First Reaction: Trying Out the New Balance SC Elite 3 Super Shoes

I’ve wanted to try out a super shoe for a while now, and it just hadn’t happened. I’m a fan of New Balance, so I was particularly interested in the RC/SC Elite line.

When I ran my first marathon in 2021, the RC Elite v1 was hard to find. The v2 hadn’t come out yet. I ran my second in the fall of 2022, and the v2’s had quickly become hard to find, and the SC Elite v3 was still on the horizon.

The SC Elite v3 was released in time for my spring marathon this year in Jersey City, but I wasn’t sure if I was ready to throw down $230 for a full price pair. My patience paid off, and with the SC Elite V4 slated for this fall it’s possible to find the v3’s at a discount.

Check out the New Balance FuelCell SC Elite v3 at Amazon to see what the latest discounts are.

So I picked up a pair and stashed the box in my closet until the time was right. Today is three weeks out from my fall marathon in Erie, and I ran my last big workout. It seemed like a good time to break the shoes out to see how they feel.

What’s Special About the New Balance SC Elite v3 Super Shoes?

After I see how they perform on race day, I’ll come back and write a more thorough review of the shoes. But in the meantime, here’s a quick overview.

The SC Elite V3 is New Balance’s version of the carbon plated super shoe. When Nike introduced the original Vaporfly, it was a paradigm shift in marathon running. It took a few years for the other manufacturers to catch up, but at this point they all have their own version.

Essentially, the shoes have a carbon fiber plate built into the midsole along with some super foam that helps make your run smoother and more efficient. They tend to allow you to run a little faster, and anecdotally they leave you feeling better the next day. The shoes are great for both performance and recovery.

First Impressions After Trying On the SC Elite v3

Top down view of my foot in the New Balance SC Elite v3.

When they arrived and I took them out of the box, the first thing my wife said was, “Ooh, they’re pretty!” So they pass the style check. I got the white with the purple and pink accent colors.

I woke up early this morning for my workout, and my gear was laid out in the bathroom. I stepped into one of the shoes, and I immediately thought two things. First, the heel is really high. Second, there’s a lot of cushion and it feels kind of boingy. Yes, that’s a technical term.

The shoes have a 40mm stack height at the hell, which makes them legal (just barely) for road races by the World Athletics standards. With only one shoe on, the tall height was apparent. I felt lopsided with one foot on the floor and the other in the shoe. Once I put on both shoes, it felt normal – but I definitely felt taller. Kind of like when you wear ice skates and you gain a couple of inches.

There was a definite spring and squishy-ness to them. But this was more noticeable when standing still or walking.

When I got outside, I sat down and laced the shoes up. This is when I got a good look at the upper. The tongue of the shoe is a very light material, almost like a sock. It pulls up easily to fit snugly around your foot. I like it a lot better than the tongue on my Rebels.

The edges of the upper aren’t too tall, and they don’t come up high enough to rub against your heels or ankles. I wore short, ankle length socks and I was able to pull them up high enough to cover the tops of the shoes.

When I took the shoes off, I took a good look at the rest of the upper. It is very thin – which I’m guessing contributes to both making the shoe breathable and making it lighter. The part that wraps around your heel is cushioned and thicker, but the rest is a very lightweight piece of fabric with plenty of perforations. I compared it to my other daily trainers – the New Balance Fresh Foam 1080 – and they have thicker sides.

One final note about fit. I love New Balance because they accommodate wide feet. My feet are pretty wide. I usually get the 4E, extra wide models when they’re available. The SC Elite v3 doesn’t come in a wide version, but it still fit fine.

I was a little worried about this when I was shopping for the shoes, and it’s one of the reasons I never tried the Nike super shoes. The SC Elites were snug around the sides of my feet, but perhaps because the upper is so thin it didn’t feel constricting or too tight.

Running a Long Run Workout In the New Balance SC Elite

So how did they do in the workout?

In a word: Great.

Today was my last long workout before my marathon. I had 18 miles scheduled. This included a warm-up, six miles at marathon pace (~7:10-7:15), an easy mile recovery, a mile at threshold (~6:45), six more miles at marathon pace (~7:05-7:10), and then an easy cool-down.

