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Road Running Shoes • April 12, 2021

New Balance FuelCell RC Elite 2 Performance Review

~ new balance rc elite 2 - feature2

What You Need To Know

  • Weighs 8.3 oz. (235 g) for a US M9.0 / 6.3 oz. (179 g) for a US W7.0
  • Airy mesh upper sparkles in the sun
  • Higher stack height provides an uber-cushioned, bouncy ride
  • Purple haze, all in my brain…

BEN: The New Balance FuelCell RC Elite 2 is the newest racing shoe from the Boston-based brand and it has taken the autoclaved FuelCell foam to new heights. The original RC Elite used the same foam compound but had less stack height. It felt light and responsive but didn’t maximize the cushion or plate curvature due to the lesser midsole thickness. Version 2 has more than made up for that – coming in just under the legal limit for stack height and adding on a full refresh of upper and outsole as well.

WIDE FOOT JARRETT: We all knew the RC Elite 2 was coming, it was just a question of if the sizing was on par with the TC (wider) or RC (more narrow). Thankfully, New Balance went with the beloved TC sizing. The miles for this review racked up insanely quick as I didn’t want to put on any other shoe.

MEAGHAN: It was pretty much love at first sight. The New Balance RC Elite 2 not only sparkles in the sunshine (literally), but it’s built on 39 mm of this bouncy, delightful goodness known as FuelCell. That’s just a taste of what’s to come.

THOMAS: New Balance is dropping all kinds of goodies this year, so here’s a marshmallow peep just in time for Easter.

new balance rc elite 2 - toe1

The Good

BEN: The first thing that grabbed my attention was the purple and contrasting highlights of orange and pink. In a world of bright-colored racing shoes, this one still manages to stand out. Once I actually put it on my foot, the excitement continued. The RC Elite 2 is considerably wider than most other race offerings, especially in the midfoot (ahem, Nike). It’s a shoe that I can lace up with no fuss and a comfortable feel. My men’s size 9.5 is true to size and weighs 7.8 oz.

The part that really matters here is how they perform. I took them on a variety of runs at different paces and they’re quite versatile. After putting in a tempo effort that felt really solid, I even picked them for a half marathon time trial. This might not seem significant but I have never done a race or time trial in anything other than a Nike. It’s been 50+ in a row in only Vaporfly or Alphafly. This shoe didn’t disappoint. I was feeling fit so I paced it for a PR and was able to hang on and run a new fastest half marathon time. This shoe just rolls through the stride and keeps you feeling fresh. It’s very well cushioned and feels better the faster you push it.

WIDE FOOT JARRETT: Forget neon green, orange, yellow, or pink. You want a hot shoe? The answer is purple. The designers over at New Balance put out heat with the RC Elite 2. The purple upper sparkles, and the NB logo acts as an overlay swooping over the toe box to the outside of the midfoot. But the best feature is the mismatched outsole colors. Whoever decided to do that should get a big fat bonus in their paycheck. The engineered mesh upper is super thin in the toe and becomes more structured towards the heel. The only way the toe box could be more breathable is if New Balance went the Teva strap route. I seriously appreciate the lightly padded collar and that it’s not some thin nothing that causes irritation (I’m looking at you Hyperion Elite 2 and Deviate Nitro). 

Now the part of the review the #WideFootFam has been waiting for. How’s the fit? Well, it fits. I, along with others, felt that the original RC ran small, and way smaller than the TC. The sequel fits closer to the TC, which is a great sign for the fam. The RC Elite 2 has enough room in the toe box and the curve of the shoe provides some more midfoot room compared to a straight shoe. What also helps is that the overlay in the midfoot doesn’t connect to the midsole. This allows for the upper to stretch and not feel constricting. I’d caution people with flat feet as my arches hang over and are supported by the mesh upper. This was slightly irritating when walking around, but disappeared when running. 

I love the higher stack of the RC Elite 2. While the OG sported 32 mm / 22 mm, the new one now has 39 mm / 31 mm of foam. The additional FuelCell adds some more cushion and turns the shoe into that comfortable marathon option. Sometimes super soft shoes have no life to them, that isn’t the case here. The carbon plate provides the pop, and working together with the FuelCell, landing is soft and smooth and you get thrown through toe-off.

On short runs, I could throw in a random low 6-minute mile that felt way too easy. The longest run I logged in the RC Elite 2 was 16 miles. Even though the underfoot feel of the midsole and plate was amazing, by the end, my forefoot and midfoot were feeling the squeeze. I don’t think I could push to the marathon distance, but I’d have no issue at all racing a half.

new balance rc elite 2 - upper

MEAGHAN: It was pretty much love at first sight. The New Balance RC Elite 2 not only sparkles in the sunshine (literally), but it’s built on 39 mm of this bouncy, delightful goodness known as FuelCell. If you’ve read any of my shoe reviews, you know I love a healthy stack height. This one is 39 mm in the heel and 31 mm in the forefoot for an 8 mm drop. The Fuelcell midsole paired with a carbon fiber plate gives the RC Elite 2 the comfort and responsiveness you want for long distances, i.e. the marathon. For those of you familiar with the original RC Elite, you’ll notice the outsole ditched Dynaride (those triangular rubber thingies on the outsole). This may upset some, but I prefer the updated rubber outsole that gives plenty of traction and durability. 

