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New Balance RC5000 Road Racing Flat: Fit, Feel, and First Run Thoughts

New Balance RC5000I have a soft spot for ultralight shoes. Of all of the characteristics that I consider when thinking about what I like best in a running shoe, light weight still comes out as preference number one. I was thus pretty excited when I heard that New Balance would be releasing a racing flat called the RC5000, which at 3.1 oz in size 9 would be the lightest road flat on the market.

The New Balance RC5000 is clearly designed to be a direct competitor to the ultralight Mizuno Universe, which I consider to be one of my favorite racing flats. The similarities between the two shoes are striking. The RC5000 weighs 3.1oz, the Universe weighs 3.9oz (both in size 9). The RC5000 has a stack height of 16mm heel, 11mm forefoot (5mm drop), whereas the Universe is 18mm heel, 14mm forefoot. Both shoes have a minimal outsole made of little rubber nubs glued to the bottom of the shoe, and rubber placement is almost identical in the two shoes. Both shoes also have a cutout in the central region under the arch where there is no EVA (presumably to allow drainage and cut down weight. Finally, both shoes have an MSRP of $125 – pricy for so little shoe, I can only assume that it costs more to make a functional shoes that are this lightweight.

I debated for quite awhile whether or not I would purchase the RC5000. First, the $125 price tag seemed excessive for a shoe that might not prove to be very durable (anyone have a lot of miles on these yet?). Second, I often find that flats are too narrow in the forefoot for my taste, and Running Warehouse describes the forefoot as narrow to medium. However, after asking about the shoe on Facebook, I was told by a few people I respect that the forefoot is actually pretty roomy, and I was able to get a pair for a decent price so I took the plunge and bought it (this was a personal purchase, not a media sample).

New Balance RC5000 SideNew Balance RC5000 Medial

Two things struck me when I first put the RC5000 on my feet. First, I was pleasantly surprised by how it fit – plenty of room up in the toebox, reasonably comparable to the Mizuno Universe in this regard. I felt no real toe squeezing, and the upper has a bit of give to allow the foot to spread. Second, the sole felt distinctly softer than that of the Mizunos. It might be partly due to the fact that the RC5000 has a fairly well-cushioned (removable) insole, but the Revlite midsole on the RC5000 does feel a tad cushier than the midsole of the Universe. The removable insole is a departure from the integrated, non-removable footbed of the Universe – I suppose you could remove it to create an even roomier fit, but the mesh underneath might be uncomfortable without socks.

New Balance RC5000 Top

Another thing that was very noticeable while walking around in the RC5000 is that there is absolutely zero arch support. In fact, the width of the midsole is rather slim under the midfoot due to an extensive cutout under the arch (see indentation in arch-region in photo below), and the arch is supported almost entirely by the thin fabric upper. In contrast, the Mizuno Universe has a bit of EVA that curls up under the arch, making the shoe feel a bit more secure (its not so much arch support as foam that reinforces the upper). My concerns with this design in the RC5000 are durability and stability – you need to have pretty solid muscular control of your feet in the mediolateral plane to avoid rolling in excessively on the softish sole of this shoe. If I could redesign this shoe, I’d probably fill in the arch cutout with a bit more EVA to increase the width in this region (I’d increase midsole width under the midfoot to make it about equivalent to width under the heel).

New Balance RC5000 Sole

The upper of the RC5000 is really nice – it’s extremely thin and the internal surface is quite soft. The cuff around the ankle collar is lined by a very soft synthetic material, with just a bit of cushion behind the Achilles. The interior is where this shoe really trumps the Mizuno Universe. The Universe is lined by a somewhat rough mesh, and the ankle collar is made of a plasticky material that gives me blisters behind my Achilles if I run in them without socks. The RC5000 feels much better on a sockless foot.

I took the RC5000 out for a first run today – did 7.25 miles in them on roads, and did my best to mix up speeds a bit. If my first run is a good indicator of what future runs in this shoe will be like, I’m going to absolutely love this shoe. The sole has just the right of softness for my taste – comparable to a Saucony Kinvara if you shave the midsole height of that shoe down a bit. The Mizuno Universe is a firmer shoe, and is not as good a match for my legs on asphalt.

My concerns about the narrowness through the midfoot seemed unwarranted on the run. I didn’t have any problems running in the shoes, and they accommodate my form very well. I did go sockless, and was very pleased that I didn’t feel the slightest discomfort. Not even a hotspot!

I can honestly say that the RC5000 is a very impressive shoe. I have admittedly only put in one run in them so far, but they handled 7+ sockless miles with ease, and I’m confident enough in them that I’ll probably take them out on my next long run. I’m going to end this “first run” review here, and will update as needed if my thoughts change after additional runs.

The men’s New Balance RC5000 can be purchased at Running Warehouse. They also carry a women’s version, which you can view here.

