By Brian Metzler
Want to do something against the law that will feel so good you’ll want to do it over and over again? No, I’m not talking about committing a crime. I’m just suggesting that you lace up a pair of New Balance FuelCell SuperComp Trainers — a training shoe enhanced with a carbon-fiber propulsion plate — and go for a run. Your first reaction will be something like, “This feels so light, lively and bouncy that it must be illegal!” The gigantic FuelCell SC Trainer technically is against the law because it exceeds the 40mm stack height regulations the World Athletics governing body has created for race-day shoes. How big is it? The FuelCell SC Trainer is 47mm in the heel, 39mm in the forefoot, so it takes maximalism beyond the max!
It’s not the first oversized shoe made since those 2020 shoe regs were put in place, but it’s certainly one of the best. Strictly speaking, the fast athletes in the elite wave of marathons would be prohibited from wearing the FuelCell SC Trainer in a race, but you and I would not. (Ethiopia’s Derara Hurisa was stripped of his win after wearing a pair of excessively high Adidas Prime X.) It’s truly a training shoe – albeit with some race-day zest – so you probably wouldn’t wear it in a race, but it’s a heck of a long run shoe with an unbelievably bouncy ride. And c’mon, the intrigue of wearing something illegal — or at least something that goes beyond limits — can be downright appealing, right?
What’s New: The FuelCell SC Trainer is one of three new shoes from New Balance that incorporates a curvy carbon-fiber plate embedded within a hyper-energetic FuelCell foam midsole. While the other two models are for short- and long-distance racing, the SC Trainer is made for training at an up-tempo pace for moderate to long distances at moderate to faster paces. It’s built on what New Balance calls Energy Arc technology, which includes a hollow channel through the middle of the bottom of the shoe. As a runner’s foot rolls from heel to toe, the plate is momentarily flattened into that hollow void and as the plate regains its original shape it instantly returns energy as forward propulsion.
Why They’re Great: The FuelCell SC Trainer is one of the liveliest shoes you’ll ever run in. There’s an extremely soft feeling when your foot hits the ground, but that quickly turns into a distinct bouncy feeling that coincides with what feels like an enormous boost of energy the moment your foot starts to roll forward. The SC Trainer weighs at least 2 ounces more than most contemporary performance training shoes, but you’ll barely notice that extra weight with the peppy ride this shoe serves up.
Fit-Feel-Ride: The FuelCell SC Trainer fits true to size with a narrow, secure heel, a medium-volume midfoot and a slightly wider forefoot. (It is also available in a wider version for men and women.) The interior feels soft, but it’s the thin stretchy tongue and a flexible but supportive thin breathable upper that really round out the fit. The reinforced New Balance logo over the lateral side of the saddle integrates well with the laces to provide a great, locked-down feeling. The ride, enhanced by a rocker geometry, is absolutely sublime: bouncy, energetic and easy.
Why You’ll Love It: It’s one of the softest and most effortless shoes I’ve ever run in, but it’s not marshmallowy soft so the midsole foam doesn’t bottom-out or even go into a negative heel drop situation at the moment of impact. Instead, it carries and converts that downward energy into a magic moment of propulsion. What does that mean from a practical training point of view? It’s going to produce a lively feeling in the first few miles of your weekend long run, but it will do the same in the final few miles when you’re fatigued and your running form is starting to break down. In theory, it will help you remain as efficient as possible so you can get the most out of your workout. A long run that ends in slow, sloggy-joggy running is never good for your confidence, but that’s much less likely to happen wearing a pair of FuelCell SC Trainers.
New Balance FuelCell Supercomp Trainer Specs
Weights: 9.3 oz. women’s 8; 11.3 oz. men’s 9
Heel-Toe Offset: 8mm (47mm in the heel, 39mm in the forefoot)
Pro: No doubt about it: the Energy Arc technology works! More than any other shoe, the FuelCell SC Trainer definitely puts a spring in every step — even at slower paces. It’s best for faster paces though not meant for all-out racing, especially not when compared to top-tier carbon-plated racers. (Even a recovery-pace run will include a bouncy vibe, so much so that it can start to feel excessively soft in the heel.)
Con: If you don’t like high-off-the-ground maximalist shoes, the FuelCell SC Trainer is definitely not for you. Although it’s more stable than most max shoes, it can feel a little awkward and wobbly standing and landing on nearly 2 inches of foam and rubber under your feet. There’s no getting around the bounciness, so if that’s not your jam or you’re a runner who appreciates a more stable ride, you probably won’t enjoy the energy of this pair of sneakers.