By Paul Freary
The Propel is an interesting shoe from New Balance. It’s a good value running shoe and all brands need competitively priced models, but here, New Balance has made their budget-friendly model somewhat of a performance-geared shoe rather than simply an everyday neutral cushioned model that most brands would choose.
The Propel takes styling cues from the SuperComp Elite and SuperComp trainer as it also features a plated midsole. Here the plate is a TPU-based version, but nonetheless, it has some of the propulsive properties found in the much more expensive models.
New Balance FuelCell Propel V4 vs V3 - Whats New?
The most obvious difference between the Propel v3 and this latest version, the v4 is the addition of the TPU plate.
While the cushioning is a similar FuelCell midsole, in this new model, I find that it does feel a little softer and plusher.
Of course, FuelCell is the blanket term for the brand's particular foam midsole used here, it can vary slightly across the range of shoes featuring the material. In the range-topping SC Elite, for example, the FuelCell foam feels much softer and much more responsive.
It’s essentially a slightly different blend, but the same key ingredients are present. The TPU plate does add to the overall cushioning and rather than the Energy Arc carbon plate, I think the plate here contributes more in terms of cushioning than propulsion.
FuelCell Propel V4
Good value daily trainer, suitable for both easy runs and some faster-paced efforts
Mid-level cushioning with a responsive feel
Weight (Size 10)
Men’s: 302g / 10.7oz
Women’s: 272g / 9.6oz
£120 / $110
True to size
New Balance Propel V4 Construction
The overall fit on the New Balance Propel v4 is similar to most of the brand's shoes in terms of length and width.
The upper is a relatively simple engineered mesh construction with little detail. That said, it really doesn’t need any extra bells or whistles and it fits well and is a durable, well-made construction.
The tongue has reasonable padding, as does the ankle collar and heel area and overall provides a good fit that’s neat and supportive around the foot.
How Does the Propel V4 Run?
With regards to the technical features of the Propel v4, it’s quite a simple shoe. The midsole is New Balance’s FuelCell, so more of a premium midsole foam in that regard, but it’s a simple dual-layer design with a TPU plate running the length of the shoe, sandwiched between the foam layers.
The stack height is fairly typical of many daily training shoes nowadays, so the shoe feels like a typical daily trainer when you first step into it.
On the run, the TPU plate does add somewhat to the ride and gives the shoe a more energised feel, but let's not get too carried away here, it's not in the same league as the brand's other plated models, the SC Elite or even SC Trainer.
Of course, the two premium models feature full-length carbon plates whereas here it's a TPU, or plastic plate. Bearing in mind that Saucony also uses a plastic (or Nylon) plate in their Endorphin Speed model compared to the Carbon of their Endorphin Pro, the difference is noticeable.
That difference again comes down to the midsole foam. However we look at it, there’s a big difference in the FuelCell in this model compared to the SC Trainer and SC Elite. Of course, we don’t expect the same, especially given the price difference, but bearing the same name can be misleading.
There’s nothing wrong with the Propel, especially given the good value-for-money price tag, it’s just very different from the higher-priced models.
Okay, so all this said, the Propel v4 does feel pretty good. It’s a pretty smooth ride and there is an element of ‘energy return’ to the toe-off.
It’s also aimed at runners wanting a single pair of shoes for weekly training at any pace or simply those not wanting to spend twice the price for the carbon models.
Comparisons and Alternatives to the Propel V4
Comparing the shoe is a rather tricky thing to do. I’ve given it much thought since running in the shoe. What makes it difficult to compare is the target runner and price point.
At a similar price we have the Nike Pegasus, except that’s not plated, so is that a good comparison? Without the plate, it has similar levels of cushioning, and a similar price and is also a versatile daily trainer.
The 880v13 also from New Balance would be a similar shoe from the same manufacturer, but again, without the plate, it’s aimed at a slightly different runner, or is it? It’s a versatile daily trainer. Yes, it’s a little more expensive, but the difference between the two models really could come down to how each feels on the foot.
I think the nearest comparison to the Propel v4 would be the Saucony Ride. Again, it’s not plated, you’d have to go for the Endorphin Speed for that, but the Ride has a similar feel to the Propel. I think it’s the curved, rocker geometry of the Ride that gives it a somewhat energetic feel and that’s how I’d best describe the Propel too.
I did enjoy running in the New Balance Propel v4, it’s a lively feeling shoe with an element of energy return and it’s a versatile feeling shoe.
I covered all types of running in the shoe from an easy recovery pace run at around 8 minutes per mile down to a faster-paced tempo at around 5 minutes 30 seconds per mile pace.
The shoe, for me, probably felt best at around 6:30 minute per mile pace, not flat out, but at a good fast cruise pace. Of course, pace is all relative and what’s fast for me will be slow for others and flat-out pace for some! I mention this purely to help give an indication of the shoe's ability.
This said I’d probably limit the distance of a run in the shoe to around 8 miles. Whilst good, as the runs went on, I did feel the shoe begin to bottom out a little. This of course, again is my own feeling and I think partially because, despite only being around 70kg I do tend to hit the ground pretty hard and like the feel of a very cushioned shoe under my feet.
It’s a pretty flexible shoe and is able to take bends at speed with confidence and even being a neutral cushioned model it feels pretty stable for a shoe in this category and at this price point, it performs well.
The fit is everything it needs to be and provides a snug and secure fit that’s even better than much more expensive shoes.
The outsole rubber provides good coverage making for good ground contact as well as durability.
In conclusion, the shoe is a very versatile option that’s well-priced and a good ‘do-it-all’ model for those wanting a one-shoe solution to their running requirements.