Shoe” to be thrown around a bit loosely, at least especially as it pertains to trail shoes, I think the SC Trail is the closest yet to claim validity and legitimacy here.   

Many carbon trail shoes are either too heavy, too stiff, too tippy, harsh underfoot, or any combination of the above, whereas New Balance has managed to make a shoe that is light, flexible, stable and remarkably well cushioned.  This is one of the most versatile shoes on the market (carbon plate or not) and is going to be a hit for any runner looking for a shorter fast technical mountain races or runs, or those looking for comfort, speed and efficiency over long distances.  

Highlights of the SC Trail include the upper, midsole and outsole, basically the whole shoe. Please read on.for all the details and our 7 comparisons.

Ever since I tried my first carbon plated super shoe (The Saucony Endorphin Pro), I knew that the technology had the potential to redefine what running shoes felt like.  I’ve always been more of a trail runner, and my first thought was:  “When will this be ready for the trails?”  I’ve tested a variety of attempts at the concept of bringing energetic foams, plates, and innovative technologies to trail shoes, and while some of those shoes have excelled in individual areas (the Scarpa Golden Gate Kima RT for technica trailsl protection, Saucony Endorphin Edge for energy return and short-middle distance racing. The  SC Trail manages to be a balanced trail shoe that nails the cushion, versatility, control on technical terrain, and propulsive energy return.  To echo Jeff, versatility, and a marvel of engineering. 


Exceptionally light for all that the shoe offers, responsive, agile, cushioning, traction, fit, protection, stability, versatility. Jeff V / John / Adam

Runs well at a range of paces Jacob / Adam

Propulsive and forgiving—it is a plated super shoe for trails Jacob / Adam

Surprisingly competent on technical terrain Adam


The cutout under the shoe can collect marble size rocks. Jeff V /Adam

Snug fit in toe box John

Firm forefoot—plate is very noticeable Jacob

Slightly less forefoot cushion than I prefer for ultra distances Jacob


Official Weight:  9.5 oz (M9.5)/7.5 oz (W7)

  Sample: men’s 9.6 oz  / 274g (US M10)

Stack Height: 31 mm heel /21 mm forefoot ( 10mm drop spec) 

$200  Available now at our partners including New Balance HERE

First Impressions, Fit and Upper

Jeff V:  I’ll have to admit, I was completely blindsided by the SC Trail.  They arrived on my doorstep unexpectedly and even after opening the box, I really had no idea I was looking at a carbon shoe.  Intrigued, I grabbed them on my way out the door the next morning for a run up Bear Peak, which gains 2,700 feet in 2.4 miles and is quite technical.  

I noticed right away that the SC Trail felt very light, exceptionally snappy/responsive and oh so comfortable, with deep plush cushioning, perfect fit and that they were very stable and predictable.  On the downhill, I was wowed by the nimble, agile maneuverability, protection underfoot, security, stability and with that, the ability to contour over rocks and roots.

The upper is a dual layer dense weave with no visible overlays, where the tight weave keeps out trail dust, but is vented enough in critical areas to provide ample ventilation, even on warm days.  

I have run in temps in the mid to upper 80’s and never once did my feet feel hot.  

Despite no visible overlays, the upper is structured as such that security is exceptionally good with no pressure points.  Fit is on the smaller end of true to size with just a pinky width of extra room in the toe where I normally have a slight bit more than that.  The heel, midfoot and toe box are all very well held, and with exceptional comfort.  

While the toe box is not voluminous by any stretch, it is not the least bit confining and even on warm days after a few hours and some swelling, I never noticed them feeling tight, nor felt a need to loosen.

The heel counter is semi flexible, but amply protected, stable and secure, with a well padded heel collar.  

The tongue is gusseted and thin, but feels protected with no lace bite or pressure. 

The tongue is also notably well vented, with rows of punched holes along the length and width to enhance ventilation.

I have pushed the SC Trail hard on a wide range of trails and terrain, notably very steep, rocky technical trails and off trail and foothold is excellent, with no wavering.

