Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Brooks Levitate 4 Multi Tester Review

Article by Jeff Beck, Derek Li, Sally Reiley, Jamie Hershfang and Sam Winebaum

Brooks Levitate 4 ($150)


Jeff: The Brooks Levitate. One of the cornerstones of the weirder side of Brooks (including the Pure series, Green Silence, etc.. vs the tried-and-true Adrenaline/Ravenna/Transcend or Ghost/Glycerin/Launch), the previous versions of the Levitate were incredibly heavy and brought what Sam coined as a “pneumatic feel” as you ran in them due to their polyurethane midsole construction. The Lev4 plays with the formula some, introducing a new variant of their DNA Amp midsole that is 20% lighter than the previous material. In using this new formulation, they dropped about 1.5 oz / 42 g and also really streamlined the knit upper. Would this be the key to bringing the Levitate mainstream success? Maybe for others, but the 4 seems like a step backward for me.

Derek: I never got the chance to put miles in earlier versions of the Levitate. I did try version 1 in store briefly and while there was a subtle spring to the foam, it felt somewhat less lovely than what I felt I would enjoy for a shoe in that weight category. I do know a friend who absolutely loved the Levitate to the point of using them as racers in full marathons. He’s a sub-3 guy weighing about 155lbs if that helps. So when the Levitate 4 claimed to have shed lots of weight I signed up to see if it would work better than earlier versions for me. The big change is this version seems to be a tweaked midsole that drops weight, and a reconfigured outsole design. Does it work? Read on to find out. 

Jamie: From the first version to the 4th, the Levitate has made quite a few changes over the years, but what has clearly stayed the same, lots of cushion. My initial assumption was the Levitate was a shoe that would be durable enough for daily training, yet light enough to carry you through all types of runs. The weight of the shoe never appealed to me in prior versions, so when I found out that the Levitate 4 dramatically reduced its weight, I was eager to test it out. Right out of the box, the new Levitate 4 looked good, and felt good, but running it was quite the different story.

Sam: I had very high hopes for the Levitate 4 as it dropped 1.3 oz in weight, kept the deliberate and pneumatic DNA AMP midsole foam in a lighter formulation and topped it with a streamlined, beautiful looking knit upper.


Jeff/Sam/Sally/Jamie: Possibly best looking shoe ever made

Jeff/Derek/Sam: Dropped 1.5 ounces from L2

Jeff/Jamie: Brooks keeps trying new stuff

Jeff: Tongue and heel pull tabs are great

Sally: Snug fit works well to secure my narrow foot

Derek/Sam/Sally: Transitions are smooth

Sam: Toe off is snappy but.. 


Sam/Sally: Dull non responsive soft ball of the foot. rubber too thin, soft or poorly arranged?

Jeff/Derek/Jamie: Super narrow from midfoot forward

Sam/Jamie: While cool looking and a secure fit, time to ditch knit uppers for newer lighter more breathable  engineered mesh or mono meshes, tight over center front of toes

Sam: Narrow upper is fine by me but thick knit over the center front of toes is overdone and presses down on the toes more than it should

Jeff: Weight loss is nice, but still heavy

Jeff: Not nearly enough underfoot for the weight

Derek/Sally/Jamie: Not particularly springy ride

Sally: Thin outsole not is forgiving enough

Sally: The short upper bit of tongue that is not stitched down slips laterally (to outside) during run


Weight:: men's 10.35 oz / 292g  (US9)  /  women's 9 oz / 254 g (US8) 


Jeff: M10.5 11.4 oz / 324 g Derek: M9.5 10.5oz / 299g Sally: W8  9.0 oz / 254 g

8mm drop

Available Now $150

Tester Profiles

Jeff is the token slow runner of the RTR lineup as such his viewpoints on shoe and gear can differ from those who routinely finish marathons in three hours or less. Jeff runs 40 miles per week, both roads and desert trails in Phoenix, Arizona. He has a PR's of 4:07 marathon and 5K at 23:39. In December he raced his first 50 mile trail ultra. 

Derek is in his 30’s and trains 70-80 miles per week at 7 to 8 minute pace in mostly tropical conditions in Singapore. He has a 2:41 marathon PR.

