Thursday, December 28, 2023

New Balance FuelCell Super Comp Elite v4 Multi Tester Review: Exuberant! 12 Comparisons

Article by Ryan Eiler, Renee Krusemark, Nils Scharff, Peter Stuart and Derek Li

New Balance FuelCell Super Comp Elite v4 ($250)


The New Balance SC Elite v4 gets all new angular/faceted geometry and far more strikingly modern aesthetic, a new PEBA based Fuel Cell foam midsole, a thinner Energy Arc plate with curvature in multiple planes (giving the shoe a touch of snappy flex and adding to energy storage and return in the heel/midfoot as part of the energy arc system) and a new upper. We called prior SC the “friendliest” super shoe for its soft, more mellow ride and while it has not always been our favorite for racing v3 it was our contributors favorite long run shoe of 2023. Still friendly? Now more race ready? Let’s find out!


Energetic, grin-inducing midsole bounce - Ryan, Joost, Renee, Nils, Derek, Peter

Solid foot containment & highly comfortable upper - Ryan, Joost, Peter

Impact fatigue minimization - Ryan, Joost, Renee, Nils, Derek, Peter

Versatility: caters to those with a relatively upright/rear bias - Ryan


Not enough drop / heel is too soft - Ryan

Heavier than V3 & direct competitors - Ryan, Joost, Renee, Nils

Heel lockdown needs improvement - Ryan, Renee, Nils, Derek, Peter

Not for folks who appreciate stability in their super shoe - Ryan, Joost

Bottom heavy feel - Derek


Approx. Weight: men's 8.15 oz / 231g (US9)  /  women's 7.19 oz / 204g (US8)


          men’s: 8.47oz / 240g US9.5,  8.466oz / 240g US9.5 

             7.85 oz / 222 g US8.5 (vs.: 7.48 oz  /  213g v3)

  9.24 oz / 262g US 10.5 (vs. 242g v3)

        women’s: 7.19 oz/ 204g US8

v4 Measured Stack Height 40mm heel 34mm forefoot (Derek))

v3 Measured Stack Height: 38mm heel / 30 mm forefoot (Derek)

Note: While Derek's measurements may differ from brands cited specs, he measures

all shoes in a consistent fashion which approximates World Athletics standards.

$250  Available February 1 2024

First Impressions, Fit and Upper

Ryan: The SC Elite has evolved drastically since its introduction as the “RC Elite” in late 2020. While the upper and outsole have been overhauled many times over, what remains is the shoe’s focus on delivering the softest, most versatile cushioning among the ‘supers’. Whereas we used to have a ‘Dynaride’ outsole, now we have more traditional, tacky rubber. Whereas we used to have a softer mesh with overlays, now we have a stronger engineered mesh with underlays. However, the midsole across generations has gone from soft and bouncy to even softer and even bouncier.

The SC Elite V4 upper has adopted a sportier, more attention-seeking design. Whereas V3’s aesthetic was relatively vanilla, V4’s is certainly not, with faceted geometric edges adorning the midsole and a series of triangular shapes decorating the brightly colored upper in various sizes and colors.

Starting from the top, we have an impressive engineered mesh which is strong yet conforms nicely to the foot’s contours. The fit is slightly more snug than most marathon-style shoes in this category, both in width and in length. While I wouldn’t go so far as to call the toe box ‘narrow’, it doesn’t provide a ton of extra space (or give) like some others do.  This shouldn’t be a problem, aside from folks who have problems with their big toe rubbing — it’s fairly snug on the medial side of the toe box. 

As for foot containment, there’s a semi-hidden, very effective underlay which starts at the first eyelet, and extends rearward to the heel cup. 

In conjunction with the strong, plasticky “N” logo overlays, midfoot containment is impressive, which is almost a necessity with a shoe this tall and spunky. I’d rate breathability as moderate. The material in the toe box breathes well, but the underlays in the midfoot limit airflow somewhat.

Gone is the ultra-stretchy, sock-like, and ineffective tongue of v3. There’s nothing too unique going on with the tongue in version 4, but it works. 

It’s a non-gusseted, lightly brushed, neoprene-like flap of material with small triangular perforations throughout its surface. Lacing up the shoe is fuss-free, and I didn’t have any issues with the tongue bunching or sliding around.

One issue I have with the Elite is in regard to its heel cup. In many racing shoes, we often see a thin heel with a few strategically placed islands of padding, or some kind of device to help lock the heel down — but not here. 

The build is of moderate sturdiness, which is fine, but there’s no significant bolster like inner padding to help grab on to the heel as it tries to lift during the toe-off phase. While this isn’t a major problem, and it can be mostly fixed by lacing with the upper eyelets, it gave me a feeling that my heel wasn’t quite securely seated.

The overall result of the upper’s geometry and its materials is a fit that’s conforming yet sturdy, with a bit less volume than a modern day marathoning shoe.

Renee: I have not ran in the New Balance Elite since version 1, which was a totally different shoe than any of its successors. At The Running Event, I saw the Elite v4 and thought it looked too high in terms of stack for me. The upcoming Pacer seemed more approachable. 

However, when the Elite v4 arrived for review, they seemed far less obtrusive. For review, I ran a 10 mile tempo, strides, 1 mile repeats, half mile repeats, and a hilly 5k. Runs were on gravel, pavement, and a treadmill.

