Is this your new marathon racer? If you're lucky
Carbon race shoes have become the must-have for anyone trying to crush PR’s on the road. There was once a time, back in early 2017, when we didn’t know or care about carbon shoes - now runners of all abilities have become fiends for them - running shoes are becoming hype sneakers, selling out instantly when they drop at retail.
For the brands, their top tier carbon race shoe has become something of a beacon for the rest of their brand. There's a whole segment of the market who will judge a brand solely on how serious their racing shoe is.
We know the squad at New Balance have been making massive leaps over the last couple of years with their FuelCell line up - fast training shoes like the Prism and the TC were incredibly popular, and their first carbon racer, the RC Elite, was another one that was almost impossible to buy thanks to customer demand.
Well the good news is that New Balance are back with the RC Elite 2. It’s got more foam (taking advantage of the World Athletics rules on stack height), and it has attracted a huge amount of attention already (despite not being available yet). The bad news? If it’s as good as people are saying it is, it’s going to be mighty hard to buy.
We spent some time with the RC Elite 2, and in the below we’re going to break down everything we know about it, as well as get some first hand thoughts from elite marathoner Ellie Pashley - who has been training and racing in the RC Elite 2 since February.
Let’s start with the midsole, because that’s where all the magic is found. The foam is New Balance’s FuelCell foam - it’s their lightweight, responsive foam used in their race shoes (as opposed to Fresh Foam, which is a highly cushioned foam used in daily trainers like the 1080). It’s the same foam as they use in the Rebel V2, which we reviewed recently (check that out here), with all of our reviewers commenting on the soft feel yet poppy responsiveness of the foam.
As mentioned in the intro, the big difference in the midsole between the RC Elite and the RC Elite 2 is the stack height - the new version sits taller, packing in more foam and ultimately extending the lever. The Elite 2 has a stack height of 39mm in the heel and 31mm in the toe - up from 32/22 in the Elite 1. All that foam is going to mean the RC Elite 2 is better equipped than its predecessor to go the marathon distance - it's going to provide more comfort underfoot and leave your legs feeling fresher.
Of course, the golden ticket wrapped inside the FuelCell midsole is the carbon plate. It wouldn’t be a super shoe or a serious marathon race option without one. What the higher stack midsole also does is give New Balance extra room for their carbon plate - this allows them to increase the curve on the plate, making it more aggressive and ultimately more responsive.
"The midsole feels amazing. It’s very cushioned and rockered (much more so than the V1). Despite the soft, thick midsole, the foam still feels very responsive, and the high stack helps protect your legs over the longer distances."
So if we summarize the changes in the midsole from the RC Elite 1 to the RC Elite 2 - higher stack is going to increase comfort and save your legs, and the carbon plate also gets re-shaped to be a little more aggressive, which will help with propulsion. Of course, more foam = more weight, but it’s a negligible difference. More height will also impact the stability on tight corners, but that’s kind of a known trade off in this category and not something that has really caused a lot of issues - despite initial fears that higher stack and less stability would see athletes spinning out like Mario Kart, it just hasn’t happened.
The outsole of the RC Elite 2 is worth talking about because of the changes from the Elite 1. Many of you would have seen the raised triangle rubber pattern on the outsole of the Elite 1 - it was certainly distinctive.
New Balance have gone away from that in the RC Elite 2 to a more traditional outsole - there’s enough rubber on the forefoot to make this shoe as durable as any other carbon racer, and a donut cut out in the midfoot so you can see the plate (and also to shave some weight, no doubt).
There’s nothing to suggest the grip in wet conditions would be any issue - all in all we’ve got ourselves a pretty traditional outsole here. Actually the cool thing about the outsole is the colour - on the purple colour we shot for launch, the right shoe has a pink rubber outsole and the left has an orange. It looks sweet, I like it.
Up top is another area where the RC Elite 2 shines. This upper is as close as we’ve come to seeing a traditional upper on a carbon racer - while most brands sacrifice the quality of their upper to save some weight (which results in a range of comfort issues, from the mildly annoying to lost toenails), that’s not the case here. We’ve got a knit upper that’s super breathable (the ventilation is visible on the toebox) but still provides the lockdown and comfort that means we’re not wasting time thinking about...uppers.
"The upper is really good. I raced in them straight out of the box at Run The Tan and have had no issues with blistering or pressure areas. Ventilation is good, upper is firm enough to hold your foot in a good position, with enough flexibility to be comfortable."
The other thing to note is the fit - the toebox area of the RC Elite 2 has been opened up from the Elite 1, meaning those of you with a wider foot might have finally found an accommodating option for race day. If you don’t have a wide foot, the compressive nature of the knit should mean you still get the lockdown you need - i.e. they’re not going to feel sloppy.
Who is it for?
This shoe is for anyone who is looking for a race day shoe - from 10k to the marathon, this is going to be a great option on the roads. You’ll appreciate the extra foam and improved ride in the RC Elite 2, and if you’ve ever had issues with non-traditional uppers - you shouldn’t have comfort issues here.
We’re not doing a comprehensive comparison of every carbon shoe on the market but what I would say is - at practically the very limit of the stack height rules (39mm of 40mm max allowable) and with a proven foam (have y’all ever worn the FuelCell Rebel V2?!) and a more aggressive carbon plate, the RC Elite 2 has all the ingredients to be among the most competitive marathon shoes we’ve ever seen. But let's get a final check in with Ellie and see what she thinks.
"I think it's definitely a shoe for the half and full marathoners. Fast, comfortable and a shoe you want for when you’re legs get tired and you need to get some propulsion back from the shoe with each foot strike."
If you want to cop the RC Elite 2, keep your eyes locked on your favourite local running retailer in the lead up to the release on May 20, and also keep a browser tab open to newbalance.com.au. NZ runners should be able to cop the shoes in early June.