Specs and takeaways:
Name: New Balance FuelCell SuperComp Trainer
Weight: Men’s 11, 345 g (12.1 oz)
Stack Height: Forefoot – 39mm; Heel 47mm; 8mm heel-toe drop)
Sizing: True to size
Pros: Lots of stack height; Energy Arc carbon plate; Very enjoyable ride
Cons: Not very light; Stiff heel cup
Where to buy
The New Balance FuelCell SuperComp Trainer (AKA: SC Trainer) is a rule breaker even before it slides onto your foot. World Athletics sets the rules for competition road running shoes at a stack height of no greater than 40mm (20mm for competitive track event shoes). The New Balance SC Trainer tops out at 47mm. Fortunately for me – and, let’s face it, most of us – the likelihood of me competing for a top spot in the majority of road races isn’t super high. However, the SuperComp Trainer still brings to the table a ton of amazing features – including the Energy Arc carbon fiber plate and a LOT of FuelCell foam underfoot – that make it not just a daily trainer but a daily training shoe that will push you to run faster.
The outsole of the New Balance SC Trainer is fairly simple and straightforward. Running down the center of the shoe there is a channel – which we’ll touch on much more when we get into the midsole below – as you can see in our photos. The forefoot rubber surrounding this channel is made from a durable rubber compound which splits into a sort of wing on each side of the channel I mentioned. This forefoot rubber does come back together at the toe and rises as a toe-off point as you’d see in many other shoes. Throughout the rubber there are a series of small cutouts which shave a bit of weight.
The rear foot has blown rubber wings of its own and the material there feels like a slightly softer composition. There are also a couple of cutouts in the rearfoot rubber compound – each side having just one – which, as in the forefoot, seem to simply be there to save a bit of weight.
My take: From a durability perspective, the outsole of the New Balance SC Trainer has done well by me and would hold up well as the daily running shoe it is. I like the simplicity of the outsole as it simply acts as a grippy – when needed – preamble to the plethora of tech going on above it in the midsole. Both the rear foot and the forefoot outsole – the latter of which I tend to wear more aggressively – have shown very little wear during my testing period.
There’s a lot going on in the midsole of the New Balance FuelCell SuperComp Trainer:
FuelCell foam (first layer)
The first or bottom layer of FuelCell foam in the SC Trainer is the layer which has the deep channel in it which I mentioned above. At the rear of the shoe the channel is quite deep and slopes upward/downward as it moves toward the front of the shoe. Visible on top of this channel is the Energy Arc carbon plate. At the front end of the Energy Arc plate and just under the metatarsal heads there is a bit of outsole rubber in place for those times when the midsole foam compresses enough that it finds the pavement.
Energy Arc carbon plate
The Energy Arc isn’t just your normal, flat carbon fiber plate geometry. Rather, the Energy Arc system uses an actual “arc” which depending on the profile is reminiscent of the camber in many skis that add responsiveness and “pop”. In the New Balance SC Trainer the Energy Arc is a full-length carbon fiber plate and is sandwiched between the channeled FuelCell foam I mentioned above and the upper segment of the same. This curved carbon plate is in place to provide propulsive energy return and underfoot responsiveness while still working with the FuelCell foam for a cushioned shoe with a responsive ride.
FuelCell foam (second layer)
This is the layer of FuelCell foam in the New Balance SC Trainer which sits just below the foot. Made from the same foam as the lower piece, this foam gives the runner a barrier between the Energy Arc and keeps the cushioned trainer feel going while still allowing for superior energy return.
My Take: The first thing that a lot of people think when seeing a shoe with this much stack is probably, “I’m going to roll an ankle every other step I take.” and I have to admit that years ago, when maximalist trainers began arriving on the scene I thought the same thing. With the New Balance FuelCell SuperComp Trainer tipping the tape at 47mm of rearfoot height, it definitely falls into the same category of a high stack shoe but it’s also a stable shoe.