This is notably one of the better (or best?) uppers out there, providing a remarkable combination of secure fit for any trails including technical, while simultaneously being relaxed enough for long distances, adding greatly to the versatility of the shoe.

John: I concur with Jeff's assessment of the SC Trail. I was also surprised to learn that it is a carbon shoe, as most brands tend to show off the carbon plate in their shoes. The SC Trail, on the other hand, keeps it very low-key. It was clear when first putting on the shoe, and that it is a light, responsive, and well-cushioned shoe. 

Jeff's comments about the agility, nimbleness, and overall maneuverability of the shoe are spot-on. It feels like a shoe that is ready to set some course records and fastest known times. The double-layer dense weave upper is reasonably breathable, but I would want to see how my feet fare in cold temperatures, as I find this type of upper to be less than ideal for cold weather. 

I wear a US9, and in contrast to Jeff, I found the shoe to be a bit snug in the length and toe box width, especially with thicker socks. 

That said, the elasticity of the upper seems to be designed to provide a snug but comfortable fit and I’ll have to see if the snugness is a problem in the long-term. Speaking of elasticity, the most impressive small detail that New Balance has added to this shoe is the laces. 

They are flat and thin, but have a bit of elastic give, which allows for a customized fit without the risk of lace bite on the woven upper.

Adam:  John and Jeff describe the upper well. I’ve particularly enjoyed the upper of the New Balance RC Elite 2, and I can see the similarities in this shoe.  The upper is a close fit, but without pressure points anywhere.  As John noticed, the flat laces are wonderful, and by allowing some of the stretch to come from the laces, the midfoot feels precise and easy to maneuver, but doesn’t swell over a longer run.  The best thing I can say about the upper is that I don’t notice it while running, I feel stable and in control, and haven’t gotten any blisters, which is all you can ask for in an upper. Breathability is good considering the amount of control the upper has, and it does a reasonably good job keeping out dirt and other trail debris.   

Jacob: I had been looking forward to testing the FuelCell SuperComp Trail since learning about it at TRE late last year (Dec 2022). I’ve tested many of the road super plated racers but only one modern plated trail shoe, the Hoka Tecton X. The Tecton is a great shoe but does not compare with a plated road shoe in forgiving, leg-saving effect nor propulsion. There have been a lot of New Balance road shoes that I loved over the past few years, including two of my favorite carbon plated shoes, the FuelCell TC and RC Elite v2. However, I had only tested one NB trail shoe (years ago), the Fresh Foam Hierro v5, which is the heaviest non-mid shoe I’ve ever run and has poor wet traction, so was far from a favorite. 

Out of the box, the SC Trail was off to a decent start with a pretty simple visual design—a seamless, single-color upper, black midsole, outsole, lining and tongue. The primary red/orange is bright, but the shoe isn’t overly flashy. 

The upper is soft and simple. It has a good balance of stretch for comfort and snugness for foothold. The mesh is dense enough to keep out debris and is a fairly substantial upper but isn’t overbuilt. 

Fit in NB is typically great for me and the SC Trail is not an exception with excellent foothold, a comfortable heel and midfoot, but is on the smaller side in length and toe box volume. John noted the same thing. I wonder how a half size up would feel. I do not have issues on the run but have not done a long run yet in testing so am a bit unsure if they’ll be suitable for me for an ultra. The snug toe box has the positive of providing good foothold for running fast in technical terrain and is especially helpful since it’s a bouncy soft shoe.


From New Balance:

The SC Trail has  a dual density midsole, with a SC Trail v1 specific carbon fiber plate with Energy Arc technology in between. The top layer above the carbon fiber plate is a lower density FuelCell for a lighter weight and incredible energy return.  The bottom layer is slightly denser to provide great energy return but a protective and secure underfoot for the changing conditions of the trail and quick movements while off-road!”

Jeff V:  I have somewhat fallen out of touch with New Balance shoes over the years (Fresh Foam More Trail this Spring excluded) and am unfamiliar with their midsoles.  The FuelCell used here is dual density, with a softer layer above the plate for low weight, energy return and comfort, with a more dense layer below for energy return and protection/security and for handling any trail surface underfoot at any speed.  New Balance has really figured this out exceptionally well, as the step in comfort/cushion is really soft and plush feeling, yet the foot is also  very well supported.  