The upper looks race-ready. I had some issues with the tongue slipping. As others note, the heel does not have as much padding similar as other racing/plated shoes. I used the top eyelet to get a good hold, but the tongue is short and the laces sit across my feet instead of across the tongue. Using a runner’s knot or looping back through the second eyelets helps. With low volume feet and a narrow heel, the upper wasn’t perfect, but I still found it comfortable and I don’t think the fit affected my running or paces. 

Nils: First of: I totally dig the geometric look, the loud colors, the 80s vibe of the new SC Elite. It's a shoe that helps you feel fast and therefore run fast. The thin and translucent mesh is airy and fits my rather narrow feet perfectly. Compared to the rest of the upper the tongue lacks a little bit of love as it's just a thin flap of material - non gusseted and it is not padded. But it hasn’t bothered me at all during my test runs - so i guess it's fine. The heel and entry section of the SC Elite is all padded all around and therefore gives the impression of an uptempo trainer and not an all out racer. 

As I’m experiencing a little bit of heel rubbing despite using the lace lock method I would wish for a different approach in the heel section. Less overall padding coverage but more at strategically important places. It’s a bit of a shame as the rest of the SC Elite makes for one of the best fitting and comfiest super shoes for me personally.

Peter: The SC Elite keeps evolving in a (mostly) positive direction. The upper is, for the most part, excellent. It’s very breathable and holds the mid-foot well. As pointed out by others, the heel lock is not perfect. The shoe feels a bit slippy and took some work to make it feel locked down. The laces are very thin and the tongue is a bit short. I wish the tongue was gusseted, as it takes a little bit of work to get it to lie flat, and it can slip–though it hasn’t been problematic for me. Overall, the upper is excellent. If the tongue and heel collar get refined a bit, all will be perfect up top. The shoe looks great and it remains a fun and exciting tempo shoe. 

Derek: I have had the good fortune to test all four versions of New Balance’s RC and SC super shoes. The general trend has been a gradual shift from a more aggressive performance-oriented lower volume fit to a more relaxed, marathon-friendly fit. However, in my opinion, things got a little too sloppy with the knitted upper of the SC Elite 3. I think many will see the use of a more conventional upper as a welcome change in the SC Elite 4. I like the angular design of the shoe and the simple synthetic upper. 

Step in feel is very comfortable and the springy underfoot feel is very special. In terms of fit, shoe volume seems to be a bit disjointed for me. 

The heel is fairly high volume, or at least it feels that way, accentuated by minimal padding around the heel and a relatively shallow ankle area. 

The midfoot is more snug, and you get good support from the broad bands running up both sides (orange-colored in this colorway). The forefoot on the wider side, and also relatively high-volume compared to other super shoes. 

There are 6 rows of eyelets which gives adequate room for individualization in terms of lacing. The laces provided are semi-elastic narrow flat laces; not my personal preference as I generally prefer wider laces for lower pressure on the foot. I also generally prefer inelastic laces for a more snug race fit. 

As a trainer, i think the fit is fine at true to size, but if i were going to get this shoe for workouts and racing use, i would probably want to go down a half size, unless i know i am going to use thick socks. The overall fit is very comfortable, but as some others experienced, I did notice some heel slippage here and there. For me, even with the runner’s loop, I was not able to fully eliminate heel slippage, and I ultimately swapped out the laces to larger flat cotton laces and it seems to do a better job with lockdown.    

Midsole & Platform

Ryan: This is one of the most exuberant midsole stacks out there. If you don’t like a shoe that feels tall, giddy, and sometimes even a bit unstable, you may want to consider other options. But if your game is to find the bounciest, most lively midsole around, you won’t be disappointed.

The grade of FuelCell foam used here is definitely on the soft end of the spectrum. And when you factor in that the massive ‘Energy Arc’ cavity under the heel removes about 30% of the volume at the rear of the shoe, it’s no surprise that the heel feels extremely deep. 

The forefoot shares no such cavity, and also feels exorbitantly soft, but not as loose as the split heel. 

The midsole has a significant rocker shape to it, which assists nicely in getting the weight off of the heel and onto the forefoot. 

Another aspect which is a huge win here is the FuelCell’s ability to reduce fatigue during long, hard runs. For example, I ran a workout of 3 x 3 miles at my half marathon pace, and felt none of that ‘banged up’ feeling the following day, which I often do. There’s so much softness and protection here that it’s hard not to love.

With only a 4mm drop, I found the soft heel to be slightly problematic for my mid/forefoot focused strike. Such a massive depth of cushioning at the rear of the shoe without an 8-10mm drop left me pushing off from a position that was more rear-biased than I preferred. 

SC Elite v4 Energy Arc Carbon Plate 

That said, for folks who heel strike or don’t bias as far forward, this ride dynamic could be preferable. This characteristic also helps the SC Elite carry the torch as arguably the most versatile super shoe on the market. I wouldn’t grab it for a recovery run, but the softness + rocker combo lets it handle a wider range of paces than its competitors.

My guess is that New Balance is intentionally targeting a different segment of the marathon segment here — one that prefers a fun, soft (but still highly performing) ride over a more tenacious and nuanced one (e.g, Nike and Adidas).

