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New Balance FuelCell Propel v4 Review

A budget-plated trainer, the Propel is great for logging big miles at a small price
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New Balance FuelCell Propel v4 Review (The FuelCell foam in the midsole is very comfortable, and there is a lot of it)
The FuelCell foam in the midsole is very comfortable, and there is a lot of it
Credit: Nathaniel Bailey
Price:  $110 List
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Manufacturer:   New Balance
By Nathaniel Bailey ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Jun 5, 2024
58
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#14 of 25
  • Cushioning and Landing Comfort - 25% 6.0
  • Responsiveness - 25% 7.0
  • Stability - 20% 6.0
  • Upper Comfort - 15% 5.0
  • Weight - 15% 4.0

Our Verdict

The New Balance Propel v4 brings high-budget features to a low-budget shoe. As a soft and comfortable daily trainer that happens to have a TPU plate, this shoe is ideal for hammering long runs or testing out a plated shoe for the first time. It doesn't have the same “wow” factor as other (read: more expensive) options, but it can handle pace changes with ease and comfort. We think this shoe is a great budget choice if you want something that is both comfortable and reasonably fast.
REASONS TO BUY
Affordable
Well cushioned
Plated trainer
REASONS TO AVOID
Upper reflects the price
Heavy

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Overall Score Sort Icon
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Star Rating
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Bottom Line The Propel combines good cushioning with a plate for speed, making it a solid budget choiceA daily trainer that can handle most runs, the Novablast 4 is fun and extremely comfortableBouncy, responsive and well-cushioned, this shoe is performance-oriented but still versatileA daily trainer that blends comfort and versatility at a reasonable priceAll-around decent performance on a budget
Rating Categories New Balance FuelCel... Asics Novablast 4 New Balance FuelCel... Puma Velocity Nitro 3 Reebok Floatride En...
Cushioning and Landing Comfort (25%)
6.0
8.3
8.5
8.0
6.0
Responsiveness (25%)
7.0
7.0
7.5
7.0
6.0
Stability (20%)
6.0
7.0
4.0
6.0
5.5
Upper Comfort (15%)
5.0
8.0
6.0
7.0
6.5
Weight (15%)
4.0
5.9
8.8
5.3
5.9
Specs New Balance FuelCel... Asics Novablast 4 New Balance FuelCel... Puma Velocity Nitro 3 Reebok Floatride En...
Sizes Available 7 - 15 US, regular & wide 6 - 15 US, regular 7-16 US, regular & wide 7 - 14 US, regular 7-14 US, regular
Style Plated Daily Daily/cushioning Daily Daily Daily
Measured Heel Stack Height 42 mm 43 mm 36 mm 39 mm 32 mm
Measured Heel-to-Toe Drop 8 mm 7 mm 5 mm 10 mm 6 mm
Plate Type TPU None None None None
Rocker Angle 15.0 deg 22.5 deg 19.5 deg 18.0 deg 21.5 deg
Rocker Apex Location 60.48% 66.53% 62.18% 66.67% 66.13%
Measured Weight 10.86 oz 9.76 oz 7.98 oz 10.07 oz 9.73 oz
Upper Engineered mesh Engineered woven/knit Engineered mesh Engineered knit Engineered knit
Midsole FuelCell FF Blast + Eco FuelCell Profoam Floatride Energy
Outsole Rubber AHAR Lo Rubber PumaGrip Rubber
Heel Tab Type None Finger loop None None None

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Propel brings a ton of value to a $110 shoe. The TPU plate provides enough pop to make this shoe reasonable for uptempo runs, and the FuelCell foam is more than comfortable enough for long runs. Depending on the runner, this could be the perfect budget buy.

Performance Comparison


new balance fuelcell propel v4 - the new balance propel 4 is a comfortable budget trainer
The New Balance Propel 4 is a comfortable budget trainer
Credit: Nathaniel Bailey

Cushioning and Landing Comfort


The FuelCell foam of the Propel v4 is soft, making landings comfortable on all surfaces. New Balance does a good job of making sure the soft foam doesn't feel dead or pillowy. There's still feedback from the road, and while you're well-insulated, the shoe feels firm enough to allow you to pick up the pace when you want to.