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About Peter Larson

This post was authored by Peter Larson. Pete is a recovering academic who currently works as an exercise physiologist, running coach, and writer. He's also a father of three and a fanatical runner with a bit of a shoe obsession. In addition to writing and editing this site, he is co-author of the book Tread Lightly, and writes a personal blog called The Blogologist. Follow Pete on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and via email.

Comments

  1. hummingbird says:

    Just wondering how flexible the RC5000 is compared with the Kinvara 2. I have a rigid foot and don’t find the Kinvara 2 flexible enough. I usually run in a very flexible shoe like the Nike Free 3.0 v4 and 4.0 v2, Brooks Pure Connect and Skechers GO run, otherwise I feel like I am fighting the shoe.

  2. Emilie Reas says:

    Thanks for another great review, Pete! Any thoughts on how the RC5000 compares to the Saucony Grid Type A5? I just started running in the A5 (women’s) and love it, and am curious if the NB is comparable.

    By the way, your reviews are dangerously feeding my growing shoe collection ;)

    • RC5000Fan says:

      I’ve had 3 A5s before getting the RC5000. The A5s are a bit roomier in the mid and forefoot. The RC5000 is a lot lighter than the A5. You will also probably need to buy a half-size smaller. The RC5000 also feels more durable although I have not run enough miles on them to be sure.

    • Pete Larson says:

      Sorry about that, I hear a lot about my tendency to enable shoe addiction! To be honest, I haven’t run in the A5. I had the A4′s and they weren’t a great shoe for me – I found the fit to be off and they have caused me some problems with peroneal tendinitis. I find the fit of the RC5000 a better match for my foot, and like the softer feel of this shoe.

      —-
      Pete Larson’s Web Links:
      My book: Tread Lightly – link to ow.ly
      Work: link to anselm.edu
      Blog: http://www.runblogger.com
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      Twitter: link to twitter.com

  3. Edward J. Edmonds says:

    Good review. You hit on some key things I’d been wondering about on the fit. I think it is about time to shelf the old Universe.

  4. Strumfaki says:

    I wonder how much the RC5000 weighs in my size and there is no way to find out except for buying the shoes.

    Here are some other examples though in US 11.5:
    Mizuno Wave Universe 4.5 oz
    NB Minimus MT00 5 oz
    NB Minimus MR00 6.8 oz
    Newton MV2 7.7 oz but I had to buy that in 12.5 to be the same size as the others.

  5. RunningPT12 says:

    Hey Pete,

    My only gripe with this shoe is the outsole material. I’ve wear tested two other racing comps for NB in the last year that used that rubber-nub outsole and had problems with them wearing/breaking off within 100 miles – jut not durable at all.

    • delrayAlex says:

      @runningPT12 — Thanks for the longer term perspective. The Mizuno Universe nubs are pretty low-wear for me after ~300 miles (though signifcant forefoot wear in the areas between the nubs).
      I’m skeptical about the roominess up front. Wish I could count on the Running Warehouse description of the forefoot width.
      I don’t really get the big deal about running sockless. A nice thin sock obviates all issues regarding material roughness. Socks provide a featherweight, removable liner — that you can wash!!!
      I do enjoy all the shoe reviews, great site.

  6. Winfinancial says:

    Hey Pete,
    How much wider in the forefoot would you say the orgininal Kinvara is to this new shoe?

  7. Kristoffer says:

    That does look like a very nice running shoe and I’ve been curious about it ever since you made me aware of them on Twitter. If I had made a complete transition to minimalist footwear I would probably give it a go. But I haven’t yet so I’ll wait.

    By the way, the shoes remind me of an old Donald Duck cartoon I read when I was a kid where Donald, in a stroke of luck won a extreme racing car, but kept getting speeding tickets when the car was parked because, as the police said “even though it’s still, it looks like it’s going 200 mph”. Hah! Even on picture these shoes simply look really fast.

  8. Pete, I know of a man who raced the American River 50 Mile Endurance Run all the way in the New Balance RC5000. He made a slit on top of the toe-box so that the shoe could have more width up front. His time in the AR50 was 11:01:14. We joked that the shoes were not quite fast enough for him to get into the lottery for the Western States 100. The next day, he ran a ten mile race on pavement in another pair of RC5000 shoes. His name is Bill Dodson.

    • Pete Larson says:

      Nice! My biggest issue is midfoot width. The forefoot works ok for me, but the arch region is really narrow.
      Sent from my iPad

  9. Pete, have you puts many more miles on this shoe since your review? Just curious if your opinion has changed at all.

  10. Edward J. Edmonds says:

    Were you the same size for both the Universe and 5000?

  11. How do these compare to the Adidas Hagio Pete?

    • Pete Larson says:

      Half the weight, softer, and not as longitudinally stiff. I’d probably opt for the Hagio for racing.

  12. Would you recommend these shoes for me? I run track and cross country in HS (currently starting track). I have very flat feet and mild pronation, so I’m worried about the amount of arch support in these. However, I have previously run in adidas hagio’s after they were fitted for me in a specialty running store, and their minimal arch support didn’t bother me. If not the rc5000′s, what would you recommend otherwise?

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