Sally is a mother of five who ran her first marathon at age 54, and has now run the past six Boston Marathons and one Chicago, with a 2017 Boston PR of 3:29, good for 8th in her age group. Along the way she has raised over $200,000 for Massachusetts Eye and Ear Hospital running with Team Eye and Ear. A relative newbie to road racing, she has achieved All-American status in the 10K (44:04) and 5K. To commemorate her 60th birthday she ran the NYC Marathon in November finishing 2nd in her age group with a PR time of 3:28:39.  Sally is a compact (petite) runner at 5’2’’ and 105 pounds.

Jamie is 27 years old and has a 1:19 half marathon PR. She has run 5 marathons, current PR is 2:49 and typically runs 90-100 miles per week. She recently completed a 100k in 7:36:40 and is training to qualify for the world 100k team. She is the store manager at Fleet Feet Lakeview in Chicago. She trains in a variety of shoes, and races in the Nike Next%.

Sam is the Editor and Founder of Road Trail Run. He is 63 with a 2018 3:40 Boston qualifier. Sam has been running for over 45 years and has a 2:28 marathon PR. These days he runs halves in the just sub 1:40 range training 30-40 miles per week mostly at moderate paces on the roads and trails of New Hampshire and Utah. He is 5'10" tall and weighs about 163 lbs.

First Impressions and Fit

Jeff: My first impressions go back to Sam and Peter’s preview article from last December where they had early pictures and descriptions from The Running Event - and I was blown away by just how good the Levitate 4 looked and sounded. Then they showed up, and they look even better in person. I hate to belabor the point, but every angle on this shoe just works from an aesthetic standpoint. Unfortunately, from a fit standpoint there are issues. The Levitate pointy toebox is back, which told me if I tried to attempt a 10+ mile run I’d likely catch a blister or two. But the toebox isn’t my biggest fit complaint; from the midfoot to the ball of my foot it is incredibly tight and restrictive. These don’t feel like daily trainers, they feel like race day track flats. I’ll get deeper into it down below, but the fit definitely leans toward narrow footed runners, and even average width feet could have issues. Length-wise, they fit very well at my true-to-size 10.5.

Derek: The aesthetics of this shoe are pretty simple. Reminds me somewhat of their new Ghost 13 which, which also went with quieter tones. My first step in impression is that this shoe is narrow! The heel volume is fine but I would feel that the midfoot really squeezes the foot a little once you lace it up, and I quickly realized you do need to lace it up pretty snug to prevent heel movement in this shoe. Walking around, the shoe tells me it’s less of a springy ride than the Levitate heritage would want you to think. The shoe is very stable . It is true to size in terms of length. Will have to get some runs in to know how it really performs. 

Sally: I must say upfront that I love the look of this shoe. Simple in design, classic, sporty, awesome grey/mint green colorway, very au courant. It looks fast and sleek. Since I have never run in a previous version of the Levitate, I had no expectations as to performance. The fit is true to size, and my usual W8 wraps my forefoot quite nicely. I have a narrow foot, so right off the bat I wondered how this shoe will accommodate higher-volume feet. The fit is snug, even for me, so I agree with Jeff that these fit more like a race flat than a daily trainer.

Jamie: Fresh out of the box, the looks of this shoe were sleek and a great update from previous models. However, the fit is quite snug for someone with a higher instep and wider toe box needs. It didn’t feel like it had enough forefoot depth for my foot to breathe, and if I wore a thick sock, it was significantly too tight to wear comfortably walking around, let alone running. The length fit true to size, but I feel like I would have had to go up half a size just to accommodate my width. 

Sam: Clearly a spectacular looking shoe: subtle dark hues with clearly a fast performance vibe from its knit upper design. Along with the lighter weight, the Levitate 4 clearly is positioned differently than its predecessors all around as a performance oriented shoe. The fit is true to size, barely, and snug all over. I particularly noted some downward pressure over the center of the toes from the denser knit there and after several runs that feeling is still there. Along with the look,s the fit is as Jeff says much closer to a race day shoe than a trainer and higher volume feet are liable to struggle more here unlike the earlier editions. 


Jeff: The Lev4 upper is a new Fit Knit that is claimed to be softer (agreed), lighter (seems likely), and more breathable (absolutely) than the previous knit designs Brooks has used in the Levitate. And it’s a very appropriate name, this upper is super locked down everywhere. I mentioned above I had blister concerns for my toes on long runs, but ultimately it was the inside of the ball of my foot (medial met heads) that paid the price. I had to stop testing the Levitate 4 after just four runs from four-to-six miles each because every single run gave me a massive blister along the ball of my foot. I even tried using old school wooden shoe stretchers to give me more room (in addition to the thinnest socks I own and a very liberal application of Squirrel’s Nut Butter for lubricant) and it didn’t matter. By mile two of every single run the blister had started. Ultimately I don’t think it is purely an upper issue, the platform underneath the foot is very narrow in places, so unless it was paired with a very baggy upper problems were likely to exist. All that said - I think narrow-footed runners are going to enjoy this shoe. 

