New Balance Fuelcell Supercomp Elite v3 Review: Just How Super Is It?
Weighs 7.5 ounces (212 g) for a US M8.5
Stack height of 40 mm in the heel/36 mm in the forefoot (4 mm drop)
Full length Energy Arc carbon fiber plate provides stability and propulsion
Goes hand-in-hand with the SC Trainer for training
Available now for $225
EDITOR’S NOTE (11/11/2023): Since running the New York City Marathon in the shoe, this review has been updated with some critical information regarding a malfunction in one of our test pairs. Please refer to ‘The Bad’ section for our full thoughts and experience.
This roundup is sponsored by Bombas socks, the sock we’ve been using for this fall’s training cycle. You buy one, they give one to someone in need. Use code BITR20 to save 20% off your first order!
ROBBE: Supercomp, or super competition, sounds like something I’d be interested in if it involved bass fishing or setting off fireworks. Crack some Banquet Beers and settle down for a long day of activities. Super competition when it comes to running sounds like a whole lot of work and effort that probably turns out not to be so super when I finish three laps behind the second-to-last-place runner in a 1600m race. Unless, of course, you’re wearing a shoe like the New Balance FuelCell Supercomp Elite v3.
A misnomer of a shoe in that it’s technically the first version of a Supercomp (SC) Elite racer, the shoe carries on the spirit of the first two versions of New Balance carbon-plated racing found in the RC Elite v1 (meh) and RC Elite v2 (yes). If you’re new to New Balance, the Supercomp line is essentially the bucket in which all Energy Arc (i.e. carbon plated) shoes now belong; attaching the SC tag has helped streamline those models into the same family.
Last year’s version of this shoe was a big hit around here (for the most part), and we felt it was one of the closest shoes to the Nike Alphafly Next%. Of all people, Nike influencer/Instagram legend/part-time BITR reviewer Ben Johnson locked up some PRs in the RC Elite v2; for a while it was his go-to racer.
Personally, I wasn’t a huge fan of last year’s version. I just felt it was too soft and mushy, two things that make me go nay more than a spooked mare.
Which brings us to the changes in this version. The SC Elite lost a half an ounce of weight over last year’s version, thanks in part to a redesigned midsole and split heel that leaves the Energy Arc plate fairly exposed. A sock-like upper wraps the foot while a slightly redesigned lacing system. Outsole coverage has been slightly altered. As noted in the beginning, the stack heights hit the World Athletics’ legal limit on the nose at 40mm in the heel and 36 mm in the forefoot.
That should be enough info to get us started, let’s move onto the review.
THOMAS: It’s been five years since Nike fired the first shot in the modern age of race day shoes. In an era still dominated by EVA, other brands were caught on their heels and scrambled to catch up. As the Vaporfly line has managed only incremental changes since then, and the Alphafly 2 took two steps backwards, a small window has opened up for other shoe companies to attempt a takedown of the Goliath Nike has created. The question is, will New Balance be the one to sling the rock?
MEAGHAN: I made some pretty bold statements about the previous iteration of this shoe. I even called it a competitor to the Nike Vaporfly. While I did enjoy the RC Elite 2, as we’ve tested new iterations of super shoes, I find my preference leaning towards a firmer ride. Good news – the SC Elite V3 comes with exactly that.
WIDE FOOT JARRETT: The only plated shoe I have successfully (or even attempted) to run a marathon in was the New Balance RC Elite 2 (RC2) in standard width. I had crazy high hopes for the successor, and even though New Balance was trying to throw us for a loop with the new name, here at BITR, we’re pretty intellectual. Nice try, guys, but we know what the FuelCell SuperComp SC Elite v3 is.
So here we are. Jarrett is now doing reviews of carbon-plated racing shoes that come in wide. Forget flying cars and dippin’ dots. This is the future!
ROBBE: As I already mentioned, last year’s version of this shoe just didn’t do it for me (though Meg has differing thoughts). It felt too soft, not enough feedback from the ground, maybe just too much cushion, if that could be a real thing. This version feels different to me, and I’m pretty sure I can pin down why.
Whereas last year’s version had a pretty solid block of midsole with just a midfoot cutout exposing the carbon fiber plate, the SC Elite v3 mimics the midsole design of the SC Trainer (makes sense, since they’re partners in crime). In that way, the midsole is essentially split into a hoof-like/horseshoe fashion with plenty of exposed carbon fiber. However, when the shoe compresses on impact, the outer/inner walls of the midsole essentially fill that space momentarily, which allows for a greater level of compression and release. That said, it also leads to a bit more of a “bottoming out” feeling, which I actually like because I like to feel the road, even in super shoes.
