Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Brooks Levitate 5, Levitate GTS 5 StealthFit and Levitate 5 StealthFit Multi Tester Reviews. 13 Comparisons!

Article by Bryan Lim, Joost de Raeymaeker, Sally Reiley, Derek Li, and Sam Winebaum

Brooks Running Leviate 5 and Levitate GTS 5 ($150)


Sam:  The Levitate sits in the Brooks Energize collection described by Brooks as “shoes that absorb energy and return it back for a springy feel”. I have run in several versions of the Levitate and all shared a dense pneumatic return and knit uppers. I have generally found the uppers supportive and dense, never quite delivering on Brooks famous step in and run comfort. All versions were quite ponderous at slow paces and came alive as the pace picked up and all but the Levitate 4 were quite weighty on the scale. 

Women’s circular knit, non GTS

The Levitate will now come in 4 flavors all with the same DNA AMP midsole foam and outsole rubber and in  a first for the model in two types of knit uppers, soft circular (right below) and StealthFit (left below). 

Each upper type will be available in underfoot platforms of “regular/neutral” and GTS (Go-To-Support) light stability. 

GTS is created through a Guide Rails of the same foam as the midsole that rises on the lateral side with a co-molded slightly firmer foam rail on the medial side. 

GTS is more about stabilizing the knee earlier in the landing and guiding the gait than under foot pronation control via a firmer post or plates. The idea is that the support should be more on demand than prescriptive. As with the recent Launch and Glycerin, which also get the GTS option, models such as the Ravenna and the Transcend which were essentially support versions of the preceding  go away. In the case of the Levitate GTS 5, it replaces the Bedlam.

DNA AMP is a PU based midsole foam wrapped in an outer skin( I assume TPU)  that is dense, quite heavy compared to other modern foams and has a deliberate pneumatic kind of rebound with very strong vibration and  shock attenuation, especially at the heel. The DNA AMP foam is unchanged from the Levitate 4 (RTR Review) where it became 20% lighter than in prior versions.

The new StealthFit upper, while just as smashing looking as the Levitate 4's, clearly resolves the rough and very low and stiff over the center toe fit of the Levitate 4 (RTR Review) with a softer, thinner, more stretchable knit. The upper now includes an integral knit tongue instead of the 4’s more conventional one and softer rear collars. 

The regular Levitate 5 now has a very soft, thick circular knit upper that has some but less stretch than StealthFit with plush padded collars. It clearly has a high comfort soft cruiser fit and vibe. 

In the picture above, with both shoes the same size,  one can clearly see the difference in upper and fit approach. Note that my right foot is narrower than my left.

The circular knit upper (non GTS blue above) adds weight as we tip the scales at 10.97 oz / 311g while Bryan’s StealthFit version (without GTS)  checks in at 9.81 oz / 278g in a US9 so decently lighter than the Levitate 4. The Levitate 4 checked in at men's 10.2 oz / 290g  (US9) with  women's 9 oz / 254 g (US8) with its upper and particularly its very firm over the toes knit proving to be, while fantastic looking, one of the most upper painful uppers I ran last year.

The outsoles are the same on all models and identical to the Levitate 4’s with firm continuous coverage.

I was not optimistic seeing this as I felt the lack of decoupling and more dynamic flex grooves of the Levitate 4 contributed to a very consistent stable feel (front to back and through the entire stack) but a somewhat ponderous one lacking in character and  that only improved when pushing the pace hard and were a step back from the prior chevron pattern outsole. 

I have always noted in the Levitate (all versions) that my slow pace runs in them were slower than I expected and my faster ones faster so a dual personality for the ride indicating to me that the DNA AMP’s return is proportional to the energy (or runner weight) on the way down!

I tested the Leviate GTS 5 Stealthfit and Leviate 5 (circular knit) All versions are $150 and come in August.

