Shoe ReviewsSite Feature

New Balance FuelCell Propel Performance Review

What You Need To Know

  • Works well in middle to long run distances
  • FuelCell midsole is a step above Fresh Foam
  • The lowest price of the FuelCell line at $110
  • Upper trace fiber design is comparable to turbo boost arrows in Mario Kart
  • Can’t confirm you will accelerate like Princess Peach on Rainbow Road

Dave: New Balance is coming with the fire in 2019. Hot off the heels of what I can guarantee will be one of the best shoes of 2019 (FuelCell Rebel), FuelCell Propel (I know, these names get confusing) arrives as an everyday trainer option.

While Fresh Foam had its place in New Balance shoes (even in new models like the Beacon 2 and Vongo 4), it is now in the backseat. FuelCell has grabbed the wheel. It’s right up there with the Skechers Hyperburst midsole, an all-time favorite for me.

Featuring a 6mm drop, the midsole is chock full of “wide awake” cush that provides an absolutely killer amount of snap and smooth heel-to-toe transition. I think we are beginning to clearly see the direction of New Balance for 2019 and beyond. These cats are here to play.

Coming in at a decent 9.1oz/259g for my 9M, it may seem heavy to some, but the Propel feels light on the foot. Very light. The new textile sublimated mesh upper molds the foot extremely well, and while I’m not the biggest fan of bootie construction around the ankle and heel, it works on the Propel.

It’s honestly nothing fancy when you look at it, but it gets the job done. NDurance is placed on the outsole, which will–according to NB–provide some extra life to the shoe and provide added traction on your run terrain.

New Balance is marketing this shoe as a do-it-all trainer. Now let’s get into the filth and see if that claim comes out clean.

West Coast Meghan: I don’t know that I’m fully on board with the ‘more foam’/’different foam’ trend that the running shoe market appears to be on right now. It seems that every company has its own version of a ‘responsive and lightweight’ foam that is somehow going to set your runs on fire. A material that will allow your feet to feel more cushioned while also providing an energy return to power those faster-paced workouts.

With the name ‘Propel’ and New Balance’s claim that the FuelCell technology will “deliver the highest energy return… to help you feel faster,” I had high hopes that this shoe was going to feel like a game changer.

The Good

Dave: It does it all training-day wise. And by training, I am talking about your everyday aerobic mileage days. But where it really shines is handling the 9-14 mile medium long run in a marathon block, even when a few of those miles may begin to roll.

The more I ran in the shoe, the more I kept telling myself this shoe feels better the longer you go. Don’t expect a PR on a 6-mile easy day, but really look forward to 10+. It could even be a great option for a Fartlek shoe if you threw some longer pickups into a M/L or long run. I can see Propel shining at marathon pace, too.

Biomechanics: Propel gives me that perfect forward lean without the use of a carbon plate like the HOKA Carbon X. Every mile feels effortless— I get great knee lift and drive and everything just flows.

Wanna know if a shoe works for you or not? Read that last paragraph. Everything just flows. You don’t even know something is on your foot!

It’s funny, we all know that if you run more you’re going to become a better runner. We know your gait will become stronger and we know you’ll run more smoothly. But when we add the shoes in today’s run world to our finely tuned machines, we can really see the difference.

Propel is that difference.

West Coast Meghan: The FuelCell Propel is, in my opinion, a good-looking shoe. The mesh upper, while not overwhelming with color variations, has a certain amount of flash that I think comes from the stitching on the side. In all honesty, it reminds me of the ‘turbo boost’ sections in the Mario Kart arcade game. Does anyone else see this?! You can’t unsee it now. Simply put, it’s an effective use of stitching to denote speed.

While I never felt “propelled” throughout my runs, these shoes, at easier paces, were definitely comfortable. Nothing noteworthy per se. That, however, sometimes makes for a worthwhile shoe. Something that can simply blend into your foot as you tick through the miles.

Shop New Balance FuelCell

 

The Bad

Dave: This shoe is 95% there for me. I’m not gonna lie, I’m struggling a tad with the width and the lack of a higher eyelet near the ankle. I’m actually adding an extra eyelet myself to get that lockdown I need.

