New Balance’s marketing pitch: Combination of speed and cushioning.
Upper: Engineered mesh, fused overlays, inner sleeve.
Midsole: Full-length Fuelcell foam. 6 mm heel-to-toe offset.
Outsole: Rubber, exposed foam.
Weight: 209 gms/ 7.4 Oz for a half pair of Men's US 9/UK 8.5/EUR 42.5/CM 27.
Widths available: D - regular (reviewed), 2E - wide.
Previous model: New Balance Fuelcell Rebel V2.
Country of origin: Made in Vietnam.
Orthotic compatibility: Very low.
In this review:
SUMMARY AND VERDICT
Many view the 2014 Fresh Foam Zante with nostalgic fondness. It was the breakout success of the year, because it offered two things that very few shoes did at the time.
The Zante delivered a speed-friendly ride, but without the punishing harshness of racing flats that existed back then. It’s no surprise that similar shoes like the Nike Lunartempo and adidas Boston sold exceedingly well 7-8 years ago.
The Fresh Foam Tempo was its successor, and New Balance still sells the shoe (now in its second edition). So why isn’t it on any bestseller charts?
These are changed times, so the circumstances that allowed the original Zante to flourish no longer exist.
The last few years have not been kind to tempo trainers and marathon racers with standard EVA foam midsoles. We don’t need to point out that PEBA foam and Carbon fiber plates have rewritten the definition of a ‘speed’ running shoe.
Here’s a brief explanation of why the Fresh Foam Tempo wasn’t as successful as the Zante.
Misplaced nostalgia can be a slippery slope. Some people still naively believe that if Brooks brought back the Green Silence as it were, the shoe will sell fairly well.
Sepia-toned outlook and all that is fine, but a hypothetical Green Silence re-issue will not achieve the same level of success as it did in the past.
At least, not as a running shoe – today, the Green Silence has a higher chance of survival as a lifestyle sneaker. You know, the same way how Onituska Tiger’s Mexico 66 sneaker (Asics) has become an established retro staple.
All Brooks needs to do is market the Green Silence sneaker with loud eco-credentials and packaging. Just say that the sneaker uses ‘at least 50% recycled, post-composted, sustainable, Dolphin-friendly sugar-cane extracted midsole.’
The New Balance Fuelcell Rebel V3 is a modern Zante because it achieves the same functional objective. It’s a lightweight trainer that’s ideal for short races and tempo runs – all while offering a great cushioning-to-weight ratio.
But that’s not enough these days, is it? We’re spoilt for choice with plated PEBA racers and their kind, so the Rebel needs to offer more. So what is it?
There’s a recurring theme in running shoes that are either plated or have a ‘transition-friendly’ forefoot design. They all require a certain running style, foot-strike pattern, or running speed to achieve their full potential.
For example, the Nike Vaporfly Next% and Saucony Endorphin Pro work better at higher speeds, and so do shoes like the Asics Novablast and Endorphin Shift. The rearfoot stability of the VF and Endorphin isn’t great either, so that’s another thing to watch out for.
In simple words, high-performance racers aren’t their best selves under less-than-ideal conditions.
On the other hand, the New Balance Rebel V3 needs no such mollycoddling.
This is a speed trainer that you have full control over, so you can treat it how you wish. Do you want the Rebel for easy runs at 5:30 min/km (8:50 min/mile) or slower? No problem. And if you wanted to speed up to 4:00 min/km (6:30 min/mile), it’s easy pickings for the Fuelcell Rebel V3.
The New Balance Rebel V3 is a tempo trainer for the purists; it’s like driving a stick-shift version of a running shoe.
THE NEW BALANCE FUELCELL REBEL V3 COMPARED WITH REBEL V2
The V2 was excellent and was the sleeper hit of 2021, but it wasn’t perfect. Its durability concerns were well-known and documented, and the fit was a half-size short. Also, the otherwise excellent midsole had low levels of support.
The Rebel V3 has vastly improved, so it’s absolutely worth upgrading from the V2. While the soft and responsive ride is familiar territory, the new midsole is more supportive due to the redesigned outsole and the addition of an internal gusset.
There are fit-related upgrades as well. While the sizing does feel a mite short, going true to size will be the right call for most runners.
The mesh is thicker, so we assume that durability issues are a thing of the past. The Rebel V3 gets an inner sleeve, and also happens to be more reflective than the V2.
One thing that hasn’t changed is the thin lasting under the insole. Isolated reports of the ‘foam collapsing’ under the heel may still occur due to the lasting tear. However, that wasn’t a widespread issue on the Rebel V2, and it shouldn’t be for the Rebel V3 either.