I turned out of the driveway and eased into the warm up. It felt like I was running on air as I jogged down the street to the Orange Reservoir Loop. I planned to run 10 loops, which should put me at just about 18 miles.

The first mile ticked off, and I glanced at my watch: 8:42. Usually, my warm up miles start in the mid 9’s and then dip down to 8:30ish. The next two were the same pace. My breathing was under control, and I felt great.

After about three miles, I started the first segment of marathon pace miles. It was easy to pick up the pace, and I spent the first mile or so trying to dial it in. I ended up averaging 7:09/mi, and as I got thoroughly warmed up I had to slow myself down a few times. My legs felt great throughout, and I didn’t feel the slightest bit tired. But I also didn’t want to get carried away and crash in the second half of the workout.

I jogged the recovery mile and then started the threshold mile. Again, it was easy to speed up. I overshot the pace a bit, but eventually I honed in on the target and ran it in 6:44. The next six miles at marathon paced miles came just as easy. I allowed myself to pick up the pace a little bit here, simulating the end of the race. I averaged 7:00/mi, with a few of those miles just under 7:00 minutes.

Although I’m fully capable of running 18-20 miles, usually my legs start to get a little tired somewhere around the 14-16 mile mark. Today, I felt great. My breathing was a little labored towards the end as I pushed the pace, but I never really felt like my legs were dead.

I walked for a minute or two, and then I cooled down. I felt awesome, and by the end of the cool down I was back to jogging around 8:30/mi.

The shoes fit perfectly. The upper didn’t rub against my heels or ankles, and I never felt like they were too tight around my feet. They just felt nice and snug.

The only problem I noticed was when I tried to take a sharp corner. They felt a bit weird, perhaps because the stack height is so high. I wouldn’t recommend trying to take any hairpin turns at pace in these, but once I rounded out my corners I was fine.

The workout went perfectly, and this was a huge confidence builder going into my race. My goal is 3:05 to 3:08, so if I can maintain this pace (7:05 to 7:10/mi), I’ll be golden. When I did a similar workout in the first week of my training, I was struggling to hit 7:30/mi at the end. I’m in much better shape than I was 9 weeks ago, and my training surely helped. But I’m pretty sure the shoes gave me a little boost, too.

Last Thoughts on the New Balance SC Elite v3

One of the supposed benefits of super shoes is that the cushioning helps reduce the pounding on your legs. As a result, they should feel better and recover more quickly.

I definitely felt good after the workout. I was tired for sure. After I got home, I took a nap. My heart rate was slightly elevated throughout the day, and my Garmin stress score stayed high. So it was a tough workout and it put a lot of stress on my cardiovascular system.

But physically I feel great. I don’t feel like I ran 18 hard miles this morning. My legs felt strong throughout the run, and they still feel fine this evening. I’ll have to wait and see how I feel tomorrow, but I’d say there’s definitely a benefit to be had here.

In the past, I’ve raced in the New Balance FuelCell Rebel and the FuelCell Prism. They both had a little spring to them, but they pale in comparison to the SC Elite v3. I’m going to use the Prism for workouts this fall, and then retire them. The Rebels should be good for a few shorter races this fall and then some workouts next year before they get retired.

Overall, I’m very happy with the shoe. My only concern is its durability and longevity. I usually keep my shoes for 500 to 1,000 miles – when there are visible signs of wear. But the typical advice for super shoes is that they’ll last closer to 100 to 200.

My plan right now is to save them for my marathons. I figure that way, they’ll last me through next fall (today’s workout plus three marathons). Hopefully, I can then snag a discounted SC Elite v4 after they’ve been on the market. I can then use the v4 for racing in 2025, and I’ll see how many miles I can get out of the v3’s in my long run workouts.

Again, I’ll be back with a more thorough review of the shoes after my race in three weeks. But if you’re in the market for some super shoes, and you like New Balance, definitely check out the New Balance FuelCell SC Elite v3. You won’t be disappointed.

If you’ve had a chance to try them out yourself, I’d love to hear your feedback in the comments.

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