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Road Running Shoes • January 17, 2024

New Balance FuelCell Rebel v4 Review: Northern Attitude

new balance rebel v4 - white feature

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What You Need To Know

Weight

7.7 oz (218 g) for a US M10.5, 5.3 oz. (150 g) for a US W7.5

Stack Height / Drop

30 mm in heel, 24 mm in forefoot (6 mm drop), midsole and outsole

Best For

Daily training, tempo miles, budget race shoe

Key Features

Fantomfit upper, Peba-blended FuelCell midsole, all-new design language

On The Run
Lively and fun Enough cushion to go longer Maybe a little too roomy for narrow feet
Price and Availability

$140, March 1

Introduction to the New Balance FuelCell Rebel v4

THOMAS: Like any good breakaway faction, the Rebel line started as an offshoot from New Balance’s race day shoe exploration and experimentation. One of those experiments was a fast road mile shoe in a sparkly ice slipper design, the New Balance FuelCell 5280. With that shoe, the team played with geometry and how the midsole shape could direct the foot to roll from the lateral edge to the big toe. Utilizing the big toe to drive power through your stride isn’t a new idea, but the way New Balance facilitated it was new.

New Balance 5280 Out of the Box

The 5280 was a stunner

Some of that inspiration rolled into the first Rebel, a daily tempo trainer that was light and fun. The next Rebel (v2) tamed down the lateral wing but pumped up the style. It was an absolute stunner and an immediate hit with runners looking for the next exciting thing in footwear. It’s one of the all-time best-looking shoes and it didn’t break the bank. That said, it wasn’t without some flaws, namely one critical one that revealed itself to some runners way earlier than expected. The upper was prone to ripping, and when it started to rip, it essentially disintegrated shortly thereafter. 

To widen the model’s popularity, the next version of the Rebel (v3) had a castrated upper and an even more streamlined midsole. It went from being a Rebel to being… kinda boring. Don’t get me wrong– it wasn’t a bad shoe. It just kind of fell in line with the others out there.

new balance rebel v4 - full shoe

Here’s what I mean: When the ultra lightweight Rebel v2 came out with its exciting supercritical TPE midsole, it was in a class of its own. Kinda like how the SC Trainer first set the bar for super trainers. But by the time the v3 rolled out, other midsoles had caught up. Throw in some more structure and stability, and the Rebel v3 was just a little too safe. The weird, lightweight, fun-to-run-in Rebel was lost. It was just another model that had its moment and then got overcooked.

So, did the fourth version bring back the magic? The answer is yes and no. Visually, the shoe looks like a Rebel, and the weight for a size US 10.5 is a ridiculously light 7.7 oz./220g (an ounce-and-a-half lighter than its race day counterpart in the SC Elite v4). And even though it’s light enough to click away at faster paces, the new Peba-blended midsole is cushioned enough for daily use. The aggressive, lower stack geometry of the original is gone. 

The new FuelCell Rebel v4 has an accommodating mesh upper. New Balance has named it Fantomfit. It sounds spooky, but it isn’t. A slim but traditional collar and a thin gusseted tongue finish off the simple upper. The midsole is a new formulation of Peba and EVA foams; the outsole is about 55% covered by rubber.

MEAGHAN: Unlike Thomas, I didn’t have much of a history with the Rebel. It’s a trainer that got lost in my rotation. It never felt like enough shoe underfoot and if I wanted to lace up a fast shoe, I’d pick something with a carbon plate. All that to say, the Rebel v4 has been a fun surprise. And it’s not just because I received the all-white colorway (although that doesn’t hurt).

RYAN: I fall into more of the Thomas camp than the Meg camp when it comes to my history with the Rebel. I can still vividly remember seeing the Rebel v2 in its White/Habanero colorway when Believe reviewed it long before I came on board. I also vividly remember the long-ass wait between publishing the review and finally getting my hands on a pair in the very same colorway.

Since then, I’ve been hooked. I ran the absolute life out of my original pair of the Rebel v2 until the upper blew out at one of the seams — as it tended to do. Then I grabbed a second pair and treated it with a little more love and care until the Rebel v3 came around. I grabbed those, too, in all white, and I’ve been coming back to them ever since.

Now, on version four, I finally get to write a Rebel review. You might not believe it, but I was the first on the team to receive the Rebel v4, probably a solid week or two before Thomas and Meg. I tore open the box and immediately laced the latest Rebel up for some hilly mid-week miles… and then I kept lacing it up and lacing it up until I hit right around 50 review miles.

