BEN: Do you love the classic New Balance 1400 racing flat? Do you like modern carbon plated racing shoe technology? If so, then New Balance has a shoe for you. This is the New Balance FuelCell SuperComp Pacer — yeah, it’s a mouthful.
The Pacer is built on a similar framework to the 1400 but packed with new technology. You get a comparable fit and an equally thin upper on top of a similar low-stack midsole. However, the foam is no longer RevLite — it’s now a full slab of FuelCell (the same compound used on New Balance’s elite racers) with a full-length carbon fiber plate.
The Pacer also debuts the new Energy Arc technology, including a cambered plate and a split midsole underneath. In the case of the Pacer, the midsole cutout runs throughout the heel area. This geometry allows for additional deformation of the foam and a greater range of motion for the curved plate, or so they say.
Which way is this story arc headed? Let’s find out.
MERCER: My addiction to running shoes started when rumors of the Nike Next% were flying around, so I never experienced the rock-hard marathon racers that left people recovering for weeks at a time. Still, coming from a track background gave me a nice perspective on new racing flats like the Adidas Takumi Sen 8, Nike Streakfly, and now the New Balance FuelCell SuperComp Pacer.
This is an entirely new shoe from the Boston brand, and it features a slab of ever-popular FuelCell topped with a nonexistent mesh upper that feels invisible on foot — almost like a track spike.
ADRIENNE: I’ll get right to it. I’m excited that super flats now exist. As much as I love my high-stack, carbon-plated racers, I secretly hoped that shoes like the New Balance 1400 would come back around with new updates. It’d be arrogant to believe that New Balance read my mind, but I’m sure I’m far from the only runner who had this wish. So, thank you for that, New Balance.
Sincerely, a longtime 1400 fan.
According to New Balance, the SuperComp Pacer is more for the 5k-10k distance, but it can be taken up to the half marathon. Based on the runs I put in, I agree with that statement. There’s just enough underfoot to inspire some confidence and protection, but the FuelCell here does feel stiffer than other models, so you might want to move to something with a lil’ more cushion if you’re going long. I took these on a set of mile repeats and 200s, a couple of easy runs, and copious amounts of strides.
BRANDON: Every brand is coming out with its own variation of a low stack, lightweight racing flat. Nike just came out with the Streakfly, Adidas has the Takumi Sen 8, and now New Balance has the FuelCell SuperComp Pacer. New Balance has continually proven why they’re the best in the game — from daily trainer to race day, the team seems to always have its finger on the pulse. I ran in this shoe multiple times at various speeds and paces, and I’m happy to report that I’m enjoying this one. With a lightweight upper and snappy FuelCell underfoot, New Balance has innovated another strong racer, crafted for the 5k up to the half marathon.
BEN: Upon first step in, the shoe felt comfortable and familiar. It’s indeed a similar feel to that of the New Balance 1400v6. I love how that shoe fits my foot, and the Pacer is the same. It’s got plenty of room in the toebox (both width and length) and a good fit through the midfoot and heel. I felt it just about disappear on my feet. The upper is very, very thin and super breathable. The midsole is very similar to the 1400, too. Both offer 27mm of foam in the heel with only a 2mm difference in the forefoot (the Pacer packs slightly more). Compared to the RevLite in the 1400, New Balance’s FuelCell is noticeably more responsive, and the full carbon fiber plate helps with a quick turnover.
For me, a comfortable shoe is almost always a good shoe or at least one that I’ll like running in. The Pacer fit me well, and I enjoyed using it for various runs, everything from easy paces down to interval repetitions. I thought it was comfortable and responsive on every occasion, but the shoe prefers to go fast. I was able to turn up the speed, and the shoe just begs for more. My pair came in just under 200 g. (~7 oz.) and feels just as light on foot. It’s like a track spike for the road, with a very snappy feel to the ride. Another benefit of the lower stack height and the accommodating fit is that the shoe feels much more stable than the taller, softer racing shoes on the market.
MERCER: FuelCell is known for that uber softness and bouncy feeling, but you ain’t gonna find it in this shoe. The foam in this leans more in the Nike Streak LT direction. I think it was a great play from New Balance to keep it firmish as the Streakfly ended up being too soft for me to race in, and this is a blast from the past for runners who enjoyed the 1400.
The plate that New Balance added to this shoe feels pretty standard and gives a Next% feel to the shoe with a full spring off without being overbearing like the Adidas EnergyRods. However, the Energy Arc didn’t add any extra feeling and seems like a gimmick in this shoe. I’m just hoping it’ll be explored better in the taller models.
The upper on this model also gives big Streak LT vibes with very open mesh and a breathable experience. There isn’t anything spectacular about the upper, and it won’t offend anyone.
ADRIENNE: So, the SC Pacer. Technically speaking, it’s a 5.5 oz, 8mm drop, FuelCell, carbon-plated flat on some sort of performance-enhancing substance. A very, very light mesh upper tops a moderate stack height plate and FC sandwich. If you flip the shoe over, you see the new Energy Arc tech. It makes me think of the 90s when it was cool to see the insides of whatever shoe you were wearing. New Balance takes a tasteful approach here with a clean carbon fiber plate, and the midfoot to heel cutout is designed for efficiency according to the brainy engineer types.