Bryan: This is my first foray into Brooks in a while, only having previously and briefly worn the Glycerin several years back, so my take on the Levitate StealthFit 5 will be without any comparison to prior versions. Reading into our reviews of previous versions, it is evident that the Levitate series brought what Sam calls a  “pneumatic feel” as you ran in them due to the polyurethane midsole known as DNA AMP. In the Levitate 4, Brooks offered just one variant with its Fit Knit Upper. Now, the Levitate 5 comes in two different uppers, with my part of the review focussing on the StealthFit variant that very excitingly comes in at 0.5oz (14g) lighter than the Levitate 4.  Out of the box, the StealthFit is one of the sleekest shoes around. Read on to find out if it works.

Joost: My third pair of Brooks for testing in just over half a year. I enjoyed running in the Launch 8 at the bottom of the cushion category and the new Trace 1, at the bottom of the speed category. Both fit my wide feet well and were very comfortable. The Levitate sits in the Energyze category, which has shoes that have good energy return, or springiness. It has the most spring of the lot. I got the standard Levitate 5, meaning the normal circular knitted upper and no GTS, or Go-To-Support via side Guide Rails. If you’ve done your math, it should be obvious that there are 4 different ones available. Which, if any, should you pick? Read on. 

Sally: I received the Women’s Levitate 5 in the standard version (non Stealthfit, non GTS) and have been putting it through the paces as I begin to ramp up marathon training for Boston 2021. I tested the Levitate 4 last year, and as much as I like the concept of an energy-returning “energyze” ride, the upper of the Levitate 4 did not work for me (the low and stiff front of the toe box was problematic). The upper of the 5 looks to be a different animal, so let’s see how it runs. I have previously run in the ever-popular Brooks Ghost and the lighter Brooks Launch, as well as their marathon super shoe, the Hyperion Elite 2.

Derek: It's really quite interesting that Brooks chose the Levitate as the platform on which to go with multiple upper and Neutral/stability options. I would have thought something more saleable like the Launch or Hyperion Tempo would be a better shoe to base such options on, but here we are. Regular upper vs more compressive knitted, neutral vs GTS. I quite enjoyed the firm but stable and responsive ride of the Levitate 4, and opted to try the knitted StealthFit version of the neutral Levitate this time. How will the new upper compare?


Sam/Joost/Sally: Highly durable construction, copious outsole, deep heel cushion

Joost/Sam/Sally/Derek: Firm, rubbery feeling, springy rebound

Joost/Sam/Sally: Stable ride with ample dampening

Sam: Dramatically improved upper comfort (both uppers), particularly toe box front in Stealth Fit.

Sam/Sally: Uppers now flexes with the foot notably improving ride up front

Sam/Derek: Very consistent feel, pneumatic and measured rebound at all paces that increases in return feel at faster paces.

Sam: GTS version does not overdo the support and puts a noted mid foot pop in the ride.

Sam: Below 10 oz for Stealth Fit non GTS puts Levitate in the magic sub 10 oz daily trainer club.

Sam: Good single shoe for a heavier, beginner runner

Bryan: StealthFit - Great design; aesthetically pleasing 

Bryan/Sally: Ideal for slower or recovery runs

Bryan: Bootie construct of the upper in the StealthFit means no immediate fit issues i.e. tongue slippage

Bryan: Snappy toe off and responsive ride


Joost/Sally/Sam: Regular upper is heavy for what’s offered in terms of rebound and fit (and for a name like the Levitate)

Joost/Sam/Sally: Regular upper is quite hot, probably a better option for the fall/winter

Joost/Sam: $150 might be too much for this shoe

Sam/Sally: Ride lacks character and snap and is overly consistent in feel.  

Sam: New, non StealthFit upper increases comfort but also weight..gains 0.6 oz. 

Sam: Unchanged outsole is overbuilt, needs more decoupling and likely also add to weight

Sam: DNA AMP PU while heavier than most other modern foams (other than maybe Boost..) leads to a shoe at the upper limits of practicality for daily training for the circular knit version (10.97 oz) while Stealth Fit is fine at sub 10 oz.

