New Balance FuelCell SuperComp Elite v4 Introduction
There’s no super shoe series which has undergone more drastic changes over the years than the SuperComp Elite.
The first 3 versions all had very different designs, different rides and different levels of comfort. You get the feeling that New Balance is still trying to find the winning formula for their flagship long-distance racer.
One thing that’s been consistent in all 3 versions is the FuelCell midsole, a super soft blend of nitrogen-injected TPU and EVA. While being squishy and plush, it lacked the explosive energy return of a ZoomX or a Lightstrike Pro.
I liked the midsole of last year’s SC Elite v3 but I hated its sloppy upper. The collar poked into my ankles and I couldn’t get a good lockdown because of its bootie construction upper. I didn’t think it was as fast as other super shoes and I never raced in it.
This year’s SC Elite is the most significant update because we get a new generation of FuelCell in its midsole. The FuelCell in the SC Elite v4 is 100% PEBA. Nike, Saucony, Hoka and even Decathlon are already using PEBA foam in their racers.
The SC Elite v4 weighs 8.4 oz (237 g), which is 0.5 oz (19 g) heavier than version 3. It’s 40 mm in the heel, 36 mm in the forefoot, exactly the same as v3. It also maintains its $250, the standard flagship super shoe price.
New Balance FuelCell SuperComp Elite v4 First Impressions
My first run in the SC Elite v4 was a 20 kilometre, steady-paced run on the car-free Sunday city loop. I was immediately impressed with the new, improved upper which felt super comfortable and very secure.
The ride to me still felt very soft, however it felt firmer than previous versions of the SC Elite. I was able to hold a steady pace easily and transitions felt very smooth.
It didn’t feel like a very aggressive ride though and the shoe that it reminded me of most was the Endorphin Pro 4.
The SC Elite v4 felt a little bit chunkier with more cushioning while the Pro 4 felt more nimble. It was a fun first run but it didn’t blow me away.
New Balance FuelCell SuperComp Elite v4 Upper
The change from a bootie construction to a traditional design is the change that I wanted most desperately so I was relieved to find out that New Balance had done so.
The new upper material resembles the upper of the Rebel v3. It’s also rough to the touch and it doesn’t stretch but it’s thinner and more breathable.
The short, flat tongue is not gusseted but it does have a loop in the middle of it for the laces to go through. Even with the loop, I experienced a small amount of downward tongue slide though but it doesn’t bother me.
Heel lockdown is excellent although I do have to use a runner’s knot. Luckily there are double first row eyelets provider, unlike the previous version.
The fit for me is true to size and very accommodating, especially in the forefoot so this is a racer I would recommend to wide-footed runners.
New Balance FuelCell SuperComp Elite v4 Sole Unit
The SC Elite v4 feels faster than version 3 and even though both versions have the same stack heights, v4 feels taller. With each footstrike, your feet sink down into the midsole less which allows for faster turnover.
The uber bouncy sensation has been toned down a bit because the midsole void underneath is shorter and doesn’t extend into the forefoot like in v3. I don’t mind this change but this is where some of the weight increase comes from.
I can’t feel the plate in the SC Elite v4 and in this version, it’s been made thinner. This is good if you want a mellow racer which is easy on your calves, ankles and feet. This is not good if you want an aggressive, rigid, snappier racer which makes it feel like it’s throwing you forward. I fall into the second group.
The SC Elite v4 doesn’t feel as fast as the top tier racers for two reasons: its cushioning is too soft and its forefoot rocker is not prominent enough.
The new FuelCell foam isn’t extremely different to the non-PEBA FuelCell. It’s a little bit firmer and returns a bit more energy but overall, it’s still very similar in ride and feels super soft underfoot. I definitely prefer it to the old version but it needs to be even fimer. A firmer midsole will allow you to increase your turnover easier.
When I’m toeing off, I don’t feel the forward tipping sensation- when I lean forward and try to engage the rocker, it doesn’t feel as responsive as other, more aggressive super shoes. This has to do with the plate rigidity and its shape which is too flat.
To me, the SC Elite v4 feels like a long-distance cruiser rather than a speedy racer. This is because of its substantial 8.4 oz weight. It needs to be lighter and more aggressive to differentiate it from its training counterpart, the SC Trainer v2.
For me, the sweet spots for the SC Elite v4 are marathon pace and steady pace. For anything faster, it’s a bit too heavy and too soft, however, if you’re a slower runner, I think it will be fine for faster workouts and short-distance races.
My favourite thing about the new version is that outsole durability is much better. There’s more rubber coverage and the outsole is flatter so wear is distributed more evenly. The new midsole foam also holds up much better because it’s firmer so it doesn’t get scraped by the road.
When it comes to traction, I found it decent on dry roads. I didn’t get a chance to test it on wet surfaces but I don’t think it will be a big issue because the outsole rubber has a raised triangular pattern to help it grip onto the road.
New Balance FuelCell SuperComp Elite v4 Conclusions
The SuperComp Elite v4 is pure joy to run in: it’s highly cushioned, energetic, stable and it’s durable.
But when it comes to racing, I won’t be picking it.
It doesn’t have the punch or the aggression of the top-tier racers and I don’t think that New Balance has found their super shoe winning formula yet.
The SC Elite v4 will definitely stay in my rotation for long runs, and long tempo runs. I like the new upper, midsole and outsole and it has no major flaws.
Version 4 is an upgrade over version 3. It has a much more comfortable upper and a more robust build. I like the new midsole foam more than the previous one and I think New Balance is on the right track, however, they need to find a way to get it back under 8 oz, to firm up the foam even more and to make the forefoot rocker more prominent.
If you’re aiming to run a marathon in 3 hours 30 or slower, the SC Elite v4 is a great option but for anything faster, there are better options (for the same price or cheaper) which offer more speed assistance.