The upper is very straightforward, you don’t have any extra overlays to complicate matters, the material breathes well, and it is very comfortable. Brooks didn’t use any of the Nubuck-like material around the heel collar they used in the Lev 2. That extra material gripped your sock very well both during the run and while you were trying to take the shoe off, but the design of the heel collar in the 4 means they didn’t need to address heel slip - this shoe isn’t going anywhere.

Derek: This knit upper is thin and breathable. The heel uses an internal firmer padding to reinforce the shape of the cup (somewhat like what you have in the Skechers GoRun 6) but the rest is all relatively soft and pliable knit. The knit does not stretch much, and that helps with lockdown. Overall the fit is narrow (especially in the midfoot) and the toebox is pointy. The arch is still low so that’s good. It helps to run with thin socks in this shoe as that gives you a little more volume to play with. 

As I said earlier, you do need to lace the shoe up pretty snug to eliminate any heel movement. This seems to be a constant issue for me with knitted uppers. Same issue with 4%Fk, Epic React, Infinity React, Skechers GR4, MaxRoad 4, etc. Maybe I just have really narrow heels. That said, lacing the shoe up tight does not cause any hot spots or pressure points on the top of the foot, the shoe does break in a little and after a couple of runs, the narrowness of the midfoot becomes less noticeable. 

Sally: The knit upper is definitely soft and breathable, but I had an issue with the stiffer layer above the toe, especially the big toe. The upper presses down on the toe, and would definitely result in a very sore and possibly blackened toenail if I attempted a long run. But the more serious pressure on the foot was down along the underside of the ball of my foot. This fit problem is reminiscent of the original Nike Epic React, which I loved for the looks and the ride, but hated for the fit. I sized up in the Epic React to compensate for the very similar pressure under the ball and above the big toe. And how such a short piece of tongue can slide laterally is a mystery to me, but it happened every run.

Jamie: The knit upper is quite soft, but not quite my style. I find it doesn’t create that secure lockdown I’m looking for when running fast and creates some numbness in my feet. It took me a few runs before realizing that this numbness wasn’t related to breaking in the shoe, as much as the fit of the upper to my foot. Rainy, humid runs in Chicago and this new knit upper do not mesh very well creating a heavy feeling that is not very comfortable over long distances. Overall, not a huge fan of this upper. 

Sam: Clearly a performance type knit fit here. I generally don’t like knit uppers especially at the toe box (NB 1080v10 and as Sally says Epic React and really all Flyknit come to mind) as they tend to compress and press over my dodgy big toes. 

The Levitate 4 has a denser firmer segment of knit down the middle of the front which is clearly overdone for me. 

Overall the upper is super secure and locked down but goes to far for daily training in its snugness for me.


Jeff: Brooks has a handful of different midsole materials in use today. DNA Loft is their go-to EVA, DNA Flash is their nitrogen-infused lightweight race midsole, DNA Zero is their top tier “super foam”, BioMoGo DNA is their previous generation EVA that seems to be on the way out or find a home in their more entry-level shoes, and lastly DNA Amp, their polyurethane midsole encased in a TPU skin that lives in the Levitate, Bedlam, and Ricochet shoes. 

The Levitate 4 introduces their latest blend of DNA Amp, which is 20% lighter than the previous version, but still is supposed to keep most of the same feel of the previous generations. If you’ve never run in the Levitate, it has a unique feel throughout the gait cycle, but I’ll get deeper into that during the Ride portion. What is notable is that while the new version of DNA Amp is lighter, it still keeps the very dense feel that the previous versions had. It has some flexibility, but it isn’t what I would term a flexible shoe - but I’m curious to see the other testers experiences.

Derek: The foam is interesting because squeezing it with your hand, the foam definitely compresses more than your BioMoGo or even Loft foam, and yet this softness does not quite transfer to the ride of the shoe. There’s definitely a big contribution from the outsole here and I will get to that later. So this is a single density midsole and you would expect the ride to be very uniform from heel to toe as there aren't multiple elements underlying different parts of the shoe. 

