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42.2 kilometres is a far distance and when running a marathon, you need a shoe that provides your feet with enough cushioning protection for the full distance.
Most carbon fibre super shoes have a ride which is on the firm side because the midsole foam needs to be a certain density in order to get the most out of the stiff carbon plate.
The New Balance FuelCell RC Elite v1 was such a unique super shoe because it had a super soft, marshmallow ride with plenty of long-distance comfort. It was designed specifically for the marathon distance.
Version 2 of the RC Elite was launched only 9 months after the first version but that didn't stop New Balance from making wholesale changes: version 2 has a brand new outsole, midsole and upper. Even the carbon plate is a different shape.
The midsole of version 2 is now thicker and provides even more cushioning. The upper is a knitted, more breathable material and the biggest update is to the outsole which sees the much loved, spiky Dynaride replaced by flat, blown rubber.
The RC Elite v2 is now 39mm in the heel, 31mm in the forefoot compared to 32mm/22mm in the first version so the drop has decreased. It weighs 11 g more than version 1 and is $60 cheaper.
Knitted uppers are usually associated with casual lifestyle sneakers but the new knitted upper of the RC Elite v2 is a performance knit. It's still stretchy but it's thinner which makes it more breathable and gives it the ability to absorb less liquid. This is important during races when you don't want the shoe to pick up weight from sweat absorption.
There are now big holes on the top of the toe box to allow an increase in air flow. During races, cooler feet translate to better performance.
The tongue is slightly longer than version 1 so it offers more protection from the first row of laces. It's completely flat and not gusseted so there is some downward tongue slide that occurs during runs. The wide wings of the tongue prevent it from sliding laterally.
The flat laces provided are slightly stretchy and they stay tied during runs however they are quite short, especially if you have a wide foot and you need to use heel lock lacing.
The heel has an internal counter which provides heel structure and support. Heel lockdown is excellent and no heel slippage occurs. The heel tab and collar are lightly padded and provide enough ankle protection for a comfortable ride.
The FuelCell RC Elite v2 is true to size with a roomy fit that's more like a training shoe than a racing shoe. It has an accommodating toe box which offers lots of space for your toes to splay and it's suitable for wide footed runners who need the extra room.
FuelCell has been a revelation for New Balance. The super critical foam started off as a firm midsole foam without much energy return but over the years, it has matured into a super soft, lively foam that returns plenty of energy.
The new, thicker midsole stack height is 39 mm, almost the maximum height (40 mm) allowed for a shoe under the new World Athletics rules. The increase in size allows the midsole to be more cushioned and it also allows the carbon plate inside the midsole to have a steeper slope.
The updated carbon plate is the same thickness and rigidity as the first version but the steeper slope provides more propulsion. The new drop of 8 mm and the extra 9 mm of foam in the forefoot makes the forefoot of the RC Elite v2 feel much cushioned than version 1.
The RC Elite version 1’s biggest differentiator was its Dynaride outsole which consisted of tiny rubber spikes that provided amazing grip on any surface.
On the RC Elite v2, Dynaride has been replaced with a flat sheet of blown rubber. This flat outsole design doesn't provide as good traction as Dynaride but on dry surfaces, traction is still good. Ride transitions are now smoother because of the flat design.
On the rearfoot, two soft strips of rubber are placed vertically. There is exposed, soft FuelCell foam on the rearfoot and the midfoot which comes into contact with the ground. This exposed area starts to show initial wear first but it's purely cosmetic and doesn't affect the ride.
A window cutout under the midfoot saves some weight and allows you to see and feel the carbon plate which is the engine that gives the RC Elite v2 its snappy ride.
Outsole durability is above average for a racing shoe and you should expect to get at least 400 kilometres out of the RC Elite v2 which is the equivalent of 9 full marathons.
If you want an experience similar to running on clouds, the RC Elite v2 is the super shoe that will bring you closest to that experience. Its ultra low density midsole foam allows your feet to sink down into the midsole without you having to exert much pressure.
It also has one of the most versatile rides of all the super shoes. At slow paces above 5.30 per kilometre, the RC Elite v2 feels cushioned and bouncy while at faster paces, it feels springy and efficient.
The FuelCell RC Elite v2 is best suited to long-distance runs because of its high level of cushioning. It was designed for the marathon distance and that's where it performs best.
For shorter races such as 5 K and 10 K’s, some runners may find the midsole of the RC Elite v2 too spongy and too soft but for 42.2 kilometre marathons, your feet need all the protection from the pounding they can get and the RC Elite v2 offers that in spades.
The high toe-spring is a new addition to version 2 and this increases the rocker sensation, making it feel more efficient over long distances.
Runners complained of the instability of version 1 of the RC Elite so New Balance improved stability by making the midsole base slightly wider and by toning down the lateral midsole outward flare. The result is that the RC Elite v2 feels more stable even though it has a taller midsole and your foot sits higher off the ground.
The RC Elite v2 is a big improvement over its predecessor. Its wider midsole base makes it more stable, its thinner upper is more breathable and it has a higher stack height which provides softer cushioning.
Outsole traction is not as good as version 1 and the RC Elite v2 has a tongue that slides downwards during runs but these don’t affect the ride much.
If you're a fan of the New Balance Rebel v2, the RC Elite v2 is the perfect racing companion for the Rebel v2. It has more cushioning, more propulsion from its carbon plate and it has a more minimal upper which saves weight.
Compared to the other super shoes, the RC Elite v2 doesn't have as much propulsion or raw speed but the ride also isn't as jarring as the competition because of how thick and soft the midsole foam is.
The unobtrusive plate in the RC Elite v2 results in a dynamic ride which feels natural and gives it the ability to be used for training as well as racing.
The RC Elite v2 is an extremely versatile shoe. It handles slow, easy runs just as well as faster paced efforts which is a unique characteristic for a super shoe but the RC Elite v2’s main draw is its fun ride which feels bouncy and effortless.
Review by Brandon Law