Some are calling this the shoe of the year. Are we?
It's a shoe that has a lot of people talking. When first images of New Balance's Rebel V2 (we'll call it the Rebel from here) leaked at the start of 2021, social media was salivating. Then, a few weeks later big time Instagram influencers and YT favourites Believe in the Run posted their review of the Rebel, arguing a case for it to be Shoe of the Year in 2021 (on February 1st, mind you).
The Rebel sits in that workout/session shoe category. We know enough about carbon shoes now to know that training in them all the time might not be the way to go (for most people - there are always exceptions), but we also don't want to do workouts in our daily trainers. Most brands have tried to fill this void in one way or another, and for New Balance it's the Rebel. Super lightweight, it has a 6mm drop and sits on a bed of Fuelcell foam.
The Rebel dropped in Australia a few weeks ago, and we've had it on the feet of 4 Melbourne based reviewers since then. None of these guys are professional reviewers or employees of TEMPO - they're amateur runners of different abilities, and their comments are below.
But before we jump into their thoughts, let's meet them.
Kat Newton plays VFLW for Hawthorn, and runs most days to keep fit for footy and for the social connection. Liam Coughlan is an engineer by day, and is also training for a sub 2:30 marathon. Josh McCormack is a professional triathlete who lives in Abbotsford, and Eleanor Raper swims like a fish, is a physiotherapist, and runs most days with her friends around Albert Park and inner Melbourne.
Kat, Josh, and Liam ripped a number of workouts in the shoes, while Eleanor (who is on her way back from a calf injury sustained before these shoes) is offering her first impressions as she returns to training.
The first question I had for our reviewers is around fit. We know how challenging it can be when you're used to one brand and their sizing, and then you switch brands and it's completely different.
Liam: I found the fit pretty standard - true to size. I've got a narrow foot and they didn't feel too wide.
Kat: For an athlete who has a mid-narrow foot, these are a winner. The internal frame of the shoe is narrow, however the upper gives a lot of freedom for a wider foot.
Josh: I think the overall fit is quite good. I find the length might be a fraction shorter than what I’ve experienced in the same size of other brands, but this is marginal. Theres a nice amount of space in the toe box for me which I like — not so much that you have to lock your foot in with the laces, but enough that your toes don’t feel crammed.
Eleanor: For me, the immediate impression is that the shoe is a good fit and is true to size. The internal frame accommodates for my wider foot while the laces are easy to tie. No time is wasted trying to squeeze into the shoe or tie up short laces.
OK so the feeling here is they fit pretty true to size. There's no high arch or anything restrictive on the upper that is going to cause issues for people so it's not surprising to hear there were no issues with fit. My advice would be to go with your 'normal' size.
After fit comes comfort, right? A shoe can be the right size for you but that doesn't necessarily mean it's comfortable.
The shoe doesn't have a plate in it, and has an incredibly soft midsole, so I would expect feedback on comfort to be high on this.
Eleanor: Walking to commence my run I immediately noted the spongy sole particularly around the heel. This carried nicely over to the run where I felt stable and comfortable within the shoe. When I wear new runners, it usually takes me a couple of runs to adapt to the change. For the Rebel there were no odd pressure points or uncomfortable sensations. They felt light and reactive.
Liam: The upper in particular I found to be really comfortable from the first km in the shoe, with a nice amount of stretch to lock down the foot with being too tight. Heel counter feels minimal but does a perfectly sufficient job in locking down the heel.
Kat: My foot felt hugged and did not move around whatsoever. Often I’ve found with new shoes I’ll start a run, and after 5-ish minutes I might need to pull in and re-do the laces, but not with the Rebel.
Josh: This is a very comfortable shoe. Socks or no socks (triathlete things), I have found no issues wearing these from short speed to longer workouts. And when the run is over I am not in a rush to get them off. The heel is soft but secure. The tongue and slightly offset laces remove any pressure from the top of your foot. All the materials on the inside are soft to touch but still feel durable and strong. Very breathable shoe.
So far, so good. Fit and comfort both score well for our reviewers - now it's time for the fun stuff.
Probably the most important part - how do these feel on the run? This category of shoe seems to be growing rapidly, and each brand does it differently - some go with a firmer ride, some with a nylon plate, and so on. So, how does the Rebel stack up?
Liam: First thing I noticed with the shoe was how light they were, which immediately makes you want to get moving in them. The midsole feels really soft, so I was worried they might feel a bit sloppy at pace, but I found them to be really responsive with a surprising amount of pop. Have jogged in the shoe on road, gravel, grass and track without any issues, though I feel like these shoes will do their best work on the road.
Eleanor: My first impression of this shoe was the soft feeling under foot. The soft / spongy feeling is quite a change to the shoes I normally wear, but definitely not something I am opposed to. As someone that is a mid-foot runner, I felt less supported around that area and even wanted to land more on my heels. As my speed increased I could feel the return from the shoe help propel me forward. However, when running over softer surfaces such as grass, I found it difficult to get the same return. Overall, I liked the reactive and spongy feel to the shoe and am keen to see how they feel over a longer run.
