New Balance RC5000 Review

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I love the stunningly fast RC5000, which provides far more cushioning than you'd expect for one of the lightest shoes on the market. The cushioning is not as soft and plush as many other shoes, even those most would consider lightweight, but it's just enough cushioning to provide the benefits to Running Economy. The name "RC5000" is uninspiring, so I'm voting to rename it the "New Balance Damn That's Fast" or the "New Balance Oh Yeah". Of course, a shoe this light may not provide enough cushioning for everyone, but I'd recommend trying it out if you're a reasonably efficient runner looking for an edge. It would be my first choice for a fast marathon, and I adore this shoe. The next version of this shoe, the New Balance RC5000v2 is slightly heavier, but much better cushioned. (I use The Science of Running Shoes as the basis of how I test running shoes and what you should look for in a running shoe.)

New Balance MRC 5000 top
New Balance MRC 5000 bottom
New Balance MRC 5000 inside
New Balance MRC 5000 outside

1 Characteristics

  • Why you’d buy it. If you're after the lightest, fastest shoe available, you should check this out.
  • Cushioning . The RC5000 is astonishingly well cushioned given its stunningly low weight. There is less cushioning here than in other shoes that would be considered a light weight like the Asics Gel Hyper Speed, but even those lightweight shoes way nearly twice as much is the RC5000. This shoe has just enough cushioning for me to consider it an optimal rather than a minimalist shoe. The lack of cushioning in a minimalist shoe reduces Running Economy, but the RC5000 allows me to run with just the same biomechanics as I would in a far more cushioned shoe.
  • Drop. The RC5000 has a touch more of a drop than I'd like at 4mm (3mm when loaded), but I doubt if this is enough to be an issue with all but the zero drop purists.
  • Structure. The RC5000 uses a single density of foam with no noticeable "arch support" to cause problems. There is a gap in the midsole in the middle of the midfoot that can act as a stone trap, and I have picked up stones when running over gravel that required me to stop and pull them out.
  • Flexibility. The RC5000 is flexible due to the relatively thin midsole.
  • Outsole. The RC5000 has lots of small, hard plastic lugs over the forefoot, and the outside edge of the heel. These are not the type of lugs you'd find on the trail shoe, but are intended to provide extra grip on asphalt, something they do nicely.
  • Shape. The shape of the RC5000 does not match the human foot, and narrows in the toe box, and I had to cut open the toe box open to prevent toe problems. (I recommend cutting open the toe box of virtually all running shoes, with the exception of a few shoes like some Altra shoes. When you have some worn out shoes, you should try cutting open the toe box. I've found that it's a big improvement, allowing my toes to move naturally and engage for toe off, as well as reducing the possibility of blisters.)
  • Upper. The upper is thin, inflexible and seamless with no padding other than a tiny bit around the ankle opening. The upper is so thin that I was concerned it would tear easily, but I've had no problems even where I've cut the upper open around the toe box.
  • Tongue. The RC5000 has a traditional tongue that is has a tab to attach it to the laces. The tongue is thin and unpadded, but I didn't find it uncomfortable.
  • Lacing. The RC5000 has traditional flat laces that are a little thinner than most, probably to save weight. I found that they stayed tied more easily than most shoelaces I've tried.
  • Heel Counter. Not surprisingly, there is no real Heel Counter in this shoe. There is a tiny tab that sticks up from the back of the heel, but nothing else. I find it interesting to run in a shoe without the Heel Counter, and I believe it emphasizes how useless they are and how much better off we'd be without them.
helping-hand.jpg

2 How Far Can I Run in the RC5000?

Different runners want different levels of cushioning, so this shoe may not suit everyone. Some runners want a Maximalist shoe when they run a 5K, while others will run a 100 mile race barefoot. Most people find that as the distance increases, they want a little more cushioning to protect their feet from the pounding and to offset a little of the fatigue that sets in over time. You can see from the charts below how the cushioning compares with other shoes I've tested for some comparisons. Remember that a thicker, firmer shoe would have the same cushioning rating as a thinner, softer shoe, but would feel rather different. I've run the marathon distance in the RC5000, but I'd probably want more cushioning for a road 50 mile race. If I wanted to run my best to time in the marathon, this would be the shoe I choose.

3 Comparisons

Here are some direct comparisons with its potential competition.

3.1 New Balance RC5000 and RC5000v2

While the updated New Balance RC5000v2 appears similar to the original, I'm considering it different enough that I think of it as a new shoe rather than simply an iteration. The original was the fastest shoe I've tested, with just enough cushioning and a stunningly low weight. RC5000v2 is quite a bit heavier (~17%), but it offers a lot more cushioning, about half as much again at the heel. The upper is quite a bit thicker and stronger, though I never had an issue with the original tearing or wearing out. So the original is a faster shoe, but the v2 will suit more runners.

