Written by

Brandon Law

Marathon Runner and Shoe Expert
The RC Elite is New Balance’s fastest marathon racing shoe; the Vaporfly Next% is Nike’s most popular marathon racer. Here we will be comparing these two super shoes.

The RC Elite v2 is the second iteration of the RC Elite series and it’s designed specifically for the marathon distance. It has been updated with a thicker midsole, a more breathable upper and flatter forefoot outsole rubber. It costs $225.

The Vaporfly Next% 2 is the third iteration of Nike’s Vaporfly series. It is one of the most popular carbon fibre marathon racing shoes in the world and it has been updated with a new upper only. It costs $250.

Which one of these super shoes is more suited to your running style?

Similarity and differences: FuelCell RC Elite v2 vs ZoomX Vaporfly Next% 2

FuelCell RC Elite v2

ZoomX Vaporfly Next% 2

Shoe type
Expert score
Expert score
9/10
Expert score
8/10
Weight
7.7 oz
6.6 oz
Heel Drop
8 mm
8 mm
Verdict
The New Balance FuelCell RC Elite v2 is an energetic, highly cushioned racer which is perfect for the marathon distance or beyond because it has long-distance comfort in spades.

Version 2 has a thicker midsole and flat forefoot outsole rubber which results in a softer ride which is smoother and an overall better shoe than version 1.
The Nike ZoomX Vaporfly Next% 2 is still a superlight racing powerhouse with excellent cushioning and propulsion. What makes it so special is its unique forefoot geometry that provides a forward-tipping sensation during each toe-off.

This version is an upper-only update that improves the fit and comfort of the shoe.
Recommended for
Racing, long distance racing
Racing, speedwork
Cushioning type
responsive/balanced
balanced
Cushioning amount
Highly cushioned
Highly cushioned
Flexibility
rigid
rigid
Stability
some stability
not particularly stable
Sizing
true to size
true to size
Retail price
US$225
US$250

Sole unit: FuelCell RC Elite v2 vs ZoomX Vaporfly Next% 2

The midsole of the RC Elite v2 is made of FuelCell which is a Nitrogen infused super foam. It’s incredibly soft and super bouncy. The RC Elite v2 is even softer than the previous version and it’s one of the softest super shoes on the market.

The midsole of the Vaporfly Next% 2 is made of ZoomX which is Nike’s premium, PEBA super foam. It’s not as soft as the FuelCell of the RC Elite v2 but it still packs enough cushioning for full marathons. It delivers a cushioned, springy ride which is a good balance between soft and firm.

The RC Elite v2 is the better shoe for long distances like marathons and ultramarathons because of its super soft cushioning whereas the Vaporfly Next% 2 is the better shoe for shorter distances like half marathons, 10 K and 5 K races. The firmer midsole of the Vaporfly Next% 2 doesn’t compress as much as the RC Elite v2’s, so it’s easier to pick up the pace.

The carbon plate inside the RC Elite v2 is steeper and feels more prominent than in the previous version but it doesn’t provide as much propulsion as the Vaporfly Next% 2’s carbon plate. The geometry of the Vaporfly Next% 2’s plate provides a forward tipping sensation with every toe-off compared to the more muted feeling of the RC Elites v2’s plate.

When it comes to stability, the RC Elite v2 feels more stable than the Vaporfly Next% 2 because it has a wider midfoot, rearfoot and forefoot. The Vaporfly Next% 2 has a very narrow midfoot with a prominent arch sensation. The RC Elite v2 also has midsole sidewalls which help to keep your foot centred during transitions.

The RC Elite v2 uses soft, flexible rubber on its outsole compared to the firm rubber on the outsole of the Vaporfly Next% 2. The softer rubber of the RC Elite v2 has better traction than the firm rubber of the Vaporfly Next% 2 because it grips onto surfaces more effectively.

Outsole durability is better on the Vaporfly Next% 2 because the rubber is more abrasion resistant than the soft rubber of the RC Elite v2. The exposed ZoomX foam on the outsole of the Vaporfly is also more durable than the FuelCell of the RC Elite which gets chewed up by the ground.

Upper unit: FuelCell RC Elite v2 vs ZoomX Vaporfly Next% 2

The upper of RC Elite v2 is a knitted mesh which is stretchy and very breathable. It has a roomy, accommodating fit which makes it comfortable for very long runs. It fits true to size and doesn’t come in any additional widths.

The upper of the Vaporfly Next%2 is a mesh which is not stretchy or as foot conforming as the RC Elite v2 but it’s more porous and more breathable. The fit is a snug, racing fit which is dialed in and more suited to racing because it allows your foot to move around less inside the shoe. It also fits true to size and doesn’t come in additional widths.

Which one to buy: FuelCell RC Elite v2 vs ZoomX Vaporfly Next% 2

If you’re looking for a softer, more bouncy ride with more long distance cushioning, the New Balance RC Elite v2 is the better shoe for you. It has a more relaxed upper which is more comfortable and it has a wider last which suits wide-footed runners better. The RC Elite v2 is also more stable and has better grip.

If you’re looking for a lighter, faster racing shoe, the Vaporfly Next%2 is the super shoe for you. It has a carbon plate which provides a forward tipping sensation and it has a more propulsive ride. The Vaporfly Next%2 is also a cooler shoe since it has a more breathable upper and it has better outsole durability than the RC Elite v2. The Vaporfly Next%2 costs $25 more than the RC Elite v2 but it has a firmer ride which makes it easier to pick up the pace.

This expert review is written by

Brandon Law

Marathon Runner and Shoe Expert
Brandon is a South African who lives and trains in Malaysia. He is a marathon runner who eats, sleeps and dreams running shoes. While most people wear shoes to run, he runs to wear shoes.