Renee: Surprisingly, these shoes never felt as high stacked as they are. Even on gravel, I had no issues with stability. With the low drop and wide forefoot platform, the shoes felt natural with a midfoot strike. I can understand how a fast, strong forefoot to toe strike runner might not benefit from the massive stack. On steep grade hills, the forefoot landing feels much lower than it is, but then the massive underfoot stack of the heel is unnecessary. 

My 10-mile tempo was just under 7-minute/miles, my half mile repeats were at 6:30 to 6:40 minute mile pace. Even my stride paces tend to be around a 5 minute/mile pace. For a 7:30 to 8 minute mile marathon pace (or more), I think the midsole is more approachable than it looks as long as the low drop is not an issue for the runner. I agree that the midsole helps minimize fatigue, maybe more so than other super shoes. 

Nils: As I’m a fore- to midfoot strike I should in theory experience the same “low heel” as Ryan describes. I don’t know how and why, but I just don’t. The 4mm heel drop paired with the massive rocker feels just natural to me and my stride and transitions very smoothly from marathon pace all the way down to 3k effort. The increased weight wasn’t noticeable at all. 

I agree with Ryan and Renee that the new PEBA based Fuel Cell is very comfortable and leg saving. This alone makes for a very, very capable training companion . The underfoot feel of the foam / outsole combo reminded me a lot of the PWRRUN Pb blend that Saucony uses in the Endorphin Pro v3 - very soft and kind of bites into the asphalt.

Peter: The midsole foam of the SC Elite feels bouncy and fun. I agree with everyone above– The NB SC Elite v4 goes fast and doesn’t feel in any way harsh. I can run long and relatively hard without feeling nearly as beat up as I do in other race shoes. As I’m aging up, I’m finding much more joy in being able to sustain paces without suffering for it. The SC Elite feels great at MP and even HMP pace, though I don’t think I’d break them out for a 5k.. They feel stable to me.

Derek: There is plenty of plush cushioning here and you really don’t “feel” the plate in this shoe, a nice rarity. One big change with SCE4 is the heel-toe offset dropping to 4mm after years of staying at 8mm. The lower drop feel is quite evident here, and while I do generally prefer lower drop shoes these days, the rocker effect is more muted in this shoe, a consequence of the soft foam and lower drop. There is still plenty of torsional stiffness in the shoe from the carbon plate, but you don’t get as much of that natural forward roll that you would get from a higher offset shoe.   


Ryan: There’s more rubber here than in v3, which is a welcome upgrade. They’ve gone and covered up the EnergyArc plate in the forefoot, which was previously visible and protected by a patch of rubber.

SC Elite v3 outsole

Now, we have three healthy strips of rubber in the forefoot, as well as two fairly generous patches protecting the FuelCell midsole at the rear. 

This is likely one of the reasons for the shoe’s slight weight gain.

I think the layout and composition of the outsole are nicely executed and help to stabilize things a bit, while delivering a smooth ride. There’s no ‘slappy’ sensation on impact, and the rubber patches allow weight transfer without exposing much of the midsole. The rear, lateral patch of rubber has its work cut out for it given how softness and isolation of that part of the midsole.

Grip is fantastic, and you can feel the rubber really working against the asphalt when you crank up the pace, with the uber-soft midsole making it work overtime. Given the thickness of the rubber and the way it’s laid out, I doubt durability will be an issue here.

Renee: As Ryan wrote, the Elite v4 has plenty of coverage on the outsole. Sure, this makes the shoe heavier than other plated racing options, but it will improve the durability and longevity of the shoe. Given the stack and soft midsole, I think the shoe works well as a racer and long run trainer. The outsole helps with those purposes. Ryan makes a good point about the lack of a “slappy sensation,” meaning the transition is smooth regardless of pace. I felt this the most on steep grade hills. In part this may be due to the fact that unlike most other supershoes the v4 has some flex up front. The cutout is wide and high enough that I did not have gravel wedge into the area. During light rain on gravel/dirt, I had some expected dirt wedge into the small grooves, but did not have any wear on the exposed midsole sections.

Nils: While I had some durability concerns with the exposed foam in the SC Elite v3 this is gone in the new iteration. The outsole coverage is plenty as is the thickness of the rubber patches. And while it contributes to the weight gain the outsole is integrated very nicely and blends perfectly into the under foot experience.

Peter: The NB Sc Elite V4 has a bit more rubber and, basically, it grips it and rips it. I’ve taken the shoe out in wet, slippy conditions and traction has been excellent.

Derek: I was initially a bit concerned with outsole wear with the shoe, as i was seeing some scuffing after just my first run in the shoe, which was done on the treadmill. Fortunately subsequent runs have not resulted in any more balding. Traction is adequate. I have been running on some wet roads here in Singapore, and on some smoother surfaces, I do notice a bit of slippage, but overall things are still ok, and there is plenty of confidence opening up on downhills or taking corners at faster paces.

Ride, Conclusions and Recommendations

Ryan: The ride starts with the shoe’s signature plunge down into the bottomless FuelCell at the heel. The thin, tall segment of foam on the lateral side of the heel is initially the most noticeable part of this experience, as it compresses massively. Next up, the stiffness of the ridged ‘Energy Arc’ plate kicks in to stabilize things and help build energy into the toe-off phase. The massive stack of forefoot foam is very noticeable, and allows the foot to sink in as it rolls forward. For me, this was both a benefit, as it made for a highly protective and enjoyable ride, as well as a drawback, as it delivered a slower, ‘goopier’ transition off of the super soft heel.