If you couldn’t tell, I enjoyed running in this shoe. Plenty of snap, a good amount of stability, and the traction seems decent. The shoe feels like a track spike, and you can’t help but run aggressively in it. The durometer of the FuelCell used here is a matter of individual taste, and I found that the stiffer underfoot feel worked for me. Up top, this shoe has summer races written all over it, and New Balance tried to spare weight with the open mesh. Also, and most importantly, it reminds me of the 1400. This is a promising debut for the model. However, it’s not perfect.
BRANDON: The shoe is incredibly lightweight and breathable. No doubt about it. New Balance provides a single mesh engineered mesh upper that’s extremely thin and airy. The exposed mesh holes made the shoe breathable but not very warm. I recommend saving this one for warmer outings. I had no issues picking up the pace on workout days thanks to the dual-layer FuelCell midsole and Energy Arc carbon plate wedged in between.
Put all those ingredients together, and you have an extremely snappy racer. The FuelCell foam is firmer than I expected, but it works perfectly for fast intervals and shorter workouts. The Energy Arc carbon fiber plate adds more than just stability to the racer. The cambered plate allows for a more springy feel off the foot and stronger edge control when pivoting and approaching turns. With some rubber outsole coverage, the shoe has no issues with traction on roads or the track.Shop New Balance FuelCell Collection
BEN: On the spectrum between the 1400v6 and the RC Elite 2, this shoe ends up FAR closer to the 1400v6. The FuelCell foam is more responsive than the RevLite in the 1400, but it’s not the super comfy, springy, autoclaved FuelCell that I love from the RC Elite 2. Five or six years ago, I think this could have been considered a well-cushioned marathon race shoe, but with a 2022 mindset, this shoe is firm. It’s supposed to be, but it’s still a bit of a jolt when coming from the other common race shoes on the market.
Also, the laces are super thin and slightly stretchy, not my favorite, but they didn’t give me any issues.
MERCER: I’m on the fence about whether a full plate was the right play here. Both Nike and Adidas came out with strong statements saying that less is more when it comes to short races, and both their 5k-10k road racers have been performing very well on the world stage, so I’d like to see why New Balance chose a carbon plate.
The Fuelcell foam in this felt pretty good, but it was missing something. It took me a while to figure out, but it’s just not that squishy. Compared to the MD-X, there isn’t the squish and pop that I was hoping for.
I know it’s just cosmetics, but I loved the semi-translucent foam from the RC Elite. It made it look light and fast, and now it looks and kinda feels like a dull EVA.
If they could bring the rubber back on the toe by like a millimeter, it would be amazing — I’ve shredded the foam under the ball of my foot.
Overall this shoe was just fine, and I’m gonna say that’s bad. It doesn’t have that same fun feeling coming from the Streakfly or Takumi Sen 8. New Balance played it safe with this shoe, and that’s what’s gonna drive people away.
ADRIENNE: I love the lightness and breathability of the upper, but I have some improvements to throw around. First, the toe box had too much play, and I had trouble getting that locked and loaded feel. The upper and midsole could use a little less play, too. Also, is a plate necessary? I don’t know.
BRANDON: Sure, the upper is lightweight and breathable, but the overall lockdown of the shoe could use some work. The lacing system seems to ride up pretty high on the foot, and I’d have liked to see that moved a little further down to provide more substantial support around the arch of the foot. Since the shoe is a little firmer and snappier, it’s not exactly made to go the distance. After an hour or so, the shoe doesn’t fall flat, but it certainly isn’t all that comfortable anymore. I’d use this shoe for speed work only.Shop New Balance FuelCell Collection
BEN: Despite my nostalgia for the 1400 v6, I’m finding that I prefer the New Balance FuelCell SuperComp Pacer. Compared to other brands, the Pacer is a notably more aggressive ride than the Adidas Takumi Sen 8 or the Nike Streakfly. The overall ride is much stiffer due to the combo of the full-length plate and the FuelCell formula.
I still prefer the softer and bouncier shoes for any race distance. This hits the mark if you like a firm, traditional racing flat feel, but I’ve come to love high stack height super shoes, and I’ll stick to the RC Elite 2 as my top New Balance racer. I think the Pacer makes for an excellent road and track workout shoe, but still not my top pick on race day.
MERCER: I’m gonna put on my dad voice real quick, “New Balance, I’m not mad, just disappointed.” The shoe didn’t suck, but you can’t just be an alright shoe in the world that we’re in. If you’re a die-hard New Balance fan or prefer the taste of the past racers, you should pick this up.
ADRIENNE: This shoe is fast and has the potential to be great with a few tweaks. It checks many of my boxes for a shorter distance shoe and may see some action in some upcoming 5ks. With Adidas and Nike offering their versions of super-flats, speedsters will find something that works for them.
BRANDON: The New Balance FuelCell SuperComp Pacer has its place in the running world. This is a shoe I’ll primarily wear for faster workouts and shorter tempo efforts. New Balance markets this shoe as a 5k to half marathon race day shoe, but you’re probably better off going for the RC Elite if you’re gearing up for competition.
You can pick up the New Balance FuelCell SuperComp Pacer in June by using the shop link below.Shop New Balance FuelCell Collection
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