The  combination is very quick, energetic and responsive with notable benefit from the carbon plate.  It is also essential to note here that the carbon plate is forked and biased medially, which is absolutely essential in a trail shoe to at least give the shoe a chance to be flexible enough for trail use.  This has been a big pet peeve of mine when it comes to carbon trail shoes where a full coverage plate is used, rendering the shoe nearly useless on technical terrain and difficult on moderate terrain.  Why not use a forked plate for flexibility and added versatility?  Plus it saves weight.   I am so thankful NB has used this type of design in the SC Trail, as it makes for a much better shoe.

John: I think the Trail SC midsole is ideal for running on a variety of surfaces. I have used it on paved trails, dirt trails, and rocky trails, and it has performed admirably on all of them. 

The carbon fiber plate provides a lot of stability and support, even on uneven terrain. The FuelCell foam provides a lot of energy return, which helps you maintain your speed and momentum. 

The lower-density foam on top of the carbon fiber plate makes the shoe feel lighter and more responsive, allowing for quick changes in direction. The denser foam on the bottom provides the necessary cushioning and protection for technical terrain. 

The forked plate is an excellent design choice because it allows for more ground feel and flexibility than a full-length plate. This is important for technical trail running, as it allows you to feel the terrain beneath your feet and make quick changes in direction.

Jacob: The SC Trail uses two varieties of New Balance’s supercritical FuelCell foam. FuelCell comes in many types—the type used here is very similar but a bit denser than in the SC Elite road racer. The upper layer is softer—overall it still is very soft and bouncy for a trail shoe. The carbon plate, which is forked in the forefoot, is a key aspect of the midsole design, providing stability, response, and a propulsive effect. 

The cushion provided by the midsole is adequate for any distance but feels more bottomless and squishy in the heel (due to the Energy Arc cavity and bow of the plate) whereas the forefoot is firmer due to the position of the plate and overall stack height (lower than the road RC/SC shoes). 

It’s not firm while on the run due to overall cushion and a soft foam, but it feels notably rigid when standing around, more so than many carbon-plated road shoes. This obvious plate presence leads to less of a natural feel. Protection and ride comfort are very good. 

Adam:  After testing enough carbon plated trail shoes, I’ve begun to think that carbon plates come with major tradeoffs that limit the versatility of a shoe for longer distances.  I was hopeful because I found the RC Elite V2, the most recent New Balance road racing shoe I’ve tested, was comfortable at a variety of speeds and over long distances due to the geometry of the plate, and the incredible softness of the foam. 

New Balance’s dual density approach here creates a unique character for this shoe and one unlike anything I’ve ever tested.  

The layer above the plate, soft and low density, gives a responsive, soft, step in feel, but most importantly cuts down the harshness of the plate, and at low speeds makes it easy to turn the shoe over.  

The denser bottom layer provides some stability, protection, energy return, and control over rocks and roots.  I’ve run trail descents in road shoes like the Saucony Endorphin Speed (plastic plate), but this was the first time I felt truly comfortable running full speed on technical descents in a carbon trail shoe.  I think this is partially enabled by the forked plate, as it allows the foot to conform to the terrain, which is critical for grip and stability, while also still providing protection from rocks, and propulsion on smoother terrain at high speed.  This is legitimately a trail shoe I’d consider for a run/hike in rocky terrain, to a fast rolling trail 50km.  


Outsole Thickness : 1.5 mm base + 4 mm lug height

Vibram LItebase MegaGrip with  Traction Lugs

Jeff V:  Another highlight of the SC Trail is the Vibram Litebase outsole, featuring 4mm traction lugs and a sticky rubber compound.  The lugs are low and broad enough in contact to roll fast on smoother trails, dirt roads and roads, yet simultaneously aggressive enough to provide surprisingly good grip in loose terrain.  

The Traction Lugs help a lot with this. 

The  traction nubs are strategically placed on the forward side of the lug in the heel for better downhill control and braking and on the rear facing side of the lug in the forefoot for better traction on the uphills and acceleration on the flats.  