While the plate in the rear of the shoe is as stiff as a board, the forefoot section has a bit of flex, and isn’t as stiff as many of its competitors. As you can notice in some of the photos, the midsole’s shape underfoot is decidedly rockered, and has only one small section that might be considered flat. 

I see this as a smart decision by the designers, and a clear admission that a racing shoe this soft needs to remain focused on moving forward, and not just upward. This shape is a big help when transitioning the shoe from heel to toe, and assists in moving weight onto the forefoot.

I’d describe the ride as maximally bouncy , if a bit unstable, and ideal for folks who prefer to run with their weight more upright or slightly biased toward the heel. Personally, I think the shoe needs a lot more drop or a stiffer midsole at the heel, as I felt like I was sinking too far back into the FuelCell midsole. But that’s just my opinion — I think a lot of folks might appreciate this characteristic!

This version of NB’s marathon specialist gets some very welcome upgrades over v3. It’s a bit heavier, yes, but it’s cushioning and energy return arguably make the extra weight worthwhile.

If I had to rate the SC Elite v4 on fun factor alone, it’d be nearly a 10. The midsole is among the deepest, softest, and most protective out there. But this is a racing shoe after all, so I have to dock a few tenths for the aforementioned nitpicks. Sizing is snug for a marathon shoe, but very comfortable.

Ryan’s Score: 9.3 (Deductions for heel softness, not enough drop, heel lockdown, weight gain)

Smiles Score: 😊😊😊😊😊

Renee: The ride, as Ryan wrote, is enjoyable: protective, fun, and smooth. The stack is high and the drop is low. While this might slow down faster runners, it works well for me. The only time I felt the awkwardness of the stack and drop was on steep grade hills when I was landing harder and faster from a forefoot to toe off landing. On mild and flat terrain, I’m landing more on the midfoot and the shoe feels cushioned yet responsive for efforts from strides to mid-distance tempo paces. 

I had no issues with stability, and that’s likely because of my average (not fast) paces and landing from the midfoot. I absolutely understand Ryan’s note about needing more drop and more stiffness. For faster efforts, I’d probably choose the VF3 or a lower stack and higher drop shoe. However, I’m not entirely sure I can maintain a fast (fast for me) pace at the marathon distance at the moment. 

If I had hesitation about pace and wanted a good combination of comfort and speed, I’d choose the Elite v4 over any other option. Perhaps the only issue would be the overall weight. I’ll be curious if the upcoming SC Pacer 2 is the same shoe in terms of ride characteristics with less weight and less stack as its stats and materials seem to indicate. 

Renee’s Score: 9.6/10 (-.30 upper fit, i.e. tongue/heel lock, .30 weight for a racer)


Nils: There’s a lot to like here - literally! The massive midsole is probably the chunkiest I’ve experienced in any shoe so far except the adidas Prime X 2. And this makes for a really good comparison as we also got an improvement in bounce and energy return in exchange for a weight gain. For the adidas I wasn’t sure if I am willing to take that trade off, but here I’d definitely go for it. 

The ride is buttery smooth and transitions very well - even at almost all out efforts. You can’t get more leg protection. Stability is fine despite all that stack height and versatility is great as the well tuned rocker gets you moving over a wide variety of paces. Even the outsole works well in terms of paces and durability. It’s smooth and quiet - a benefit that makes it stand out from the competition. 

All in all the SC Elite is a very nice update to New Balance’s racer. While I was a big fan of the v3 for training but would never recommend it for racing I can now wholeheartedly do the latter for the v4. And while it’s still the most approachable super shoe on the market it is finally as capable as most of the competition.

Nils’ Score: 9.6/10 (slight deductions for weight and heel lockdown)


Peter: The SC Elite V4 is fun, bouncy and fast without being harsh in any way. If I had to go out and run a half or full marathon today , this is the shoe I would put on. Fun factor is through the roof and it’s really nice to not feel beat up on longer runs, especially at pace. A couple of little complaints about the lack of heel lockdown and the non-gusseted tongue. Overall these issues don’t ruin the fun. Overall it's a great race and tempo shoe for the rest of us (anyone not trying to get under 2:45 I would think

I’d highly recommend the SC Elite V4 for marathon training and racing. If you want a plated racer and don’t want to feel punished for it, this is the shoe for you!


Derek: The SC Elite v4 is plush, bouncy and actually a  very fun all-round shoe. The ride is one one of the closer ones to the very popular Nike Alphafly 1 OG . Throw in a very comfortable upper and you have a shoe that will work very well for most runners. 

I managed to do some short intervals at 10k-marathon effort, as well as some longer runs. I am currently coming back from an injury and my longest run so far has been in the SCE4 where I managed to comfortably cruise 14 miles. 

While others have commented on the stability of the shoe, it feels plenty stable for me. The platform is wide and gives decent inherent stability despite the soft ride. 

My biggest gripe with the shoes is that they feel a bit bottom-heavy and difficult to hold faster paces during workouts. I seem to be the only one in the group who feels this way so it might just be my lack of fitness talking here. 

