New Balance RC5000v2 Review

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The RC5000v2 is one of the best shoes I've tested. It offers remarkable cushioning for its weight, given it's so light. My calculated cushioning-to-weight ratio (AKA Benefit) is 9.1, far higher than any other shoe. It's as well cushioned as some shoes that weigh nearly three times as much, and while it's upper is unpadded, it's not uncomfortable. I'd recommend trying the RC5000v2 out as it's a surprising shoe and it carries my "best of the best rating". (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 RC5000 v2 top
New Balance RC5000 v2 bottom
New Balance RC5000 v2 inside
New Balance RC5000 v2 outside

Note: there is a version of this shoe with Spikes for track running, but that's not what I'm reviewing here.

1 Characteristics

  • Why you’d buy it. If you're after the best in running shoes, check this out.
  • Cushioning . The RC5000v2 is stunningly well cushioned, providing more cushioning for its 4oz than many shoes weighing 2-3x as much. Unlike the original RC5000, the second version has nearly as much cushioning to the outstanding Asics Gel Hyper Speed that weights 50% more. This shoe has enough cushioning for me to consider it an optimal rather than a minimalist shoe, though depending on your weight and biomechanics, you may find the RC5000v2 is a little thinner than you'd like. (Insufficient cushioning in a minimalist shoe reduces Running Economy.)
  • Drop. The RC5000v2 has a more drop than I'd like at 7mm, and this is reflected in the greater cushioning in the heel than the forefoot. In practice, the 7mm did not bother me like it does in some shoes, though I'm not sure why.
  • Structure. The RC5000v2 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 it can pick up stones when running over gravel.
  • Flexibility. The RC5000v2 is flexible due to the relatively thin midsole.
  • Outsole. The RC5000v2 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 RC5000v2 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, but not as thin as you'd expect in such a hyper-light shoe. It's an inflexible and seamless upper, with no padding other than the most minute bit around the ankle opening. The upper is surprisingly tough, with no issues even where I've cut the toe box open.
  • Tongue. The RC5000vc2 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 RC5000v2 has traditional flat laces that are a bit 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 RC5000v2?

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 RC5000v2, but I might want more cushioning for a road 50-mile race depending on how fast I was intending to be. If I wanted to run my best to time in the marathon, I'd probably go for the slightly lighter original RC5000, but this would be a candidate.

3 Comparisons

Here are some direct comparisons with its potential competition.

3.1 New Balance RC5000v2 and RC5000

While the new 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 runner.

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

3.2 New Balance RC5000v2 and Mizuno Wave Universe

On paper the Mizuno Wave Universe seems similar to the RC5000v2, but I found them very different, with the Universe being a minimalist shoe that reduces my Running Economy. This means that while the v2 is not as fast as the original, it's faster than the Universe. The RC5000v2 (and RC5000) are also last a lot longer than the somewhat ephemeral Wave Universe.

New Balance RC5000 v2 top
New Balance RC5000 v2 bottom
New Balance RC5000 v2 inside
New Balance RC5000 v2 outside
Mizuno Wave Universe 5 top
Mizuno Wave Universe 5 bottom
Mizuno Wave Universe 5 inside
Mizuno Wave Universe 5 outside

3.3 New Balance RC5000v2 and Asics Gel Hyper Speed

The Asics Gel Hyper Speed was one of my favorite shoes until the RC5000v2 came along. The RC5000v2 offers nearly the same cushioning for only two thirds the weight. The levels of comfort is not terribly different between the shoes; neither has much padding in the upper. The Hyper Speed is a wonderful shoe, but the RC5000v2 is better.

New Balance RC5000 v2 top
New Balance RC5000 v2 bottom
New Balance RC5000 v2 inside
New Balance RC5000 v2 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 RC5000v2 and Asics GT 2000

These are obdiously radically different shoes, but the differences are interesting. I like to compare shoes against the Asics GT 2000 as it represents the traditional running shoe. The GT 2000 weights nearly three times as much as the RC5000v2, but the RC5000v2 gives more heel cushioning. What else 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 padding in the upper, especially in the tongue and ankle opening. Running in the GT 2000 after the RC5000v2 feels like you're in high heels and ankle weights. This weight difference impacts your Running Economy, and the calculations suggest that an average runner in the RC5000v2 is around 10 seconds/mile faster than in the GT 2000. (In practice, I feel like it's a bigger difference than that.)

New Balance RC5000 v2 top
New Balance RC5000 v2 bottom
New Balance RC5000 v2 inside
New Balance RC5000 v2 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 RC5000v2

How New Balance RC5000v2 compares showing rearfoot cushioning against the performance penalty of its weight. Upper right is better.
How New Balance RC5000v2 compares showing forefoot cushioning against the performance penalty of its weight. Upper right is better.
How New Balance RC5000v2 compares showing the price against the benefit (cushioning/performance penalty). Upper left is better.
How New Balance RC5000v2 compares showing the loaded drop against the benefit (cushioning/performance penalty). Upper left is better.

6 A Comparison with other Recommended Shoes

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If you're looking for "the best of the best" running shoe, here are my top picks. Of course, the answer will depend a little on what you're looking for, so I have recommendations for various categories.

