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New Balance FuelCell Rebel V2 Performance Review

What You Need To Know

  • Weighs 7.3 oz. (210 g) for a US M9.0/ oz. ( g) for a US W
  • Softer, yet livelier version of FuelCell midsole; in our opinion, the best one yet
  • Overhauled upper is a thing of beauty
  • Releases 4/15 for $130
  • I mean, do we already have the 2021 Shoe of the Year?

BEN: The original version of the New Balance FuelCell Rebel was one of the first mainstream offerings from the FuelCell lineup, and it was a hit, on par with David Bowie’s single of the same name. Since then, New Balance has added many different FuelCell shoes, covering the entire range from daily trainer, to racer, to stability shoe. The first version came out summer 2019, so it’s time for Rebel to get an update!

The original Rebel was 7.2 oz. with a 6 mm drop (24 heel/18 toe), while the new version gains 2 mm of stack height all around while the weight and drop remains unchanged. The distinctive, flared lateral edge remains, but it’s toned down a bit.

The upper is a significant update. Originally a full knit bootie with integrated tongue and laces that ran through threaded loops. Now it’s an engineered mesh with a padded and structured heel cup. The upper loses the full bootie and goes to a standard split opening with separate tongue. Lacing is offset to the medial side (points towards the big toe).

One notable aspect of the FuelCell product line is that the foam compound may all be FuelCell, but the formulation varies, and it results in a varying underfoot feel. I find some are far less exciting than others, fortunately this is the most lively of the bunch. It’s very soft and bouncy and feels like the top of the line racer – the RC Elite.

So, the upper is completely new, the midsole (while still FuelCell) is thicker and a tweaked compound, but what about the outsole? Yeah, it’s new too. Gone is the clear, and hard, crystal rubber outsole. Now there are multiple patches of different color and density of rubbers. The majority of the coverage is a softer and grippier version, and the high wear heel and edge sections are a more durable NDURANCE rubber compound. Looks great and works great too.

DAVE: I’ll sit this one out and let someone else take the reins for once. I’m also on vacay.

NICK: Look, I’m just the recently-retired editorial intern, and I think Ben covered all the points, so let’s get on with the review.

THOMAS: Talk to me long enough and I will show you the one-off custom pair of Rebels with a Vazee Pace upper that our friends at New Balance sent our way. I didn’t think that combination could get any better, but then came the Rebel V2. Let me tell you: the New Balance team smacked this shoe over the moon. This isn’t just a great update, the New Balance Rebel 2 is an early entry into the Hall of Fame, sharing the pedestal with shoes like the Nike Lunar Epic high, the Nike Streak 6, Saucony Kinvara 1, and the original Newton Distance.

The Good

BEN: I’m gonna say it right out of the gate: New Balance knocked it out of the park with this update. Which is saying something, because a lot of people really loved the original. There’s always a high risk when making big changes, but I think they got everything right, which rarely happens in the running shoe world.

For me the original Rebel was good, but not great. Solid fit, good bounce, but didn’t stand out to me. It was pretty soft, but lacked the cushion for longer runs, and even felt like a challenge to use as a daily trainer. The bootie upper was a bit lacking in lockdown and the outsole could get slick in wet conditions.

The V2 comes in and checks all those boxes for me. Right from the first step in I was impressed. The fit is absolutely spot on and true to size. The last feels very similar to the TC and RC Elite with sizing a nice “Goldilocks” between the two (I found the TC a little roomy, and the RC a little snug). For me the normal tongue is a huge improvement over the Rebel V1 bootie. Easy to lace up and have it feel perfectly locked down with no overly tight spots or pressure points.

The midsole is where this really shines. It’s just the right balance of soft, responsive, and flexible. The FuelCell foam looks and feels just like the RC Elite (but it’s a slightly lower stack height and no plate). Compared to the original Rebel it’s a slightly higher stack height and this helps it to feel a bit more cushioned. It feels really soft on step in and walking around, and the softness is still there on the run, but it’s not overly mushy. The shoe still loves going fast, but I find it’s more capable to do it all. Easy days, tempo runs, intervals, recovery, long runs, whatever is on the schedule, this shoe can do it.