New Balance MRC 5000 top
New Balance MRC 5000 bottom
New Balance MRC 5000 inside
New Balance MRC 5000 outside
New Balance RC5000 v2 top
New Balance RC5000 v2 bottom
New Balance RC5000 v2 inside
New Balance RC5000 v2 outside
helping-hand.jpg

3.2 New Balance RC5000 and Mizuno Wave Universe

On paper the Mizuno Wave Universe seems almost identical to the RC5000, but I found them quite different. For me, the difference in cushioning between the two shoes makes a huge impact on my Running Economy. The lack of cushioning in the Universe changes my biomechanics and I have to use extra effort to absorb the impact. This means the RC5000 is not only more comfortable, it's a lot faster than the Universe (or pretty much any other shoe I've tried for that matter).

New Balance MRC 5000 top
New Balance MRC 5000 bottom
New Balance MRC 5000 inside
New Balance MRC 5000 outside
Mizuno Wave Universe 5 top
Mizuno Wave Universe 5 bottom
Mizuno Wave Universe 5 inside
Mizuno Wave Universe 5 outside
helping-hand.jpg

3.3 New Balance RC5000 and Asics Gel Hyper Speed

The Asics Gel Hyper Speed is another favorite shoe, and if I need more cushioning than the RC 5000 provides, the Hyper Speed is my first choice. If you find that the RC 5000 does not provide enough cushioning for you, then I'd recommend the Hyper Speed. Don't expect a plush, cushy ride even from the Hyper Speed; it still is stripped down, go faster running shoe.

New Balance MRC 5000 top
New Balance MRC 5000 bottom
New Balance MRC 5000 inside
New Balance MRC 5000 outside
Asics Gel Hyper Speed 6 top
Asics Gel Hyper Speed 6 bottom
Asics Gel Hyper Speed 6 inside
Asics Gel Hyper Speed 6 outside
helping-hand.jpg

3.4 New Balance RC5000 and Asics GT 2000

I realize that this is a rather foolish comparison, but bear with me. I like to compare shoes against the Asics GT 2000 as it represents the traditional running shoe. The GT 2000 weights over three times as much as the RC5000, so what do you get for all that extra weight? Mostly you get over engineering, with excessive features that go against The Science of Running Shoes. This is more likely to cause problems than solve them, as well as adding a lot of extra weight. Of course, you also get a huge amount more cushioning with the GT 2000, with better padding in the upper, especially in the tongue and ankle opening. Running in the GT 2000 after the RC5000 feels like you've put on a wooden clog and ankle weights. This weight difference impacts your Running Economy, and the calculations suggest that an average runner in the RC5000 is around 12 seconds/mile faster than in the GT 2000. (In practice, I feel like it's a bigger difference than that.)

New Balance MRC 5000 top
New Balance MRC 5000 bottom
New Balance MRC 5000 inside
New Balance MRC 5000 outside
Asics GT2000 top
Asics GT2000 bottom
Asics GT2000 inside
Asics GT2000 outside

4 Cushioning and Shoes

It's intuitively obvious that the cushioning in a shoe will reduce the impact on your body when running. However, The Science of Running Shoes indicates that the reality is rather more complex. While slight cushioning may reduce the effort needed to run by improving your Running Economy, most scientific research indicates that more cushioning does further improve Running Economy. In addition, cushioning does not generally reduce impact and may actually increase it. This is counterintuitive, but is likely to be due to the way a runners mind and body adapts to softer cushioning. Unfortunately, the scientific evidence is far from complete and it's hard to give clear recommendations. I believe that some runners will prefer more cushioning, while others prefer less, and typically those running further have a fondness for greater cushioning. I also believe that a shoe should be as light as possible, and a shoe should justify its weight with the cushioning it provides. My advice is to decide what level of cushioning you're looking for, and then find the lightest shoes that also fit well and are comfortable.

5 Visualizing the Attributes of the New Balance RC5000

How New Balance RC5000 compares showing rearfoot cushioning against the performance penalty of its weight. Upper right is better.
How New Balance RC5000 compares showing forefoot cushioning against the performance penalty of its weight. Upper right is better.
How New Balance RC5000 compares showing the price against the benefit (cushioning/performance penalty). Upper left is better.
How New Balance RC5000 compares showing the loaded drop against the benefit (cushioning/performance penalty). Upper left is better.