  • Best All Round Shoe. The Altra Escalante is my current all-round favorite. It has plenty of cushioning for its weight, it has a very springy midsole, it lasts well, and it has a shape that's closer to the shape of a human foot than most shoes. It's a great shoe for any runner, including those Starting to run. It's also a fairly easy shoe to find due to its popularity.
  • Best Maximalist Shoe: If you want something massively cushioned, then I'd recommend the Saucony Kinvara 8. It's remarkably light and remarkably cushioned, beating Hoka at their own game.
  • Best Optimal Shoe: For those looking to trade cushioning for speed, the Nike Zoom Streak LT is my top pick. There are lots of great optimal running shoes, which provide just enough cushioning with light weight and minimal frills. The Streak LT doesn't have the best cushioning-to-weight ratio, but it has a shape that's closer to the human foot than most running shoes and it's one of the longest lasting shoes I've found. It's not as comfy as the Escalante above, but it's faster.
  • Fastest Shoe: If you really want speed, then check out the Nike Vaporfly 4%. It's light, massively cushioned, and has a carbon fiber plate. Nothing comes close, not even the now defunct New Balance RC5000‏‎ or New Balance RC5000v2‏‎. There are a number of caveats; it's really expensive, it's really hard to find, and there's a significant injury risk.
  • Best Minimalist Shoe: Merrell Trail Glove. I recommend the trail glove for road running in spite of the 'trail' moniker. It's not a fast shoe by any means, but it's comfortable and will last well.
  • All Terrain Shoe. I don't generally review trail running shoes, but check out the Hoka Mafate if you're after a shoe with remarkable abilities on a wide range of surfaces. If you want a Hiking Boot, then I love the Hoka Tor Ultra.
  • Honorable Mention: It's not really a running shoe, but the Vivobarefoot Ra is comfortable, minimalist and can more or less pass as a dress shoe. I've worn mine to weddings with a suit and they've not looked out of place. You can run in the Ra, but the leather means it doesn't breathe well.

For a more detailed on running 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