 

DAVE: Despite the higher stack height and softer durometer of this FuelCell version, the Rebel V2 feels more snappy and alive underfoot for me than version 1. For me, the v2 is a big-time option for more weekly mileage, and a better option for the 12-15 range in training with some Fartlek, or paced time segments within.

I have classic “speed day” shoes, racers and I have daily trainers. The more and more we see our footwear get lighter, I’m not sure I always think if it is light, I’ll race in it or hit the track in it. Over the past few years, I’ve really categorized at least 75% of my footwear as “a fun, lightweight, daily trainer.” And that is exactly what the V2 is to me. It has all the tools to do a Fartlek or a Tempo if you want. But for me, if you like to cruise, feel effortless underfoot, but still be in “aerobic control”, this is an outstanding option. It is that smooth.

Colorway: I really don’t pay too much attention to the colorways on shoes we test. I’m pretty old school. If it runs it runs. Unless it’s a hideous color, then I’ll voice. But this creamsicle colorway is dope! Keep crankin’ out retro colorways, NB! This screams Tampa Bay Buccaneers from Tecmo Bowl on Nintendo. One of the greatest sports games ever created, mind you.

NICK: New Balance improved upon an elite shoe (damn right I said it) in the original FuelCell Rebel, most prominently on top. The engineered mesh upper is a complete 180 from the knit bootie construction of the last iteration. A stark contrast, I liked the knit of the v1. But this mesh is simpler and flat out better.

The v2 is more breathable and probably more durable than the original. A short, perforated tongue is a great touch and vast improvement over last year’s model. The heel collar has just enough padding to add comfort without being intrusive. Even the lacing system is upgraded, thanks in part to the amount of lace provided. The v1 had you double and triple tying to get rid of giant overhanging loops. This shoe is much simpler and flat out better.

Just like the v1, the Rebel v2 sports my favorite midsole in the game in FuelCell. Out of the box, this version feels just a tad softer which makes the v2 an even more versatile shoe for medium-long runs. The FuelCell is super responsive, giving the shoe a snappy, fun ride that feels great everywhere from tempo day to a long run Saturday.

The outsole is improved too. The new strategically placed NDURANCE rubber provides similar – if not better – traction with more flex for a smoother transition.

To top it off, this is a badass looking shoe. The first was slick, but the Rebel v2 is a straight-up banger with asymmetrical color blocking and bold colors. Rarely do men’s sizes get the better colorways for running shoes, but this is one of those times. I love the yellow with white stripes and the little pops of red and blue. I dig the ‘N’ wrapping over the upper, and the little “New Balance/FuelCell” hologram jewel on the lateral midsole is a great touch. The Rebel v2 is easily the sharpest looking runner New Balance has released in a while.

One more thing: New Balance is absolutely SKUNKED with the $130 price point. This is easily a $160 shoe. Bonus points for an incredible value.

new balance rebel v2 - women medial

THOMAS: My colleagues have covered the tech, I am going to gush over the shoe subjectively. GODDAMN! These shoes are beautiful! The translucent upper is different than anything I have seen before with stitched reinforcements that look more like design aesthetics than functional reinforcements. The whole design of this shoe is so cohesive it should be sold in the MOMA gift shop. The color palette for the shoe is fresh and energetic. When you look down at your feet as you swoop through your stride, the off-center stripe flashes encouragement to pick up the pace.

Imma keep going, so T Swizz, take a seat. The upper fits so well that when you drop the hammer in a workout, it seamlessly moves with you in total comfort. I wasn’t a fan of the odd-shaped tongue at first, but by the time I am writing this, I have come to appreciate the way it fits into the form. The heel counter is gentle on the heel/Achilles while it holds the rear of your foot securely in.

This FuelCell iteration is softer than the previous version and works differently underfoot. While the original Rebel had a firmer midsole, it also had full cover crystal rubber covering the outsole. Between the rubber and the exaggerated flare on the lateral edge, the cushioning didn’t compress and expand underfoot while it rolled the runner’s foot towards a big toe take off. For some runners, this might explain why they felt the cushioning was softer and made their joints take on a little more stress.