6 A Comparison with other Recommended Shoes

For a more detailed comparison of these shoes see the Recommendations for Best Running Shoes. This table lists the key attributes of What to Look for in Running Shoes. For more detailed information, on the shoes see detailed shoe comparison.

Full Review Name Rating Recommended
price
Benefit Weight
(oz)
Penalty
(sec/mile)
Forefoot
Thickness
Heel
Thickness
Loaded Drop
mm
Cushioning Flexibility
Asics 33-DFA Review 33-DFA Worth considering $90 5.7 10.6 16.5 27 27 0 6.1 6
Saucony Type A6 Review A6 Highly Recommended $100 8.2 6.1 9.5 17 21 4 5.0 8
Adidas Adios Boost 2 Review Adios Worth considering $140 4.7 8.6 13.4 17 27 11 4.0 7
Hoka Bondi Review Bondi Highly Recommended $150 8.0 10.9 17.0 41 45 5 8.8 0
Hoka Bondi 5 Review Bondi Review Pending $150 6.1 11.6 18.1 38 42 5 7.1 4
Hoka Clayton Review Clayton Best of the Best $150 8.8 8.3 12.9 26 30 3 7.3 5
Hoka Clifton 3 Review Clifton3 Best of the Best $130 9.1 9.8 15.3 34 38 3 8.9 6
On Cloudracer Review Cloudracer Worth considering $130 5.7 8.2 12.8 19 27 5 4.7 8
Hoka Conquest Review Conquest Worth considering $170 5.0 11.9 18.5 28 34 5 6.0 3
Saucony Cortana 4 Review Cortana Worth considering $150 4.4 9.9 18.7 22 28 5 4.3 5
Mizuno Wave Cruise Review Cruise Worth considering $120 6.6 5.9 12.5 17 20 7 3.9 7
Newton Distance IV Review Distance Worth considering $155 7.5 9.1 14.2 26 31 3 6.8 6
Asics Gel DS Racer 10 Review DS Racer Worth considering $110 8.2 7.0 10.9 21 26 6 5.8 6
Mizuno Wave Ekiden 8 Review Ekiden Worth considering $115 5.7 5.7 14.6 13 18 6 3.2 8
Saucony Endorphin Review Endorphin Highly Recommended $125 11.1 4.1 6.4 14 13 -1 4.5 9
Adidas Energy Boost Review Energy Worth considering $160 7.2 10.0 15.6 20 30 7 7.2 6
Altra Escalante Review Escalante Review Pending $130 9.1 8.7 13.5 28 25 -1 7.9 7
Puma Faas 100 R Review Faas 100 Highly Recommended $90 8.4 6.1 9.4 15 20 1 5.1 9
Saucony Fastwitch Review Fastwitch Highly Recommended $90 9.5 7.1 11.1 20 22 4 6.8 8
Topo Fli-Lyte Review Fli-Lyte Highly Recommended $100 6.0 9.4 14.6 23 24 4 5.6 6
Nike Free 4.0 Review Free Recommended $120 5.3 8.2 13.6 24 30 6 4.4 6
Saucony Freedom Review Freedom Recommended $160 5.4 10.7 16.6 25 29 3 5.8 7
Asics Gel Lyte 33 3 Review Gel Lyte Not recommended $90 8.0 7.3 11.4 17 24 4 5.8 9
Skechers GOmeb Speed 3 Review GOmeb 3 Worth considering $120 6.9 8.1 12.6 20 24 4 5.5 8
Skechers GORun 4 Review GORun Not recommended $100 6.1 7.5 11.7 15 23 3 4.5 7
Skechers GOrun Ultra 2 Review GRU Worth considering $90 7.5 10.0 15.6 28 34 8 7.5 5
Skechers GOrun Ultra Road Review GRU-R Worth considering $105 6.5 11.3 17.6 30 40 6 7.4 7
Asics GT 2000 Review GT 2000 Not recommended $120 4.8 11.2 17.4 28 35 5 5.4 4
Hoka Hupana Review Hupana Recommended $115 6.1 8.9 13.9 31 36 7 5.4 5
Asics Gel Hyper Speed 7 Review Hyper Speed Highly Recommended $75 10.9 6.3 9.8 22 26 5 6.8 7
Altra Instinct 3.5 Review Instinct 3.5 Recommended $115 4.9 9.3 15.2 24 23 0 4.5 6
Altra Instinct 4.0 Review Instinct 4.0 Review Pending $120 6.0 9.8 15.3 29 25 -1 5.9 6