Now, before people who’ve found this and other max cushion shoes less so, keep in mind that this is for me. I pride myself on having a pretty clean – albeit slow and frequently unimpressive – gait. The width of the midsole lends itself to a quite stable ride as we’ve seen in many other shoes where the entire midsole stands wider than the upper. When writing this running shoe review I looked at some of the customer reviews on New Balance’s own website. and there were definitely a handful of people commenting on the SC Trainer being an unstable shoe but I simply didn’t find that to be the case.
About that channel in the center of the lower FuelCell foam; the reason that channel is there is three-fold from what I can tell. First, with this much midsole material it would be very easy for this shoe to a bit on the heavy side. This channel takes a good sized chunk out of that.
Second, as midsole foam compresses in all shoes, that compressed material tends to expand outward. In this case, with all that extra cushion, if this channel weren’t there, much of that FuelCell foam would have nowhere to go. This way, the foam can expand around the perimeter of the shoe as well as into that internal channel.
Finally, let’s talk about the carbon plate of the Energy Arc system. I’ll get into much more on this in the ride section below but for now let me say that cushion can often times deaden running shoes and take away responsiveness. With the New Balance SC Trainer, the ground feel isn’t as raw as more minimalist shoes but it does a fantastic job of bringing pop back into the action of the shoe. Add to that that the SC Trainer has a rather aggressive rocker shape and I found myself and this brings a bouncy underfoot experience with impressive energy return for something so outwardly cushy.
The upper of the New Balance FuelCell SuperComp Trainer is made primarily from a single-piece of engineered no-sew mesh. In the midfoot there is a stretchy wrap which gives that section of the shoe and also provides lace backing through the throat attaching at the top of the vamp. The “NB” logo on the lateral aspect of the shoe provides a bit more structure to the design pattern.
Despite this upper being labeled as no-sew by the design team (well, probably the marketing team!) at New Balance there are two spots with some stitching where the midfoot wrap attaches to the heel cup material. The heel cup is backed by a bit of thin foam padding with underlying rigidity for shape and is capped by a small pull tab at the Achilles insert. Some of that foam in this area adds some ankle padding and gives additional comfort. It also tops out with a small ring (like the last half inch – visible in photos) of stretch knit.
The mesh upper, particularly the forefoot mesh, has a bit of stretch to it. This gets a bit less as you move toward the back of the shoe and as the structure becomes more prevalent.
My Take: First the mesh; I’ve really enjoyed the limited stretch of the upper of the SC Trainer. There is a tendency with some meshes to miss the mark by having a mesh upper that is either too loose resulting in a fit which doesn’t handle anything but straight line running well or the mesh has so little stretch that it might as well have none at all (which is fine, but still).
The upper of the SuperComp Trainer gave a good lock-in fit feeling without feeling like I was being pressed on. The midfoot wrap added a nice, gentle squeeze and kept this high-stack shoe in place. Supporting features of the shoe – which I’ll touch on more in the next section – being mainly isolated to the New Balance logo on the lateral aspect of the shoe are a good addition allowing for support from the upper on turns.
From a durability perspective, I didn’t see any issues although, this is a pretty bright, mint-green (technically, it’s listed as “Vibrant spring glo with victory blue and vibrant apricot”) which I can certainly see getting dirty, especially if you’re like me and aren’t afraid of taking on some dirt road for your running shoe review.
The SC Trainer is also quite breathable which was nice since I definitely had some runs in it where the mercury topped 95º F. Despite this, it isn’t such an open mesh that dust and debris snuck into my shoes despite the breathable design.
First, sizing; the NB FuelCell SuperComp Trainer fit me and my men’s size 11 true-to-size. I have a very average foot which put me in the standard D width running shoe but there is a EE, wide version available. I would say to use the New Balance fit guide for reference but if you’ve needed a wide shoe from NB in the past, this will probably be the case in the SC Trainer as well.