Sam: DNA AMP requires either heavier runner weight or faster paces to activate, ponderous if pleasant otherwise

Bryan: StealthFit knit upper is very soft and unstructured which limits the versatility of the shoe; detracts what would otherwise be a pleasant ride offered by the DNA AMP midsole

Bryan: Not enough underfoot for the weight.

Derek: StealthFit upper is warm

Derek: StealthFit upper a little too stretchy for a performance shoe



      men’s  Leviate 5: 10.97 oz /311g US 9, 318g/11,22 oz US9.5

                Levitate 5 StealthFit: 9.81 oz / 278g US 9 10.0oz / 283g US9.5 

                 Levitate GTS 5 StealthFit: 10.26 oz / 291g US 9

      women’s  Levitate 5: 9.40 oz /266 g US W8

Men’s Levitate 4: men's 9.89 oz / 280g  (US8.5)  Estimated  US9 10.2 oz / 290g  (US9)

Stack Height: 29mm heel / 21mm forefoot, 8 mm drop

Drop: 8mm 

Available now. See shopping links below $150  

Tester Profiles

Bryan is a road and trail runner living in Melbourne, Australia. He is a consistent sub 1:25 half marathoner and is presently chasing a sub 3-hour marathon. He is 176cm/ 5'9" tall and weighs about 63kg / 140lbs. 

Joost is a Belgian in his 50s living in Luanda, Angola, Africa, where he faces the heat, humidity and general chaos to run anything between 60-100 miles per week. He’s on a mission to win in his age group in the 6 marathon majors and has completed half of his project, with a 2:26:10 PB in Berlin in 2019 at 51. He ran in primary school, but then thought it would be a lot cooler to be a guitar player in a hard rock band, only picking up running again in 2012, gradually improving his results.

Sally is a lifelong runner and mother of five who ran her first marathon at age 54, and has now run the past seven 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 $240,000 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.

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.

Sam is the Editor and Founder of Road Trail Run. He is 64 with a 2018 3:40 Boston qualifier. Sam has been running for over 48 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 5’9” tall and weighs about 164 lbs if he is not enjoying too many fine New England IPA.

First Impressions and Fit

Sam: I have both the circular knit Levitate 5 and the Leviate GTS 5 Stealthfit knit. Both are half size up from my normal. The Stealth Fit version fits close to true to size as its knit is stretchy and softly compressive while the circular knit fits OK but only with a heavier Darn Tough sock. 

The circular knit version has a roomy comfort oriented fit and plush upper while the Stealthfit is more performance oriented but fortunately not as aggressively and painfully so as the Leviate 4 with its less stretchy, rougher and especially very dense, stiff,  low extended center toe bumper. All of those issues are fixed in the 5.

The regular upper is quite thick, soft and notably roomy. It includes a gusset tongue, a rarity for Brooks and it is needed as even with a gusset tongue I find near the foot bed width a touch too roomy and loose, not supported enough or maybe it’s just too broad there. 

The toe box is broad, easy on the toes and surprisingly well held, credit to its thickness and an extensive knit toe bumper that doesn’t overdo stiffness. All of this cush adds weight though as the Levitate 5 circular knit weighs 1 oz more plus than the Stealth Fit upper version. 

For any kind of faster running, the Stealth Fit has a more secure hold despite being a stretch knit but still as with all knits is a bit on the loose side. And it delivers a weight below 10 oz without GTS and in my GTS version is 0.6 oz less than the circular knit version without GTS’s extra midsole pieces.  

The heel and achilles collars are less rigid and have more substantial internal padding which not only were less padded but had a rigid rear clip.

The former stand alone tongue is replaced with an integral to the upper knit affair which while not padded and thin gave me no lace bite.

Most importantly for me, the very stiff extended center of the toe bumper along with stiff side wings that extended over the toes of the Levitate 4 is dramatically and correctly toned down. Not quite the hold up front but no longer nearly unbearable as before. Overall the knit upper of the StealthFit is far softer and stretchier with less of the unpleasant rigid feel of the similar appearing Levitate 4’s.