I have run all surfaces in varied conditions, from buffed trails, loose trails, rocky slab, rock gardens, talus, dirt roads, paved paths, road, wet or dry and have not had any issues with slipping.  I was even able to test them on snow and ice on a recent run up some 14,000 foot peaks and traction was good. 

 I feel very confident about their grip and durability thus far is proving to be average, with some visible wear in the forefoot after 50 or so rough miles.

John: Like Jeff, I love the versatility of the outsole as I’ve been able to push them on everything from pavement and technical / loose terrain.  The rubber base provides good traction and contact surface on paved trails, while the lugs provide good traction in muddy and wetter conditions. The outsole construction is really lightweight, which makes the shoe feel more nimble and responsive, but it doesn’t seem to be wearing away too much after 25ish miles so far. Jeff summarizes the lug placement well and the advantages for downhill and uphill pursuits. 

Adam:  Vibram is good at making outsoles.  I’ve got no critiques here, other than the small cutout to show the plate, which I’ve gotten a rock stuck in once.  I understand it’s there to save weight and show the carbon fiber, but it’s a conspicuous void.  I’m nitpicking here because the rest of the outsole is that good, it’s light, with excellent grip for descents, climbs, and no apparent wear after 30 miles of trail use. 

Jacob: It is great to see Vibram MegaGrip Litebase (with traction lugs) on the SC Trail. It is a popular and performant outsole material with excellent all-terrain traction in wet and dry conditions. The Traction Lugs (mini lugs on the sides of the primary lugs) contribute to the good grip. The lugs are relatively low and broad which saves weight and leads to a more natural ride on smooth terrain. 

My only concern is the most forward lugs (toward the toe) lug is minimal and could wear out quickly, I already see some abrasion, though I don’t think performance would be greatly impacted without it. Due to the thin rubber, low lugs, and rubber material, the outsole contributes to a smooth and quick ride on trail and road. Other shoes I have tested with Vibram MegaGrip Litebase have good durability, so I expect the same here.

Ride, Conclusions and Recommendations

Jeff V:  Wow, the SC Trail is just amazing!  They are such a refreshing surprise from New Balance and I am so impressed, as this is certainly one of the best trail shoes I have ever run in.  

From the upper, to the midsole with carbon plate, to the outsole, performance is amazing over a wide range of terrain, conditions and paces.  The ride is fun , fast, smooth and energetic.  

I can easily convince myself that this is a lightweight, nimble, short distance, run as fast as you can up and down the mountain technical sort of shoe, or I can just as easily believe it is a plush, all day ultra distance shoe,  for racing, all day adventures or as  a forgiving daily trainer.  

The combination of versatility and performance over such a wide range of distances, terrain and intentions is something to strongly consider.  I don’t think many have a single shoe quiver, but if you were going to, this is your shoe.  

The SC Trainer is very fast and energetic when pushing uphill, quick tempo, flats, downhills, rollers.  I feel the propulsion of the Fuel Cell foam and plate, as well as the efficiency and grip of the Vibram Litebase outsole working in perfect unison with the rest of the shoe.  

Downhilling is very stable with the forked carbon plate helping to keep the shoe stable and under control.  Over long distances and extended downhills, I really appreciate the soft but supportive cushioning, as they leave my legs feeling fresh.  Bottom line, the SC Trail, is a great choice for just about any trail, just about any distance, any speed, in training or for racing.

Jeff V’s Score:  9.8/10

Ride - 10/10: The ride is fast, fun, energetic and really comfortably well cushioned

Fit - 9.7/10: Fit is very good for my feet at least, comfortable, secure, with just enough give for long days.  If you are on the edge of sizing, consider the next half size up.

Value - 9.5/10: While $200 is a lot, it is less than most, if not all other carbon plated shoes out there and it is the best of the bunch, so for that and the fact that the SC Trail is so versatile, it is a great value.

Style - 9.5/10: Not my favorite look or colorway, but splitting hairs here, it still looks sleek and race ready.

Traction - 10/10: Very good by any standards, but best of class and quite versatile.

