I was massively confused before writing this New Balance SuperComp Trainer review. Well, I was confused when I received a pair of SuperComp Pacers after seeing all the images on social media about the mega-high-stack New Balance running shoes – as it turns out, the shoe making its rounds on social wasn't Pacer, but its taller sibling, the SC Trainer.
Fast forward a few weeks, and I'm sitting here, looking at the insanely tall midsole of the 'illegal' New Balance SuperComp Trainer. These shoes are probably the most-hyped New Balance running shoes in recent times, thanks to said stack height, which makes them illegal to wear on World Athletics races.
Do they live up to the hype, though? Should they be included in our best running shoe guide? Are they better than other, cheaper, non-carbon-plated running trainers, such as the New Balance Fresh Foam X 880v12? Let's find out!
New Balance SuperComp Trainer review: Price and availability
The New Balance SuperComp Trainer was announced in July 2022 and is available to buy now directly from New Balance US, New Balance UK and New Balance AU for a recommended retail price of $180/£210/AU$320. I haven't got a clue why the shoes are so expensive in the UK/AU, or, more like, why they are cheaper in the US. In the UK/AU, the SuperComp Trainer retails for the same price as the FuelCell RC Elite v2!
As a 'legal' alternative, you might want to consider the FuelCell SuperComp Pacer (retailer link), a shorter-stack version of the SC family. These racing flats also feature the Energy Arc technology and the carbon plate but are much lighter than the SC Trainer. For racing, the FuelCell RC Elite v2 (retailer link) is a no-brainer option. The stack height is under the legal limit, and the shoes are super light, considering how chunky they are.
New Balance SuperComp Trainer review: what is it and why it's illegal?
The SuperComp Trainer is New Balance's ‘most advanced’ daily training shoe. It features a FuelCell midsole with Energy Arc technology for ‘superior energy return’, New Balance explains. The engineered knit upper features no-sew construction with a gusseted tongue for a ‘snug feel’. Long story short, the SuperComp Trainer is a high-stack daily trainer with a supposedly comfortable upper that also happens to look pretty cool.
The New Balance SuperComp Trainer has an 8 mm drop (47mm heel/39mm forefoot) – that stack height under the heels is total cray-cray. The shoes are not light either: a men’s US 11 (UK 10.5) weighs a hefty 11.6oz/329g.
Why is the SuperComp Trainer illegal? Currently, World Athletics limits stack height in track running shoes to a maximum of 20-25 mm, while the mark is limited to 40 mm for road shoes, meaning you can’t use the SuperComp Trainer on official World Athletic races.
New Balance SuperComp Trainer review: Fit
As mentioned above, the New Balance SuperComp Trainer features a no-sew construction to reduce chafing and improve comfort. And indeed, the 'sock-like' fit feels great on the heels, especially because there is also so much foam underfoot. My heels felt especially well-looked after in the SuperComp Trainer.
The engineered mesh upper fits really well in the midsection, too. The seamless upper, combined with the knit gusseted tongue, secures the foot well without putting too much pressure on any one area. However, the reinforced bit at the front of the upper presses against the toes slightly, which might result in your toenails falling off.
The reinforcement on running shoes is a constant bain of my life. The Saucony Endorphin Speed 3 had the same issue, but the other way around: the reinforcement keeps the upper away from the toes, creating too much vertical space in the toe box. I went with my usual New Balance size (half size up), but still, it feels too tight. Sad times.
New Balance SuperComp Trainer review: Running performance
The New Balance SuperComp Trainer is insanely soft under the heels; you have to try it to believe. It’s like jumping on a trampoline – reminded me of the ASICS Novablast series, but even those are not as bouncy as the SuperComp Trainer.
The Energy Arc/carbon plate duo also helps in energy returns. I reached out to New Balance to find out what the Energy Arc was, as at first, I thought that and the carbon plate were the same, but no!
Energy Arc is a propriety technology that features a 'cambered' carbon plate paired with a midsole void that is focused around additional compression, energy storage and ultimately higher energy returns. See the diagram below on the principle behind the “Springboard-like Energy Arc System":
Despite providing good energy returns, the SuperComp Trainer's weight will tire the legs out over long distances. Less so than non-plated shoes, but still. I reached out to New Balance to clarify why the SuperComp Trainer is so heavy, and this is what they have to say:
"While some of the weight difference sits in the upper, the midsole and outsole are the primary reason for the difference in weight. While the shoes use a Fuelcell material, the compound, density and stack height are very different [from lighter FuelCell shoes], which accounts for the major difference."
To summarise, the shoes are heavier because there is more FuelCell foam, and it's also denser to provide a better training experience. Making the shoes too light would have made them less resilient, and the idea is that you can train in them for longer without the foam losing its good properties.
New Balance SuperComp Trainer review: Verdict
Should you get the New Balance SuperComp Trainer? It's a unique experience to run in the shoes, thanks to the massive stack height and the carbon plate – you won't find it anywhere else!
At the same time, the SuperComp Trainer is pretty heavy, and the toe box has its issues, too, making it hard to justify the price, especially in the UK and AU, but even in the US. If you're a hardcore New Balance fan and want training shoes that match the running dynamics of the FuelCell RC Elite v2, you'll be happy with the SC Trainer.
Plus, since the shoes have an understated, sneaker-like design, they double up as, well, sneakers. Gone are the days of the dad-look; nowadays, you can wear performance running shoes as part of a trendy, athleisure outfit, and the SuperComp Trainer is an excellent choice for that.
New Balance SuperComp Trainer review: Also consider
If you're looking for something lighter with a better ground feel, the Under Armour Flow Velociti Wind 2 might be a good alternative. It offers a light, firm ride and is recommended for tempo runs and fast training for runners with strong legs.
One of my all-time favourite tempo training shoes, the Brooks Hyperion Tempo, was the lightest, fastest and most capable running trainer when it came out, and two years later, this is still the case. The lightweight upper hugs the foot, and the nitrogen-infused midsole is a joy to step on.
Of course, I couldn't finish this review without mentioning the New Balance Fresh Foam X 1080v12. It's an excellent entry to the long-running 1080 franchise and turns these plush trainers into a must-have training partner for long runs.