After putting on close to 100 miles in the SC Trainer, which has become my go-to shoe over the last couple months, I was more than pleased that the SC Elite seamlessly replicated that same feel, just in a lighter and faster package. I think New Balance is onto something special there, so if you found the SC Trainer to be a solid long run companion this fall, then you should consider bookending it with the SC Elite v3 because you won’t be disappointed.
When I say it’s like a lighter SC Trainer, I really mean it because this shoe also works at slower paces without crushing your calves or messing with your gait, which few super shoes can do. Even so, it transitions seamlessly to your race day pace and can hold you there for however long you need.
A really nice and unexpected aspect of this shoe was the stability. It’s something that also shocked me about the SC Trainer. Something about the width of the platform combined with the cut-out spine and horseshoe design makes it surprisingly stable for such a high stack height. And since this has a more structured upper and heel section than a lot of racing shoes, I feel like this has to be the most stable racing option out there.
The sock-like upper fit my foot perfectly, which I feel is a rarity these days. I love it. The lacing system is interesting in that, instead of eyelets, it uses a cord-like system through which the laces are threaded. I had no issues with lockdown or lace pressure, so I guess it works pretty well.
At 7.5 ounces (212 g) for a US M8.5, it’s certainly not the lightest racing shoe, but it’s also a half-ounce lighter than the Alphafly Next% 2, so we’re all right there.
THOMAS: Robbe nails one of my favorite attributes of the SC Elite 3, it compliments the SC Trainer making the pair a one-two knockout punch we haven’t seen since Tyson in the 1990s. The heavier SC Trainer is perfect for easy training miles, with the same set up (Energy Arc) as the SC Elite 3. When you put on the SC Elite 3 for speed days and racing it feels similar through the gait, but it drops 3 ounces in weight making it 8.3 oz/238g for my US 10.5. You can’t help but feel faster.
The fit of the upper worked well, and the shape is sleek as a race day shoe should be. My size 10.5 fit true to size and provides a near perfect lockdown over the midsole. Speaking of the midsole, the Energy Arc powered by Fuelcell foam feels lively underfoot while providing cushion and propulsion for 26.2 miles.
I still like the traction the original RC Elite had with its knobby spike like tread, but the standard rubber outsole has decent traction and should provide enough durability for at least a couple marathons.
All in all, I enjoy the ride of the SC Elite 3. The shoe feels light on the foot and the energy return from the Fuelcell foam and carbon plate give the shoe a fast feel during turnover.
MEAGHAN: The SC Elite V3 follows suit from the rest of the SuperComp line, designed with an EnergyArc carbon plate, rocker and large midsole cut-out. The Fuelcell foam is soft enough that you can really feel the plate underfoot, but not quite as squishy as its predecessor. The heel is wider than the RC Elite 2 but the forefoot is actually more narrow. It’s a light, agile ride but still one of the more stable super shoes. All this paired with the rocker gives you that smooth transition from heel to toe-off. The shoes make you want to keep running.
The one-piece knit upper is comfortable and stretchy. The light padding around the collar, gusseted tongue and flat laces provide a solid lock-down. We received the NYC colorway, a very flashy and fun aesthetic.
WIDE FOOT JARRETT: The most important part is that the Elite v3 is offered in 2E wide. While it has the same width midsole, the upper has more room to it. I found that the shoe fits similar to the RC2, but not as snug in the midfoot. For reference, I think the SC Trainer is a bit more comfortable in the midfoot under the arch, and has slightly more room in the toe box.
The bootie upper is thin and the flying NB logo that starts over the toe box and extends to the lateral side of the heel gives it some added structure. The heel collar has a nice touch of padding and NB even gave us a pull tab (thank god) to help get the shoe on.
Just like in the SC Trainer, the Elite v3 has the Energy Arc midsole which is the combination of the carbon plate and strategic void that extends down the center of the shoe. The purpose is to increase energy return by allowing the midsole to compress differently. I actually found the midsole of the Elite v3 slightly softer and more bouncy than the RC2, as well as the SC Trainer.
The base of the heel is a little wider than the RC2, and while it feels more stable, that’s still relative to the wobbly RC2. Underneath there is some rubber in the forefoot and heel, with exposed FuelCell foam, which doesn’t help with traction in the toughest of situations. My size 10.5 2E weighed 8.4 oz. (238 g), which is a .2 oz. reduction from my standard width RC2.