The Rebel 2 has an outsole that we have become familiar with is some of the 2020 models we saw from New Balance. And this is where something interesting happens in the shoe. The softer foam compresses and you feel more of the road in a good way. The ground feel in this shoe firms up the ride, especially at faster paces.

This shoe shines as a lightweight, quick-turnover cruiser.

MEAGHAN: While I’m no Jarrett (our wide-footed / meme generating reviewer ) I do have a wide foot and I’ve always loved the fit of New Balance shoes for this reason. The Rebel 2 continues to accommodate my wide feet and the overall fit is just about perfect. I love the step-in feel and the shoes continue to shine out on the run. The FuelCell is soft and bouncy with a smooth transition from toe-off to landing. It’s just a simple, no-frills, delightful shoe. Not to mention, it’s crazy light. My W7.5 came in at 6.2oz.

Shop New Balance – Men Shop New Balance – Women

new balance rebel v2 - men medial

The Bad

BEN: Really not much at all here. I love the shoe. If I had to stretch for something, I’d say that white isn’t my preferred color for a running shoe (the contrasting “goldenrod” yellow looks great – just pair it with something that doesn’t immediately look dirty). 🙂

The only other caveat could be the lack of stability. This FuelCell is soft. The RC Elite is a shoe that will really pronate (same soft midsole, and more stack height). Since the Rebel V2 is a little lower to the ground it isn’t as noticeable, but if you’re an over-pronator I would be cautious. For me it was a complete non-issue and I really liked the soft and “natural” feel that it provided through the gait cycle. It’s a very flexible shoe that really allows your foot to do what it wants to naturally do.

DAVE: Personally I think New Balance got a little too “creative” with the overall last of this shoe, especially regarding the lacing. I actually like the lacing scheme on the V1 better. Just wish I felt more underfoot. Now I feel more underfoot, but it doesn’t “lock and load” in a racer type feel like the v1 did. I also need to insert another eyelet up top, because for my narrow foot, the “throat” of the lacing doesn’t stay locked down enough and gets loose over the course of a run. This is an area that could definitely be cleaned up in my mind on this shoe.

Dare I say throw the old upper on this version? But maybe add the current tongue and another eyelet for us skinny ankled folk? Like Ben, I’m stretching on this, but hey, it’s a subjective review, I can say what I want.

NICK: Nothing. This shoe might be p*rfect.

THOMAS: At first, I was going to critique the tongue, but I grew to appreciate it. I have reviewed thousands of shoes. This one has me grasping for a negative or something I would improve. I got nothing.

MEAGHAN: So this will probably be an unpopular opinion, but this shoe is a little too soft (maybe squishy is the better word) for me. I don’t like the ‘natural’ shoe feel. I don’t want to feel the ground. I’m a neutral runner and I don’t need stability, but I still crave a little more structure than the Rebel 2 wants to offer.

RC Elite vs. Rebel V2

New Balance FuelCell Rebel V2 Conclusion

BEN: The Rebel V2 is a winner. I have had a hard time trying to convince myself to run in anything but this shoe since it arrived. At the time of this writing, I have over 270 miles on mine! That’s almost unheard of for me (I rotate through a lot of shoes), and it really goes to show how much I love them. The fit is amazing, the foam is amazing, and the shoe can do it all. I really like to do my training in a non-plated shoe (I find it helps build strength in the right places – plus it makes race pace feel that much easier once I put on the race shoes), and the Rebel V2 is a knockout. It’s the trifecta of weight, response, and cushion (in the sans-plate shoe landscape). For me this is my current favorite for a no plate shoe and my go-to for training (but definitely fast enough to be raced in if that’s your preference).

DAVE: Solid. Reliable. Fun. FuelCell midsole, charged up a bit to provide a soft (yet also firm toe-off) midfoot forefoot landing, and an overall wonderful running experience. New Balance has the FuelCell midsole dialed in perfectly on this shoe and I would like to see it put onto other options across their line. Imagine an 880 that was a bit more fun?

Well done by New Balance!

NICK: The New Balance FuelCell Rebel v2 is an absolute steal at $130. It’s a perfectly cushioned and highly responsive stunner in a 7.4 oz package (men’s 9), perfect for all types of running. It’s also fun as shit to run in. Easily my favorite shoe ever.

