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Road Running Shoes • September 2, 2019

New Balance FuelCell 5280 Performance Review

New Balance 5280 Out of the Box

What You Need To Know

  • Insanely light at 4.15 oz. for a US W7.5 (5.2 oz. for a US M9)
  • Full-length carbon fiber plate gives excellent pop on the toes
  • Meant for a real fast mile. Nothing more.
  • Save your allowance, you’re paying about $50/oz.

Eliud Kipchoge convinced me that Nike’s Vaporfly 4% (now NEXT%) is the answer to a marathon PR. Can Jenny Simpson have me believing the New Balance 5280 would manifest a mile PR? 

Well, yeah. I’ve never raced the mile. 

new balance fuelcell 5280 upper1

The Good & Bad 

As someone who is forever in search of fast-twitch muscle fibers (still haven’t found them), I was certainly curious to give the New Balance 5280 a try. I was also very skeptical when I opened the box and saw the very tiny, spiked, sparkly foot gloves. Were they even going to fit on my feet? They did, with *thin* socks. 

Once I got the shoes on, they just felt odd and unnatural. It was like I didn’t know how to run or even walk correctly in them. Obviously, they’re not meant for walking or jogging about. The shoes are designed to run sub 5:30 minute miles, one at a time. Hence the name, 5280.

Moving on to the build… the midsole is designed with FuelCell,  New Balance’s newest foam with the “highest rebound properties.” It’s the same stuff in the Rebel we reviewed earlier this year. I like it quite a bit. It’s bouncy and light. 

The stack height is 24 mm in the heel and the drop is 6 mm.

Just like Nike’s Vaporfly, the 5280 has a full-length carbon fiber plate. It works as a springboard that flexes on landing and then stiffens to give you some pop on toe-off. Once you get going fast enough, it’s almost hard to slow down. I can definitely see myself getting carried away and eating pavement in a race. 

The upper is basically a sausage casing. Thin, light and very, very tight. New Balance says they’re designed with “engineered zonal areas” for stretch and support, but my feet feel packed to the rafters in them. Sure there’s some stretch, but once my feet are in there, nothing is moving around. The shoes even came untied mid-run and I barely noticed. 

The upside to this tiny build? Insanely light shoes. My W7.5 weigh 4.15 oz. In 👏 san 👏 ity. 

My first real test in these shoes was some short 10 second sprints up and down my street. My GPS clocked me at 4:48 pace for 0.08 miles. Probably the fastest I’ve ever run, and as far as I could ever hold that pace. The main thing I noticed was that I was running on my toes, a weird sensation as a heel striker. 

For my second jaunt, I took them out for a few fast 400ish repeats. Again, I found myself up on my toes, and they felt great… until they didn’t. After about 5x 400’s, I wanted to take them off. The multi-directional carbon plate was multi-directionally crushing my wide feet. It wasn’t noticeable when I was mid-run, but as soon as I stopped, I was eager to unlace them. 

Shop New Balance 5280

new balance fuelcell 5280 outsole

New Balance FuelCell 5280 Conclusion

Honestly, my (wide-ish) feet have no place with these shoes. Especially not in the middle of marathon training. This is a beautiful, light, Ferrari shoe that deserves a loving home to someone much, much faster. Would I recommend them to the fastie vying for a mile PR? Definitely. A 5K? Ehhhh. A 10K or more? Zero chance. 

The good news is New Balance designed a whole collection of FuelCell shoes for those longer distances, and even casual wear. You might also be more interested in those other options based on the price alone. The 5280 will take you out $200.  I guess that’s not so crazy if you compare it to the $250 NEXT% (worth every penny). 

Test them for yourself by picking them up at Running Warehouse using the shop link below. 

Shop New Balance 5280



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