THE MIDSOLE DESIGN AND RIDE EXPERIENCE
Managing expectations is very important when buying any running shoe. Therefore, it’s important to understand what the Rebel V3 can do, and what it cannot.
For example, a direct comparison with PEBAX-plated shoes like the Saucony Endorphin Speed would be unfair, because those are very different products.
Earlier in this review, we said that the Rebel V3 doesn’t need an ideal set of circumstances to shine. A runner has full control over the shoe’s behavior – be it speed or foot-strike pattern.
At slower speeds of 5:30 min/km (8:50 min/mile) and slower, the Fuelcell Rebel 3 works like a lightweight daily trainer. It’s comfortable enough for up to half-marathon distances, and it’s the near-perfect 10K running shoe.
The Fuelcell foam is soft, responsive, and lightweight. Only an EVA foam footbed and paper-thin lasting separates the foot from the midsole, so nearly all of the cushioning comfort is derived from the Fuelcell core.
Quicker paces of 4:00 min/km (6:30 min/mile) fall squarely in the Rebel’s suite of capabilities. Though the midsole lacks any kind of internal transition device (like a plate or shank), the loading process is efficient and doesn’t feel wasteful.
Here’re a couple of hypothetical questions:
If the Rebel’s midsole is soft and springy, isn’t it 1) difficult to build up speed, and 2) unstable?
The Rebel V3’s midsole cushioning isn’t very deep, so the foam compression has a short recovery cycle. The Fuelcell foam also behaves differently than say, Nike ZoomX foam. For example, the Nike ZoomX Streakfly tends to ‘bottom out’ during the foot-strike and loading process.
The Fuelcell midsole exhibits no such behavior. It never feels completely ‘flat’, and the rebound is quicker. As a material, Fuelcell foam is denser and more resilient than Nike’s ZoomX foam. This prevents the cushioning from ‘bottoming’ out. (Editor’s note: Heavier runners may experience the shoe differently, though.)
Secondly, the low-profile midsole has just enough height to keep the runs comfortable, but not thick enough to impede running tempo or cadence.
However, a quick ‘touch-and-go’ sensation is absent from the Rebel V3. Some shoes do that well – the adidas adios 7 comes to mind, and even the Brooks Hyperion Tempo does it well to a certain extent.
The Rebel’s outsole doesn’t have aggressive lugs, and the rubber lugs also tend to flex inwards along with the soft midsole.
As a result, the Rebel V3 lacks a firm outsole base for quick push-offs. We did say that the runner does most of the work instead of the shoe trying to guide you.
On the bright side, the outsole traction isn’t bad at all. A soft outsole ends up creating a larger contact area, and that’s good for grip. Think of it as a car tire with low air pressure. But the Rebel doesn’t overdo it, so we get a nice balance of traction and tempo-friendly character.
The just-right stack height results in acceptable levels of stability. The lower sections of the midsole sidewalls are relatively wider to help with stability. There’s also a slight recess or scoop under the heel to center the weight.
Also, the rearfoot loading happens in the center, where the exposed midsole foam is. Here, the Rebel V3 fares better than the V2. Unlike the Rebel V2, the rearfoot outsole is now a single piece. Having more rubber on the medial outsole benefits the stability as well as the quality of transitions.
The 6 mm heel-to-toe offset maintains a low stack variance between the heel and forefoot. That, when combined with the neutral design and beveled heel edge, makes the Rebel V3 suitable for all footstrike patterns.
The wide forefoot has ample contact area for forefoot strikers. In the back, the flared heel delivers neutral ride comfort with acceptable levels of stability.
To us, the New Balance Rebel V3 embodies the near-perfect 10K shoe. When used for that distance, the midsole never seems to run out of ride comfort.
Freezing temperatures have very little effect on the foam; it behaves the same during winter as it does on warmer days.
The Rebel V3 lacks the sturdy build quality of an everyday trainer, so having a backup neutral trainer like the Nike Pegasus 39 or New Balance 1080V12 makes rotational sense.
In the matters of single-run mileage, the 1080V12 will outperform the Pegasus 39 due to its more comfortable ride. Conversely, the Pegasus 39’s Zoom Air bags give it better versatility from a use case point of view.
Both the New Balance RC Elite V2 and Saucony Endorphin Pro 3 are excellent marathon racers. If Solereview had to build a 3-shoe rotation using these options, it would be the Pegasus 39 and Endorphin Pro 3 together with the Rebel V3.
IS THE NEW BALANCE FUELCELL REBEL V3 DURABLE?
New Balance uses a sturdier mesh on the Rebel V3, so we don’t foresee any tearing complaints as we did for the Rebel V2. The newly-introduced inner sleeve also improves overall durability.