In terms of looks the circular knit version screams comfort cruiser even lounging around while the Stealth Fit upper all in grays and blacks has a dark purposeful and really, as the more ill fitting Leviate 4 had, stunning visual design that can slide well into any sporting or other “occasion”.  


Bryan: Don’t they look brilliant!? The two-tone grey knit upper combined with a glossy, sculpted coated midsole foam creates a sublimely sleek shoe. So aesthetically pleasing is the SteathFit I actually wore them in the office and was even paid compliments! Fit wise, I found there to be no immediate issues although the midfoot was perhaps on the narrower side. I would imagine folks with wider feet will have issues with fit. The knit upper is very pliable and soft, and I quickly realised that you would need to tie up the laces snugly to prevent your feet from possibly sliding around. No apparent issues with this when walking. This is a very stable shoe that makes you feel low to the ground, and you immediately are able to feel that “pneumatic” response, an almost hydraulic sensation. True to size length-wise.

Joost: The standard model Levitate 5 I got was also a standard blue with grey laces and a shiny midsole. That DNA AMP has an actual fluorescent shine to it. The regular circular knit hugs the foot nicely without creating any hotspots and fits true to size for me. Like the other Brooks shoes I’ve reviewed, there is enough space in the forefoot for my wide feet, probably due to the fact there’s some give in the upper, which gives my little toe the little extra space it needs. The Levitate feels very stable, and I can feel just a little bit of arch support upon walking around in them. The midsole has relatively little “give” to it when walking, and has a nice toe roll-off. They do feel quite heavy.

Sally: The women’s version of the standard model is likewise a standard grey color accented with violet midsole/outsole and laces. With its soft thick circular knit upper and plushly padded collars, it screams comfortable cruiser, leaning toward a lifestyle shoe. The fit was true to size for me (W8) with a roomy toebox and comfort all around. I honestly admit to adding bonus miles walking my dog in this comfortable shoe… It did benefit from some breaking in for me to soften the flex. It is definitely not a lightweight racer, and the weight is noticeable.

Derek: Being one of the few people who enjoyed the Levitate 4 last year in our multi-tester review, i was looking forward to seeing how the Levitate 5 was different. We already knew coming into the review that this year's Levitate was primarily an upper update so the focus was always going to be on fit. While the original Levitate was marketed more as a high cushioning trainer, over the years i think people have come to recognize that the Levitate is more of a daily trainer with the cushioning tending to be on the firmer side. 

My first impression on opening the box was that this shoe is a very dark shade of grey! The upper is quite different now, and while the Levitate now comes in more than one upper option, the one i opted to test was billed "StealthFit" and is simply put, more of a pure knit type of upper. Step is feel is fairly comfortable. The knit seems to be quite elastic and gives that typical sock-like fit and feel. Fit is definitely true to size, though as the platform is essentially the same as on the Levitate 4, buyers should expect the shoe to have more of a long and narrow fit, and... this one may not be solved so easily by sizing up. 

Walking and jogging around, the underfoot feel doesn't seem very different from the Levitate 4; it is a stable traditional feel without a whole lot of dynamism shining through from the midsole. Let's see how the new upper compares!


Bryan: Upon perusing our previous review of the Levitate 4, it appears that StealthFit has been redesigned from the previous FitKnit which was generally found to provide good lockdown. This appears to have disappeared.

As in the image above, the upper can be divided into three parts; the darker grey knit (including the spot patterned side panel where the Brooks logo sits on) that wraps the toe box and hugs the midfoot on the medial and lateral sides, the lighter grey material that runs from the top of the toebox and serves as the bootie ‘tongue’ beneath the lacing, and the heel cup.

To start, the dark grey part of the upper is thicker and far firmer than the very soft and stretchable lighter grey part, which makes sense in creating some structure in the toe box. The mentioned spot patterned side panel utilises a mixture of the dark and light grey knit to accommodate different feet shapes whilst providing some form of rigidity and structure. The Brooks logo overlay helps to achieve this. 

