New Balance FuelCell TC Intro
Remember that episode of Friends where Monica buys those really expensive shoes and they end up hurting her feet so much that she can’t wear them?
That’s always my fear when buying an expensive running shoe and the New Balance FuelCell TC is a very expensive shoe, there’s no denying it. At $200 it rivals the price of some of the most advanced carbon plated racers on the planet.
The “TC” stands for “training & competition” and is meant to be a training companion to the elite FuelCell RC racer to be released later this year.
It was designed to eat up those training miles leading up to a marathon but also has the ability to handle the actual race, hence the name “training & competition.”
So what makes the FuelCell TC so expensive and is it worth the enormous price tag? The TC has a full-length carbon plate sandwiched between a thick slab of squishy FuelCell foam.
The TC is the only New Balance trainer to feature high cushioning with a carbon-fibre plate and is one of the most advanced (and expensive) New Balance trainers one can buy.
The Propel was highly cushioned while being light at the same time however it was difficult to go fast in it due to its very flexible forefoot and soft (bordering on mushy) ride.
So how does FuelCell perform when paired with a carbon plate?
Some technologies need to be paired up with something else to make it shine.
Take for example Adidas Lightstrike: on its own, it feels firm and lifeless but pair it up with Boost and the ride character of the shoe changes to become more sophisticated, being both cushioned and snappy.
New Balance has the 5280 currently available which also has a FuelCell midsole and a carbon fibre plate but it’s a short-distance racer.
It has taken a long time for New Balance to finally get into the long-distance carbon plate game. Was it worth the wait?
New Balance FuelCell TC First Impressions
The most fitting adjectives to describe the look of the FuelCell TC are “simple” and “elegant.”
When taking them out of the box, the sun hit their thick midsole and revealed a pearlescent glow- the purple and silver finish reflecting in the light, reminding me of an expensive German car.
The upper felt minimal and light, compared to the bottom-heavy midsole and outsole. Nitrogen-infused FuelCell is heavier than Pebax but lighter than other TPU and EVA foams.
The Zoom Fly 3 also felt bottom heavy but FuelCell is much softer and less dense than the React of the Zoom Fly 3.
When compressing the FuelCell foam with my fingers, it felt soft and squishy. I was interested to know what kind of carbon plate was inside the midsole so I flexed the shoe.
It flexed slightly toward the middle of the sole but the sole didn’t bend.
The upper fit like a glove when putting them on for the first time. The inside was smooth and seamless.
Walking around in them, I could feel the copious amounts of cushioning underneath my feet which felt squishy and substantial. I knew immediately that this is a trainer that I could run a full marathon in.
My first run in the TC’s was nothing short of amazing. They were good to go right out the box and needed no break-in time. I took them for a 33 kilometre run and the ride felt smooth and efficient.
I managed to clock a personal best for that distance and by the end of the run my legs still felt fresh and I felt like I could go further.
While every other carbon plated shoe I have run in has felt unforgiving and harsh, the FuelCell TC felt soft and bouncy with plenty of protection.
After just one run in them, I knew that they were the real deal and had the potential to be one of my favourite running shoes of all time.
New Balance FuelCell TC Sole Unit
FuelCell feels amazing and in my honest opinion is the flagship New Balance midsole foam. It’s no wonder New Balance decided to use FuelCell and not Fresh Foam X in the midsole of the TC.
While Fresh Foam X lacks the flair of new age midsole superfoams, the FuelCell in the TC feels softer but not mushy while at the same time being extremely bouncy.
The best thing about the FuelCell midsole is that it feels good at all paces. Whether you’re doing a tempo run below 4 minutes per kilometre or a long, slow run at over 6 minutes per kilometre, the shoe feels great.
The big question is how does the carbon plate perform? While it doesn’t have an extreme forward “tipping” sensation, it keeps the midsole rigid and helps roll you through transitions.
I really enjoyed the FuelCell TC for daily training and long runs. The ride felt fluid and fun while having the perfect combination of plushness and responsiveness. I looked forward to every run in the TC.
Stability is the shoe’s one weakness as stability in the FuelCell TC is below average. The forefoot is wide and stable but the narrow midfoot and rearfoot make the shoe feel wobbly, especially when cornering.
The TC is best suited to straight routes where there aren’t many turns.
Similar to the Fuelcell Rebel, is a futuristic “wing” that flares out on the lateral side to help prevent the foot from rolling outwards. If there was ever an ideal supination shoe, this would be it.