Running in the Elite v3 has been a joy. I am able to take it easy and really get the softness of the FuelCell, and I can pick up the pace with little effort. I don’t get that sharp carbon pop with some other racers, but this has that same smooth ride that the RC2 gave where I just want to keep running.Shop New Balance SC Elite v3 – Men Shop New Balance SC Elite v3 – Women
ROBBE: I have to say this loud and clear, from my experience in this shoe: be very careful with this shoe. The week of the New York City Marathon, I went to slip the shoe on without untying the laces (I know, dumb), and the cord that anchors into the top of the shoe functioning as an eyelet completely broke out of its stitch hold. This, by the way, renders the shoe useless. Again, maybe partly my fault for not untying the shoes. Fair enough.
When we got to New York, I got a replacement pair through New Balance. I did one 3-mile shakeout run in the shoe before race day. On race day, I tied them securely, but not overly tight. Walking on the way to the start line, I felt that my left shoe was loose. I looked down, and sure enough– the elastic cord had completely ripped out of the stitching. Mind you– I gently put my shoes on and had untied my laces. I had worn them one other time before race day. I was walking to the start line. To. The. Start. Line. And my shoe was ruined. I tried not to panic in the moment, and by some random twist of fate, a woman who was walking beside me looked down and said “just take a pin off your bib, put it through the upper and use it as an emergency eyelet.” And by God, it worked for the entire New York City Marathon. But let me reiterate– a safety pin worked better than the clearly-not-thought-out “eyelet” configuration on the actual shoe.
Thank you to that woman that saved my race day, no thank you to whoever thought it was a good idea to stitch an elastic cord into an upper and call it an eyelet. Because here’s the thing– I can guarantee you that that same thing happened to someone else on race day, or will happen. Now, I’m sure that New Balance will replace the shoe if it does, but who would ever risk such a catastrophe on race day, the only day when this shoe matters?
For those reasons, I cannot recommend buying this shoe, no matter what it feels like underfoot.
I mentioned it above, but if you want that max stack with all the cush and absolutely none of the push from the ground, then the shoe may not be for you. But first– make sure you go back and reread that sentence inside the frame of a modern race day shoe spectrum. It is in absolutely no way a firm shoe by any standard, but there’s definitely not as much squish as last year’s shoe.
In a weird way, it’s almost too much like a light version of the SC Trainer. It has a race-day feel to it, but I wouldn’t say it’s propulsive. That’s not a bad thing, depending what you’re looking for. If you want that shoe that will give you an edge but can handle slower paces, then this actually works great in that scenario.
Depending on your foot shape and size, the sock upper might not work for you, but you won’t know until you try it. I know I did get a little bit of heel lift going up hills, which isn’t that surprising in a carbon-plated shoe. It wasn’t severe, but I did notice it.
Definitely not the grippiest of shoes and there’s not as much outsole rubber coverage as last year’s version.
THOMAS: The SC Elite 3 keeps its weight down by shedding foam. In the Energy Arc groove that extends from the forefoot to the heel. The plate gets close enough to the ground that it needs its own island of rubber to protect it. When the forefoot compresses I felt like the shoe was almost bottoming out. It isn’t, but the touch down onto the rubber pad simulates the feeling. The wide valley can also pick up a stone occasionally. It is rare, but it occurred on two separate runs.
I would love to see the next version of the shoe have a more aggressive toe spring. I’d like to feel a more aggressive rocker underfoot.
MEAGHAN: I have a couple bones to pick with the SC Elite V3. First of all, it’s not the easiest shoe to get on. While the one-piece knit upper is comfortable, it requires some maneuvering to get your foot inside (yes, a very minor knock, but I’m going to point it out). The second gripe I have is the lack of support and propulsion on toe-off. The cushioning in the forefoot lacked firmness and structure. Basically, it caused irritation around my big toe joint (aka my bunions).
WIDE FOOT JARRETT: I’ve never had this much trouble trying to put a shoe on. The bootie upper makes it beyond difficult to get my foot in. I don’t even think it’s because I have a wider foot, because my heel is the problem. Every time I put it on, I’m concerned the fabric may rip. I would have much preferred the RC2 upper on the Elite v3 midsole and I am saying this with zero embellishment, the struggle is real!
I also get some heel slip, but it hasn’t been a problem and really only becomes somewhat noticeable when running uphill. Lastly, I’m not a huge fan of the cords (not typical holes) which hold the laces. I had to work out a way to reloop the laces to be able to heel-lock lace for extra lockdown.Shop New Balance SC Elite v3 – Men Shop New Balance SC Elite v3 – Women
ROBBE: Overall, I was pretty surprised with this shoe. I think it’s definitely the best New Balance racing shoe to date, and I’ll find out soon enough how my legs hold up over 26.2 when I wear it for the New York City Marathon next week. It’s softer than the Adios Pro 3 and definitely softer than Metaspeed Sky+ or Edge+, but does allow for some ground feel on impact. For me this is good, others maybe not so much.
