New Balance FuelCell Rebel v4 Review

New Balance FuelCell Rebel v4 Introduction

In a world where plated speed trainers are incredibly popular and have become the norm to do speedwork in, New Balance’s Rebel is an unplated bestseller that continues to hold its own. This lightweight trainer is good value for money, comfortable and easy to get hold of.

My favourite version of the Rebel was the second. It was quirky, it was fast and it was a very unique speed trainer at the time with its lateral midsole flare.

When I reviewed the Rebel v3 last year, I felt that it had lost some character because it no longer felt like an exciting, fast speed trainer. Instead, it felt like a cushioned daily trainer. It didn’t have the fun factor that its predecessor had. The Rebel is crafted to be light and fast, as it says on the New Balance website.

The increase in softness of the FuelCell midsole of the Rebel v3 made it plusher and less responsive than the Rebel v2. I only enjoyed it for easy-paced runs, nothing faster.

FuelCell has historically been a nitrogen-infused blend of EVA and TPU. This year’s FuelCell gets a major upgrade. The FuelCell in the SC Elite v4 is 100% PEBA while the FuelCell in the Rebel v4 is a PEBA blend. PEBA is unmatched when it comes to power to weight ratio.

This year’s Rebel v4 bears a striking resemblance to the SuperComp Elite v4. There’s even a colourway which is the exact same for both New Balance shoes.

This is a strategy that Saucony employs with their Endorphin Pro/Speed and has worked really well in making the Speed more popular.

The Rebel v4 weighs 212 g (7.5 oz), a hair heavier than v3 which was 210 g (7.4 oz). It still has a 6 mm drop but has unfortunately gone up in price by $10.

New Balance FuelCell Rebel v4 First Impressions

My first run was an easy 15 kilometres and I was surprised by how much the ride had improved. It felt firmer and it felt faster thanks to the new midsole foam. The cushioning felt more substantial and there was less ground feel than its predecessor.

It reminded me of the SuperComp Elite v4 most however the Rebel v4 felt stripped down with more natural transitions. Even though my legs were sore from the gym workout the day before, I found that my average pace was faster than normal for an easy run.

I was debating whether to go up a half size like I did for v3 but I’m glad I didn’t because the fit was very accommodating. It was an impressive first run.

New Balance FuelCell Rebel v4 Upper

The Rebel v4 has a thin, racing-upper which is very similar to the SuperComp Elite v4. The mesh is thin and highly breathable while there is minimal padding in order to keep the weight low.

It has a very roomy upper, especially in the midfoot and forefoot so it feels a bit sloppy if you have a narrow foot. I still recommend going true to size- the length would be too short if you go down a half size from your usual. It works the best for me with thick socks.

The tongue slides down a bit during runs because of how thin it is but it’s not a big issue. Foot lockdown is great although I do have to use a runner’s knot and cinch it quite tightly. Overall, the upper fit is a bit baggy and it can definitely be improved.

New Balance FuelCell Rebel v4 Sole Unit

The Rebel v4 is back in a big way. It feels like how I remember version 2 felt. The ride is engaging, smooth, and most importantly, it feels fast. This is one of those fun trainers that I look forward to running in every time.

It feels the best when you’re doing paces faster than easy ones. Steady runs and tempo runs are the most enjoyable. This is a trainer that wants you to pick up the pace. I found myself subconsciously increasing my pace during easy runs because of how energetic it is.

My favourite thing about it is how nimble and agile it feels on my feet. The lightweight build is a breath of fresh air compared to maximalist, plated speed trainers which are all over 9 oz. Even though the Rebel doesn’t have a plate in it, it still feels fast due to its lively PEBA/EVA blend midsole.

I find the Rebel v4 better for medium and long runs (above 15 kilometres) than its predecessor. The midsole of v3 compressed too during footstrikes so it had a high level of ground feel. Version 4 absorbs shock better and has more cushioning depth.

With no stiffening device in its midsole, it has a very flexible, soft forefoot which requires your calves, ankles and feet to work a bit harder. This is why there are better options for super long runs because the Rebel v4 doesn’t have an efficient, energy-saving forefoot rocker.

The Rebel v4 has generous rubber coverage on its outsole so durability is fantastic. The rubber has a triangular pattern on it to enhance traction and it works well, even when it rains.

My biggest concern is how long its midsole will retain its lively bounce. So far, the ride is as energetic as my first run in it. With the midsole being so soft, it can easily be punctured by sharp objects in the road. My pair has a small piece of glass which went deep into the foam.

New Balance FuelCell Rebel v4 Conclusions

The ride of the Rebel v4 is a step ahead of other non-plated trainers. Its midsole foam feels like something that you’d find in a super shoe: lightweight, plush with good energy return.

Version 4 is an excellent update. It feels more like a Rebel than version 3 did because it’s more speed oriented. It’s a lot easier to pick up the pace in the Rebel v4. Version 4 is my favourite version to date and I’d definitely buy it again.

The main thing I don’t like about the Rebel v4 is its upper which is too voluminous. There’s too much width in the midfoot and forefoot. The foam is also buttery soft so it’s very prone to punctures.

At only $140, it represents outstanding value. You’re getting a PEBA blend midsole in a trainer which is very rare. It’s not 100% the same foam as in the SuperComp Elite v4 but it feels similar.

Compared to other lightweight, unplated speed trainers like the Hoka Mach 6, Saucony Kinvara 14 and Brooks Hyperion, the Rebel v4 feels a lot more advanced: its midsole feels less dense, it feels more responsive and it just feels more magical.

The Rebel v4 has raised the bar for non-plated speed trainers.

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