The end result of this is that the midsole is on the firmer side, but while it doesn’t have quite the spring of the newer PEBA foams or even the nitrogen infused foams such as Brooks DNA Flash, there is a little bit of give in the shoe when you land, and most crucially, the vibration dampening in this shoe is surprisingly good. 

The vibration dampening took me by surprise actually. It’s not usually the best with Brooks shoes in my experience, so while the ride is firm, it actually doesn’t beat me up. I’ve ended runs in this shoe feeling fresher than with other softer shoes. In recent memory, surprisingly, the Pegasus 37 beats me up more despite being a significantly bouncier shoe. 

Jamie: Very simply, the midsole is firm and not very much fun. I’m always looking to add “fun” new shoes to my daily shoe rotation, and the Levitate wasn’t quite what I expected it to be. It lacks the bounce and responsiveness I look for in a daily trainer that can handle longer runs and faster paces. I couldn’t quite get the toe off I wanted and it just felt fairly flat. Traction does very well in the rain, but the heaviness of the rubber wasn’t ideal. 

Sam: This new DNA AMP midsole is 25% lighter which is a great thing as the earlier Levitate were very heavy. The nice more pneumatic rebound is there but strangely is considerably duller, flatter and strangely firmer reminding of the Ricochet with its combination of DNA AMP and BioMoGo DNA more than earlier Leviate. The heel is well cushioned but on the firmer side, no issues there for me. Further forward things feel thin and dull which may have more to do with the outsole than midsole itself. Clearly the outsole plays a role in the feel of the midsoles here.

The feel reminds me more of the Ricochet which combined DNA AMP and BioMoGo DNA and which was a dull if very protective ride.  


Jeff: The Lev 4 outsole is a complete departure in design from the previous versions. 

The Levitate 1-3 all had a pointing arrow design, with channels in between the chevrons. This year’s version still integrates angled arrows into the design, but they are all part of the same slab of rubber with five slits in the forefoot, perhaps to improve flexibility. There are roughly a dozen cuts into the rubber from the midfoot to the heel, and each of these slits goes all the way through to the underside of the midsole. I didn’t encounter any rain on my runs so I can’t speak to its wet traction abilities, and thus far I’ve seen virtually zero wear on the rubber - however, it appears that the actual rubber of the outsole is very thin. I don’t believe it will lead to early failure or anything like that, but it definitely plays a part in how the shoe rides.

Derek: Jeff did a great job at describing the new outsole configuration. There is less flexibility built into the outsole this time, especially on the medial part of the shoe which now gets full outsole coverage. 

They also appear to have gone away from crystal rubber in favour of something which feels like some variation of carbon injected rubber but is not quite as firm as the typical high abrasion-resistance carbon rubber you get at the heels. It definitely lacks the bounce and softness of blown rubber for sure. All in all, it is very durable with excellent grip even on wet surfaces. The underfoot feel seems a bit less lively with this rubber compared to the previous crystal rubber option. I feel like this rubber is what gives the shoe a firmer ride despite a relatively soft midsole. 

Sam: I agree with Derek that the outsole is less flexible than earlier versions and is clearly less responsive, duller and thinner as I did an A/B test with the much heavier Levitate 2 on the other foot. 

The picture below clearly illustrates thicker firmer orange crystal type rubber of the Levitate 2 (right)  with its very effective long flex pattern and more segmentation and grooves up front vs the full coverage of the Levitate 4 (left).

The new outsole has a more forward flex point with a very rigid profile towards mid foot. The thinner rubber is not particularly firm and is clearly thin so when pressing the outsole deflects it into the midsole more than I would like leading I think to the dull thin ball of foot feel of the shoe. Gone are the side grooves up front which allowed some segmentation. Brooks tells us the new thinner more complete outsole coverage was designed to reduce weight and better protect the sidewalls from damage as the DNA AMP is more prone to damage than EVA.

I am not a fan of crystal rubber in the Nike Epic React and Saucony Freedom 1 and 2, and Triumph 17 as I found it seemed mushy with sidewards deflection. Not so at all in the earlier Levitate. Firm and responsive, great stuff to put under the pneumatic feel of DNA AMP which made the much heavier earlier Levitate a super pleasurable lively shoe despite its weight.

Back to what we have here, a more continuous slab of thin rubber with fewer flex grooves and that full medial front coverage Derek mentions. Even the heel area is more continuous than before leading to a clearly firmer landing. 