So, as you might imagine, I’ve got some thoughts.

What we like about the New Balance FuelCell Rebel v4

THOMAS: From our Instagram and YouTube posts, the looks of the upper have been polarizing to our audience. I love the design of the 2024 FuelCell line. The angular design is unique and creates a design language around the performance line that is instantly recognizable. The bold ‘N’ on the lateral side looks modern and aggressive. Looks matter. If you strap a shoe on that looks fast, you feel fast. 

The shoe’s weight is fantastic for a daily trainer without a plate. On longer runs, the turnover felt easy. The foam is cushioned enough for the double-digit miles. I ran back to back in the Rebel v4, and my legs stayed fresh. The rubber outsole is neutral. It could be more tacky, but it did the job. With 50-ish miles on the shoe, the durability looks good so far. 

The Fantomfit upper secured my foot nicely and breathed well. I had no hot spots or rubbing.

new balance rebel v4 - vertical white name

Higher stack of FuelCell foam

new balance rebel v4 - vertical white laces

MEAGHAN: The new Peba/EVA blended midsole foam feels bouncy and responsive, and the increased stack and width is a very welcome update. Overall, I really enjoyed the ride; it’s simple but rolls well through my stride and I’d feel very comfortable taking this out for a long run (the longest run I did in this shoe was 12 miles, and it felt great). 

The upper shares the Fantomfit technology of the SC Elite v4, only this one comes with a gusseted tongue. The shoe fits true to size and accommodated my wider foot well. The simple lacing system did a nice job of keeping my foot locked down and overall it’s a very comfortable shoe. 

Maybe my favorite aspect of this shoe is the weight. My W7.5 came in at 5.3 ounces! That’s race day light.

new balance rebel v4 - heel and name landscape

FantomFit upper

RYAN:  Before I get into anything else, I have to say that I love the look of the New Balance Rebel v4. Yes, it’s angular, and yes, it’s different, but like low-poly Lara Croft, I’m all about it. I’m a little bit jealous of Meg’s all-white colorway that would have matched my Rebel v3, but the blue and greenish-yellow that I was sent feels modern and kinda funky. It highlights the angular FuelCell midsole nicely and doesn’t pick up dirt or debris nearly as quickly as an all-white shoe would have.

I’ll also point out that the Rebel v4 definitely feels different from its predecessors. Where the Rebel v2 was squishy, bouncy, and unstable, and the Rebel v3 was a little more democratized (but still bouncy), the Rebel v4 feels like a smooth rock and roller. The toe rises up nice and high, which keeps you flowing through each stride while you build up the miles. I had no problem taking this version of the Rebel for double-digit miles, and I never felt like my ankles were ready to roll one way or the other.

Honestly, the Rebel v4 feels a lot like a scaled-down, plateless version of the SC Elite v4 — and not just because they look identical. If you vibe with one, you’ll probably vibe with the other, as the rocker feels almost identical just with slightly different levels of bounce and return.

Shop New Balance Rebel v4 - Men Shop New Balance Rebel v4 - Women

What we don’t like about the New Balance FuelCell Rebel v4

THOMAS: My bad could be your good with this shoe. I tightened the throat of the shoe to fit my narrow foot. Similar to the SC Elite v4, the tongue seems like an afterthought. It feels cheap, but it functions well, so I dunno. I have some concerns about the durability of the midsole, too. I will exceed our regular testing miles in this shoe and report back after 100 miles.

MEAGHAN: I felt like this shoe needed a bit of a break-in period. I didn’t love it in my first run, but the more miles I’ve logged, the more I’ve enjoyed them. Thomas had a very different experience, so this could certainly be a ‘me’ problem, but also worth noting that I think you should give it a few runs before you decide. 

new balance rebel v4 - blue laces vertical
new balance rebel v4 - vertical white midsole

RYAN: I’ll be honest, I don’t have any major complaints with the New Balance Rebel v4. Is it the same bouncy and kind of wild shoe as the previous two generations? No, but New Balance fixed the upper from v2 and tamed the democratization from v3, so it’s clearly learning from one generation to the next.

Do I still miss the bouncy, super fun, kinda unstable midsole from the Rebel v2? Heck yeah, I do. Maybe we’ll have to wait and see how this formulation of FuelCell feels in the warmer summer months.