Rock Protection - 10/10: With a carbon plate, nothing is going to penetrate.

John: The New Balance SC Trail is a shoe that defies categorization and it snuck up on me! It's a lightweight, nimble shoe that can handle a variety of terrain, from paved to rocky trails. It's also a plush, all-day ultra distance shoe that can be used for racing or all-day adventures. 

The combination of versatility and performance over such a wide range of distances and terrain is something special.

I've only been running in the SC Trail for a few days, and yet I've been impressed with its performance. It's a fast shoe, but it's also comfortable and supportive . I've used it on a variety of trails, and it's performed well on all of them. It's also a great shoe for long runs . The cushioning is soft but supportive, and comparatively leaves my legs feeling fresh at the end of a long run. While the fit is something I’m still getting used to, I find it conforming and customizable with a big tip of the cap to the stretchy laces. If you're looking for a shoe that can do it all, the New Balance SC Trail is a great option.

John’s Score:  9.33/10

Ride - 9.5/10: Nimble and well cushioned - my feet love it for short and long

Fit - 9/10: Not quite sure on this one as I noticed a tightness up front, but would be interested in ½ size larger to test

Value - 9/10: Versatility makes this shoe a bit easier to fork over $200

Style - 9/10: I always love a little fluorescent pop

Traction - 9.5/10: Solid for road to trail and even on technical trail

Rock Protection - 10/10: No issues with rock penetration and it has great ground feel

Smiles: 😊😊😊😊😊

Jacob: The SC Trail ride is energetic, smooth, forgiving, easy to cruise along, and notably directed by the carbon plate. Overall, it is an excellent ride for a modern shoe with a soft, low-density midsole and plate. It is not as deeply cushioned in feel as road super shoes, which is most notable when running on hard surfaces such as pavement. However, it has the same propulsive and fast feel as I expect in a plated racer. Protection is great, stability is pretty good (very good considering the soft foam and carbon plate), traction is excellent, and it is fun to run on all terrain, from pavement to technical trail. 

I find that the SC Trail works well at a range of paces which is valuable for being able to race a variety of distances and terrain. Though it isn’t out of its element on easy runs, I think it leans towards working better at faster paces. On that note, it’s probably my top pick for moderate terrain trail racing in the 50k and under distance especially if there are sections where I can open up my stride and take full advantage of the plate and midsole energy. It doesn’t feel like a true long distance (50-100 mi) shoe to me due to toe box snugness, the plate geometry encouraging a faster pace, and the slightly overly firm presence of the plate under my toes, but I need more testing to confirm this and will update the review if my thoughts change. 

Overall, the SC Trail is a great shoe that I think will lead me to have a lot of fun cruising training runs as well as reaching goal times during hard efforts on FKTs or races. I recommend it to anyone looking for the vibe of a modern carbon-plated road shoe in a versatile trail shoe. Especially for 50km and under (and definitely longer for some runners), I think it is a top choice for racing depending on the course. It’s a success from NB. I am looking forward to the continued progress of their trail line , such as a similar shoe with a wider toe box, more forefoot cushion, and a slightly more relaxed plate geometry for longer, slower efforts.

Jacob’s Score: 9.48 / 10

Ride: 10 (30%) Fit: 9 (30%) Value: 9.5 (10%)  Style 8 (5%) Traction: 9.5 (15%)  Rock Protection: 10 (10%)

Smiles: 😊😊😊😊😊

Adam: The SC trail is a masterpiece by New Balance, and a strong contender for not only my next trail racing shoe, and is a trail running shoe that puts a big smile on my face. It works for a variety of paces, terrains, and distances.  Every 50km I’ve run has been in the Saucony Endorphin Speed or the Salomon S/Lab Ultra , and this shoe combines many of the best attributes of both.  

A lot of thought has gone into the dual density midsole of this shoe, the geometry of the carbon plate, and the precision of the upper.  It’s very refined, and I can tell a lot of engineering, testing, and prototyping was required to get to this point.  Now that New Balance has figured out a way to bring carbon fiber and low density, high rebound foam to the trails in a stable and versatile package, I look forward to seeing what they’ll come up with next.  If I had to pick one trail racing shoe to wear for every run right now, this would be it.  