So, if you have a narrow foot you may want to try and wear a thicker sock, or just add an eyelet. Average or wide feet runners (unfortunately Jarrett couldn’t review because NB didn’t have test models in wide) with a bit more ankle than me will find the last, toe box, and overall volume of Propel to be pretty dang perfect.

Other than those issues–which by the way aren’t really affecting me too much, I’m just picky–Propel is one damn fine shoe!

West Coast Meghan: Honestly, I found the FuelCell Propel to be bulky on my feet. Aside from looking aesthetically bigger than my other shoes (due to the splayed nature of the foam midsole), the fit in the forefoot was too roomy. More forefoot space isn’t always a disadvantage for a shoe, but my foot drifted around the inside of the Propel. At faster paces, this quickly led to blisters under my big toes as I tried to find traction within the shoe. Unfortunately, tying the laces tighter didn’t remediate the issue.

Again, at faster paces, blisters formed on my Achilles due to the high heel tab. I’ve seen several shoes with this design lately and I’m not sure of the benefits. I suppose if I wore ankle-height or crew socks I wouldn’t have as much of an issue. Unfortunately, before writing this review, I’ve only worn these shoes with low-cut socks.

Lastly, the actual feel of the shoe on the run was just ‘meh’. There’s nothing that moves me to swap in the FuelCell Propel, replacing one of my tried and true trainers.

Shop New Balance FuelCell

 

New Balance FuelCell Propel Conclusion

Dave: It’s a beaut, Clark. One of the best shoes produced by New Balance in the last 15 years. Propel has the right tooling, right durometer and right balance at most speeds to be a force in the daily trainer game for many years to come.

The platform has been built. Now just imagine what Propel 2 and beyond can do with even more feedback from the consumer. New Balance is listening to its runners. You don’t see that too much anymore, unfortunately.

Recommended for any runner looking to have a little bit of fun in training. Aggressive enough for those ballers going 100+ a week, and gentle enough, with good aesthetics for that beginning runner or runner with a bit of rough biomechanics. Propel will help.

Snag yo’self a pair!

West Coast Meghan: ‘Meh’ is really my overall reaction to the FuelCell Propel. While I love to sport a good-looking shoe, I think I’d rather just wear these for athleisure rather than out on a run.

The blister issues, at faster paces, are definitely a show-stopper. I prefer a shoe to be versatile, allowing the runner to wear it for easy or speed days. Relegating this to simply an ‘easy day’ shoe seems like a waste and it’s definitely not what it was designed for.

However, if you find yourself on Dave’s side of the fence, you can pick this up in the near future at Running Warehouse.

Shop New Balance FuelCell

 

Dave Ames is the Owner and Founder of Ame For It Run Coaching, a worldwide run coaching service working with runners of all abilities one-on-one to help them achieve their goals and dreams. He currently coaches Believe in the Run founder, Thomas. Dave is originally from Central New York, worked and coached in the running mecca of Boston, Mass., and now lives with his beautiful wife, Gregoria in Long Beach, Calif.

Meghan has been an avid runner since the age of 4. She loathes the easy aerobic run and would rather destroy her lungs (and legs) by running fast in circles. Alas, not every day can be a speed day for an endurance athlete.

8 Comments

  1. Hi Thomas,
    A mixed opinion on the propel between Dave and Meghan. Just wondering what your opinion is? – Not sure should I try it or not. What are your thoughts on the Propel – similar to Dave’s or Meghan’, Does it compare well with Nike epic react, Hoka Rincon etc. Thanks
    Steve

  2. How do these fit? I’ve just read a review that says ‘fits small’ but wasn’t sure if this meant I needed to order a bigger or smaller size than normal 🤦‍♀️

  3. I had the same issues as Meghan with the achilles and blisters. It isn’t talked about as much but the new high heel thing isn’t working for me in NB (bummer as I love many of their shoes!). It gave me blisters and rubbing in both Beacon II and the Propel. Wide forefoot, narrow heel. It just comes up to high for me (I am 5’1″ so maybe this is a height issue?). I got a 7.5 Wide. Both Beacon II and Propel ended up in donation bin sadly. I badly want to try the 1080V10 but that heel – ugh!

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