New Balance FuelCell SuperComp Elite v4 Review

The New Balance SC Elite V4.

All shoes are reviewed by the Fleet Feet tester team, which represents a wide variety of goals, foot shapes, locations and terrains. Reviewers pound the pavement, climb the hills, tackle the trails, then come together to compare notes. Debates ensue over the feel of the cushioning, the purpose of the shoe, and how it compares to last year’s model. While each reviewer has their own individual preferences, we hope that capturing our debates will help you make an informed decision.

What do you think of when you hear the word “elite?” In the running world, it often conjures up images of short shorts, crop tops and lean legs racing past you in pursuit of the next World, National or Course Record. With the ever growing popularity of carbon-plated super-shoes, amateur runners get the opportunity to race exactly how the elites do (minus the personalized hydration tables and pre-race media conferences).

The SuperComp Elite v4, New Balance’s top-tier road racing shoe, has gotten a complete overhaul from the ground up. Can it still live up to its “elite” name? Read on to find out.

Tech Specs

New Balance SC Elite V4

Weight 6.1 oz (W), 7.8 oz (M)
Stack height (heel/forefoot) 40 mm/36 mm
Heel-to-toe drop 4 mm
Category Neutral, racing
Surface Road, track
Comparable to... adidas Adizero Adios Pro 3, HOKA Carbon X 3
Price $250

Ride

Cushioning

Energy

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Redesigned midsole offers a rigid ride

The New Balance SC Elite v4.

When we took a peek at the SC Elite v4 at the 2023 Running Event, we were told that the shoe would be switching to a 100-percent PEBAX midsole. It’s still marketed as “FuelCell” foam, but the composition of the foam has clearly changed. The switch to PEBAX was done to increase the energy return of the shoe, something I was excited to hear.

I had been wearing the New Balance SC Elite v3 ever since testing them in spring 2023, and I even wore them to earn a marathon personal best at the 2023 Philadelphia Marathon. An update that’s even more energetic than the Elite v3? I couldn’t fathom it.

However, upon testing the shoes, I realized that by “more energetic,” shoe designers may have actually meant “more firm.” The new midsole felt stiff, rigid, and not at all like the wonderfully bouncy sensation I had become accustomed to in the v3.

“The midsole foam is simply not the bouncy foam that it was in the last version” Kate agrees. “I felt like I was able to get into a good groove in these shoes and focus on my form, but they don’t have that bouncy feel that I have come to expect from a super shoe.”

Despite the redesigned midsole foam, the v4 retains some of the technologies that made the v3 such a success. The v4 keeps New Balance’s Energy Arc Technology, the hollowed-out channel in the middle of the midsole. This allows the carbon-plate to flatten into the channel during landings and rebound during takeoffs.

The rubber outsole appears to have been redesigned, too–this time for the better.

“The outsole feels pretty tacky, which is nice since the greenway paths I’ve been running on lately have ice on them about half the time,” says Kate. “It’s comforting to feel like I have a good grip as I’m trying to hit my paces in workouts.”

The return of FantomFit

A pair of the New Balance SC Elite v4.

When I wrote that the SC Elite has gotten a complete overhaul from the ground up, I meant it. Everything from the upper to the laces have been redesigned, seemingly in an effort to shave weight and improve comfort.

The Elite v4 features a Fantom Fit upper, somewhat of a throwback to what New Balance calls their heritage technology. At the 2023 Running Event, Danny from New Balance told me the Fantom Fit upper, consisting of two layers of engineered mesh, allows the shoe to remain as lightweight as possible while still reinforcing key zones, like the midfoot and heel, for a locked down fit.

The thin, mesh upper looks and feels exactly like what you’d expect from a racing super-shoe–bright, bold and light as a feather.