Adam’s score:  9.85/10

Ride: 10 (30%) Fit: 10 (30%) Value: 9.5 (10%)  Style 8 (5%) Traction: 10 (15%)  Rock Protection: 10 (10%)

Smiles: 😊😊😊😊😊😊😊

7 Comparisons

Index to all RTR reviews: HERE

Nike Ultrafly Trail (RTR Review):

Jeff V:  While the Ultrafly is exceptionally comfortable and great for long distances on less technical trails, the SC Trail is an ounce lighter, much more stable with the forked carbon plate, has a slightly more grippy outsole, is comparably as well cushioned, has a more secure upper, is more nimble/agile, is much faster AND is $50 less.  The Ultrafly is still a great shoe, but without being adept on technical trails (due to the rigidity of the plate, less secure upper and soft foam combo), it is not nearly as versatile.  This said it might be a better pick though if you want more room in the forefoot and want to sprawl out.

Saucony Endorphin Edge (RTR Review)

Jeff V: The Endorphin Edge is comparably fast in a straight line, but stability, foothold and traction are not on par with the SC Trail.  Cushioning is comparably good and substantial for long runs and comfort, though the Edge is more firm.  SC Trail much better if anything technical is involved, where both are good for fast, non technical running.  The SC Trail is much more versatile.

Salomon Pulsar Trail Pro (RTR Review)

Jeff V: The Pulsar Trail Pro is lighter and more nimble, perhaps a contender for uphill only, and has a more precise, lower volume upper but the geometry of the Pulsar Trail Pro makes them a bit tippy in technical terrain and requiring a lot of care and attention.  The SC Trail is a much more versatile all rounder, better in technical terrain, is more stable, has a stickier rubber outsole and while they have less stack, cushion underfoot is softer and more forgiving for longer distances.  The PTP has a TPU Energy Blade plate that is comparably effective and propulsive.

Brooks Catamount 2  (RTR Review)

Jeff V: Featuring a non-carbon Skyvault Propulsion plat, the Catamount is fast, light and well cushioned and also adept in technical terrain.  The SC Trail has, in my opinion, a softer feel underfoot, and is more propulsive and competent in technical terrain, and has better traction.  

Both are really fun, fast, versatile trail shoes .  I do find that the Catamount can feel a bit confining in the forefoot, whereas the SC Trail, while not wide, had a more forgiving upper/forefoot to allow for splay and swell, without giving up security.

John: The Catamount is my favorite shoe in the last 3 years. It fits my foot perfectly and is the most ideal shoe for my style of running. Minus some of the minor fit issues with the SC Trail, I would rank the New Balance almost as high. As Jeff points out, the Catamount is firmer and SC Trail is cushier, making these shoes a go-to trade off on road/trail feel. 

Hoka Tecton X 2: (RTR Review)

Jacob: The SC Trail feels more like a carbon-plated super shoe than the Tecton with more bounce and propulsion. The Tecton is more locked in, as a more minimal upper, is more stable, and is more muted and reserved underfoot. The SC Trail feels higher up, more energetic, and notably more cushioned in the heel. Both have great traction (both Vibram MegaGrip Litebase) but due to stability and a more natural and connected ride I prefer the Tecton in technical terrain. For all out speed and fun factor I chose the SC Trail. 

Jeff V:  Despite the dual plates in the Tecton, I find them to be stiffer and less stable in technical terrain than the SC.  In a straight line on easier trails, I think it might be a draw between the two, but if at all technical, the SC Trail is my pick.  The SC Trail also feels more plush and better cushioned underfoot and also has better traction overall.

Speedland GS:TAM: (RTR Review)

Jeff V:  The TAM is a much more substantial shoe, both in size and weight.  The TAM is unique in that the carbon plate is optional, but both shoes here have carbon plates that are forked for greater flexibility in technical terrain.  With the plate, the TAM is 2.4 ounces heavier and $110 more expensive.  Aside from carbon plates, the comparisons really stop there, as the SC Trail is lighter, more responsive, more agile/nimble and race ready.  If you have wider, higher volume feet, want more maximal cushion and a more accommodating upper with the amazing Li2 Boa fit system for easy 2 way adjustments.