The lighter grey material is very soft and stretchable, and is even more so below the lacing. Again, this is done to provide almost a plush sort of feeling, and again I suspect to accommodate different foot shapes. 

Lastly, we have the reinforced heel cup with its overlays, which features sufficient volume and cushioning. No issues here, and I found this to be my favourite part of the upper.

Performance wise, the Stealth Fit knit upper did not work for me despite not experiencing any pressure or pain points. There was a lack of lockdown due to its softness and pliability. At slower paces, it was alright, but the upper is not capable of handling change in pace as well as quicker paces where I felt my feet ‘swimming’ and struggling to hold on to the insole and midsole. The main positive for me is the overall snugness created by a one piece bootie upper. Functionally, the upper does not work for me.

Joost: For those who have run in the Trace 1, this upper will feel fairly familiar, although there are technically some differences. This one is a traditional circular knit, half bootie type construction with a gusseted tongue and a double layer in the forefoot that is fused together from the midfoot to the heel. There is some extra internal and external padding added in that area. It feels soft on the foot, but also quite warm, making it more suitable for fall and winter running.

A nice toe bumper is made of more tightly knit material. Similar tighter areas are present around the eyelets (reinforced with a grid of plastic overlays) and at the ball of the foot. A Brooks logo on both sides provide some extra hold and stability.

The tongue is quite puffy and the laces are flat and short, probably too short for heel lock lacing. The laces go through a special eyelet on the tongue to help with any possible slip (not that that would be an issue to start off with). The heel area is reinforced up until half the height of the shoe, and generously padded above that and below the ankles. There are some plastic overlays (small rhombuses and 2 triangles), probably more for aesthetic reasons than for anything else. Although they are slightly reflective, the fluorescent reflection from the midsole seems to bounce off more light.

The heel also has a nice pull tab that helps you get into the shoe more easily. All in all, a nice upper with good heel hold, but it probably adds quite a bit to the weight of the shoe.

Variations on a theme: The uppers of the Trace 1, Levitate 5 and Launch 8

Sam: Bryan and Joost describe the uppers well. Understanding that knits rarely if ever have the hold of more conventional mesh and that is same here, with some moving around of the foot on the run. The Stealthfit upper here is just fine for me and at most paces with sufficient if more easy going compressive hold while the circular knit may have less stretch but is more baggy, thicker, softer, heavier and is yet more comfort cruise and wider foot oriented. I guess my key question here is why Brooks persists in using knit uppers in DNA AMP trainers. Generally knit is heavier, breathes less well, and its hold is not what engineered meshes can provide at less weight. To say they have knits in the line? To provide a look that has been popular and can also fit for more casual/lifestyle uses? 

Sally: The others describe the uppers well. Suffice it to say that the circular knit is classic in appearance, accommodating in its soft stretch, but also not sufficiently breathable and noticeably hot for summer running. I did not have any problematic hot spots anywhere in this shoe, so I experimented with very thin socks and tighter lacing in an attempt to alleviate the over-heating.

Derek: Knit uppers are always tricky to pull off. More than that, they are often incredibly polarising. One group will love it to bits and call it the best thing since sliced bread, and the other will absolutely hate it and reminisce about the days when you had to slice your own loaves. Ok i think that's as far as the metaphor can run. A prime example is the Nike Vaporfly 4% flymesh vs flyknit (or the Zoom Streak 6 mesh vs knit if you want to go farther back). 

I think if a particular knit upper works for you, it is a combination of having the right stretch in the right places and added reinforced stitching where it is needed, PLUS having the right volume for your foot shape such that it really does fit like a compression sock. If any one of those elements is off, things can feel out of whack in a hurry. My theory is that knit uppers tend to work better for narrow but high volume feet. So you don't just need a narrow last, but also higher arches to sort of fill out the shoe if you will. 

