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New Balance FuelCell Propel v4 review

9 expert score
6 user's score
As editorial policy, we do not accept free samples. We purchased this pair at Running Warehouse with our own money.
Review written on 23rd March by Brandon Law Marathon Runner and Shoe Expert
152 other reviews

New Balance FuelCell Propel v4 Verdict

The New Balance FuelCell Propel v4 is an incredibly versatile trainer which can be used for everything from recovery runs to races. It has a balanced & stable ride character which is suitable for both beginners & experienced marathon runners. It competes with the likes of the Saucony Endorphin Speed 3 but at a much more affordable price point. Version 4 has a new TPU plate which makes the forefoot snappier and provides more propulsion for fast runs.

The pros

  • Great value for money
  • Incredible versatility
  • Comfortable upper
  • Snappy forefoot
  • Stable ride

The cons

  • Tongue not gusseted
  • Weight increase
  • Warm upper


Rating breakdown

Comfort
9.0
Build quality
9.0
Upper
7.0
Sole unit
9.0
Landing
9.0
Transition
9.0
Toe-off
9.0
Traction
8.0
Durability
8.0
Value / Price
10

Facts / Specs

Model
FuelCell Propel v4
Previous model
Weight
9.7 oz (275 g)
MSRP
$110.00

Heel
31 mm.
Toe
25 mm.
Heel drop
6 mm.
Carbon plate
Plate in other materials

Size/Fit

Sizing
True to size
Heel fit
Normal
Midfoot fit
Normal
Toebox fit
Normal

Cushioning & ride

Type of cushioning
Balanced
Amount of cushioning
Highly cushioned
Stability
Very stable
Flexibility
Medium

Usage

Racing  
Speedwork  
Daily training  
Long distance racing
Ultra distance racing

Who should buy the New Balance FuelCell Propel v4 ?

If you’re looking for a do-it-all daily trainer or a cushioned, long-distance racer, the Propel v4 is a great option. Its FuelCell midsole has an energetic ride while the flexible plate makes transitions faster for when you need to pick up the pace.

Who should not buy the New Balance FuelCell Propel v4 ?

If you prefer a firm, old school ride with lots of ground feel, the Propel v4 is not the shoe for you. It has an exciting, modern ride with cushioning deep enough for full marathons.

New Balance FuelCell Propel v4 Introduction

Picture of New Balance FuelCell Propel v4

When you want to make a running shoe exciting, you can’t just put a plate in it and hope for the best: the Hoka Bondi X is proof of this. The Bondi X simply doesn’t make sense because it’s a max-cushioned, easy-day shoe with a stiff carbon plate. Plates are designed to increase the shoe’s rigidity to help you increase your speed and the Bondi was designed for running at slow paces so the Bondi X felt really awkward.

A plate in the New Balance Propel makes a lot of sense. The Propel, which was launched alongside the Rebel back in 2019 has been largely overshadowed by the faster, lighter, and more flashy Rebel.

I purchased the Propel v1 and I loved how soft and comfortable its ride was. It was softer than most max-cushioned trainers at the time but there wasn’t much energy return from the midsole foam, even though it was FuelCell so I used it for recovery runs only.

The Propel was designed to be the daily trainer while the Rebel was designed to be the speed shoe in this FuelCell training range. In the last 4 years, the Rebel has become more and more like a daily trainer: with each update, it has received more cushioning, a more durable outsole, and a more robust build. This has cannibalized
sales of the Propel.

Picture of New Balance FuelCell Propel v4

The 2023 Propel v4’s main, headline feature is a brand-new TPU plate in its midsole. It has a new formulation of FuelCell, which is the same density that’s in the much higher-priced New Balance SC Trainer. The upper and outsole have also been redesigned.

It’s listed incorrectly as being 10.7 oz (303 g) on both the New Balance website and the Running Warehouse website. I weighed my US9 and it came in at only 9.7 oz (275 g). This is a weight increase of 0.8 oz (23 g) from the Propel v3. Like most running shoes this year, the price has gone up by $10 and it will now cost you $110.

New Balance FuelCell Propel v4 First Impressions

Picture of New Balance FuelCell Propel v4

My first run was 9 km at my easy pace. I was really impressed with how dynamic the ride of the Propel v4 felt. Transitions were smooth, the forefoot felt snappy and it had pleasant, soft landings with each foot strike without being mushy.

The shoes that it reminded me of most were the Saucony Endorphin Speed 1 and the New Balance SC Pacer which are also plated but flexible running shoes. The plate in the Propel v4 was the most flexible of all 3 shoes.

The upper was really comfortable but I had to use a runner’s knot to get a secure heel lockdown. Compared to the previous Propel version that I had tested, the Propel v4’s cushioning felt more substantial, while the ride felt more stable and faster due to the TPU plate.

New Balance FuelCell Propel v4 Upper

Picture of New Balance FuelCell Propel v4

The Propel has a cushioned upper which you would find on a typical daily trainer. It’s padded enough to make long runs comfortable and it has no major flaws.

It fits true to size and should be fine for most foot shapes except extremely wide feet. I find that there is enough forefoot and toe box room even with thick socks. The collar has the perfect amount of padding and there’s an internal heel counter for structure. Heel lockdown is good but I had to use a runner’s knot.

The padded tongue is not gusseted so it slides around during runs. The upper is also not that breathable so it’s on the warm side. Those are the only things I don’t like about the upper.