I think the lower drop does take a bit of practice to engage, and you are going to get the most out of it if you can do a more mid-foot strike with a stronger calf action to take advantage of the high forefoot stack. 

Heel strikers should still do ok in the shoe, but the rocker is just not so good for heel strikers. Given the milder rocker and slightly higher weight, I think the target audience would be midfoot strikers in the 3-4 hour marathon range, and with the foam characteristics, heavier runners will definitely enjoy it more and get more oomph out of the bottomless cushioning of this shoe.  

Derek’s Score 9.48 / 10

Ride (50%): 9.5 Fit (30%): 9.3 Value (15%): 9.6 Style (5%): 10

I deduct some points for heel slippage. The fit might well be better for me at a half size down, and i fully intend to buy myself such a pair when it gets a general release to the public.   


11 Comparisons

Index to all RTR reviews: HERE 

New Balance SC Elite v3 (RTR Review)

Nils:  In my book the v3 never was the fastest of the super shoes, but probably the comfiest. I wouldn’t ever race in it personally but love it for longer workouts or even long runs. The v4 on the other hand is still is nearly as comfortable but packs a lot more punch under foot. The foam feels a little denser now and not as mushy, the geometry is a little more aggressive but still very approachable and the outsole is a whole lot better. Finally NB is a shoe that can compete with the rest of the industry! Both TTS.

Ryan: While the ride of v4 caters to a similar type of runner as v3, it adds even more of that deep, inviting cushioning felt underfoot. The upper has been improved in both looks and performance, with better lockdown thanks to v4 ditching the sock-like tongue of v3, which relied too heavily on the laces for securement. 

We still have a midsole which touches the softest end of the ‘supers’ spectrum, thanks in part to the cavity of the ‘Energy Arc’ design at the heel. As with the previous version, I think this shoe still caters to folks who prefer to like to roll through their transition and don’t like the prescriptive nature of some of the more aggressive options out there.

The outsole of v4 picks up a bit more rubber all around, and no longer sees the Energy Arc channel extend up into the forefoot (there was a rubber rock guard on the plate in v3). There’s more rubber underfoot, likely a source of v4’s weight gain, and it makes for a more durable and robust toe off, if not quite as quick at turning over.

All in all, v4 has some nice improvements over v3, so if you were a fan of the previous model, there’s more of the same good stuff here from last year.

Peter: As they said above, v4 improves upon in v3 in bounce, turnover and traction. It loses a bit in terms of heel lockdown, but is overall a great race and tempo shoe for the rest of us (anyone not trying to get under 2:45 I would think)

Derek: I am a TTS in v3, and probably best fit a half size down in v4. v3 has a more forward directed bounce, with a very plush heel but distinctly firmer (plate-y) sort of forefoot feel. The main drawback for me was the upper being a bit sloppy and causing a lot of rubbing around the ankle bones. Overall, I feel that the rocker in v3 is more effective, but v4 is more cushioned. I think for the marathon distance and especially for people looking for a softer underfoot feel, v4 is the better shoe. For the half marathon and shorter, v3 is likely going to feel faster.

Nike Vaporfly 3 (RTR Review)

Renee: The VF3 is a lighter shoe (162 grams compared to 204 grams in my women’s size 8), with a higher drop and less stack. The VF3 works better for shorter speed workouts and is a better choice for a variety of racing distances (5k and up). At the marathon distance (at my speeds), I might choose the Elite v4 over the VF3 if I needed more cushion underfoot and was not confident about maintaining a decent pace. 

Nils: VF3 feels a little more cushioned under the forefoot compared to previous iterations but has nowhere near the massive front stack of the Elite v4. If fast turnover and pace changes are your priority,  VF3 is the way to go. But if you are looking for locking in a pace and bounce along for hours the NB might be the better choice. Both TTS.

Ryan: Renee says it well — the VF3 is indeed more speed focused, with a lower inertia and a snappier turnover. While the New Balance favors a gait that focuses on rolling from heel to toe (see its rockered shape), the Nike works better with more of a midfoot hit, followed by a quick toe-off. 

In the forefoot, the VF has a heavily perforated/ventilated mesh, which has better breathability and feels a bit more pliable than the engineered mesh of the SCEv4. Also worth mentioning is that the Vaporfly does not share the semi-flexible forefoot that the NB possesses — instead, it remains stiff throughout the stride, and its forefoot stack and higher drop are noticeable.

The Vaporfly is the superior performer in my eyes, as it manages to deliver leg-saving cushioning without sacrificing ride efficiency. All that said, despite its cult-like following, the VF still isn’t for everyone, and the SC Elite may be the better choice for those looking for as much cushioning and/or bounciness as possible. Both fit true to size.

Derek: I can go a half size down in both shoes, though VF3 is marginally shorter. VF3 has a more traditional ride with a more conventional rocker. Compared to SCE4, I think heel strikers will prefer VF3. Interestingly, there is only a 1mm difference in my measured heel stack between the 2 shoes, but SCE4 feels significantly more cushioned. I tend to feel faster in VF3 and have done a lot of workouts and long runs in it, although the ride of SCE4 is bouncier and definitely more lively and fun. For racing, I think SCE4 would be my pick for the marathon but for shorter races, I'd go with VF3.    