Compared to the Levitate 4 upper, the new StealthFit upper in the Levitate 5 is a thicker but more stretchy sort of mesh. It is quite difficult to tell visually, when but you squeeze and rub the upper material between your fingers, you can distinctly tell that the knit is thicker and spongier in Levitate 5 StealthFit versus that in the Levitate 4, it is also more stretchy and this is most obvious at the toe box where you don't have the laces to help you resist the stretch. 

Much like the Levitate 4, there is an internal layer of material running the entire circumference of the shoe to help limit sideways movement of the foot in the shoe. For some reason the laminate runs a lot higher in the Levitate 5. I think the designers also recognized that StealthFit is a little less structured and so you need a bit more support around the circumference. The internal heel cup is also a little more rigid in the Levitate 5 than in v4, though this is not something that is altogether noticeable when running.  

One big noticeable change is the tongue. Instead of a separate more traditionally constructed tongue, the new upper uses an integrated tongue, sort of like what you had on the Nike Vaporfly 4% Flyknit or Zoom Fly 2, or Epic React v1. You either love it or you hate it. I personally feel that this design of tongue does not afford enough padding in the event that you want to have high lace tension at the knot. You end up with a lot of pressure in a line across the front of the ankle. Of course, this is a non-issue if the knitted upper fits you well and you don't need to do too much with the lacing. In this shoe, however, I felt the need to use quite high tension across all the eyelets to minimize foot movement. I'll explain why below. 

It is deceptively warm! It doesn't feel like it would be warm when you first start running in the shoe, but after a couple of miles, the heat will start to build up. I didn't get hotspots consistently in any particular spot during testing, though it was most noticeable under the ball of my right foot. There was just a general warm feeling under the whole foot. 

After experimenting with socks of varying thickness, I quickly realized that the heat build up was not due to the thickness of the knit upper alone, but also partly attributed to the movement of the foot within the shoe, and is exacerbated by the increased stretch of this knit upper vs Levitate 4.  In this respect, one faces a dilemma. Thicker socks eat up more shoe volume and reduce the amount of foot movement in the shoe, but they won't breathe as well; thinner socks breathe better but then your foot will slide sideways more, creating friction and heat build-up. 

Ultimately, I settled on thin socks and really cinching down the laces as much as possible to reduce foot movement. The resulting fit is ok, but takes a lot of effort to get right. The last is already on the longer and narrower side, though it is ameliorated somewhat in Leviatate 5 because the upper stretches to give a semblance of a wider fit. I think this shoe will fit people with narrow and high arches but a relatively wide forefoot best. That's a pretty rare combination I think, and therein lies the quandary. Is the shoe going to fit enough of the public to make a splash? Is it too much hassle for a $150 shoe? That's the big question.


Bryan: Where does DNA Amp sit in the Brooks hierarchy? DNA Loft (as in the latest Glycerin and Ghost)  and BioMoGo DNA ( such as in the Trace)  are the standard offerings, with the latter possibly in run-off. DNA Flash is Brooks’ nitrogen-infused lightweight race midsole (Hyperion Tempo) and DNA Zero is their top tier superfoam (Hyperion Elite). Their newest foams DNA Loft v3, a supercritical foam can be found in their Aurora-B a max cushion model far lighter than the Levitate and DNA Loft v2 in the trail Cascadia is a firmer Loft with some noted rebound.  DNA AMP seems to sit in mid-range and is a polyurethane midsole encased in a TPU skin. It can be found in the Levitate, and older to be discontinued Ricochet and Bedlam( replaced by Levitate GTS 5. It is marketed to be their energy return, bounce back to move forward midsole. Kind of like Boost, but not quite.

DNA AMP is dense, which unfortunately makes it heavy. It is soft to pressing but somehow this does not translate to its ride, which may be affected by the outsole which we will touch on more later on.

Unlike many other shoes on the market, the Levitate 5 uses the single density midsole throughout. No bells and whistles. The end result is a uniform ride. As was mentioned, the pneumatic feel is evident, and the midsole is on the firmer side. Whilst firm, the DNA AMP surprisingly has a surprising amount of give and vibration dampening which is a pleasant surprise. Overall, the DNA Amp midsole is not flexible (again possibly restricted by the outsole) like you would expect in traditional everyday trainers, nor is it bouncy or responsive, but yet isn’t what I would call dull being a fan of firmer and lower riding shoes.