Asics Tarther Kainos 3 Review Kainos Worth considering $130 10.0 6.9 10.7 17 27 9 6.8 7
Saucony Kinvara 7 Review Kinvara Best of the Best $110 7.4 8.2 12.8 23 27 3 6.1 6
Nike LunaRacer 4 Review LunaRacer Recommended $90 9.9 7.0 10.9 22 30 7 6.9 6
Nike LunarSpider R5 Review LunarSpider Recommended $125 6.9 6.7 10.4 17 21 3 4.6 7
Hoka Mafate Speed Review Mafate Best of the Best $170 7.6 11.9 18.5 39 40 4 9.0 3
Pearl Izumi EM Road N0 v2 Review N0 Highly Recommended $100 7.9 6.5 10.1 14 20 4 5.2 8
Saucony Nomad Review Nomad Review Pending $110 4.3 10.5 17.2 25 27 2 4.5 5
Hoka Odyssey Review Odyssey Highly Recommended $130 8.5 9.4 14.6 37 45 5 8.0 4
Altra Olympus Review Olympus Highly Recommended $130 5.4 11.8 18.4 27 27 3 6.4 4
Altra One 2.5 Review One Highly Recommended $100 8.5 7.1 11.1 22 25 2 6.0 8
Altra Paradigm Review Paradigm Highly Recommended $130 6.4 9.9 15.4 25 25 1 6.4 4
Asics Piranha SP 5 Review Piranha Recommended $100 10.1 4.2 6.5 11 15 3 4.2 9
Brooks PureFlow 5 Review PureFlow Worth considering $110 6.0 9.7 15.1 26 29 5 5.8 8
Salming Race Review Race Worth considering $130 6.9 6.5 10.1 16 19 4 4.5 7
New Balance RC1600 v2 Review RC1600 Highly Recommended $110 8.8 5.6 8.7 15 21 5 4.9 8
New Balance RC5000 Review RC5000 Best of the Best $125 12.2 3.4 5.3 13 17 3 4.2 8
New Balance RC5000v2 Review RC5000v2 Best of the Best $125 14.2 4.0 6.2 13 21 6 5.7 8
Skechers GoRun Ride 3 Review Ride Worth considering $85 5.9 8.5 13.2 18 28 6 5.0 9
Inov-8 RoadXTreme 220 Review RXT-220 Worth considering $120 5.2 8.0 18.2 14 17 3 4.2 9
Topo ST-2 ST-2 Highly Recommended $90 8.2 7.3 11.4 20 18 0 6.0 8
Hoka Stinson Lite Review Stinson Highly Recommended $160 7.3 11.6 18.1 35 40 6 8.5 2
Nike Zoom Streak LT 3 Review Streak LT Best of the Best $80 8.8 5.4 8.4 16 21 4 4.8 6
Adidas Takumi Sen 3 Review Takumi Sen 3 Highly Recommended $160 7.7 6.6 10.2 17 21 4 5.1 6
Altra Torin 2.0 Review Torin Worth considering $125 5.8 9.6 14.9 28 25 -1 5.5 5
Hoka Tracer Review Tracer Recommended $130 7.2 7.4 11.5 21 24 2 5.3 6
Merrell Trail Glove 3 Review Trail Glove Best of the Best $100 2.9 6.9 24.7 11 11 0 2.0 9
Topo Tribute Review Tribute Recommended $100 5.9 7.3 11.4 20 18 -1 4.3 7
Mizuno Wave Universe 5 Review Universe Highly Recommended $125 10.7 3.1 10.6 9 12 1 3.3 9
Merrell Vapor Glove 2 Review Vapor Glove Highly Recommended $85 2.1 6.1 27.6 6 5 0 1.3 10
New Balance Vazee Pace Review Vazee Pace Worth considering $110 6.0 8.6 13.4 18 24 6 5.2 6
Asics TartherZeal 3 Review Zeal Worth considering $140 10.9 6.3 9.8 17 27 9 6.8 7

It's not a running shoe, but I love the Hoka Tor Ultra hiking boot and I've tested the Altra Lone Peak Boot.
Older shoe reviews: Saucony Hattori Review, Mizuno Cursoris Review, Skechers GO Bionic 2 Review, Hoka Clifton Review, Saucony Virrata 2 Review, Brooks PureCadence 3 Review, Brooks PureConnect 3 Review, Brooks PureFlow 3 Review, Skechers GO Bionic 2 Review, New Balance 980 Review, Brooks Transcend 2 Review.
Reviews of shoes that are not worth including on the table: Hoka Huaka Review, Patagonia EVERlong Review.