Shop New Balance Rebel v4 - Men Shop New Balance Rebel v4 - Women

Final Thoughts on the New Balance FuelCell Rebel v4

THOMAS: In “The Bad” section, I mentioned that I was willing to keep putting miles on this shoe. I wouldn’t do that if I didn’t love running in the Rebel v4. This shoe hits on key things I like in a running shoe. The Rebel v4 is light, well-cushioned, and looks aggressive. I have run daily easy miles and uptempo double-digit runs in the Rebel and enjoyed the shoe. Sometimes, even with good trainers, I don’t feel like lacing them up for back-to-back runs. I haven’t had that issue with the Rebel.

The closest competitor to the Rebel v4 is the Asics Novablast 4. Both are light and fun to run in daily trainers to explore faster paces. The cushioning level seems similar, even though the Rebel has a lower stack. Both shoes retail for $140. I will probably have to add a few more shoes to the list that come out this year like the Hoka Mach 6, the return of the Nike Pegasus Turbo, Puma Liberate Nitro 3, and the Adidas Adizero SL. Stay tuned.

new balance rebel v4 - outsole landscape

MEAGHAN: The New Balance FuelCell Rebel v4 was not a shoe that I expected to like as much as I do. I’ve been lacing this one up on back-to-back days and generally enjoying the miles. It’s super light, comfortable, and works for all sorts of distances. No fancy tech, just a nice-feeling foam underfoot and a simple, comfortable upper. I think this model is going to be a favorite in 2024.

RYAN: I like the New Balance Rebel v4. Is it my favorite of the Rebel line? Or even the most rebellious Rebel? Probably not, but I don’t think it has to be. It’s a Rebel that’s actively moving forward with the rest of the FuelCell lineup, picking up the new midsole formula, the revamped FantomFit upper, and wild geometric design.

I already have 50 miles in my pair, which is a pretty good sign considering how many other shoes I have in the queue for review, and by the time you can actually pick up your pair, I might have 100.

You can pick up the New Balance Rebel v4 on March 1, 2024, for $140 directly from New Balance using the buttons below.

Shop New Balance Rebel v4 - Men Shop New Balance Rebel v4 - Women

Watch The Review
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New Balance Rebel v4 | Full Review

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Comments

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  1. Grant says:

    I feel like the real comparison was missed. Hoka Cielo Road. I know that’s more race than daily trainer but you actually put “rebel” in the title of that review.

    Robbie actually compared it to the Rebel V2. This might be just the reviewers not overlapping.

    1. Ryan says:

      You’re actually spot-on with this comparison, and it’s kinda my bad for not making it earlier. I’ve run in the Rebel v2, v4, and Cielo Road, and I would definitely say that the Cielo Road feels like a Rebel with a bit more danger to it. I think I’d give New Balance the edge for heel support, but probably lean Cielo Road for the thoroughly enjoyable ride.

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Authors

Thomas Neuberger
Founder
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As the founder of Believe in the Run, Thomas’s goal is to help runners pick the shoes and gear that will make their running experience the best that it can be. 

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10.5

Fav. Distance

26.2

PRs
  • 10:28

    50 Mile
  • 5:43

    50K
  • 3:20

    26.2
  • 1:36

    Half Marathon
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Meaghan Murray
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Meaghan signed up for her first marathon three weeks before the race, because it was $10 more than the half she planned to run. She learned everything in running the hard way. Now a USATF & UESCA certified run coach, she loves encouraging friends to go for big goals as she continues to chase faster times. She enjoys a hot cup of coffee, a cold martini, and making bagels for friends and family.

More from Meaghan
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7.5

Fav. Distance

26.2

PRs
  • 2:45

    Marathon
  • 1:21

    Half Marathon
  • 18:51

    5K
Ryan Haines
Assistant Editor
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Ryan is kind of like Robbe’s Igor behind the scenes. He helps to compile and clean up everyone’s reviews, and finds time to get in a few miles of his own. When he’s not running or editing, Ryan writes and reviews for Android Authority, spending time with the latest tech and complaining when things don’t work quite right. If he’s not doing any of that, maybe you’ll find him nose-deep in a crossword puzzle or trying to catch up on an endless backlog of shows to stream.

More from Ryan
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8

Fav. Distance

13.1

PRs
  • 3:54

    Marathon
  • 1:28

    Half Marathon
  • 39:09

    10K
  • 19:02

    5K
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