Scarpa Golden Gate Kima RT :(RTR Review

John: I loved the Kima and found it to be a great shoe for slower paced technical excursions in higher alpine terrain. It is relatively lightweight and has a really efficient response thanks to the carbon plate. As a complement to this shoe the New Balance Trail SC is most effective for fast running pursuits where high leg turnover and a variety of terrain is in play - road, trail, rock, talus, etc. But if I were going for a slower or even more technical objective, I would lean toward the Kima. 

Jeff V:  Agree with John.  The Kima is more protective, but it is a much heavier, more firm and less flexible shoe that I find I need to take care in technical terrain.  I would pick the Kima for longer, slower runs or even hikes on more rocky, above treeline type of terrain.

Adam:  Agree with both Jeff and John here, the Kima is a protective and precise shoe for technical mountain running and approach, but not fast or responsive enough for racing for me, and less cushioned and comfortable on more mild terrain.  The Kima is more of a specialized tool, while the SC Trail is extremely versatile. 

The FuelCell SC Trail is available now at our partners





Tester Profiles

Jeff Valliere loves to run and explore the mountains of Colorado, the steeper and more technical the better. He has summited all of the 14ers in the state and can be found on mountain trails daily, no matter the weather, season, conditions or whether there is daylight or not.  On the side he loves to ski (all forms) bike and hike, often with his family, as he introduces his 12 year old daughters to the outdoors. Jeff was born and raised in New Hampshire, but has called Colorado home for over 25 years. He is 5’9” and 145 lbs.

John Tribbia (5' 6", 130lbs) is a former sponsored mountain/trail runner who has run with La Sportiva, Brooks/Fleet Feet, Pearl Izumi, and Salomon. Even though he competes less frequently these days, you can still find John enjoying the daily grind of running on any surface, though his favorite terrain is 30-40% grade climbs. He has won races such as America's Uphill, Imogene Pass Run, and the US Skyrunner Vertical Kilometer Series; and he's held several FKTs on several iconic mountains in Boulder, Colorado and Salt Lake City, Utah. If you follow him on Strava, you'll notice he runs at varying paces between 5 minutes/mile to 12 minutes/mile before the break of dawn almost every day.

Jacob is a runner and general endurance sports enthusiast. He runs a mix of roads and trails in the Portland, Maine area. He has been running every day for over four years and averages around 50 miles per week. Jacob races on road and trail at a variety of distances from 5k to 50k. He has a recent PR of 2:49 in the marathon. In addition to running, he does hiking, biking (mountain/gravel/road), and nordic skiing. He is 27 years old, 6 ft / 182 cm tall and 155 lbs / 70 kg. You can check out Jacob’s recent activities on Strava.

Adam is a cross country skier, runner, cyclist, and fan of outdoor adventures.  He grew up in New Hampshire, where he competed at NCAAs for Dartmouth Skiing, but is now based out of the Bay Area in California, where he enjoys the trails, cuisine, and engineering.  Adam enjoys running and racing track, road, and trail over a variety of distances.  He is 24 years old, 6ft /183 cm tall, and 197 lbs/ 89 kg.  Check out my Strava

Samples were provided at no charge for review purposes.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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Anonymous said...

I must admit it was mostly the white upper that held me back from the Trailfly, plus it hasn't officially released yet. This one though... I always wanted a Fuel Cell NB for the trail, but the Summit Unknown V4 is looking too odd for me. This one ... take my money! :)

Anonymous said...

Do you prefer these or The North Face Vectiv Pro?
Both carbon plated trail super shoes...

Anonymous said...

Compare to the Solomon Pulsar Trail?

Sam Winebaum said...

@anonymous North Face Vectiv Pro. We have not tested Pro in US but our German team did and all 3 experienced serious blister problems from the front side plate. All like the Sky a lot better. Sam Editor

Anonymous said...

How does it compare to the Saucony Endorphon Rift?

CJun. said...