The heel decoupling groove is also reduced in width at the rear and crash pad lateral grooves are eliminated.  

All of this speaks to inherent stability front to back and a dull firmer but still well cushioned feel  from the outsole/midsole combination and that is what the Levitate 4 delivers with the forefoot ball of the foot area feeling notably thin and lacking in snap or response from the outsole and for sure in comparison to the Levitate 2.


Jeff: While the upper and fit are a big swing and a miss for me, sadly the ride was not much better. I have not seen official stack height numbers, but for a shoe that tips the scale at more than 11 ounces, there just is not that much foot protection, especially up front. It still has the pneumatic feel, but there’s much less overall material feel underfoot in the 4. 

During my final six mile run, I focused on trying to land less midfoot (my normal stride) and get my heel down first. When I did so, the shoe changed completely, and it felt like it had some cushioning. Luckily, most runners do land heel first, so I don’t think there will be many Lev 4 runners who experience the flat tire feel I had when I ran normally in the shoe. But midfoot or forefoot striking runners should tread lightly around the Levitate 4. Lastly, I turned up the pace during a few of the runs, and the PU midsole didn’t feel much different during faster speeds (upper 7 minute miles) or when I was focusing on keeping my heart rate in the 140-150 BPM range (upper 10 minute miles).

Derek: This shoe is interesting to say the least. It rides firm but not dead, and definitely not harsh. That’s quite a rare combination. I think the problem it will face is that people buy the shoe expecting a springy ride which may have been more noticeable in its predecessors, and end up disappointed. The shoe is firm with a little bounce to it, more noticeable at faster paces, and has very good vibration dampening. It has a smooth and predictable transition. The ride is not lively but is enjoyable in a sort of no-nonsense efficient sort of way. It rides way way lighter than it says on the scale. I’m not completely sold on the knit upper for this shoe. I think they should have stuck with a thin straightforward mesh upper. The knit is actually what gives the shoe a narrow fit. 

The ride reminds me a lot of the Brooks Hyperion Tempo, and so I put the 2 shoes together sole-to-sole and amazingly, the 2 lasts have near identical proportions! And yes the Tempo does not feel overly narrow at all. If anything the toebox feels roomy. 

Put the Hyperion Tempo upper on the Levitate and you would have a hell of a trainer. Call it the Hyperion Shift or Hyperion Trainer. Either of those names would be more apt than Levitate 4. Bottom line for me: the shoe is more enjoyable than I expected for a firm ride. It picks up the pace easily and has a stable fast ride. It might suffer a bit with recovery paces but otherwise I think it would make a good daily trainer with good durability and traction. 

Sally: Derek clearly found the ride of this shoe more to his liking than I did. I agree that it is a smooth ride with a firm feel, but I did not find it forgiving enough. Perhaps the thin outsole doesn’t provide enough vibration dampening and cushioning? It is somewhat responsive at faster paces, but is a dull ride that I had to work at. I prefer a shoe that makes me feel fast and light and effortless! (Don’t we all.) Of course, the fit issue made the running experience less fun as well.

Jamie: I can’t quite give this shoe the credit it might deserve, just because of the overall fit issue. The numbness in the toes that happened every run was not something I enjoyed. It felt flat, heavy, and just didn’t make my runs very enjoyable. 

Sam: Unlike its predecessors which I found fun and pneumatic in a heavy and deliberate way I never got much joy out of the ride here. While the heel feel was fine if a bit firm the forefoot just didn’t respond or give back feeling quite dull and muted. Most of my runs were at moderate daily training paces. I never felt much like picking up the pace in this Levitate and didn’t.


Conclusions and Recommendations

Jeff: One of the biggest shoe disappointments I’ve run in, the Levitate 4 on paper should have been amazing - lighter weight, better upper, what can go wrong? Unfortunately, the upper and midsole are so narrow I got a blister on 100% of runs, and the pared down weight reduced the cushioning in a meaningful way. While it is likely the best looking running shoe ever made, it was not a pleasurable experience to run in, and made me completely change my form in order to make the shoe work for me - and there are too many great shoes out there that just work. I wanted to like this shoe and figured it could be in the running for 2020 Shoe of the Year, but instead had a heavy $150 shoe that gave me blisters on every run and left my feet and legs beat up after like I was running in a racing flat. I’m sure some runners will adore the Levitate 4, unfortunately I can’t be one of them.

