New Balance FuelCell Rebel v4 review: the Best Got Better?

An evolution of the line, the Rebel V4 brings a new look and a new recipe to the FuelCell midsole compound. Did New Balance make the magic happen?

New Balance Rebel V4 – A Rebel for All?

Silke:

About three years ago when New Balance introduced FuelCell as their new midsole foam, runners were excited about the squish and propulsion. In that FuelCell line, the Rebel was equipped with a full FuelCell midsole. In V2 the Rebel, as a light and fast daily trainer, separated runners. Either you loved the squishy maybe a bit too soft ride or you hated it. Most of all for its instability and maybe too snug fit. Furthermore, a lot of users weren’t pleased  with the short life span of the FuelCell foam. 

 

Now, it is 2024 and New Balance have made huge updates to their Fuelcell lineup. The formerly nitrogen infused FuellCell foam is now made with super component PEBA. With the SC Elite V4 as the marquee shoe, the New Balance 2024 Fuelcell lineup has you covered for every eventuality. From the Rebel V4 for daily and uptempo miles, to the coming SC Trainer V3 and Pacer V2 for more dedicated speed sessions. The Rebel V4 does not only have the stats of a true tempo training companion to the SC Elite but it also maintains the family look as its little brother.

Andy:

The addition of PEBA to the FuelCell recipe is very exciting to me. As a caveat before we head into the review, I must say that the Rebel V2 is my favourite generalist running shoe of all time. Light, nimble, unfussy and versatile. It was my go to shoe for days when I just wanted a run to be fun. Hearing that they have added PEBA to the mix really piqued my interest. Would it improve an already amazing thing or would the Rebel V4 become a squishy mess? 

 

Whilst the whole New Balance 2024 line up is very interesting to me, the Rebel V4 stands out as such a Swiss Army knife of a shoe that I was delighted to get the chance to put some distance into it for testing. How did it work out?

Specs: 

Stack: From 30mm in the heel to 24mm in the forefoot for a 6mm drop. 

Weight in New Balance’s sample sizes: Men 196g/6.9oz. Women 156g/5.5oz

MSRP: $140/€160

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Upper – FANTOMFIT Holding You Firm

Silke:

Initially,  you may notice that the Rebel V4 has grown in height and width. Secondly, an all new upper material (also used in the SC Elite V4) is a super thin mesh New Balance named FANTOMFIT. Overall, the upper has become lighter, in the toe area even see through thin. V2’s slightly overly snug and narrow fit has gone. 

 

Atop the shoe, the gusseted tongue (first introduced with V3) has gotten even lighter whereas the lacing system is kept traditional also matching with the SC Elite. The printed NB logo overlays on the medial and lateral side give just the right amount of structure. Furthermore, the heel part is well padded and even though the heel cup is relatively low it keeps my foot just right in place. Overall, it looks like a race day shoe but without the racy fit and with some accommodating padding around the heel.

Andy:

The only issue I had with the Rebel V2 (outside of durability) was the fit of the upper. Needing to half size up for a truly good fit, it was never quite right. However, the rest of the shoe made up for this deficit. Thankfully, as soon as I took the Rebel V4 out of the box and put it on foot, I could see that New Balance had remedied the fit issue. A pretty perfect TTS for me. 

 

As Silke has said, the FANTOMFIT upper is race day thin and breathable. I can foresee no issues with overheating during warmer workouts on hot days. That being said, it has not been too cold on runs down to -2 degrees C in our current winter. The gusseted tongue helps to ensure a very good lockdown. Again, as Silke mentioned above, the traditional lacing system allows for a fuss free fit with laces that hold in place. Whilst the double layered tongue is super lightweight and thin, it works in combination with the wider laces to ensure no pain or pressure on top of the foot. 

Designed for durability?

I would say that the upper is more substantial than that of the V2 and this will hopefully fix the second issue I had with the V2. Each pair I had suffered from a separation between the upper and midsole at around the 400km mark. At a quarter of the way there so far, I can see no issues with the structural integrity so far. 

 

As someone who has suffered with some achilles rubbing from some shoes in testing recently, I am happy to report that the lower cut heel cup of the Rebel V4 does its job of holding the foot in place whilst avoiding any rubbing or chaffing. To sum up, the upper is a fine mix of new FANTOMFIT technology alongside traditional design which makes for a solid, well fitted lockdown and a very pleasant shoe to run in. Once laced up and out the door, the Rebel V4 disappears on foot.

NB Rebel v4 - Worn-02
New Balance Rebel V4 (6 of 16) Large

FuelCell + PEBA = A Daily Dream?

Silke:

My first run was in the early morning, running through dark suburban streets, so that nobody could see this secret shoe. However, I guess anyone who saw me, would have remembered just my smiling face. I ended up running much faster than I intended! 

 

The foam feels so bouncy under foot that it is hard not to pick up the pace. Along with the midsole geometry, the rocker works fine with my gait cycle. I have been a bit sceptical with the higher stack the shoe would not be so much fun to run with, but I was wrong.

