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Shoe Review: Need a versatile, do-everything trainer? Check out the New Balance FuelCell Rebel v4 ($140)


New Balance FuelCell Rebel v4


If you’re a runner like me who appreciates the value of a versatile, do-everything training shoe, you’ll probably like the New Balance FuelCell Rebel v4 a lot. It does a little bit of everything very well. It’s light, it can cover all paces, and it's a relative bargain compared to a lot of other options on the shoe wall at your local running store. It might not be a workhorse high-mileage shoe, but it can handle long runs with ease and the rest of the runs you do during the week. It’s light and agile so it has a penchant for up-tempo running. I consider it a great all-arounder for the way I run, to be honest. Running in the FuelCell Rebel v4 offers a nice break from the maximally cushioned shoes that seem to dominate the training shoe market and my massive shoe quiver. Although well-cushioned, it’s a shoe that sits a little bit lower to the ground and provides very good proprioceptive “feel for the road” that tends to get lost in high-stack training shoes.


What’s New: The FuelCell Rebel v4 has been revised with a thicker and wider Peba/EVA-blended foam FuelCell midsole and New Balance’s proprietary Fantomfit upper that’s been redesigned for a more accommodating fit. Most of all, the Rebel v4 has a more bold new aesthetic appearance. Do looks count? Yes, because if you look good, you feel good!


Fit/Feel/Ride: The New Balance FuelCell Rebel v4 fits true to size with a medium/wide interior volume and a very spacious toe box gives plenty of room for toes to splay, wiggle, curl up and just about anything else. (The standard size is pretty wide, so runners with wide feet will be stoked … even though there is also a wider width available for men and women. Narrow-footed runners like me, though, have to torque down on the laces a bit more.) The interior feeling is soft and seamless, but not very opulently cushioned. It has a thin, gusseted tongue that wraps the foot and a little bit of collar padding, but not much more. That’s fine because the upper adds security and completes the fit. 


The ride is smooth and compliant with easy transitions from heel-strike to toe-off. It can be equally appealing running at slower paces, but it’s also light and nimble enough to handle faster paces running with a mid-foot or forefoot gait. I like the blended foam midsole because it offers a good amount of cushioning and responsiveness, even though it’s not exceptional in either category. It doesn’t offer the mega-soft plushness of a high-stack, max-cushioned trainer, and it’s probably not as durable as some more rugged EVA-only midsoles, but the blended midsole does offer a lot in the way of versatility.


Why It’s Great: Did I mention this shoe’s versatility? I don’t really abide by the idea of having one shoe in my quiver (it makes sense for new runners or runners on a budget), but this is one I would consider owning if I did. I tested this theory by exclusively running in the FuelCell Rebel v4 every day for 10 straight days recently. During that span, I ran 68 miles in 11 days and covered every pace and distance possible. It felt soft, comfortable and lively on an 11-mile long run, was peppy and responsive during a series of moderately fast 400-meter repeats, and it was good enough for slow, easy recovery runs, too. Not once during those 10 days did I feel disappointed lacing it up, however I did avoid technical trails and only ran hard-packed dirt trails and gravel roads when I left the pavement. (And it was great on those surfaces, too.) I could easily wear this shoe for another 10 days (or 30 for that matter) without any complaints.


Specifications:

Weights: 5.9 oz. (women’s 8); 7.1  oz. (men’s 9)

Heel-Toe Offset: 6mm (30mm in the heel, 24mm in the forefoot) 


Why You’ll Love It: For a do-everything trainer, it’s smooth, stable, responsive and fast. The new PEBA and FuelCell blended foam midsole has a higher stack and a broader overall platform, which gives the shoe better inherent stability but it’s better suited to long-distance runs as well. (It is a neutral-oriented shoe, so if you run with a severe overpronating gait, a heavy heel-striking stride might wash out without any medial-side support.) If you’re a runner who runs with a neutral gait, though, you’ll love it. And if you liked the previous version of the Rebel or if you appreciate a shoe like the Hoka Mach 5, this is a similar model. The updated midsole is lively and mildly bouncy, which means the Rebel v4 is great for long runs, tempo runs and even long intervals on the track.


Pro: It offers great pace variability and will respond to any energy you put into it. I loved it for tempo runs and progressive-paced longer runs which picked up my speed in the final miles. It felt OK at slower paces, although it’s not as plush as a maximally cushioned trainer.


Con: The interior volume is pretty roomy, to the point that it might be too wide for some runners. I have narrow feet, and it’s so spacious that I had to double-check to make sure I wasn’t sent the wider width option. Nope, I have the standard/regular width, but the shoe is still quite roomy so I really had to cinch down the laces. 

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