Jeff’s Score 5.2 out of 10

Ride: 6 (50%) Fit: 3 (30%) Value: 5 (15%) Style: 10 (5%)

Derek: The shoe has a nice ride for me. The fit is a bit narrow in the midfoot and that kind of detracts from the overall experience for me. I think it would work very well for people with narrower feet, who enjoy firmer shoes like the Hyperion Tempo or NB 890v8 but want a more cushioned trainer for longer runs. Try it with an open mind and don’t expect a Brooks Ultraboost and you may find it surprising you with its ride. 

Derek’s Score 8.17 / 10

Ride 40% 8.8 Fit 40% 7.5 Value 10% 8 Style 10% 8.5

Sally:  Despite its great looks, this shoe was a miss for me. My feet hurt and my legs felt beat up after a relatively short run of 6-8 miles, and the ride just wasn’t working for my stride. The best part of the run in this shoe was the downhill, because only the heel cushioning is energized. Too many other great shoes to waste $150 on this one.

Sally’s score  6.0 / 10.0

Ride 7 (50%)   Fit 5 (30%)   Value 6 (15%)    Style 9.5 (5%) 

Jamie: From the firm ride, to the snug fit, the Levitate 4 didn’t quite live up to the hype. It felt like a heavier version of a flat racing shoe, which just made my runs feel like resistance training. I always look for a shoe that can handle daily mileage while still being a fun shoe for workouts, and I can’t say I would comfortably run in this shoe everyday. Sadly, the Levitate 4 just doesn’t work for me as much as I want it to.

Jamie’s Score 5/10

Ride: 5 (50%)   Fit: 3 (30%)   Value: 5 (15%)   Style: 10 (5%)

Sam: Incredible looking, truly one of the best looking shoes of 2020, the Levitate 4 loses lots of weight, always a great thing.  The knit fit is snug and performance oriented with issues at the toe box for me. Time to ditch the knit as many other brands have I say. Overly compressive there are better options such as The Ghost 13's or Hyperion Tempo's excellent newer engineered mesh available. 

Due to its outsole and underfoot design (also for weight savings)  it has a dull  strangely lacking in response ride and especially at the ball of the foot “thin” feeling while well cushioned if firmly os.  Amazing how important outsole design is to the ride of shoes and clearly something is off here and I suspect overly thin rubber and lack of segmentation. I much prefer the ride of the considerably heavier Levitate 2.. At uptempo paces, as Derek discovered, things may improve but at $150 and still up there in weight there are other more versatile and fun options at similar pricing such as Brooks Hyperion Tempo and plenty at far less so I would not call it a great value. It’s inherent stability from the outsole and locked down upper can make it potentially a good option for those with lower volume feet seeking a more support oriented shoe from Brooks which is not Guide Rail based. 

Sam’s Score 7.7 / 10

Ride: 7 (50%) Fit: 8.5  (30%) Value:7.5 (15%) Style:10 (5%)


Index to all RTR reviews: HERE

Brooks Levitate 2  (RTR Review)

Sam: I did not run the Levitate 3 with its modified knit upper but did run the L1 and L2.

To be sure of what I remembered of the L2, I did an A/B test short run, one on each foot. While the L2 knit upper is heavier it is softer and has no front of center top of toes toe box issues as L4 has for me. L4 has a snugger fit at midfoot and at the arch and due to the unpadded rear collar a touch less rear hold. The L4 upper is clearly more performance oriented.

Underfoot the L4 is definitely firmer at the heel and thinner feeling at the ball of the foot with essentially only a single forward flex point the rest of the flex being rigid while the more grooved midsole outsole of the L2 is smoother and easier to transition if less agile and with a slower turnover. Clearly the thicker firmer crystal rubber also plays a role in making the L2 actually more responsive up front than the L4, especially at slower paces.

Bottom line compared to L2 the L4 is a firmer more performance oriented, significantly lighter shoe which doesn’t get to the pneumatic ride feel with decent response and easier smoother transitions of the L2 unless you step on the gas.  It’s ball of the foot feel is a miss for me lacking response and feeling thin. 

adidas UltraBoost 20  (RTR Review)

Jeff: Both shoes fit true-to-size. While the adidas is roughly an ounce heavier, it also brings much more cushioning to the table, and has an upper that holds the foot well without going full-fledged stranglehold. I’m no longer a fan of Boost, other brands seem to be innovating well past it, but unfortunately the DNA Amp in the Brooks isn’t the answer. No hesitation, I’d take the UltraBoost over the Levitate.

