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THE RUNDOWN: The lightweight New Balance FuelCell Impulse delivers a snappy ride in a sleek package.
Surface: Road Stability: Neutral Stack Height: Low
The New Balance FuelCell Impulse rides like a lightly-cushioned racing flat, making any sort of speed work feel fun again for this former road-racer-turned-trail-runner. A new style designed for quick toe-off, the Impulse boasts nitrogen-injected foam segments in the midsole. That technology, found in other styles from New Balance, delivers a responsive ride that holds up well over miles of training as promised.
Weight: 6.7 oz (women’s), 8.1 oz (men’s)
Offset: 6 mm
Heel/Forefoot: 6.4 mm/18.9 mm
Outsole: RevLite, rubber
Upper: Double jacquard mesh
100 Miles In: The Review
Fresh out of the box, the FuelCell Impulse feels light and looks good. Weighing in at 6.7 ounces for women, it features a lightweight midsole material that makes for a cushioned heel and midfoot. In the forefoot, two internal segments of a nitrogen-injected foam add stiffness. The New Balance innovation team and materials engineers figured out that using nitrogen (the colorless, odorless, unreactive chemical element you learned about in science class) encouraged propulsion. Their goal was to design a shoe that not only helped athletes drive off the cushioning platform quickly but that was also durable.
Thanks to this construction and a sharply curved outsole under the toe, this pair feels springy and encourages a mid- to forefoot strike. Despite showing wear and compression externally, the midsole and outsole wore well even after I logged more than 140 miles on roads, sidewalks, gravel, dirt and other surfaces.
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With a close-to-the-ground design, it allows me to feel (but not mind) the ground. Exposed midsole material makes up most of the outsole, but minimal hard rubber placement proved to be sufficient for traction (and durability) on both hard and soft surfaces. New Balance used athlete data to configure the outsole lugs, which are oriented in the general direction most people flex their feet toe off.
The Impulse’s good looks come from a sleek upper layered on top of sock-like internal bootie. This fit features a stretchy knit that hugs the foot out of the box, but stretches out over time. I found the external synthetic mesh to be breathable enough to avoid swamp foot, and the double jacquard knit pattern added to the sleek aesthetic.
A thin heel counter delivers just enough support for a secure fit around the back of the foot. Bonus: It acts like an old-school shoe horn to help slide into the shoes, which can be a bit of a wiggly trick due to the upper design.
While my top priority for running shoes is comfort, it didn’t hurt to get compliments on how this pair looked. People commented on the clean design and snappy colors (gray with a pop of coral) and wavy mesh. Whether I was out for a walk or dashing through the airport, I didn’t feel like a complete athleisure-slob. For what it’s worth, I’d consider wearing black colorway as a convenient option that could double as a running and casual travel shoe when I want to pack light on trips.
The FuelCell Impusle, which for me fit true to size, is available for both men and women in normal and wide widths—a huge boon for wide-footed folks among us who want a light racing-flat-style shoe. If you have narrow feet, it’s worth trying the pair on before committing, but the close-fitting design could potentially accommodate your feet comfortably.
There’s The Rub
The rub, quite literally, is just above both heels. A knit collar opening comes up higher and tighter than other shoes. In fact, it rides too high and tight for this tester’s preference. Just a mile or so into my first run in this pair, hot spots popped up above my heel. More than 100 miles later, two bubbly blisters slowly calloused. At first, cushioned or higher-than-no-cut socks helped to alleviate the issue. After a few weeks of wear, the ankle collar stretched out enough that the rubbing ceased and, in a pinch, I was even able to wear these shoes without socks.
What’s more, as the ankle collar stretched out, so did the rest of the upper. Whether the material reached its elastic limits or lost its ability to recover, the stretchy knit bagged out over time. This led to a sloppier forefoot and slipping around—all that despite my wide forefoot, which often spills over edges of B width, and high instep and arch, which generally requires a voluminous fit. The heel fit remained relatively comfortable and snug, though.
I’ve been running in highly-cushioned shoes for a few years now so the transition to testing this pair shocked my lower legs. Although I was used to a low drop, the lighter weight, increased ground feel, and pronounced toe-off cost my muscles and tendons a few weeks of soreness. That said, I appreciated the opportunity to re-discover a mid-foot strike and to feel fast during workouts in this style. As a coach, I encourage rotating between a few pairs of running shoes to keep your feet from developing imbalances, so the FuelCell Impulse forced me to practice what I preach; a great change of pace.
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The New Balance FuelCell Impulse is a comfortable, low-to-the-ground running shoe in an attractive and lightweight package. It’s a solid option for anyone looking for a fast-feeling ride and/or sleek-looking silhouette who is willing to risk a blister or two. Ideal for faster training runs and/or races, this style fits true to size. It is available now, in specialty retailers and online.
Elizabeth W. Carey is a writer and running coach with two decades of experience in the running and outdoor industries. Based in Seattle, Washington, she loves running trails and exploring on foot. Find her on TeamRunRun.com and Instagram.