Brand Name Rating Recommended
price
Benefit Weight
(oz)
Penalty
(sec/mile)
Forefoot
Thickness
Heel
Thickness
Loaded Drop
mm
Cushioning Flexibility
Saucony Type A6 Review Saucony A6 Highly Recommended $100 8.2 6.1 9.5 17 21 4 5.0 7
Adidas Adios Boost 2 Review Adidas Adios Worth considering $140 4.7 8.6 13.4 17 27 11 4.0 6
Hoka Bondi 5 Review Hoka Bondi Recommended $150 6.1 11.6 18.1 38 42 5 7.1 2
Hoka Clayton 2 Review Hoka Clayton2 Highly Recommended $150 9.1 8.3 12.9 23 28 1 7.5 5
Hoka Clifton 4 Review Hoka Clifton4 Worth considering $130 7.7 9.3 14.5 30 35 10 7.2 3
On Cloudracer Review On Cloud Cloudracer Worth considering $130 5.7 8.2 12.8 19 27 5 4.7 7
Mizuno Wave Cruise Review Mizuno Cruise Worth considering $120 6.6 5.9 12.5 17 20 7 3.9 6
Newton Distance IV Review Newton Distance Worth considering $155 7.5 9.1 14.2 26 31 3 6.8 5
Asics Gel DS Racer 10 Review Asics DS Racer Worth considering $110 8.2 7.0 10.9 21 26 6 5.8 5
Mizuno Wave Ekiden 8 Review Mizuno Ekiden Worth considering $115 5.7 5.7 14.6 13 18 6 3.2 8
Saucony Endorphin 2 Review Saucony Endorphin 2 Worth considering $115 8.0 5.1 9.6 15 13 -1 4.1 8
Adidas Energy Boost Review Adidas Energy Worth considering $160 7.2 10.0 15.6 20 30 7 7.2 5
Altra Escalante Review Altra Escalante Best of the Best $130 9.1 8.7 13.5 28 25 -1 7.9 6
Saucony Fastwitch Review Saucony Fastwitch Highly Recommended $90 9.5 7.1 11.1 20 22 4 6.8 7
Topo Fli-Lyte 2 Review Topo Fli-Lyte2 Highly Recommended $100 6.7 9.1 14.2 24 26 3 6.1 5
Saucony Freedom Review Saucony Freedom Recommended $160 5.4 10.7 16.6 25 29 3 5.8 6
Skechers GORun 4 Review Skechers GORun Not recommended $100 6.1 7.5 11.7 15 23 3 4.5 7
Skechers GOrun Ultra 2 Review Skechers GRU Worth considering $90 7.5 10.0 15.6 28 34 8 7.5 4
Asics GT 2000 Review Asics GT 2000 Not recommended $120 4.8 11.2 17.4 28 35 5 5.4 2
New Balance Hanzo S Review New Balance Hanzo Worth considering $110 7.6 6.9 10.7 21 19 2 5.2 5
Hoka Hupana Review Hoka Hupana Recommended $115 6.1 8.9 13.9 31 36 7 5.4 4
Asics Gel Hyper Speed 7 Review Asics Hyper Speed Highly Recommended $75 10.9 6.3 9.8 22 26 5 6.8 6
Altra Instinct 4.0 Review Altra Instinct 4.0 Worth considering $120 6.0 9.8 15.3 29 25 -1 5.9 5
Asics Tarther Kainos 3 Review Asics Kainos Worth considering $130 10.0 6.9 10.7 17 27 9 6.8 6
Saucony Kinvara 8 Review Saucony Kinvara 8 Best of the Best $110 9.3 8.6 13.4 26 31 3 8.0 5
Nike LunarSpider R5 Review Nike LunarSpider Recommended $125 6.9 6.7 10.4 17 21 3 4.6 6
Hoka Mafate Speed Review Hoka Mafate Best of the Best $170 7.6 11.9 18.5 39 40 4 9.0 1
Pearl Izumi EM Road N0 v2 Review Pearl N0 Highly Recommended $100 7.9 6.5 10.1 14 20 4 5.2 8
Saucony Nomad Review Saucony Nomad Worth considering $110 4.3 10.5 17.2 25 27 2 4.5 4
Hoka Odyssey Review Hoka Odyssey Highly Recommended $130 8.5 9.4 14.6 37 45 5 8.0 3
Altra One 3.0 Review Altra One Recommended $100 6.1 8.8 13.7 23 23 0 5.4 6
Asics Piranha SP 5 Review Asics Piranha Recommended $100 10.1 4.2 6.5 11 15 3 4.2 9
Brooks PureFlow 5 Review Brooks PureFlow Worth considering $110 6.0 9.7 15.1 26 29 5 5.8 8
Salming Race Review Salming Race Worth considering $130 6.9 6.5 10.1 16 19 4 4.5 6
New Balance RC1600 v2 Review New Balance RC1600 Highly Recommended $110 8.8 5.6 8.7 15 21 5 4.9 8
New Balance RC5000v2 Review New Balance RC5000v2 Best of the Best $125 14.2 4.0 6.2 13 21 6 5.7 7
Skechers GoRun Ride 3 Review Skechers Ride Worth considering $85 5.9 8.5 13.2 18 28 6 5.0 8
Nike RN Distance 2 Nike RNDist2 Review Pending $120 8.0 9.2 14.3 25 28 4 7.4 7
Inov-8 RoadXTreme 220 Review Inov-8 RXT-220 Worth considering $120 5.2 8.0 18.2 14 17 3 4.2 8
Topo ST-2 Review Topo ST-2 Highly Recommended $90 8.2 7.3 11.4 20 18 0 6.0 7
Hoka Stinson Lite Review Hoka Stinson Highly Recommended $160 7.3 11.6 18.1 35 40 6 8.5 0
Nike Zoom Streak LT 3 Review Nike Streak LT Best of the Best $80 8.8 5.4 8.4 16 21 4 4.8 5
Adidas Takumi Sen 3 Review Adidas Takumi Sen 3 Highly Recommended $160 7.7 6.6 10.2 17 21 4 5.1 5
Altra Torin 2.0 Review Altra Torin Worth considering $125 5.8 9.6 14.9 28 25 -1 5.5 4
Hoka Tracer Review Hoka Tracer Recommended $130 7.2 7.4 11.5 21 24 2 5.3 5
Merrell Trail Glove 4 Review Merrell Trail Glove 4 Best of the Best $100 3.4 8.4 23.8 13 13 0 2.8 10
Topo Tribute Review Topo Tribute Recommended $100 5.9 7.3 11.4 20 18 -1 4.3 6
Mizuno Wave Universe 5 Review Mizuno Universe Highly Recommended $125 10.7 3.1 10.6 9 12 1 3.3 9
Merrell Vapor Glove 3 Review Merrell Vapor Glove 3 Highly Recommended $85 2.1 6.1 27.6 6 5 0 1.3 10
Nike Vaporfly 4% Review Nike Vaporfly Best of the Best $250 10.4 7.2 11.2 25 37 8 7.5 2
New Balance Vazee Pace Review New Balance Vazee Pace Worth considering $110 6.0 8.6 13.4 18 24 6 5.2 5
Asics TartherZeal 3 Review Asics Zeal Worth considering $140 10.9 6.3 9.8 17 27 9 6.8 6
Saucony Zealot 3 Review Saucony Zealot3 Recommended $130 8.9 9.5 14.8 29 32 4 8.5 6
Nike Zoom Fly Review Nike Zoom Fly Worth considering $150 8.3 8.7 13.5 29 36 8 7.2 3

It's not a running shoe, but I love the Hoka Tor Ultra hiking boot and I've tested the Altra Lone Peak Boot, the Hoka Tor Speed 2, and the Inov-8 Roclite 325 hiking boots
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, Hoka Huaka Review, Patagonia EVERlong Review, Asics 33-DFA Review, Hoka Conquest Review, Saucony Cortana Review, Puma Faas 100 R Review, Saucony Fastwitch Review, Nike Free Review, Asics Gel Lyte 33 Review, Skechers GOmeb Speed Review, Skechers GOrun Ultra Road Review, Nike LunaRacer Review, Altra Paradigm Review.