As I mentioned above, I think this would be a great race day shoe for a first-time marathoner or someone who wants the familiarity of the SC Trainer but on race day. It doesn’t offer the sensational aspect of some other top racers, but it does provide an edge when needed and does so in a more secure and stable package.
Oh, except throw all of that out because it has a severe quality control malfunction that could render it useless at any point during a run. Now, luckily this didn’t happen to anyone else on our team on race day, but the fact that it definitely could means I can’t recommend this shoe for purchase.
THOMAS: New Balance continues to head in the right direction and this shoe is a big leap forward over the already popular RC Elite 2. Of the top race day shoes available today, the SC Elite feels stable and well cushioned, but maybe lacks some of the pop off the toe we have come to expect. The SC Elite 3 is softer feeling than the Vaporfly, Metaspeed Sky+, and the Adidas Adios Pro 3. For me the more forgiving cushion lands the SC Elite 3 in the good column. The Fuelcell formulation could lose some weight and add some energy return to really knock this shoe out of the park.
MEAGHAN: The SC Elite V3 is a solid race day shoe. The firmer ride is a welcomed update and the EnergyArc / carbon plate delivers a solid bounce. I’m unsure how my toes will feel after 26.2, but there’s only one way to find out.
WIDE FOOT JARRETT: The SC Elite v3 is an excellent follow up to the beloved RC2. My biggest gripes come with the upper. I feel like I’m fighting the shoe to get it on because of the sock-like upper. Once on, the SC Elite v3 is a gem and I think it’s going to be a fan favorite amongst the #WideFootFam. The FuelCell midsole has a great underfoot feel. I’m able to cruise with ease, and that’s exactly what I’m looking for in a marathon shoe.
You can pick up the New Balance SC Elite v3 now in the NYC colorway for $250 (limited sizes) at the links below, or at Running Warehouse for $230, which makes no sense, but whatever. Standard colorways arrive in February 2023.Shop New Balance SC Elite v3 – Men Shop New Balance SC Elite v3 – Women
Want to learn more about how our review process works? Check out this guide.
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Robbe is the senior editor of Believe in the Run. He loves going on weird routes through Baltimore, finding trash on the ground, and running with the Faster Bastards. At home in the city, but country at heart. Loves his two boys more than anything. Has the weakest ankles in the game.
All-time favorite shoes: Nike Epic React, Saucony Endorphin Speed 2 Runshield, Asics Metaspeed Edge+More from Robbe
As the founder of Believe in the Run, Thomas’ goal is to help runners pick the shoes and gear that will make their running experience the best that it can be.
All-time favorite shoes: Saucony Kinvara 2, Hoka Clifton 1, Nike Alphafly Next%More from Thomas
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.
All-time favorite shoes: Nike Alphafly Next%, New Balance SC Trainer, Asics Superblast.More from Meaghan
Wide Foot Jarrett likes talking about wide shoes. Did you know he wears wide shoes? You should probably know he wears wide shoes. Besides running, Jarrett is a lover of coffee, donuts, pizza, and tacos. Basically, Jarrett is the ultimate race-cation travel companion because he will be on food duty while you’re busy panicking about whether you want to try and break your PR. Will also sleep on the floor. He’ll also answer any question in his DMs.
All-time favorite shoes: New Balance Vazee Prism v2, New Balance FuelCell SC Trainer, Asics Metaspeed Sky.More from Jarrett
You never commented on the 4mm drop in the review. That´s a deal breaker for me. My achilles can´t handle that drop in longer races.
Hi. I’m a long term NB user. I used the Elite V2 at NYCM last year for a PR. I was really looking forward to the Elite V3 and logged in at midnight on the release date to get a pair (yes…very eager). The firmer ride is an improvement on the V2. In that respect, I’m a fan. My only gripe is that the stitching on the lacing system has a hard nub inside the shoe where the ‘loops’ are secured that protrudes from the upper. It’s ok around the toe and to mid-foot but at the top of the shoe near the opening it dug into the inside of my foot. They were great on a 10 mile steady run but as soon as I picked it up to race pace for two miles, that rubbed a blister on the inside of my foot, even through Darn Tough socks, and they are, darn tough. Total bummer. Can’t take it out because the ‘loops’ will lose their tension. I’ll be sending mine back and wearing the V2 at the NYCM this year. NB, plonk the V2 upper on the V3 platform and you’ll have a winner instead of a return. Bummed about this shoe but looking forward to NYCM.
Good luck on race day! Sorry you had that experience. Not a huge fan of the loop thing for the laces.
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