Wednesday, May 08, 2024

2024 Supercritical Foam, Unplated Trainers Comparison Review: Hoka Mach 6, New Balance FC Rebel v4, and Craft Pacer

Article by Sam Winebaum

Hoka Mach 6 ($140), New Balance FC Rebel v4 ($140), Craft Pacer ($150)

In the article I compare 4 top 2024 unplated light road trainers. All have supercritical foams, similar moderate stack heights, low weights, and pricing yet are very different in ride and fit.

All three shoes benefit from supercritical foams which are rapidly moving from “super shoes” to midline reasonably priced trainers. These foams are lighter and more resilient than traditional EVA foams with more energy return and dynamism.  This allows brands to create trainers with big cushion stacks at far lighter weights on broader platforms to stabilize the softer foams. Yet, each shoe’s midsole has a very different feel due to the foam composition and the shoe’s geometry. Each bridge the gap between daily trainer type shoes and more uptempo to racer and can be used for all those run types depending on preferences. 

All weights listed in the table below are for my US8.5 samples. All fit me true to size with fit details below.

Hoka Mach 6 (RTR Review)

Highlights: Highest stack height, most responsive dynamic ride, most performance secure lowest volume upper upper, most stable overall if narrow platform, second lightest, widest range of paces. 

The 6th edition of the Mach sees a change over to a supercritical EVA foam which not only reduces its weight but energizes and softens what before was a firmer ride. It has the highest stack height at 37/32 and 2nd lowest weight at 7.6 oz / 215g. 

Its ride reminds most of an “old school” geometry uptempo trainer. With the narrowest overall platform the Mach 6 is the most agile of the three helped by its  very much performance oriented non stretch engineered mono mesh upper. The fit is clearly the lowest volume of the three.

Of the three it is the one, given my preferences, I would select a single shoe rotation including all training, uptempo, intervals, and racing as it is forgiving enough, quick enough and has a  best no  compromises foot hold of the three although the lowest volume narrowest one in regular D width with 2E available.

New Balance FuelCell Rebel v4 (RTR Review)

Highlights: Lightest weight by far, softest and least shock absorbing ride, lowest stack height least stable at slow paces, fast pace focused fun.

The Rebel is the softest riding and considerably lighter than the others at a mere 6.9 oz /196g although it also sits on the lowest height platform at 33/27.  It has a springly light ride with a far more noticeable far front flex point (great for speed) than the others which have longer near plate like rockers with flex. Its foam is lower density in feel and transmits more shock than the others particularly at the heel at slower paces. Its thin mono mesh upper should prove more breathable than the others and has great hold in what is 2nd roomiest upper after the Craft 

Of the three the Rebel is the best choice for the efficient lighter runner seeking an uptempo to race unplated option. 

Craft Pacer (RTR Review)

Highlights: Broadest platform, most stable underfoot, most shock absorbing, deepest rubber coverage, highest volume upper, heaviest, most slow paces friendly, and daily training and heel striking focused.

The Pacer has the broadest platform at the heel (100mm) and midfoot (85mm) with the deepest rubber coverage and as such along with its dense yet energetic foam has the most stable underfoot ride and the greatest weight but that his relative as it only weighs 8.22 oz / 233g for its second highest overall stack height. Its TPE beaded foam is the most shock absorbing.

Its upper clearly has the most volume especially at midfoot and is the least structured as well making it a good option for high volume feet, neutral runners, neutral part underlined. Its upper support lags the others for my narrow to medium foot. 

The Craft is the best option for somewhat heavier more heel striking neutral runners with its construction and fit more moderate pace everyday daily training focused than the others.

A fourth new supercritical foam trainer the Diadora Frequenza (RTR Review) might be included but it is considerably lower stack height at 30/22, relatively heavier 7.94 oz / 225g for its stack and narrower platform widths and pricier at $180. It is more flexible and more akin to traditional trainers but with a soft and very energetic supercritical EVA midsole.

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Sam is the Editor and Founder of Road Trail Run. He is 66  with 2024 Sam’s 52th year of running roads and trails. He has a decades old 2:28 marathon PR. These days he runs halves in the just sub 1:40 range if he gets very, very lucky. Sam trains 30-40 miles per week mostly at moderate paces on the roads and trails of New Hampshire and Utah be it on the run, hiking or on nordic skis. He is 5’9” tall and weighs about 164 lbs, if he is not enjoying too many fine New England IPA’s

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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