Moving on to the upper: an airy, breathable mesh comes with minimal overlays and padding, but all the structure and comfort you need. This shoe is built with a roomy toe box and midfoot (not typical of race day shoes) and it’s a breath of fresh air for my wide feet. There’s decent padding and structure around the collar and heel, which gives you a really nice, secure fit with no hot spots. While it’s not quite as light as some other race day shoes, I find the extra comfort and fit well worth it. My W7.5 came in at 6.4 oz.

THOMAS: It seemed like the New Balance TC and the original RC were both a compromise. The TC had the cushion of the premier racing shoes, but the weight was ounces above the competition. The RC was closer in weight, but lacked the cushioning and bounce that saves your legs in the later stages of a marathon. Both were good shoes, just not quite in the same league as the Vaporfly. This update addresses both the cushion and the weight issues.

The RC Elite 2 is a fun and fast plated racer that feels good at easy paces and comes alive when you drop the hammer. The FuelCell cushioning is plush and the exaggerated plate helps the shoe propel you more aggressively than the original. The carbon plate is more offset because of the extra stack of FuelCell.

The upper breathes well and fits as well as any running shoe. Most racers have flimsy uppers to save weight, but the RC Elite 2 has an ankle-hugging cushioned collar and heel counter that locks your foot in nicely. 

Shop New Balance – Men Shop New Balance – Women

The Bad

BEN: I really couldn’t come up with anything bad. Sure, it’s not as light as a Vaporfly, but it feels just as fast and is actually comfortable to wear.

WIDE FOOT JARRETT: With such a high stack height and soft midsole, taking sharp turns was questionable at times. You might want to pretend you’re an 18-wheeler and take your turns wide. Also, drive next to another truck on a 2 lane highway and block all the cars from trying to pass. Just kidding, QUIT DRIVING IN THE LEFT LANE. No, I don’t have road rage. Why do you ask?

MEAGHAN: I think some folks will find the FuelCell a little too squishy. I don’t think it is, but I can definitely see someone who prefers a firmer shoe for race day not loving this ride. Outside of gaining a little weight from the original, there really isn’t much to complain about. 

THOMAS: The thing that I think people will miss is the Dynaride. It was one of the defining features of the original RC. The outsole gave that shoe teeth. You could really feel the rubber spikes bite into the pavement. From what I can tell, adding the Dynaride would have delayed the release of the shoe and the cost of the material is actually more expensive than the carbon plate. That said, for the half marathon and marathon distances, I’m not sure the absence of the material on the outsole will make a difference.

Shop New Balance – Men Shop New Balance – Women new balance rc elite 2 - tongue

New Balance FuelCell RC Elite 2 Conclusion

BEN: New Balance has a real winner here. It’s a huge update from version 1 and it really hits the mark this time. More cushion, dialed in plate/rocker, and an excellent upper. This is a true high-end marathon option and definitely worth checking out.

WIDE FOOT JARRETT: The New Balance FuelCell RC Elite 2 almost seems to be the middle ground between the RC 1 and TC. The additional FuelCell provides such a fun and bouncy ride, even at slower paces, but has added performance thanks to the carbon plate. The RC Elite 2 can absolutely fly.

MEAGHAN: I’m going to come out and say it: this is a competitor to the Nike Vaporfly NEXT%. It’s got the bounce and responsiveness of the Vaporly but comes with a better fitting upper. For those of you who fall into the wider foot category, you’re going to want to check this one out. Also, if you’ve been on the fence about plated shoes – here is your entry drug. The RC Elite 2 is not only great for race day, but it’s comfortable enough for everyday running (if you’ve got loads of cash lying around). Either way, give this one a try. 

THOMAS: A year ago there weren’t many choices for race day shoes. If the fit of the Vaporfly didn’t work for you, you had to either suffer through it or compromise. Now between the RC Elite 2, Puma Deviate Elite, Saucony Endorphin Pro, and ASICS Metaspeed Sky/Edge runners have options and can find the right fit and feel to get the most out of their fitness. The RC Elite 2 offers an outstanding upper, loads of cushion, and a carbon plate that will launch you to the finish line. 

You can pick up the New Balance RC Elite 2 for $225 at Running Warehouse (featuring free 2-day shipping and 90-day returns) by using the shop link below.

Shop New Balance – Men Shop New Balance – Women new balance rc elite 2 - toe



Have something to say? Leave a Comment

  1. Manne says:

    This is not a review, it´s a poorly disguised advertisment for this shoe. Did Runningwarehouse give you these shoes with the instruction to write something ridiculously full of superlatives?

    1. Jarrett says:

      No. Anything else?

  2. Jeremy says:

    Being an overpronator, seeing the array of carbon-plated shoes coming in including this sparkler from NB is akin to being in a candy shop but can’t eat any. Do you think overpronators could wear this RC Elite 2 from NB for a full mara?

  3. Lanky says:

    How does the fit and width compare to the Fuelcell Prism which are my favourite shoes of all time?!

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