 

It is clear to see the Rebel V4 has grown. Moreover, the uniquely cut midsole is much thicker and the platform has become wider so instability should no longer be an issue for most runners. That being said, the Rebel V4 still comes without a plate and I found at the end of my longer runs my ankles and calves felt a bit tired. But it is so nice to have a non plated option for hill workouts and to strengthen your calf muscles.

Andy:

The ride of the Rebel was the thing which made me fall in love with the shoe. At lower paces, it was bouncy whilst at more powerful efforts, the midsole seemed to become firmer and more propulsive. This time out, New Balance added PEBA to the original EVA blend of FuelCell. If there’s two things in this world I love, it’s a New Balance Rebel and a shoe with a PEBA midsole. Surely a combination of both would be dreamland? 

 

To not keep you in suspense, dear reader, it’s going to take a heck of a shoe to beat this as my overall shoe of the year for this year. Yes, I know it is January. I know there are many shoes to be released this year including some newer iterations of old favourites and secret surprises to be had. However, the sheer versatility of the Rebel V4 will be hard to beat. A non-plated shoe which has the ability to go fast, I’ve run reps down to 3:00/km and long runs up to 25km so far with no issues whatsoever. Whilst Silke has found that it has left her with some tired calves and ankles, I can’t say I have found this. Probably because I am much more of a pronounced forefoot striker and as such have different mechanics in the legs. 

Plateless bringer of joy

I would say that each of my runs so far has been extended as I don’t want to stop. The addition of the PEBA adds a noticeable amount of bounce and extra cushion which should make the Rebel V4 a more versatile option for a wider group of runners. Also, I am in concurrence with Silke when she talks about the change in the stability offered by wider platform. Usually, when a shoe becomes wider and more stable in the midsole, it loses some of its mischief and magic. However, this is not the case with the V4. It remains a thoroughly joyful shoe to run in. 

 

As mentioned above, that the Rebel V4 is a non plated option also makes it very attractive in a world where more and more shoes are gaining plates, rods and other assistances. Consequently the Rebels retains some tradition. Good for the foot and good fun for the runner. Overall, the Rebel V4 is a wonderful shoe to run your easy runs too fast in!

New Balance Rebel V4 Outsole – New Look and a Better Grip

Silke:

The traction of the Rebel V2 or 3 has never been a drawback for me. It held up pretty well and was grippy even on wet tarmac and I never had to slow down when turning corners. With V4 New Balance have changed the coverage and the design of the outsole completely. It seems like the same outsole they use on the SC Elite V4, but instead of the big cutout there is a lot of exposed foam. What can I say: It works great. Having run about 80k with the Rebel V4 I cannot see any wear on the outsole. I used the Rebel V4 on hilly courses and even on light trails.

Andy:

This has been another element of change on the Rebel. The older versions, whilst not the worst grip on the planet, could have been better under certain conditions. On the Rebel V4 we find a new rubber and pattern. Overall, this is a real improvement. Whilst I am not as adventurous as Silke and will not be using this as a trail shoe, the sloppy winter pavements have been no issue. 

 

On the outsole, we see the rubber split into 5 distinct strips. In my colourway at least, we have a medial and lateral strip in green rubber with a blue strip in the middle. Whilst at the heel, we see two much smaller pods on each side. Each strip and pad has cutaways, presumably to save weight on this already superlight shoe. There is also quite a lot of exposed FuelCell foam around the midfoot area. After about 100 km of running so far, all on pavement and concrete, I have yet to find any real degradation other than discoloration from manky winter pavements. The triangular pattern does a good job of holding the road and keeping the power pushing you forwards.

New Balance Rebel V4 (3 of 16) Large
NB Rebel v4 - Worn-07

Conclusion – Now Everyone Can Rebel!

Silke:

The Rebel V4 did not have to convince me, it was easy to fall in love with this shoe from the first look. I used it for a variety of runs. Daily morning runs at my easy tempo, fast tempo runs from 5-15 k and even for longer runs at about 20k. It is my fun day when I can run changing paces. Three years ago, it was either you love it or you hate it. With the fourth iteration of the Rebel it has to be: You love it, there is no or!

Andy:

As I said earlier in the review, I would be very surprised if this was not my shoe of the year at the end of 2024 (or at least a strong contender). There will, of course, be better task specific shoes. But, as a general running shoe, I would be very surprised to find something that does a better job as a jack of all trades. Whilst it may not be everyone’s long run shoe of choice due to the softness of the midsole and need for a strong foot, it will certainly find a place among a great deal of runner’s rotations for most other running. 

 

Having fixed the issues with fit and hopefully durability, New Balance has taken an excellent shoe and improved upon it using the magic of PEBA to add responsiveness and bounce while not detracting from the simplicity and fun of the older versions. Good job New Balance, it looks like I have a new favourite running shoe. Sorry Rebel V2, it’s all about your younger sibling now!

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Silke

49 years old

167cm (5’4″) – 55kg (121lbs)

Midfoot strike 

 

@schlossstadtlaeuferin

Andy

Andy 

45 years old

173cm (5’8″) – 66kg (145lbs)

Forefoot striker – (Very) high cadence runner

 

@discobob

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