ASICS GlideRide  (RTR Review)

Jeff: Both shoes fit true-to-size. The GlideRide is one of the first shoes that ASICS has made in years that has actual innovation. A plastic plate and very pronounced rocker geometry make the GlideRide kind of a gimmicky daily trainer, but it’s a solid gimmick that created a shoe that’s very fun to run in. Make mine ASICS!

Sam: I concur with Jeff. A far more dynamic smooth rock and roll with the Glideride and a more cushioned softer one all around. The Glideride ride was closer to true to size for me with no toe box issues and a solid if more relax fit than the snugger Levitate. No gimmick!

Derek: I wear US9.5 for both shoes. The GlideRide is a softer and more dynamic ride with a nice forefoot rocker profile. The Levitate 4 is slightly lighter on the scales, and runs even lighter. I find the Levitate easier to sustain a fast pace in, though for sure the GlideRide has the more unique ride experience. The GlideRide is more cushioned and forgiving underfoot. Overall I do find the Levitate to be a more versatile shoe, if the fit works. The GlideRide has a more accommodating fit for most shoes, and is one of the best easy and recovery run shoes out there but tops out at medium effort paces for me. I think the GlideRide is a more special ride, so if I had to choose one shoe it would be the GlideRide. 

Sally: Both fit TTS W8, both a bit short feeling on the big toe on long runs. But besides a better fit for me, I really enjoy the unique rocker profile and the dynamic peppy ride of the GlideRide, and would thus choose the Asics Glideride over the Levitate any day.

ASICS Nimbus Lite  (RTR Review)

Jeff: Both shoes fit true-to-size. Another ASICS stunner, the Nimbus Lite tips the scales about an ounce lighter than the Levitate, and it feels like much more. The shoes are polar opposites when it comes to upper philosophy, for as tight as the Levitate is, the Nimbus Lite is equally loose. The midsole is much more comfortable to run in, and the result is a much smoother running shoe. Definitely favor the Nimbus Lite.

Sam: I concur with Jeff. I did find in contrast to the stiffer Levitate that the Nimbus was a bit too flexible and soft up front and not as stable. This said as both are targeted at shorter faster runs the Nimbus Lite is much more fun with a liviler bouncier ride and more comfortable if not quite as secure upper. 

Brooks Glycerin 18   (RTR Glycerin 17 Review)

Jeff: Both shoes fit true-to-size. For a few years I’ve wondered “Why does the Levitate exist in a world that already has the Glycerin?” and the latest iterations don’t get me any closer to an answer. If you are a Brooks fan that was like a well cushioned daily trainer, get the Glycerin. Not only is it lighter, but it’s also better cushioned, and has an upper that works for nearly all foot types. Granted, you will see plenty of them on other feet during your local group run, but that’s just a reflection of how good the shoe is. No doubt, stick to the Glycerin.

New Balance 1080v10  (RTR Review)

Jeff: Both shoes fit true-to-size. The 1080 uses a similar near skin-tight upper, but it has enough stretch to prevent extensive blistering - it’s a shoe that holds the foot close without strangling it. Underfoot, the NB has more effective cushioning as well as a smoother ride. 1080 wins handily.

Nike React Infinity  (RTR Review)

Jeff: Both shoes fit true-to-size. The Nike needed some surgery with a leather punch to stop the rampant heel slip, and it has stability rails that are unnecessary for me, but it’s Nike’s big daily trainer right now, and even with all of its bulk it comes in an ounce lighter than the Lev 4. It also has substantially more squish and pop underfoot, with a React midsole that’s fine, but  in comparisoneally shines. The upper is also much more comfortable. Take the Nike.

Sally: A huge fan of the earlier Nike Epic React, I was excited for the new React Infinity, but ultimately disappointed. The fit of the Infinity was challenging, with significant heel lift and a weird pressure under the arch of my foot. And yet with all that said, I would choose the React Infinity over the Levitate because of its peppy bouncy ride.

Nike Pegasus 37  (RTR Review)

Jeff: Both shoes fit true-to-size. Another Nike trainer that tips the scales at 10+ ounces in my size 10.5, the Pegasus 37 midsole marries React with a Zoom Air pocket, and the result is much more substantial than Brooks DNA Amp. The Pegasus upper feels a little rougher than the Levitate, but it does come in $30 less. Save the money, the weight, and get the better running Peg 37.