Joost: Bryan has gone into the technical details. I can definitely confirm that it’s a very firm, heavy feeling midsole. I do find it’s quite responsive when I pick up the pace a little, all the while feeling the nice vibration dampening effect as well. That last thing reminded me a bit of the Salomon Sonic 3 Accelerate, which also has that vibration dampening effect and sports a quite firm but responsive ride. The weight of the Levitate works a little bit against it, though and is always noticeable.

Sam: I agree with Bryan and Joost. The midsole is dense, very vibration dampening especially at the heel, uniform in feel, and more pneumatic in a gradual way than springy. Essentially I sense that the more pressure , weight, and flex forces you put into the platform the more it returns. This loading could be via the runner’s weight or the forces of faster paces. As such I found easier pace runs slower than I expected while pleasant in feel while quicker paces were faster than expected. 

While not a rigid shoe I think the overall character of the midsole (and ride) is hampered or tempered by the full coverage outsole and its relative lack of decoupling. While very well cushioned at the heel, the forefoot feels firm and thinner and I guess with a 21mm stack there and the full coverage outsole upfront with no substantial flex grooves into the midsole this not surprising. 

The midfoot of the non GTS version feels flat and slow to transition in part due to the decoupling but also for me maybe the breadth of the upper and its less than totally secure hold down low. 

Yet the picture is somewhat different with the GTS version with its higher  lateral sidewall of DNA AMP and co molded medial insert.. 

I run neutral shoes and yes the Guide Rails are noticed here too but unlike the Launch 8 GTS far less so as there seems to be a better match between their firmness and the main midsole. The GTS here provides me more of a platform for initiating transitions and a bounce effect forward that is noticeable and effective. This extra “support” goes a long way to making the shoe flow more decisively through my gait cycle even at slower paces. 

Sally: I have always been labelled petite (5’2” 106 lbs), and logically gravitate to light, quick shoes. As Sam points out, the Levitate 5 is ideal for a heavier runner who pounds the pavement with his/her stride. A lightweight runner such as myself can not compress the midsole sufficiently to activate the rebounding energy return potential of this midsole. I found it overall firm and stiff, though fun on the downhills with the dampening heel cushioning (and downhills are just fun in general!)

Derek: The Levitate 5 neutral purportedly has the same midsole as the Levitate 4. This, I confirmed through a comparison of the stack heights, sans sockliner in the 2 shoes. I even compared the sock liners to ensure they were of the same material (Ortholite) and thickness. I say all this because Levitate 5 feels a little bit harsher than Levitate 4. I still haven't quite figured it out, because everything seems to be the same. Eventually I put it down to a little bit more disconnect between the foot and the midsole due to the more relaxed fit of the Levitate 5. Vibration Dampening is still decent, but the shoe isn't going to compress a lot, especially at slower paces. At faster paces, the foam becomes a little more lively and springy especially through the forefoot, which is quite nice. At 30/20 as I measured the stack including the sockliner, the midsole is on the thinner side by 2021 standards, so don't expect a premium trainer sort of underfoot feel, but rather a more snappy and responsive ride.


Sam: As with the Levitate 4 the outsole is a full coverage firm rubber with not much decoupling or flex elements integrating into the midsole with the outsole serving it seems, at least partially, as a “protective” layer for the DNA AMP midsole and its sheath of outer coating. There is continuous rubber on the medial forefoot, some small slots on the lateral and a shallow rear crash pad and cavity. This design should prove very durable, delivers on a uniform feel from front to back and very stable but is in my view is in the way of moving the shoe along as it is overly rigid and continuous.

The Levitate 1 and 2 (shown below) had a chevron pattern of crystal rubber. 