“I really like the fit of the SC Elite v4,” says Kate. “It’s true to size, and as you commonly see for a speed shoe, it’s on the snugger end of the spectrum. It also has what I consider to be a normal tongue. I’ve tested a few supershoes recently that have a thin, super duper stretchy tongue that’s one piece or uses a booty construction. Those types of tongues often get bunched up on the top of my foot and it takes a lot of work to just get it to fit normally. If I’m in a hurry before a workout or race, which is basically always, I find myself frustrated with getting those to fit right. Anyway, that’s a long way of saying thank goodness for a normal tongue! It fits fine and I can forget about it.”

One thing we couldn’t forget, though, was the sharp edge of the heel collar. Kate and I both noticed this sensation as soon as we started running. I kept running and ended up with a large blister on the back of my heel. Kate was smart and switched into crew socks, skipping the blisters. Be like Kate.

New Balance SC Elite v4 vs SC Elite v3

The New Balance SC Elite v4.

Tech Specs

New Balance SC Elite v4

New Balance SC Elite v3

Weight

6.1 oz (W), 7.8 oz (M)

6.6 oz (W), 8 oz (M)

Stack height

40 mm/36 mm

40 mm/36 mm

Heel-to-toe drop

4 mm

4 mm

Price

$250

$230

Based on tech specs alone, you can’t get a grasp for how different the SC Elite v4 is from its predecessor. Not only has it shaved a bit of weight, but its new midsole and upper design make it feel like a completely different shoe.

Our consensus was that, while we prefer the softer, bouncier feeling of the v3’s midsole, we preferred the engineered mesh upper on the v4.

The v3 featured a one-piece upper that didn’t leave room to customize the fit. There were no extra lacing eyelets to tie a marathon loop, leaving you at the mercy of however the stretchy knit material happened to wrap around your feet. I solved this problem by wearing thick socks with my v3 shoes, but now that the upper has been updated I can wear whichever running socks I please.

“I wish I could combine the foam from Elite v3 and the upper from Elite v4,” says Kate. “That would make a perfect shoe.”

The price has increased by $20, which is pretty significant. However, the $230 price point of the v3 is on the lower end of the price range for competing super-shoes on the market.

How does the New Balance SC Elite v4 compare?

We took a look at some comparable models to see how they stack up against the New Balance SC Elite v4. Here’s what we found:

Tech Specs

New Balance SC Elite v4

adidas Adizero Adios Pro 3

HOKA Carbon X3

Weight

6.1 oz (W), 7.8 oz (M)

8.1 oz (unisex)

6.6 oz (W), 7.8 oz (M)

Stack height

40 mm/36 mm

39.5 mm/33 mm

30 mm/25 mm (W), 32 mm/27 mm (M)

Heel-to-toe drop

4 mm

6.5 mm

5 mm

Price

$250

$250

$200

Because of the firm, rigid underfoot feeling, we found the New Balance SC Elite v4 to feel most similar to the adidas Adizero Adios Pro 3 and the HOKA Carbon X 3.

The Adios Pro 3 utilizes carbon-infused rods instead of a carbon plate, but the intended effect is the same–to offer a snappy, propulsive ride. Both the Adios Pro 3 and the Elite v4 also have grippier-than-average outsoles (for road-racing super-shoes, anyway).

The Carbon X 3 has a lower stack height than the either two shoes, and it’s marketed as more of a speedwork shoe than a true racing shoe. Nevertheless, Kate and I found the ride to feel quite similar, although we agreed that the Elite v4 is a tad softer than the Carbon X 3.

Who is the New Balance SC Elite v4 best for?

The New Balance SC Elite v4.

The New Balance SC Elite v4 is best for runners who appreciate a stiff platform to act as a lever for their feet during hard efforts and races. Because the Elite v4 feels so much different than the previous version, we can’t recommend it to Elite v3 fans.

For runners who tested the v3 and found the midsole too soft or the upper not secure enough, the v4 will be a welcome update.

“I’d recommend the Elite v4 to anyone looking for a solid speed shoe for distances from the 5K to the marathon, depending on what kind of support they like,” says Kate. “This does not have a bouncy-feeling ride, so I’d recommend it to runners who prefer a firm feel when they’re running fast.”

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