The forefoot of the SC Trainer gives me plenty of height as well as roominess for toe splay and grip. Again, the stretch of the upper being tight but not overly so goes a long way toward giving a snug, but not overly so fit throughout.
The midfoot carries that very custom feel fit which is highlighted by the midfoot wrap. The lacing of the FuelCell SuperComp Trainer run kind of diagonally down the first metatarsal toward the big toe. This means that the fit in this area is very customizable to get the fit and feel just right for your foot if you have something like a particularly pronounced medial cuneiform or something.
The heel of the NB SuperComp Trainer is interesting to me. First, the heel cup is quite well shaped and it does a good job of having a comfortable transition between the foot bed and the upper. The material of the heel cup, which includes the lightly padded, secondary backing which you can see in the photos was quite comfortable on my foot when standing in place. When I began to run however, it’s not that the heel cup suddenly became uncomfortable, it’s just that the heel cup is quite stiff and isn’t on par with the rest of the upper. I never felt “uncomfortable” with this aspect but in a shoe like this, with so much going for it on the technical side of things, I would love to see a heel cup that has the same structure and shape but that includes more of an ability to form to the heel as you run.
The heel cup thing is in no way a deal breaker for me, far from it. I was able to chinch down the laces well enough to keep my heel in place but I do think there may be people who’ll want a less stiff heel cup and counter.
Standing around in the New Balance FuelCell SuperComp Trainer is kind of a weird feeling. Some of that “instability” some people may feel is going to primarily show up in this context due to the underfoot feeling courtesy of the FuelCell foam and Energy Arc carbon plate technology. But when the running starts, woah.
The New Balance SC Trainer is a very exciting ride. I say this because this energetic shoes doesn’t make the runner wearing them magically faster but it certainly but it certainly feels like it does. Being that this is a training model, this packs a lot of effective tech into a very innovative running shoe. On things like corners, I do think it’s probably worth getting used to the feel of the midsole at a lower speed just in case you’re one of those people who fees some instability.
Looking at the midsole void, that hollow channel that I mentioned above; I have a very level foot strike with just a touch of landing on the lateral side aspect. The shoes settles well onto the full outsole and this is one of those aspect of the energetic ride of this shoe where you can feel that forward tilt combining with the foam and integrated carbon fiber plate to move you forward.
What’s this shoe good for? Well, the cushioned midsole means that the SC Trainer isn’t afraid of long miles. With that in mind it’s also great for a faster up-tempo shoe. In this case that bouncy ride has the action of a more firm shoe, especially later in the gait cycle. All this said, the SuperComp Trainer could stand to lose a bit of weight. My men’s size 11 comes in at 345 grams or 12.1 ounces which will certainly reserve this for a training shoe for many people who want something lighter for race day for the competitive advantage.
I noticed no hot spots either on the upper or the the foot bed / sock liner. At faster paces, in fact, the shoe seemed to have an even more locked-in feel that when running at more cruis-y, slower paces. In all cases the fun ride, cushioned midsole combined with the Energy Arc carbon plate to keep my legs fresh and approach what I’d imagine for many would be the perfect training shoe.
Doing my review of the New Balance FuelCell SuperComp is one of those times I genuinely felt my fitness increasing – always a good thing – because it simply made me want to run faster and longer. For a solid pair of workout shoes, the SC Trainer gave me comfort for long runs and the speed for more uptempo paces.
At $179, it isn’t the cheapest running shoe in the world but the bang for your buck in terms of technology and fun is high. I’m always intrigued to see how brands like New Balance will evolve an already well-done shoe and I’d love to see how the SC Trainer changes. Maybe getting rid of some weight? Fingers crossed!
Have you run in the New Balance FuelCell SuperComp Trainer? Tell us what you think in the comments!
Where to buy
2022, Gearist, Marathon, New Balance, New Balance FuelCell SuperComp Trainer, Review, run, Running, running shoes, Ultramarathon