A small minority of runners reported the Rebel V2’s heel foam ‘collapsing’ after 100 miles or so. The foam doesn’t collapse per se, but the thin lasting mesh can potentially fail in rare instances. The Rebel V3 has the same fabric under the footbed, so heavy runners who land heel-first may want to keep that in mind.
Superficial scuffing will eventually occur on the exposed foam areas of the outer outsole. The rubber outsole distributes the wear and tear evenly by ‘pistoning’ into the soft midsole during foot-strike and transitions.
Despite its refinements, the Rebel V3 isn’t built like a much heavier trainer, so its lifespan will be relatively shorter. Most runners should be able to get 350 miles of uncompromised performance from the Rebel.
THE UPPER DESIGN AND FIT
The upper fit is where the ‘newness’ of the Rebel V3 is felt the most – and in a good way.
The fit now feels truer to size than it did on the half-size short Rebel V2. Though the Rebel V3’s fit still feels short, we recommend buying true to size.
In contrast, the Rebel V2 ran a half-size shorter. During runs, the toes occasionally brushed the internal bumper.
No such thing happens inside the Rebel V3. Though the toe-box is slightly shallow, the toes aren’t jammed up against the front. It’s also worth mentioning that the Rebel V3 now has an internal gusset for improved midfoot lockdown.
The forefoot, midfoot, and heel have an excellent fit. There’s just enough snugness without making the interiors uncomfortably tight. The single-piece mesh exterior produces the expected smooth lining. The lightweight mesh allows the air to circulate freely, so the Rebel V3 is a good summer running shoe.
Also, the Rebel V3’s fit character is par for the speed trainer category. Related products in the past – beginning with the original Zante and Vazee line-up – had a snug fit with slightly short sizing.
Just like how the ride character serves as a bridge between regular cushioned trainers and racing flats, the upper also does the same.
The Rebel V3’s upper isn’t as roomy as long-distance cruisers. At the same time, it’s more relaxed than minimal shoes like the New Balance Supercomp pacer.
The tongue is mildly padded – just enough to filter the lacing pressure. The asymmetrical (skewed) lacing also helps keep the pressure low. The tongue flap is raw-edged, yet soft with a scooped design. It stays locked over the instep and doesn’t slide around.
Though the upper is supplied with a reserve row of lacing, the laces weren’t long enough. The laces aren’t stretchable, so adding another centimeter to the overall length would have helped.
The Rebel V3’s upper is more supportive than the Rebel V2, and the midfoot sleeve isn’t the only reason. The heel is now reinforced with a proper counter; the Rebel V2 had a semi-collapsible heel.
New Balance has made most of the heel reflective, so the Rebel’s visibility during low-light conditions has improved.
PROS AND CONS
The Fuelcell Rebel V3 holds its own in a sea of carbon-plated pacers.
It’s a cushioned tempo shoe that puts the runner in the driver’s seat; there are no fancy plates or features to make the transitions easier. The Rebel V3 is like how running shoes used to be once, but reimagined with contemporary materials and design.
The Rebel V3 provides the means to make fast and comfortable runs possible. The foam is responsive and soft, and the measly 7-ounce weight makes the shoe disappear on the feet.
The improved upper is an obvious sign of a brand listening to feedback. The refreshed upper has better durability, improved fit, and increased comfort. There’s a new inner sleeve and increased reflectivity. There’s an optional wide as well.
The Rebel V3 would even be a better shoe with aggressive outsole traction. You know, like how Puma Liberate Nitro does it with its Pumagrip outsole. And yes, slightly longer laces and tongue would be nice as well.
SHOES SIMILAR TO THE NEW BALANCE FUELCELL REBEL V3
The Puma Liberate isn’t very easy to find outside online retail. Even the Fuelcell Rebel 3 is relatively scarce, so the Puma Liberate is hard to find in person.
But this Puma product is a worthy competitor to the Rebel. It’s $20 less expensive, and features a lightweight midsole that feels quick enough for tempo runs. The heel-toe-toe offset is a generous 10 mm, but in lieu, it offers superior outsole traction and higher stability.
The Brooks Hyperion Tempo is also comparable – somewhat. It’s firmer, so not as cushy as the Rebel (We reviewed the shoe here). The Skechers GoRun Razor Excess is a less expensive version of the Brooks Hyperion, but with similar ride manners.
Tempo trainers with EVA foam-based midsoles are tangentially comparable with the Rebel V3. The Asics Hyper Speed 2 is a nice speed trainer that doesn’t cost a lot. Add the New Balance Tempo V2 and adizero SL to that group as well.