It’s not often I get to write a review after running a marathon in a shoe. It’s happened all of never. But, I recently ran the New York City Marathon in the New Balance FuelCell SC Elite V3 and now have the chance to write my first post-marathon super shoe review.
For some background, my previous marathons were run in the Nike Alphafly Next%, New Balance FuelCell RC Elite V2, and the adidas Adizero Adios Pro 2. I ran all those marathons post-review when I had the utmost confidence in the shoes to do what I needed them to do. For the New Balance FuelCell SC Elite V3, I’d only run about 28 miles, including a twelve-mile long run and two track sessions. I felt like I could trust the SC Elite V3 after those miles…but would I feel the same after the marathon punched me in the mouth?
New Balance FuelCell SC Elite V3
Release Date: October 2022
New colorways coming February 2023
Drop: 4 mm (36 mm forefoot, 40 mm heel)
Sizing: True to size
- Rundown: The New Balance FuelCell SC Elite V3 is a great race day option with a hard to put on, could be better upper. Once you’ve got the shoe on, the upper stays out of the way and lets you run fast.
As an avid fan of the V2 model of this shoe (strangely called RC Elite instead of SC Elite) I was excited to race in the New Balance FuelCell SC Elite V3. The sweet NYC Marathon themed colorway New Balance sent over didn’t hurt either.
In my initial track workouts and runs in the shoe, it felt very very squishy. It felt good under foot but made me wonder if the SC Elite V3 would bottom out over the course of a full 26.2.
The SC Elite V3 also felt very light. Part of how light it felt was that I had just tested the New Balance FuelCell SC Trainer, a beefier version (in terms of both midsole and upper) of the SC Elite V3. The SC Trainer is a great shoe and is on a ton of our best running shoe lists, but it’s definitely a little heavy as it’s meant for training. With that in mind, I tried the SC Elite V3 on foot head to head with the Asics Metaspeed Sky+ and the adidas Adizero Adios Pro 3 and I felt it stacked up nicely in terms of weight with other high performing race day options.
The geometry of the shoe, with the rocker shape, the exposed carbon plate Energy Arc, and its corresponding crevasse just felt smooth. The ride and turnover worked great with my midfoot to heel strike. I felt fast and like my foot popped nicely off the ground. It made my stride feel smooth and not like I was digging in to the ground with every step, more gliding across the road.
My priorities on a race shoe are the squish, pop, and weight. I want to feel fast when racing. And I did. During the 2022 NYC Marathon (a scorcher) I never had to think about my feet. Instead I was able to spend more time thinking about how hot my head felt and whether or not I could avoid cramping from miles 22-24 (I barely made it).
The smooth ride was a godsend on a day when I had a ton of other stuff to worry about (like finishing the darn race while others puked on edges of the course). Even my complaints about the upper, which we’ll get into below, didn’t cross my mind at all during the race. The New Balance FuelCell SC Elite V3 did it’s job well because I didn’t have to waste mental energy thinking about my feet.
The aforementioned New Balance FuelCell SC Trainer and the New Balance FuelCell SC Elite V3 are pretty similar. A FuelCell midsole with an Energy Arc below a knit upper. It’s just the SC Trainer’s upper is so much better. It’s easier to get into and feels more accommodating. The lacing and separate tongue/bootie (versus the SC Elite V3s one piece upper) was more comfortable and easier to get into. The SC Elite V3s upper makes it one of the harder shoes to slip on…which is annoying, ,but not a concern while you’re running. If struggling to slip on a shoe bugs you, this is likely a stay away.
The more comfortable SC Trainer upper collects more sweat and can feel heavier, especially on hot days, but you’ll gain the annoyance putting on/taking off the shoe and forfeit a higher level of comfort.
Do I wish I could buy an SC Elite V3 with an SC Trainer upper on top? Hell yes. It won’t happen…but that should would be *chef’s kiss*. But as I said, I forgot about the upper when racing as it got out of the way and did it’s job. So while it’s not my idea of perfection, it works well.
In terms of other complaints about the upper, Robbe Reddinger of Believe in the Run managed to pop the top lace loop on two pairs of the SC Elite V3. The lace loops are nylon and sewn in with plenty of thread. He’s a small shoe size so perhaps there’s some quality issue with the lace loop sewing for smaller sizes. I vigorously yanked on the laces of my size 11.5 and wasn’t able to replicate his issue. But the fact he had that issue twice is concerning.
New Balance FuelCell SC Elite V3 Summary
The New Balance FuelCell SC Elite V3 features squishy protective FuelCell foam, a nice pop from the Energy Arc, and a great ride. It’s a shoe that will get out of the way as you attempt your fast paces on race day. Sure, it’s upper could be better and the lacing may break on you, but it does the job and is the best road racing shoe New Balance has built. On top of that, the SC Elite V3 does it all at a $230 price point, which is a nice value for the racing shoe segment.