You'll have to excuse the overly melodramatic marketing photos. Our New Balance tech rep (who shall remain nameless; he worked for us for 6 years, so he's earned a ::bit:: of anonymity) wasn't carrying his shoe samples with him today. Which begs the question: Matt, if not shoe samples, what DO you use that enormous New Balance SUV to carry? But I digress...

After a rock-solid specialty running relaunch in 2011 with their ultralight REVlite midsole material, the category-shaking 890 and Minimus lines, and the award-winning 860v2, New Balance is squarely back on our radar as a legitimate contender, stealing marketshare from the likes of Brooks, Asics, and Saucony every single day. A combination of innovation from a crack team of product developers and real attention to the needs and wants of runners (performance and color choice, it turns out, aren't mutually exclusive) has proven to be the winning ticket, and New Balance is showing no signs of slowing down in 2012.

The New Balance RC1600, hitting stores on 6/1/12

There's no better evidence of this surge forward, onward, and upward than with the pair of racing flats due to hit 6/1/12: the New Balance RC1600 and RC5000.

THE RC1600
At first glance, you'd be forgiven if you thought the RC1600 was simply an update to this year's ::sparsely available but wildly popular:: 1400 race shoe. The numerical naming convention New Balance employs does have its shortcomings, but to put any mystery to rest: the RC1600 is designed to be a significantly lighter flat than the 1400, with ample cushioning to provide marathon runners a speedy shoe with padding to spare on race days when a PR just isn't in the cards.

Weighing in at a scant 5.8oz (Men's sample size; 4.98oz women's), the RC1600 makes use of a slightly re-engineered REVlite midsole (read: thinner, but higher density for a responsive ride) and an 8mm heel-toe offset to make for an extremely runnable racer.

In practical terms: runners with efficient form won't find themselves fighting against a chunky heel, and those working on their form will still have plenty enough protection for the occasional plod. Paired with an ultralight seamless upper and strategic overlays, you're getting an extremely well-rounded performance package built for neutral runners looking to shave minutes off their marathon OR their 5k.

Price: $110, hits stores on 6/1/12

THE RC5000The New Balance RC5000, all moodily lit and everything 
Can't be bothered with racing anything longer than 10k? If you're bored by long miles and live for the thrill of toeing the start line, sizing up your competition, and throwing down a gnarly kick inside the last 1/4mi for good measure, the New Balance RC5000 is your shoe.

Built around a thinner version of the same 8mm offset and REVlite RC midsole found in the RC1600, the RC5000 offers an extremely responsive ride suited to the quick turnover needed for speed workouts and serious racing efforts.

Oh, and it's silly light. Game-changing, category-defining light.

3.2oz

Let that soak in for a second. Then say it again.

3.2oz. The last time I saw a racing flat that light, I got shin splints just thinking about it. 

But that's the beauty of the REVlite RC material: it's a lightweight platform built around providing a flexible, dynamic level of cushion that protects without preventing natural motion. 

Now, bear in mind this shoe isn't for everyone. 

Sure, you won't want to strap the RC5000 on for your next half-marathon; it's a 10k and under shoe. And if your mechanics need more than a little help in the pronation department, you might consider alternatives purely as a survival instinct. 

Simply put, this shoe isn't built for long, slow miles. But if you're looking to take your speed work to the max, your compete level up a notch or three, and you're eyeing PRs, ARs, or WRs, you're going to be hard pressed to find a better shoe than the New Balance RC5000.

Price: $125, hits stores on 6/1/12