THOMAS: I feel bad for the New Balance team, I know they are already working on the third version, maybe the fourth. I don’t know where they can go from here unless a new technology/foam comes out. This shoe is a banger. It is the best non-plated tempo/race shoe I have ever put on my feet.

MEAGHAN: The New Balance FuelCell Rebel v2 is a fun shoe. From aesthetics to performance, it’s got a lot of good stuff going on.

You can pick up the New Balance Rebel V2 for $130 at Running Warehouse (featuring free 2-day shipping and 90-day returns) by using the shop link below.

Shop New Balance – Men Shop New Balance – Women

Meaghan is the co-founder of Big Run Media and Believe in the Run. She’s often found tearing up the promenade on Baltimore’s waterfront early in the morning.

Ben Johnson( Contributor )

Ben is a true running shoe enthusiast (as seen by his Instagram feed) and data geek who loves looking through all of the data and stats related to running shoes and gear. His running continues to improve after his first marathon in June 2019 (2:52). Other hobbies include photography. Home is Minnesota.

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.

Nick currently lives in Tempe, AZ, where he studies Sports Journalism at Arizona State University. He loves waking up early to log miles before the desert heat blisters the day. He enjoys movies, listening to Jimi Hendrix, and rooting for his hometown Vegas Golden Knights.

11 Comments

  1. How does this shoe compare to the Saucony Endorphin Speed, and the Hoka One One Mach 4? I feel like those are the shoes that inspired similar reactions to this review. Could they all fit in a rotation together? Or would two of the three work together?

    1. What’s up, Nick! Haven’t run in Mach 4. But endorphin speed falls into a daily trainer category for me, and so does the rebel V2. Both however equally versatile to handle faster stuff or a race. I just like the help from the nylon plate in the ES. Want to go plateless for a few days? That’s where the Rebel comes in. I’d say having both the ES and V2 is pretty rad in your rotation!

    1. Both for me fall into more of the daily trainer category like I mentioned in the review. But for Tempo or a Vo2 max sesh, I’d go endorphin speed. While this V2 shoe may be light and quick, it’s a bit soft and you work a little harder at higher end clips of pace. I like the endorphin for Marathon pace better too. Say like an 18 miler with the last 12 at current marathon fitness. Does it mean the V2 can’t handle a steady 18? Hell no! But endorphin really is a wonderful shoe!

  2. Dave, you lose your legitimacy as a reviewer asking for a knit upper to be brought back. It’s like if iPhones brought back the headphone jack and you asked for it to be taken away again for “us Bluetooth folks”

    1. Been in this game a long time. Can ask and write whatever I want. Because that is how you review shoes. This was a Simple suggestion to NB because I actually liked the previous upper and how it worked and molded with my narrow foot. If you need to take shots at me, send me a private message. No need to bash publicly.

  3. How would you compare these to the Brooks Hyperion Tempo – in terms of usage, stability and picking up the pace? I couldn’t use the Tempo as a pure daily trainer but loved it for any kind of up-tempo run. This foam sounds even more fun than the DNA Flash (which I really like), but can’t tell if they are a good subsitute for the Tempos or purely more of a lightweight daily trainer (maybe like the Rincon).

  4. I recalled the v1 rebel having a sort of plastic looking plate from midfoot to forefoot, does the v2 retain the plate or is it just fuelcell and rubber under the foot?

  5. I had the V1 of this shoe. Loved the spring they had in the step. When I started doing more miles in them I had terrible knee pain where I couldn’t walk on my 1 leg. Im a forefoot striker who tends to hit the outside edge 1st. I switched to Ghosts and the pain went away but I want something with more energy return. Should I give these a shot? Thanks and keep up the great work.

  6. Sorry to say I was disappointed with the NB fuellcell rebel V2 – was really looking forward to it but returned to NB after first run.
    Width for my narrowish feet was fine but didn’t feel they were true to size – half size too short due to the last, offset upper design and raised toe – got a blister on my big toe !
    Midsole was very comfortably squishy & bouncy but kind of unstable and hair-raising going round corners – not a locked down feel for me.

    Going to try the Freedom 4 instead when available…

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