Reviewed: New Balance FuelCell SuperComp Elite v4

Editor's Note: We're happy to welcome Boots, AKA FF Boots on the forum, to our writing team. Boots co-owns, with his wife Ellen, Fleet Feet Rochester's three stores in upstate New York and the event company YellowJacket Racing.

First, before diving into the specifics of this shoe, I wanted to go through a bit of my history and philosophy when it comes to testing.

As the shoe buyer for my stores, I’ve been evaluating and testing shoes for decades now and also consult with brands on future product development. I’m known for being bluntly honest with brands, which is seen as a pro and a con depending on what the brand was hoping to hear.

In terms of fitting experience, I’ve personally fit everyone from young kids and senior citizens to professional athletes across numerous sports as well as Olympic Gold Medalists.

I also have a long history with launching new brands and products. My stores were one of the earliest HOKA dealers in the US, and the same with On Running. I’ve worked closely with Karhu and Diadora on their revitalization in to the marketplace. Essentially, I like new stuff and evolving the industry.

When it comes down to it, my “philosophy” when it comes to testing and evaluating product is as follows:

1. I test through the eyes of the intended customer, and NOT my personal preferences.
2. I take in to account the direction I may know a brand is headed with their product and where the current product falls within that journey.
3. I don’t adhere to going longer to make a shoe fit a wider foot, just get a shoe that fits correctly, both length and width.
4. The boring stuff is just as important as the cool flashy new toys. The majority of runners are wearing good, solid daily trainers, and not carbon plated, super foam shoes.
5. Shoe weight is not at the top of the list for me. How a shoe works with a person’s biomechanics is most important. An extra ounce for a shoe that might improve biomechanics, efficiency and power is worth it.

Now, with that. The shoe in question. Whether you call them super shoes, cheater shoes, KISS army platform racers, whatever you want; they are here to stay and only getting better (and faster).

What makes super shoes "super" -- is it the Foam or is it the carbon plate? The answer is yes. The trend for high stack height racers was made possible by the use of super lightweight yet highly responsive foams for the midsole. This allowed for an increase in shock absorption that helps the legs and also for the shoe to “give back” more of the energy that is put into it with each foot strike. Add in a carbon plate that 1, helps stabilize all that tall squishy foam and 2, propels the foot through its gait cycle faster and presto, you have a really fast shoe.

With the introduction of version 4, New Balance has taken a big step up in performance with the SuperComp (hereafter, shortened to “SC”) Elite. The 100% PEBA midsole increases energy return and makes for a really nice, soft ride. The re-designed carbon plate with energy arc (where the plate and the void in the midsole are designed to work together to increase energy return) makes for an even faster transition to toe off.

I don’t have a ton of miles on mine yet but one thing I’ve always liked about the SC Elite is while being very fast it is also fairly stable, which is good for those not running 2:10 marathon pace. The wide platform underfoot gives a decent amount of support for more mortal paces, including those of us that utilize occasional walk breaks.

The upper on v4 is one of the more “trainer” like uppers of all super shoes. By that I mean it’s not overly tight or narrow and should be rather accommodating for a wide range of foot shapes. One downside that is triathlon specific is that the tongue of the shoe does not come up very high, so there’s nothing to easily grab in transition and get your foot into the shoe. If this is an issue for you, any local shoe repair store should be able to add pull tabs to the tongue (and heel if you prefer) or you could just cut the entire tongue off.

I often like to wear a low-profile aftermarket insert such as a Superfeet Dynamic or Currex RunPro and the stock insole on the v4 is easily removable making this possible. Note, for triathlon I suggest adding extra glue under the insole so it doesn’t move during transition.

For the wide foot fam, SC Elite v4 comes in a wide option for both men and women. That’s a big deal -- there are very few other shoes in this category that come in widths -- and sticks to the NB legacy of width options in abundance.

Overall, I find the ride soft but not overly squishy with nice rebound/energy return and I have had no issues with the fit of the upper. For those that some super shoes feel unstable underfoot the New Balance SC Elite v4 could be a very good option with its wider platform underfoot offering a nice base of support.

New Balance FuelCell SuperComp Elite v4
Price: $250.00

Published Specifications:
Mens: 8.4 oz (237g)**
Womens: 6.6 oz (188g)
Stack: 40mm/36mm
Drop: 4mm
Standard and wide width options available

**My 10.5 US sized pair weighed 9.2 oz (262g)