New Balance FuelCell Propel v4 Sole Unit

Picture of New Balance FuelCell Propel v4

What makes the Propel v4 so versatile is that it feels stable and cushioned during easy paces while it feels energetic and agile at faster paces. This is a jack of all trades running shoe which can be an easy day, steady day, tempo or even race day shoe.

While the TPU plate is not stiff and it doesn’t give as much propulsion as a super shoe, it has more pop than your average daily trainer. The TPU plate of the Propel v4 takes inspiration from the Endorphin Speed 3’s nylon plate. The Propel’s plate has a midfoot wing which extends outwards, under the arch.

Picture of New Balance FuelCell Propel v4

The plate reminds me of the plate that’s in the ASICS GlideRide 3– it’s very flexible so it doesn’t make slow running in the Propel v4 feel awkward. The downside of this is that it doesn’t offer as much propulsion as a stiffer plate. If you want something stiffer/faster, I recommend the Magic Speed 2 or the Puma Deviate Nitro 2.

At 31 mm, the heel stack height isn’t as high as a super shoe or even the Endorphin Speed 3 so your foot sits lower to the ground and stability is very good. When running in the Propel v4, my foot strikes feel very planted which makes it an excellent long run shoe. It also has enough cushioning for a full marathon. The longest run I did in it was 35 km and it felt really protective throughout the run.

I enjoy using the Propel v4 most on steady-paced or fartlek runs. Its plate combined with its lively midsole foam make it really easy to pick up the pace. Another one of the factors which make the Propel v4 feel like a nimble shoe is its 6 mm drop. This makes it easier to midfoot or forefoot strike when you need to increase your speed.

The midsole of the Propel v4 has a large cavity or void underneath it, similar to the size of the one in the NB SC Pacer. This feature is designed to return more energy as the midsole foam and plate deform during footstrikes. This is something which I can feel during runs and it makes a difference to the ride, making it more energetic.

There’s enough rubber coverage on all the high wear areas so durability is decent. The rubber has a flat design which is receded into the midsole so transitions are really smooth. There are no lugs which protrude outwards so grip is only average.

New Balance FuelCell Propel v4 Conclusions

Picture of New Balance FuelCell Propel v4

The best thing about the Propel v4 is that it doesn’t feel like a $110 shoe. If you told me that it costs $140, I’d say that it’s a fair price, so $110 for such a versatile, plated shoe is a steal.

When you compare it to other daily trainers, it outshines traditional stalwarts like the Ghost, Pegasus and Clifton which are in the $130-$145 price range.

As a plated speed trainer, it also outshines competitors like the Endorphin Speed 3. I recently ran in the Endorphin Speed 3 to compare and I actually prefer the ride of the Propel v4 for the extra stability and its transitions. I feel that the 6 mm drop of the Propel is better suited to me than the 8 mm of the Speed. The Speed 3 has more cushioning but there’s something about its high toe-spring rocker which feels off to me.

Compared to the NB Rebel v3, the Propel v4 isn’t as soft or fun on short distances but it has more cushioning depth and better stability so it’s better for long runs. It’s a more versatile trainer and it costs $20 less than the Rebel v3.

Version 4 of the Propel is definitely an improvement over previous versions. The new TPU plate has made it a much more exciting shoe, adding stability, snappiness and all-round versatility to a trainer which was too slow to be a daily trainer.

How does the FuelCell Propel v4 compare?

Saucony Endorphin Speed 3
New Balance FuelCell Propel v4
New Balance FuelCell SuperComp Pacer
Expert score
8
9
8
User score
Retail price
US$170
US$110
US$149.95
Weight
8.10 oz
9.7 oz
6.7 oz
Heel Drop
8 mm
6 mm
8 mm
Recommended for
Racing, speedwork, daily training
Racing, speedwork, daily training
Racing, speedwork
Cushioning type
balanced
balanced
responsive
Cushioning amount
Highly cushioned
Highly cushioned
Medium cushioning
Flexibility
medium
medium
medium
Stability
some stability
very stable
very stable
Sizing
true to size
true to size
true to size

Why you can trust us

As editorial policy, we do not accept free samples from companies.
We purchased this pair of New Balance at Running Warehouse  with our own money.

This page contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases. Read more about our policy.
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Reviewed by Brandon

This review was written by Brandon Law on 23rd March.
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.

User feedback (3)

  • avatar-comment-1032626
    André
    4 months ago
    9 score

    Comfy ride for daily miles as well as longer runs.
    Sole responsive enough to pick up the pace.
    On the heavier side, but that just makes you enjoy race day more in a marathon shoe.

  • avatar-comment-1031182
    Illy
    6 months ago
    3 score

    Based on the positive feedback from the article, I was determined to give these shoes a try. However, my experience was quite different. For me, they turned out to be rather uncomfortable, leading to heel irritation and numbness during running. Walking in them is equally uncomfortable due to their narrow fit. They don’t offer the best stability and shocks absorption either. Perhaps the traction and the design are decent. On a positive note, this experience has actually made me appreciate the comfort of Asics shoes even more.

  • avatar-comment-1026925
    Paul
    11 months ago

    I need some hint
    of stability (NB Fuel Cell Prism2/, NB 1500, Brooks Launch GTS). Will this shoe do the job?

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