On the outsole, the entire forefoot is covered in a thick slab of blue, blown rubber. This rubber also extends down to cover part of the midfoot of the TC. This full coverage forefoot tells us that it was designed with forefoot strikers in mind.
The large amount of rubber in the forefoot results in a trainer which is unbalanced and forefoot heavy.
The rearfoot has two strips of rubber which cover the heel high wear areas and the remaining area in the midfoot/heel is exposed midsole.
Traction in my experience has been great on road and pavement in both wet and dry conditions. I didn’t take them off road as the soft, exposed midsole is not suited to rugged terrain.
Ride transitions are super smooth due to the full-contact outsole and the single-density FuelCell midsole. The outsole rubber used is not of a high density so landings feel padded and smooth.
The forefoot of the TC is firmer than the heel so forefoot strikers will find the ride more efficient than a heel striker whose rearfoot sinks down into the soft foam during transitions.
At the end of long runs where my form shifted to rearfoot striking, I really enjoyed the extra cush and protection provided by the soft heel.
The thick stack of plush midsole foam means that there isn’t much ground feel and you don’t feel small pebbles or pavement cracks through the bottom of the shoe. This also contributes to the buttery smooth ride.
The durability of the FuelCell TC is just average. While the midsole is nitrogen-infused TPU and won’t lose that much cushioning over time, the thin, minimal mesh upper will not last as long as the midsole and outsole.
New Balance FuelCell TC Upper Unit
The upper of the FuelCell TC fit me perfectly. It is roomier and more accommodating than the average carbon plated racer upper so it’s a shoe you don’t mind wearing on runs that last longer than 3 hours.
It’s made from an ultra-thin mesh which is translucent and highly breathable- it reminded me of Flyknit Loft on the Infinity Run. The mesh on the white colourway sparkles in the sunlight.
There are thicker, matte black overlays around the lacing eyelets and heel areas.
The insides of the heel and ankle are smooth and soft so it feels very luxurious around the ankle area compared to the midfoot and forefoot which don’t have an inner lining.
The only problem I had with the upper was the tongue. The non-gusseted tongue is thin and flat and while it doesn’t slide laterally, it does slide downwards on runs.
During runs, I occasionally found myself pulling the tongue up when waiting to cross the road.
The padded heel flares upwards and not away from the foot which is very similar to the heel shape of the New Balance Popel. An internal heel counter gives it some structure.
When lacing the TC’s up normally, I experienced some heel slippage but giving them heel lock lacing solved the problem.
The laces are my favourite part of the upper. They are thick and flat and have a thread down the middle of the laces which is reflective.
I thought it was a clever way for New Balance to add reflective elements without weighing down the shoe with overlays.
The lace aglets (tips) are also silver and reflective. The laces didn’t come undone once during runs and were the perfect length.
Branding is minimal with just the “NB” logo formed with dots featuring on the toe box and the wording “new balance” on the medial side of the ankle area.
The toe box is high and wide enough to provide long-distance comfort. There is an internal toe stiffener to give the toe area extra support and structure.
Apart from the downward tongue slide, the upper of the TC is an overall great one and fits true to size. Uppers are one component that New Balance rarely messes up.
New Balance FuelCell TC Conclusion
The New Balance FuelCell TC is hands down the best carbon plated shoe I’ve tried. The difference between the TC and the other carbon plated trainers is that its foam is soft enough for your feet to sink down into the foam.
The other carbon plated trainers have firm midsoles to accommodate the carbon plates but with the FuelCell TC, the softness of the midsole makes runs in them feel more engaging and more fun.
The combo of FuelCell and carbon fibre mesh together perfectly for a cohesive and consistent ride unlike any other.
Its comfortable, accommodating upper which can be worn for hours on end is light and breathable and the FuelCell foam offers a high level of cushioning which rivals some max-cushioned trainers.
The TC was designed to be both a trainer and a racing shoe however I think it is more suited to being a trainer as its substantial weight and high level of cushioning might get in the way during races.
The FuelCell TC is spectacular but it isn’t perfect. Its short tongue slips downwards on runs and its narrow midfoot and heel lead to low levels of stability on sharp corners.
However, those are minor faults and the FuelCell TC is not just my favourite carbon-plated shoe but one of my favourite running shoes of all time.
I was skeptical about the TC because of the high price but the FuelCell TC is worth every bit of its $200 price tag.
We purchased a pair of New Balance FuelCell TC from runningwarehouse using our own money. This did not influence the outcome of this review, written after running more than 50 miles in them.
New Balance FuelCell TC Price Comparison
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