Kat: In the warmup I could tell these shoes were going to be responsive. My sessions involved a concrete warm up to the track, followed by drills on the grass and finally my work out on the track. These shoes certainly work best on an athletics track where the foam complements the track surface.
Josh: The shoe surprised me. First impression holding the shoes and then walking around in them was that they feel soft — like super soft. I was told they were designed to be used in workouts but I was a little dubious. I started to run and they felt great. Comfy and soft on the foot, but they didn’t feel ’slow’. As I moved into some faster work I noticed a change. The shoes felt snappy, like the foam had a high energy return that felt fun and fast. I’m not sure what it was, but I felt a little more connected to the road. Might have been the softness of the foam, but unlike running in other shoes I have in my rotation, it didn’t feel like I had this thick barrier between me and the surface.
This is where the magic comes in for New Balance. You can read 50 reviews online, watch YouTube videos, and just chat to people who have worn the Rebel and they will almost all say the same thing - the shoe feels so soft when you put it on that you don't believe it can offer you anything at speed. But once you hit pace the shoe comes to life and delivers a really poppy ride. For a shoe that doesn't have any sort of plate, it offers plate-like responsiveness. Magic.
"I liked the colour combination of the female shoe, hopefully the slightly darker orange means they don’t become too dirty over time. The light and reactive feel under foot and immediate comfort when first wearing them is a big tick from me."
Now, how would you use the shoe in your rotation? What need does it meet, or what void does the shoe fill. Runners are starting to understand more about specificity and having the right shoe for the right job, not just wearing your fastest shoes everytime you leave the house.
Liam: I am most likely to use it for thresholds sessions on the road. I am also really looking forward to taking this on a long run where we get rolling through the back half. I feel like this shoe will be perfect for that.
Kat: I've thrown them in twice a week, on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The spongey sensation and curved outsole work best when giving it a nudge. The shoes are lightweight and can fuel a short track session, or a longer tempo run. I've so far worn them for the following sessions: 6 x 1KM reps, 10 x 1min on/off, and a Mona Fartlek.
Josh: I’d add these into my rotation for my tempo-threshold session where I am doing some longer reps with extended recoveries. They aren’t the fastest shoes I have, but they still have speed and a lot of comfort which help in feeling a little fresher post workout.
Eleanor: I’m looking forward to adding these shoes to a tempo style session or faster intervals on the track to maximise the reactive and fast feel.
So really, anything where you're pushing the pace but most probably a good tempo session on the roads. If you're someone who uses a track for faster work like km reps, they'll be great there too.
Finally, what did our reviewers like and dislike about the FuelCell Rebel V2? From any small wins or major issues, what captured their attention?
Let's start with the likes.
Liam: I really like how soft the shoes are whilst maintaining a responsive feel. This, coupled with their light construction make them an easy choice for threshold sessions where I am looking to get moving but don't want to beat up my legs. I also reckon the striped orange colourway is very nice.
Kat: Personally, I do not require a huge amount of heel support in my running, however the heel counter on the FuelCell Rebel v2 makes my ankles feel confident and locked down throughout tempo and session days. Big fan.
Eleanor: I liked the colour combination of the female shoe, hopefully the slightly darker orange means they don’t become too dirty over time. The light and reactive feel under foot and immediate comfort when first wearing them is a big tick from me.
Josh: This shoe is super light. I don’t weigh shoes or anything, but when I pulled them out of the box I was surprised by how light they felt and had the same sensation each time I put them on my feet. The comfort, as previously mentioned is high. Soft, durable materials on the inside. A really soft, squishy base feels like walking on clouds, but feels snappy and fun once you start to move. The lenticular logo is a real nice touch. The upper mesh allows for water to exit the shoe quite well which is a tick as a triathlete, as your shoes tend to get flooded during aid stations in warm races.
(Editor's Note: Runners - I'm sorry for all the references to triathlon things in this review.)
Now, any dislikes or things our reviewers weren't feeling?
Liam: I am a bit concerned about how quickly I am wearing through the outer sole, and there doesn't look like a lot of rubber to protect the midsole. The lack of rubber obviously plays a role in keeping the shoes light, but I am worried that it will stop me putting as many kms into the shoes as I would like.
Kat: My style of running involves a fore-foot strike over heal. Putting on the shoes, the stack height feels really noticeable to me. My heels felt elevated which was strange at times but only noticeable when walking.
Josh: The orange/white colour way doesn’t really do it for me, but I think the shoe, with the right colours, has the potential to look great. No real dislikes from a performance stand point. It's a great shoe that I’ve enjoyed running in.
Eleanor: The support on the heel is a bit intense at times and pushes me to land more on the back of the shoe. My concern is that they could wear out quite easily however, I am looking forward to putting them to the test.
So there you have it - an unedited review of the New Balance FuelCell Rebel V2 from 4 Melbourne runners.
The feedback from the team certainly stacks up with what most reviewers are saying. If you want to learn even more about the shoe I suggest this video review from PACE Athletic, or this article from Believe in the Run.
It goes without saying that none of our reviewers were paid for this review or asked to say certain things about the shoes, and their feedback has been published without editing (except for clarity).
If you're vibing the Rebel, you can grab it now from New Balance or your local running retailer.