Adidas Adios Pro 3 (RTR Review)

Renee: For sizing, the Pro 3 is unisex. I wore a US men’s 7/women’s 8, which felt more like a women’s 8.5. Even then, the Pro 3 is slightly lighter in weight (197g as compared to 204g). Because of the sizing, the upper wasn’t super secure for me, but it’s comfortable and I had no issues with the tongue slipping as I did in the Elite v4. The Pro 3 has more drop (6.5mm compared to 4mm-ish) and a stronger rocker from a forefoot landing. Given the stack heights, both shoes work best for longer distances.

Nils: AP3 has a steeper but shorter rocker upfront and the lateral movement of the Energy Rods make it very stable compared to any plated racer. Both shoes are excellent for cruising at marathon or half marathon pace, but I prefer the New Balance for the even deeper cushioning, the lower drop and a more comfortable upper.


Ryan: There’s some personality overlap here, in that both of these offer a tremendous supply of depth and bounce for the longest of runs, and they come in at nearly the same weight.

They differ in their ride characteristics however, with the SCEv4 favoring a rockered, heel to toe roll, and the Adidas preferring it when you mash the midfoot and snap off of the toe. The Lightstrike Pro foam of the Adios Pro is firmer and more responsive, which in my opinion makes it feel more explosive and stable at race pace efforts. They both get the job done nicely, but the Adios Pro v3 is more deliberate but slightly less friendly as a result. Both uppers feature strong but pliable meshes, with the Adidas offering a few extra supportive overlays in the forefoot. Aside from minor heel lockdown issues in the NB, the SCEv4 edges out the Adios Pro on comfort by a bit. As for the outsole, the SCEv4 has a heartier serving of rubber as compared to the AP3s thinner, smoother rubber, but both work very well and are hard to fault.

I prefer the adidas for its higher drop, explosiveness, and more tenacious personality.

Derek: I am true to size in AP3 and can go a half size down in SCE4. The two shoes have quite different rides for me. AP3 has a firmer bounce and more traditional ride, and heel lockdown is worse than in SCE4 for me. SCE4 has the more fun and cushioned ride, and i just overall feel faster in SCE4. 

Nike Alphafly 2 (RTR Review)

Nils: AF2 was kind of a miss for me. I ran the Hamburg marathon in it and PR’d, but I also blew up and just didn’t  a good experience. I pulled it back out during my fall marathon prep but couldn’t get rid of the clunky feel under foot. The segregation between forefoot and heel is much more apparent to me in AF2 compared to AF1. Therefore, I prefer the SC Elite v4, as it offers the same amount of bounce but packed in a much smoother ride. Both TTS.

Derek: I can go a half size down in both models. AF2 does not work for me at all because I experience bad arch rubbing and blistering with this shoe, so it’s hard to comment on long distance performance as I've not managed to last beyond 10 miles in AF2 shoe. I will say that the ride is relatively muted, if decently cushioned. SCE4 is definitely more comfortable and bouncier, and more forgiving. Overall the SCE4 is the better shoe. 

Nike Alphafly 1 (RTR Review)

Nils: AF1 is an all time classic and my favorite racer to date (I’m still waiting for my AF3 sample). It's similar to the NB in drop and forefoot bounce. But the AF is much lighter, the Air pods rebound faster under the forefoot and therefore the shoe feels more explosive. The massive stack of foam under the Elite v4 needs more time to travel, but feels a lot smoother under foot due to a milder and longer rocker, some flex and a much better outsole rubber. If you can’t stand the “taptaptap” of the AF, take the NB and don’t look back. Heel strikers are probably better off with the NB as well. Both TTS.

Derek: I can go a half size down in both models. AF1 is still the gold standard for me, at least for the marathon distance. Both shoes are soft, but AF1 is soft on a whole different level yet still somehow retaining a sort of responsiveness at the forefoot. SCE4 is very soft, but still has a denser bounce than AF1, and the forefoot is also less responsive. Both shoes are similar in terms of grip, while SCE4 feels marginally more stable at the heel for me. I think it’s fair to say that AF1 is still the better shoe for me. Note also that AF1 has proven to have a very durable outsole, so likely, minimally non-inferior to SCE4.

Prime X Strung 2 (RTR Review)

Nils: The Prime X with its gigantic 50mm sta ck height gained a lot of weight this year but offered even more energy return and bounce than ever before (and probably more than any other shoe). It is extreme in every way. The SC Elite feels to me like a tamed down version of it - probably due to a similar drop (6.5 vs 5mm) and very much of a very squishy foam under foot. It still has a gigantic stack (but race legal), is still very very bouncy, and has still great energy return. And besides the SC Elite v4 gaining some weight as well it is a whole lot lighter than the Prime X and offers a better lockdown. Prime X 44 EUR, SC Elite 44.5 EUR.

ASICS Metaspeed Sky+ (RTR Review)

Renee: I have a men’s/unisex 6.5 in the Sky+ and find it comparable to a women’s size 8 in the Elite v4. At 39mm/34mm stack, the Sky+ is similar to the Elite v4 in terms of cushion and drop. The midsole of the Elite v4 is a touch more forgiving and softer, and the shoe is a bit heavier. For faster efforts at a variety of distances, the Sky+ might work better. I might prefer the Elite v4 in terms of comfort underfoot. The rocker in the Sky+ is more apparent and I found the Elite v4 to feel more traditional and user friendly (as long as the low drop is not an issue). 

