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New Balance FuelCell SuperComp Pacer Review

New Balance FuelCell SuperComp Pacer Introduction

When marathon records are being broken left, right and centre by super thick racers like the Alphafly, Vaporfly and Adios Pro, it’s a rare occurrence when a record is smashed by a runner wearing something different, something like the SC Pacer.

The SC Pacer is 1 of 3 shoes in the New Balance SuperComp series: there’s also the SC Trainer and the SC Elite v3 but the SC Pacer is much lighter and is designed for short-distance racing. They all have a carbon plate and use FuelCell foam.

The SC Trainer has been one of my favourite training shoes I’ve tested this year while the SC Elite v3 also has an incredibly energetic, bouncy ride so I’ve been excited to test the SC Pacer too.

The SC Pacer competes directly with 2 other short-distance mini super shoes which were launched earlier this year: the Adidas Takumi Sen 8 and the Nike Streakfly. The Pacer is $30 cheaper than the Sen 8 and $10 cheaper than the Streakfly.

The SC Pacer weighs 201 g (7.1 oz) for a men’s standard size. It has an 8 mm drop with 25 mm in the heel, 17 mm in the forefoot and it costs $150.

New Balance FuelCell SuperComp Pacer First Impressions

I was aware of the SC Pacer but the first time it made a really big impression on me and caught my attention was when Emily Sisson broke the American women’s record wearing an all-white prototype of it at the Chicago Marathon in October of this year.

The reason this was so incredible is because the Pacer is not New Balance’s flagship marathon racer: the Elite v3 is. The Pacer has a thinner midsole, making it more suited to short races.

My first run in the Pacer was a 15 kilometre tempo run. I really enjoyed how light it felt on foot but I struggled to get my speed to marathon pace on that run. I had been doing most of my speed work in marathon super shoes so the ride of the Pacer felt a lot more minimal and it didn’t have the level of propulsion that I’m used to.

Transitions felt really smooth and relatively natural for a racer due to the flexible carbon plate. The upper felt very comfortable- much better than the SC Elite v3’s upper. The upper was the highlight for me on the first run.

New Balance FuelCell SuperComp Pacer Upper

The Pacer has a perfect upper with no flaws: it’s light, breathable, accommodating and it provides excellent foot lockdown.

The soft mesh has large holes on the top of the toe box so ventilation is excellent. I ran in heavy rain multiple times and the Pacer didn’t soak up much water while the large holes in the mesh allowed the water to drain easily.

The sizing is definitely true to size with an accommodating forefoot and toe box. The fit is relaxed with a training shoe fit rather than a racing fit. You could probably go a half size down if you want a snug, racing fit but for me, true to size was perfect.

The thin, flat tongue is not gusseted but it doesn’t move around during runs. The collar is lightly padded and heel lockdown is exceptional for me.

New Balance FuelCell SuperComp Pacer Sole Unit

The ride of the SC Pacer is the firmest of all the FuelCell shoes that I’ve tested. Not only is the stack height only 25 mm in the heel and 17 mm in the forefoot but the FuelCell foam in the Pacer feels like a firmer version than the ones in the Rebel v3 and SC Elite v3. This setup results in a cushioned ride which is not mushy so it’s easy to tap into the Pacer’s speed.

The Pacer doesn’t have a very thick midsole so it doesn’t possess a rocker geometry to quicken transitions. Instead, it relies on a stiff forefoot to provide the snappiness needed for a fast ride. It has an old school ride reminiscent of the New Balance classic 1400 and 1500 models so if you enjoy a lot of ground feel with a responsive feel, the Pacer will be right up your alley.

Just like its SuperComp siblings, the Pacer also has Energy Arc technology but it feels a lot more muted than in the Elite v3 and the Trainer. The reasons for this are that the carbon plate is not cambered (it’s a flatter profile) and the void under its heel is much smaller/shallower so the midsole can’t splay as much when it’s loaded. It stores a lot less energy so it isn’t as propulsive.

The Pacer doesn’t give you as much speed assistance as maximalist carbon-plated racers. The carbon plate setup can’t be as aggressive because the midsole is thin so the plate has to have a flat profile. The carbon plate is also a flexible one so it doesn’t feel as punchy but the upside is that it gives you more control over the shoe.

I enjoy using the Pacer for shorter, speed runs because of how light it is and how engaging it feels. It offers something different from the regular, maximalist speed shoes which I’m used to doing workouts in and it makes me feel like I’m working harder during the workout which isn’t a bad thing.

The minimal outsole has a flat profile with 2 strips of rubber on the rearfoot and 1 piece of rubber on the forefoot. In rainy weather, grip is not great because of the flat profile and the fact that the rubber pieces lie flush with the midsole foam.

There’s a lot of exposed midsole foam on the outsole of the Pacer and it shows significant scuffing after just a couple runs because the foam is so soft. This is a shoe that was designed for race days only and not for training runs.

New Balance FuelCell SuperComp Pacer Conclusions

The most important thing to know before you buy the SC Pacer is that it doesn’t feel like a super shoe. It won’t give you the same speed assistance that an SC Elite, Metaspeed Sky, Endorphin Pro etc. will give you because its midsole isn’t as thick and its plate is flexible.

The SC Pacer has a minimalistic ride with plenty of ground feel which is a throwback to racing flats of the past. It does however have a new age midsole foam so it’s a lot more forgiving on your feet and legs- elite runners can easily run a full marathon in the Pacer.

The fact that Emily Sisson was able to smash the women’s US marathon record wearing a version of the SC Pacer is gobsmacking. I think that she could have achieved an even better time if she had worn the SC Elite v3 because it offers more energy return and more speed assistance than the Pacer.

For the average runner like me, versatility is limited because it’s best suited to half marathon distances or below and paces below 5 minutes per kilometre. I personally still wouldn’t do a short race like a 5K or 10K in it because I feel that maximalist super shoes offer more propulsion than the Pacer does even though the Pacer is much lighter.

The Pacer is for runners who don’t enjoy high stack super shoes and who prefer to be in control of their mechanics. The Pacer offers a much more natural ride.

Of the short distance (mini) super shoes, I’d hands down pick the SC Pacer over the Takumi Sen 8 and the Streakfly. It has the superior upper and its midsole is the most balanced- not too firm like the Sen 8, not too soft like the Streakfly.

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