If you're after a comfortable long-run shoe, the cushioning is hard to beat at this price point. The stack height of 42mm in the heel and 34mm in the forefoot is a substantial amount of great foam underfoot.

new balance fuelcell propel v4 - the fuelcell foam in the propel is excellent.
The FuelCell foam in the Propel is excellent.
Credit: Natalie Kafader

Responsiveness


If the idea of lots of bouncy foam paired with a TPU plate sounds like a familiar recipe from more expensive, faster shoes, that's because it is. The two work well together, and we think the TPU plate gives this shoe enough pop to handle moderate paces. Because of the amount of foam and the overall weight, we don't love this shoe for anything much faster than a threshold pace.


As a daily trainer, we think the Propel is fine; in fact, it's more responsive than many other shoes in our lineup. It just isn't the shoe we'd grab for workouts.

new balance fuelcell propel v4 - the tpu plate helps give some pop to the propel, but it still is...
The TPU plate helps give some pop to the Propel, but it still is best for longer, submaximal efforts
Credit: Nathaniel Bailey

Upper Comfort


The upper on the Propel v4 is exactly what we expect at this price point. It's fine, but it's nothing exciting or impressive.


The knit upper struggles to breathe, and we find it rougher than other, similar uppers. We also think it leaves something to be desired regarding fit and lockdown.

new balance fuelcell propel v4 - the knit upper struggles with ventilation, which is typical.
The knit upper struggles with ventilation, which is typical.
Credit: Natalie Kafader

While we didn't experience any hotspots, our feet tend to move around in these shoes more than we like. The heel cup is rigid but doesn't have enough padding at the top to retain the heel. We find that unless our lacing is perfect, our feet move just enough to slide the insole backward, causing our toes to hang past the end while running.

new balance fuelcell propel v4 - we're not entirely sure why, but the insole slid backward in the...
We're not entirely sure why, but the insole slid backward in the shoe if our lacing wasn't perfect.
Credit: Natalie Kafader

The tongue is padded enough to prevent hotspots, although we wish it were gusseted. Overall, the upper is fine and gets the job done. It just doesn't rank among our favorites.

new balance fuelcell propel v4 - we found that when running uphill, the insole would slide unless our...
We found that when running uphill, the insole would slide unless our lacing was perfect
Credit: Nathaniel Bailey

Lateral Stability and Support


Thanks to the TPU plate, the thick stack of FuelCell makes this shoe more stable than expected. It isn't a stability shoe by any means, but for a plated trainer, it's pretty good.


This shoe could be a great introduction to the world of plated trainers/racers for runners with mild stability concerns. The shoe feels reasonably planted, but the stack height does limit its agility on uneven surfaces.

new balance fuelcell propel v4 - the chunky size of the novablast is deceptive- this is a reasonably...
The chunky size of the Novablast is deceptive- this is a reasonably light shoe.
Credit: Natalie Kafader

Weight


The Propel v4 is one of the heaviest shoes in our test at 10.86 oz. We typically don't care for heavy shoes; if a shoe is heavy, its usefulness beyond easy runs is pretty limited. However, we think the Propel doesn't feel as heavy as it is. It feels light enough for us to use it on long runs.


However, given the weight, we were disappointed by the traction provided by the outsole. Typically, a good portion of a shoe's weight comes from its heavier-duty outsole rubber. While the rubber on the Propel has decent grip, it didn't wow us, particularly on loose surfaces.

new balance fuelcell propel v4 - for how much weight the propel dedicates to traction, it has...
For how much weight the Propel dedicates to traction, it has disappointing grip.
Credit: Natalie Kafader

Should You Buy the New Balance FuelCell Propel v4?


If you want a well-cushioned, budget trainer that is great for easy-to-moderate paces, consider the Propel. It's not the best shoe in our test, but for specific users, it will be a great training partner. Finally, if you want to try out a plated shoe but don't want the cost typically associated with one, try the Propel.

What Other Running Shoes Should You Consider?


Our favorite budget buy in our running shoe category is the Puma Velocity Nitro 3. It's a great daily shoe with ample cushioning and a more comfortable upper. It costs a bit more than the Propel v4, but we think it is worth it. If you want a shoe that earns high marks across the board, the Saucony Endorphin Speed 4 is another trainer that combines lots of bouncy foam with a nylon plate, and we think it does it better than the Propel.

Nathaniel Bailey