Nils: The ASICS is quite similar to the NB in terms of stack and drop, but comes in much lighter. The Metaspeed’s upper is less stable and doesn’t have quite the lockdown of the SC Elite. I even had some issues with my foot medially hanging over the midsole once I was fatigued. 

Additionally you clearly can sense the high plate position in the midsole which can get uncomfortable over longer distances. For those reasons the Metaspeed caps out at the half marathon distance for me. 

The NB instead is comfy as hell and has a more stable upper. Therefore I would take the Metaspeed up to 10k for a lighter and snappier experience, but prefer the cushion and bounce of the SC Elite for half and full Marathons. Both TTS. 

Derek: I am TTS in Sky+ and can go a half size down in SCE4. Sky+ is significantly firmer and requires a much more aggressive forefoot and calf action to engage the shoe effectively. SCE4 is more forgiving and amenable to different running styles. I think most regular folk will prefer and enjoy the SCE4, being the more cushioned and bouncier shoe.  

Saucony Endorphin Pro 3 (RTR Review)

Nils: The EP3 offers a very similar experience to the VF. It's a light and quite nimble (long distance) racer. If you prefer higher drops and faster turnover you can’t go wrong with the EP. The SC Elite actually offers a very similar feeling midsole / outsole combo. The squish of the foam and bite of the outsole is very reminiscent. But in the NB you get much more under foot and with that a bouncier and more protective ride. The upper also fits better around my rather narrow foot - the EP3 had quite some volume especially upfront, which limited the lockdown. SC Elite would be my choice for the longer stuff, while the EP3 has its limits between 10k and HM. Both TTS.

Derek: I am TTS in EP3 and can go a half size down in SCE4. I agree with Nils that the EP3 is most similar to the VF range, in particular VF3 for me. I have a lot of miles in the EP3 and even raced a half in it. I feel that the EP3 is best used as a 5k-HM shoe and is perhaps a little too aggressive with the rocker for longer races. SCE4 on the other hand, is more geared to the marathon distance, with a milder rocker and much more underfoot cushioning. EP3 gives a more rockered feel to the ride, while SCE gives a more bounce-driven type of ride with less rocker action. 

Puma Fast-R Nitro Elite 2 (RTR Review)

Peter: Similar to Nils’ thoughts about V1 of the Fast-R, for me the Puma is quicker and more aggressive and while it has ample cushioning, it just doesn’t compare to the long-distance protection and comfort of the SC Elite V4. They’re both super fun to run in, but for the long stuff I’d go NB. 

XTEP 160x 3.0 Pro (RTR Review)

Nils: The XTEP is a Chinese super shoe that nobody is able to get hold of. It’s the closest thing I’ve ever experienced to my beloved Alphafly 1 and only its slightly lower weight made me stick with the Alphafly. 

In terms of the ride the SC Elite is almost able to keep up with both of those tremendous shoes. It's the same amount of fun but maybe a touch less aggressive and efficient. It even has the smoothest transitions out of those three, especially at slightly slower paces. 

Unfortunately both the XTEP and the NB both are a good chunk heavier than AF 1 which is their only major downside. Both are fabulous shoes and share a lot of their great attributes - nice fit, great outsole, bouncy, fun ride. Take the XTEP if a more aggressive ride is your cup of tea - the NB for a more mellow approach. Both TTS.

Derek: I am TTS in the Xtep and can go a half size down in SCE4. Both shoes are very bouncy and cushioned and fit decently well. The Xtep has a better rocker action for me, and has the softer ride compared to SCE4. Overally, it is really close, but SCE4 is slightly lighter so I am going with the SCE4 as the better shoe.

Puma Fast-R Nitro Elite 1 (RTR Review)

Nils: The Fast-R offers a soft and energetic foam beneath the forefoot but uses a more rigid EVA in the heel area to stabilize it and push the runner (faster) towards the forefoot. This works tremendously well and makes for a stable ride and very fast transitions. As its plate is also very aggressive the PUMA is great for shorter distance races (5-10k) or longer intervals. 

As distances get longer the NB clearly gets the edge with its bottomless cushioning. It's also bouncier, a far better long distance cruiser and more fun to run in. Both TTS.

Derek: I am TTS in the Fast-R and can go a half size down in SCE4. Fast-R is more like a VF4% while SCE4 is more like the AF1. Both very different approaches to the super shoe space. I think the SCE4 is much more forgiving as a shoe in terms of cushioning. The fit is also a lot more comfortable, where the Fast-R has an exceedingly low volume toebox. Fast-R is better for heel strikers and is the more stable shoe, but i prefer the bouncy and more fun ride of the SCE4. 

361 Furious Future (RTR Review)

Ryan: Aside from a mountain of very soft midsole underfoot, these two shoes go about their business in fairly disparate manners. The 361 is a more radical, less versatile type of ride, thanks to its decoupled heel and forefoot, as well as its ultra stiff plate spanning the length of the shoe. I didn’t find it nearly as easy to roll through the Furious Future’s midsole, and thought that it worked better with a flatter/midfoot foot strike. 

By contrast, the NBs continuous slab of luxuriously soft FuelCell invites you to roll it from heel to toe without issue. Whereas the NB has a touch of flex in its forefoot, the 361 remains remarkably stiff.

