These Versatile Running Shoes Helped Me Speed up My Pace by Almost a Minute

Photo: W+G Creative
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"Super shoes" are all the rage in the running world right now. These serious sneakers are built with a thin carbon plate nestled between the footbed and two layers of foam to provide a little extra spring in your step. Racers swear by them because reportedly boost performance and pace without much extra effort, thanks to the shape of the plate and the responsiveness of the foam. But they come with a pretty hefty price tag—some cost nearly $300 for a pair—and the lightweight materials degrade too quickly for you to wear them for daily training.

As a very casual road runner who doesn’t run marathons, I can’t justify buying into this trend—I need something a bit more versatile. And when I found a multitalented shoe that increased my average pace across runs, I was sold. The New Balance FuelCell Rebel v4 doesn’t have the carbon fiber plate that defines a “super shoe”, but I feel like I have something way more expensive on my feet.

New Balance FuelCell Rebel v4 — $140.00

Available sizes: 5-12, in half sizes in two widths

Colors: 7


  • Bouncy, responsive foam for easier propulsion
  • Lightweight and breathable
  • Durable
  • Versatile
  • Mimics a “super shoe” without the carbon plate and steep price tag


  • Not as soft and shock-asbsorbing as other shoes

First impressions

When I first took these sneakers out of the box, I was impressed by how light they were. The upper is made of a very thin mesh that forms to your foot, and the tongue is thin but soft, so I didn’t even miss the thick padding of traditional shoes. I have wide feet, and the toe box felt roomy enough but not sloppy.

Photo: Author

This shoe also looks a heck of a lot like New Balance’s actual super shoe: The FuelCell SuperComp Elite v4 ($250). When I compared them side to side, I noticed only a slight difference in design, as the SuperComp had slightly more cushioning. And you can’t tell from looking at them, but the Rebel v4 has a different foam that is a bit softer than the SuperComp, making it better for all runs, not just race day.


It wasn’t until I began testing running shoes for my job as a gear reviewer that I really understood how much of a difference your shoe style can make to your running. The type of foam on a shoe can affect how it feels when you strike the ground, and the shape of the sole can dictate whether your shoe weighs you down or propels you forward. As for the Rebel v4 sneakers, they have a few design elements that really put some spring into your step.

When I laced up these shoes and took them for a quick test drive on pavement, I found that my 5k pace was almost one minute per mile faster than my average—without working too much harder.

Photo: Author

One of the most important elements is the foam—and just because there’s a lot of it doesn’t mean it’s going to feel the same as any other max-cushion shoe. This shoe uses a blend of PEBA and EVA foam, which is airy light and soft but not too squishy—just what you want if you’re trying to pick up your speed. (If the foam is too soft, it will compress and not offer as much rebound. Sometimes, like for long, slow runs, I want a softer shoe and will reach for the New Balance Fresh Foam 1080v13.) Because the Rebel v4s are a bit firmer than other shoes I use, I needed to warm up gradually. Once I was ready to pick up my pace, I rolled smoothly through my strides and felt propelled forward with each step.

Most speed-focused shoes wear down quickly because they use ultralight materials, but that’s what sets this shoe apart and makes it so versatile: It's actually durable enough to wear for your daily training. I wore this for daily jogs, tempo runs, and speed interval training for the past few months and the outsole still looks brand new. Plus, no matter my pace or the weather conditions, the shoe felt breathable and supportive without feeling too stiff.

New Balance Rebel FuelCell v4: final thoughts

Since getting this shoe in late January, I’ve used it for the majority of my runs under six miles because it makes this chronically slow runner feel a little more speedy. (One minute more speedy, to be exact—I've shaved about a minute off my average pace since first lacing them up.) But most impressively, this shoe manages to stand out in an oversaturated market: I haven’t seen another shoe quite so versatile, so fast, so light, and so affordable as the New Balance FuelCell Rebel v4.

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Our editors independently select these products. Making a purchase through our links may earn Well+Good a commission.

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