Was the 10mm drop noticeable on trail? I've found higher drop shoes to be less handy on technical terrain, but none of you mentioned that, so I assume it was a nonissue, which is exciting.

Also, would you say that there is any crossover with the nnormal kjerag? Thanks!

Anonymous said...

How is the 10mm drop? I run in 0-6 and a little afraid of the 10mm on the trails.

Anonymous said...

Would you recommend this as a beginner trail shoe? Not a beginner runner but a good intro shoe for getting into trail running?

Orlok Subodai said...

Just received this today and took it out on a 10-mile run - half on the road and half on the trail. It is the perfect road-to-trail shoe as it is outstanding on both. I really can't think of any other shoe that handles both the road and trail so well. It's like a great road daily trainer and speedy and comfy long-distance trail runner rolled into one.

The 10mm drop took a few miles to get used to but I adjusted quickly. It feels soft and super comfortable when you cruise at a steady pace with some mid-foot and heel strike but is firm and propulsive when you want to pick up the pace and push off the forefoot and toes. The transition is uncannily smooth.

The NB SC Trail is my candidate for 2023's 'Running Shoe of the Year'. Still 5 months to go and I'm anxiously awaiting Adidas's Prim X Strung 2 but, undoubtedly, the SC Trail is the most versatile running shoe that can handle both the road and trail with equal proficiency and enjoyment. Just awesome shoes!

PaulJ said...

Is there any site l can get theses trainers to deliver to Switzerland. I’m doing the Mt Blanc 102Km run and l think they’d make a difference.

Anonymous said...

The Rift is a much bulkier shoe in comparison. The Rift is still light and fast, but not nearly as nimble and controllable on technical terrain as compared to the SC Trail. Both are great. For longer efforts if needing cushion underfoot, the Rift. For more technical terrain or shorter/faster efforts, the SC Trail.

Anonymous said...

The drop feels high, but not as high as a 10mm road shoe would feel on trail. The upper is secure, which helps with control on inclines/declines.

Anonymous said...

These shoes are amazing and will make you run like a deer on crack. As mentioned, the toe box is fairly low volume and a bit narrow but the material is stretchy so not overly constricting - definitely size up a half if in doubt.

Orlok Subodai said...

Haha, love the "make you run like a deer on crack" comment. Really amazing shoe that's getting virtually no hype or marketing push from NB, which is strange. And NB has it on sale at $170 already after the very quiet launch. I can only surmise that it's a calculated and preemptive strike against the launch of the Ultrafly, which is getting very mixed reviews and derision for the high price. At almost $100 less, the SC Trail is looking like a steal and I already got a second pair at the sale price.

Orlok Subodai said...

Forgot to mention that I went half-size up from my TTS 8 to 8.5 and the fit is perfect although just slightly roomy as the upper is stretchy. I wear thicker socks and that gives me a very comfy fit. I may consider getting TTS which I'm sure would feel tight but I know now that the upper will stretch and may work well with thin socks.

Anonymous said...

I got a 45km race upcoming. I would describe it as fairly technical. There are parts you can push the pace, but there is a also a lot of narrow trails with loots of rocks and roots and some very steep up and downhills. do you reckon these would be stable enough?

Other ideas I have could be:
speedgoat5 or scarpa spin 2.0.

I would say good traction and stability are essential, but I think some cushioning is essential to keep my legs alive for some ~5.5hours of racing

Sam Winebaum said...

@anoymous 45K trail race
I think it would very much depend on your speed and agility as while decently flexible for a carbon shoe at slower paces on such terrain things may get tippy. Speedgoat would handle the tech but is not as fast elsewhere. Spin 2.0 a great choice for the agility part and a fast shoe and is not highly cushioned but decently so.
Sam, Editor

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the reply! I am not sure I trust myself to be agile enogh in that terrain. Probably I can also get away with not using a max cushion shoe as speedgoat. Spin 2.0 seems great, or any tips on some shoe that would be great in highly thecnical terrain but with maybe slightly more cushion?

Anonymous said...

Another review said holes in the insole and bottom of the shoe irritated the bottom of their foot and would cause blisters. Did you experience this?