Both uppers are very capable at foot containment with ultra strong engineered mesh designs. The Furious Future uses a ‘tongue’ that is very reminiscent of v3 of the SC Elite, which is essentially a sock-like panel beneath the laces, providing comfort but not structure. I’m glad that the SCEv4 ditched this design as it can be prone to bunching. 

Although the 361 has superior lockdown overall — especially in the heel — the NB wins on comfort. Underfoot, the rubber of the 361 is firmer, which is audibly noticeable, as compared to the more buttery contact that the softer rubber of the NB delivers. Keep in mind that there is a significant price difference of $70 (the 361 is $180) , and that the 361 runs quite a bit longer. 

Derek: I am TTS in the 361 and can go a half size down in SCE4. The 361 also has a low drop sort of feel, but a firmer springy ride to the foam. I actually struggle with more heel slippage in the 361 than the SCE4. In terms of cushioning and enjoyment, the SCE4 is much better with a bouncier ride, but I do feel faster and more efficient in the 361. My only gripe is the heel lock with the 361, which I have failed to solve despite changes to laces and trying multiple different socks. So with that in mind, the SCE4 is the better shoe for me. 

On Cloudboom Echo 3 (RTR Review)

Ryan: Whereas the stack of the On makes it feel more like a 10k-half sort of shoe — responsive and poppy — the NB provides a ton more depth of cushion for longer distances, although its extra 1 oz / 28g of weight is noticeable on foot.

I’d argue that the upper of the NB is more refined and provides superior foot containment in all the right places. By comparison, the On upper feels thin and simple, but admittedly evokes that clean, Swiss look that has gained the company a tremendous following in a short amount of time.

Unsurprisingly, the lower, firmer stack of the Cloudboom generates a more responsive ride with a faster turnover. By contrast, the New Balance feels much less stable but provides a far greater amount of cushion.

The outsole of the SCEv4 is certainly better in my view, as it’s generous helping of tacky rubber grips and stabilizes, whereas the Cloudboom seems a little too minimalistic — I’ve seen the outsole around the small patches of heel rubber degrade significantly. 

All that said, the On is likely the better performer for shorter efforts, while the NB seems to excel at those long hard efforts where impact fatigue can creep in.

Derek: I am TTS in the ON Cloudboom Echo 3 and can go a half size down in SCE4. I think the ON gets a bad rep as being overly firm and lower stack, but I actually put it on par with the VF3 for performance. I have used it for long runs and it really is quite smooth once you lock in a moderate effort. If you can get past the slightly firmer ride of the ON, i think it is a superb racer that is worthy of its price tag. For shorter races 5k-HM, and also for basically every workout, I would prefer the ON. For long runs and marathons, I would go with the SCE4. 

The New Balance SC Elite v4 will be available February 1st, 2024


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Tester Profiles

Ryan Eller A hopeless soccer career led Ryan to take up running, and after taking a decade-long break from competing, he is back racking up mileage whenever he can.  He calls the 2018 Boston Marathon the hardest race of his life, where he finished in 2:40, barely remembering his name at the finish line.  More recently he solo time trialed the 2020-2021 super shoes, often sub 15 minutes for 5K. Ryan has a PR of 2:17:16, an Olympic Marathon Trials qualifier from the 2023 Philadelphia Marathon after two other 2:18 efforts in the last year.

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.

Nils:  33 years old. Heilbronn, Germany.. My young running career just started 6 years ago with a company run which I joined together with some colleagues in 2017. I ran roughly 1000km in my first year, doubled and then tripled that number in 2018 and 2019. I've run 6 marathons to date with a marathon PR of 2:46.  My other PRs are 17:32 for the 5k, 36:15 for 10k and 1:17 for the half.

Peter lives in Austin, Texas and has been a sub 3 hour marathoner as well as a 1:21 half marathoner in recent years.

Derek is in his 40’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.

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'.

Comments and Questions Welcome Below! Please let us know mileage, paces, race distances, and current preferred shoes

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Alex said...


one question about the upper: being a great fan of the NB SC Elite and the Supercomp trainers but having huge issues with the heel collar rubbing my raw at my ankle (as you reported, too, in your review of v3): Have these issues been remedied?

Anonymous said...

I second this question. Really love everything about v3 apart from the ankle rubbing. I hope it's not an issue for v4

Ryan from RTR said...

Given that the sock-like tongue is gone, there isn't a need for the heel collar to connect directly to the tongue (and have a thick stitch line at that spot on the lateral ankle) like there was in V3. Given this more traditional approach, the heel collar seems friendlier and also doesn't require as much lace tension. I'd be surprised if folks had this same issue in V4.

Anonymous said...

I do have the NB sc elite v3 and saucony pro 3. I did find the softness of the midsole in the elite v3 harder to keep a faster pace at longer distances. Would you say that is similar here for v4. Would the saucony pro 3 still be a faster shoe for 1/2 marathon down? Due to its 8mm drop and speed roll technology?? Thanks Steve

Anonymous said...

Pro 3 vs. NB Elite preference will depend on cadence and stride length. The Saucony will be lighter in weight and with the higher drop, generally a faster shoe at the half marathon or less distance.

Anonymous said...

Any thoughts on how these compare with the Hoka Rocket X2s which I've really been enjoying recently, the SCE4 looks like similar?