New Balance FuelCell Prism Performance Review
Since New Balance’s FuelCell foam emerged in 2019 with the much-heralded FuelCell Rebel, we’ve seen some true diamonds like the Rebel and the FuelCell TC, as well as some relative duds like the 890v8 (although that thing looked prettier than a prom date, back when proms were a thing that happened in the world.)
Nevertheless, the New Balance FuelCell lineup has been gaining in popularity, and it continues to expand and evolve, much like Believe in the Run (just kidding… but for real). The FuelCell Prism is the latest addition and intends to fill the gap of a cushioned up-tempo shoe with a touch of stability. This is an area of the market that is often neglected by other brands, but New Balance does an admirable job trying to fill it.
One thing to keep in mind with the FuelCell lineup from New Balance is that just because it has the FuelCell name, doesn’t mean the shoe, or the foam, will feel the same. There is a wide spectrum of firmness levels that fall into the FuelCell category (also called durometer measurement, for all you nerds out there). You may find a soft midsole like the FuelCell Propel, or a more firm midsole like the aforementioned 890v8. But for our purposes, the Prism foam compound is somewhere in the middle in terms of firmness level.
While the foam is in the midrange of FuelCell options, the low stack height leads to an overall feeling that leans towards the firmer side. That said, as a FuelCell shoe it still retains some bounce and cushion. The other notable item on this shoe is the medial post. It’s a wedge of firmer compound that’s molded right into the midsole.
Now that we got that covered, let’s move onto the shoe in action!
THOMAS: My most recent experience with FuelCellw as the 890v8, which fit well but was too firm underfoot for me. When I slipped on the FuelCell Prism, I immediately liked the softer feel and the light bounce you get from the softer foam. I spoke with New Balance and was informed that the FuelCell in the Prism is 10 points softer than the FuelCell in the 890v8, but still retains the same amount of energy return. Softer landings and still the same amount of energy return? I’m in.
The Prism is a stability model for New Balance. They use a firmer wedge of FuelCell under the inside of the ankle to add posting to the medial side. The firmer foam is there to prevent your ankle from collapsing inward when landing in your stride. The best part of this stability shoe is that you don’t notice the stability feature. You get the guidance without the feeling of too much structure.
The upper is very similar to the engineered mesh in the 890v8 and fits well with no heel lift or hot spots. I wore my usual 10.5 which weighs 8.9 oz./252 grams and fits true to size. I’m going to back up here and make sure you caught that weight: Less than 9 ounces for a daily trainer with stability. That is impressive. The outsole even has rubber on it and it still manages to stay feather-light.
MEAGHAN: I’m a big fan of the FuelCell Prism aesthetics, and really most everything from New Balance these days. The upper is a sleek engineered mesh that’s lightweight and breathable. It feels extra wide through the forefoot which I love, and the simple lacing system locks the foot down.
Underneath the foot is a super squishy FuelCell midsole and a really responsive rubber outsole. It’s probably the softest, bounciest shoe I’ve tested this year. There’s a decent amount of cushioning, and they’re still nice and light. My W7.5 came in at 7.3 oz/207 g.
BEN: If you’ve used the FuelCell TC you’ll notice that upper is quite similar. I absolutely loved the fit of the FuelCell TC, so I’m really happy to see they’re continuing this setup. The Prism has great step-in feel and comfort as well. The upper is very comfortable and has good lockdown. For those who usually feel a bit cramped in the toe area, good news– the forefoot is very roomy and feels even roomier than the TC. I love this for toe splay and wiggle room, but it’s actually borderline too roomy (and I never say this). Narrow footers be forewarned, but I still consider the upper a great setup.
The feel of the shoe on the road sits between a daily trainer and a fast day shoe. Some could consider it a long-distance racer, but that’s a stretch for me. It only works in that scenario if you truly need the stability. I think the shoe feels somewhat firm compared to most trainers these days, but it’s not rock hard, or even close to it. It rolls through fast days with ease but keeps enough cushion for the longer runs. I don’t normally use stability shoes and didn’t notice much from the post, so I consider that a plus.Shop FuelCell Prism – Men Shop FuelCell Prism – Women
THOMAS: I will start off with a minor gripe– the tongue didn’t quite fit with the design of the upper. It sticks up a little high and I had some issues keeping it centered over my foot. The design of it seemed an afterthought.
The cushioning on the Prism seemed perfect on the first couple of runs but then lacked a little personality. I found myself craving some pop off the toe. This shoe had me wondering what 5 points softer in the foam department would feel like, versus the 10 points of the 890.
MEAGHAN: I have two issues with this shoe. First, I feel like they may be a little short. My toes were right at the edge of this shoe. Since they’re built with such a wide forefoot, it wasn’t a real issue, but definitely something I noticed at step-in.
I don’t know how this is considered a stability shoe. I felt it lacked an underfoot structure. I know there is a co-molded stability post, but it didn’t do anything for me. The shoes felt mushy with too much ground feel. I know that sounds crazy with all the cushioning, but it honestly felt like I needed something extra under the arch of my foot.
BEN: The combo of stability, speed, and some cushion is a somewhat unique set of requirements. If these are key items on your shoe shopping list, then this shoe checks all the boxes and does them quite well. For the right person I think this is a killer shoe. As someone who doesn’t really need the stability, it becomes a pretty crowded area of contenders that fall into this type of semi-lightweight “traditional” trainers.
I consider it a “traditional” feeling shoe because it’s a modest stack height, very flexible (no plate), and no real gimmicks or tricks. FuelCell foam is great but it’s not enough to make it really a standout shoe. I don’t think this all feels fair to put in the “Bad” category, because it really does what it intends to, but I think it’s a little hard for me to find a spot for it in my rotation.Shop FuelCell Prism – Men Shop FuelCell Prism – Women
THOMAS: Overall, I like the FuelCell Prism. It is light, well-cushioned, and fits well. I typically don’t enjoy running in a stability shoe, but this one is an exception. If you are looking for a light shoe with a touch of stability guidance definitely try out the Prism.
MEAGHAN: The New Balance FuelCell Prism is a quality shoe with great aesthetics, it’s just not for me. If you prefer a softer, bouncy ride this is a solid option for a daily trainer. I will stick with the Beacon and Fresh Foam 1080 for my daily runs.
BEN: I was really looking forward to this shoe and I wanted to love it. I do love the look and fit of the upper (seriously, it’s really comfortable- New Balance has something good going here). The shoe is stable, pretty light, pretty responsive, and very flexible. It has good ground feel and can put in miles, but it has failed to “wow” me like I hoped. I still consider it a good option, and it could be great if your needs for a shoe align with the niche that it fits into.
You can pre-order the New Balance FuelCell Prism for $130 (ships in August) at Running Warehouse (featuring free 2-day shipping and 90-day returns) by using the shop link below.Shop FuelCell Prism – Men Shop FuelCell Prism – Women
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