Derek: I wear US9.5 in both shoes. The Peg 37 has a slightly wider midfoot and an overall springier more dynamic ride, but I feel the Levitate somehow beats me up a little less as the miles progress. It’s a tough call as the Peg 37 is $30 cheaper as Jeff points out. As a daily trainer I think perhaps the Pegasus would be better. If I were only doing steady state long runs, I would go with the Levitate. 

Sam: I tested both Peg 37: the men’s and women’s D width.  Both are better daily training choices for me and better values despite the somewhat disjointed feel of the men’s. Now the women’s is incredible in its smoothness and daily training ride as it gets softer React and less pressure in its air bag and is an ounce lighter than the Levitate. No dull forefoot as in the Levitate for the women’s and less sense of the air bag pressing up as in the men’s Peg. One of my top shoes of 2020 in the general daily training category. The men’s true to size fit is similar to Levitate in its performance snugness while the women’s at men’s +1.5 in a D width is more relaxed but still secure. 

Saucony Triumph 17   (RTR Review)

Jeff: Both shoes fit true-to-size. My shoe of the year for 2019, the Triumph weighs the same, costs the same, and is a very different shoe. Saucony first offering to use their new PWRRUN+ TPU midsole, the Triumph has a comfortable upper and runs incredibly smoothly during easy miles, and doesn’t feel too bad when the pace picks up. No surprise here, try the Triumph.

Derek: I wear US9.5 for both shoes. It is an easy choice for me here. I prefer the Levitate as the ride is just more efficient for me. With the Triumph I feel like I have to work a little harder to keep the legs turning over, and while it makes for a nice recovery shoe for me, the Levitate feels like a more fun snappy ride. 

Topo Atheltic Ultrafly 3  (RTR Review)

Jeff: Both shoes fit true-to-size. Topo’s recently released daily trainer has mild stability features, but comes in $20 less and nearly an ounce lighter. The upper isn’t quite as dialed in as the Levitate’s upper, but it has enough stretch and room to accommodate most feet. The ride in the UltraFly shines when doing an A/B comparison. Give the Topo a chance, you won’t regret it.

Sam: Totally agree with Jeff on the Topo upper. Tons of room, plenty secure, and super comfortable on foot. Underfoot, the Ultrafly shares some of the same issues with a dull forefoot as I found in the Levitate. In the case of the Ultrafly, and opposite of the Levitate, not enough rubber coverage leading to an overly soft, not particularly responsive front of the shoe. 

Brooks Ghost 13  (RTR Review)

Sally: The new Ghost 13 is a well-cushioned, comfortable, solid daily trainer that has a very accommodating toe box, unlike the Levitate. Both TTS W8. The similarities between my two test pairs end with the Brooks name and the similar mint/grey colorway. The Ghost 13 hands down.

Derek: I wear US9.5 in both shoes. I prefer the Levitate overall. The Ghost has the more comfortable fit and the nicer bouncier forefoot, but the Levitate transitions faster and has a snappier ride that makes running feel a little easier. 

Sam: If you are seeking a Brooks daily trainer with a softer ride but with plenty of thick and well segmented  rubber upfront for some response and with a more accommodating fit clearly the Ghost 13 would be my choice. I wonder how the Leviate would run with a bit less DNA AMP midsole stack and an outsole similar to the Ghost’s?

Saucony Endorphin Shift  (RTR Review)

Derek: I wear US9.5 in both shoes. This is a really tough call. Both run lighter than the scales say, and both are smooth efficient trainers. I prefer the Endorphin Shift because the SpeedRoll makes it an overall faster, more fun shoe, but we are really nitpicking here. The Levitate is lower to the ground and has a consequently more stable ride. Another important consideration is the Levitate has significantly better outsole grip since the Shift has lots of exposed midsole. The Shift is $10 cheaper too, so I pick the Shift, but just barely. 

Sam: No contest for me here. The Shift has more cushion and a smooth rocker based ride with no dull midfoot and for such a big but light enough shoe is a joy to run just about anything in with never a struggle at any pace as the Levitate has for me.

Read reviewers' full run bios here
The product reviewed was provided at no charge for testing. The opinions herein are the authors'.
Comments and Questions Welcome Below!
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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great review and not surprising. I ran in the Levitate 1 when it was released and thought it was the worst (and most misleadingly named) shoe I had ever run in. Heavy brick that left me totally beat up after each run. Don’t know why Brooks doesn’t give up on DNA Amp now that they have some much better midsoles.