Earlier Levitate weighed close to 2 oz more (heavier DNA AMP, upper, and I think thicker outsole), yet the outsole midsole combination once wound up was considerably more dynamic in ride with the outsole  providing plenty of rebound in the mix at faster paces. 

Bryan: Coverage is extensive, especially on the medial part of the shoe which has full outsole coverage. What we have here is a uniform usage of some form of carbon injected rubber that detracts from the midsole’s potential responsiveness. The lateral part of the fore- and midfoot, and the heel feature cut outs to promote some flexibility, but the result is that it remains rigid and very stable, especially given the structure/outsole pattern and volume of rubber used. No issues with durability and traction. The heavy utilisation of outsole rubber adds to the weight and density of the DNA Amp midsole, making it an overall bottom heavy shoe.

Joost: There’s a lot of outsole rubber here, in all sorts of patterns. The main one is a fishbone like pattern with just a couple of cutouts in the heel, providing some decoupling for heel strikers and on the lateral side of the forefoot, adding some lateral lengthwise flexibility for forefoot strikers. There is very little flexibility across the midsole. As Bryan stated: no issues with durability and traction and the copious usage of outsole rubber definitely adds to the weight of an already heavy shoe.

Sally: Lots and lots of outsole rubber here! On the plus side, the durability will most likely be awesome. But it adds so much weight! The rubber was fairly quiet on the roads, an important consideration for me, and the traction is great even on wet pavement.  I did experience some minor gravel collecting in the rubber treads, however, but most likely due to the ocean sand on the coastal roads I run. Overall, a bottom heavy feeling shoe.

Derek: I think a lot has already been said about the outsole. It looks identical to that seen on the Levitate 4 so no major changes. The outsole rubber is quite firm and durable (based on my experience with the Levitate 4). As the patterning is very fine, the grip is also very good on this outsole. I have used it on road and gravel with no problems whatsoever. If anything, i would have liked a softer compound for the forefoot rubber, to give the shoe more spring up front


Bryan: Mixed-feelings is the first thought and word that comes to mind when trying to distill the result of the interesting mix of componentry to the StealthFit variant of the Levitate 5. Notwithstanding suffering from sore feet mid-runs, which is very rare for me but I suspect it's from the rigidity of the shoe and the generally unstructured upper, I actually found the overall ride to be decent; not dead, not lively, not harsh, but that firm pneumatic feel which seems unique to the DNA AMP midsole. With the uniform single foam utilisation, I liked the predictability and stability that the shoe offers. Upper aside, I found no issues in hitting sprint paces of under 2:00 minutes/km (5:12 min/mile, 18.65 mph, 30 km/h). I suspect many runners will not appreciate what would be considered to be a thin forefoot and dull-ish ride compared to other bouncy offerings out there, but I can imagine enjoying the ride offered by the DNA AMP midsole in another package.

Joost: I wouldn’t go as far as calling the ride pneumatic. The sensation to me was that of a firm rubber, with added dampening, but still quite responsive and bouncy when picking up the pace. But then again, it’s the weight that subtracts from that feeling. The standard issue Levitate 5 I reviewed (with the normal upper and non-GTS midsole) didn’t have any issues with the upper being too unstructured for the firm and relatively rigid midsole/outsole combination Bryan mentioned. The ride is stable, predictable and controlled. Unlike some superfoam and plated options out there, there’s no need to adjust your stride or do anything special. The Levitate will take you where you want to go in an unpretentious way.

Sam: As Joost says “stable, predictable, and controlled” and Bryan says a “thin forefoot and dull-sh” ride. I agree. The Levitate comes to life when pushing the pace, not something the weight of the normal upper non GTS version is that much fun to do in, but which becomes a far better experience in the lighter GTS with Stealth Fit. 

Many including me seek “fast” shoes for everything or nearly, yet 80% of our miles should be easier rather than harder I say. My last run in the non GTS regular upper was super easy, slower than expected and just what I needed that day. The controlled, consistent ride was soft enough, the vibration dampening fantastic, the upper as comfy as could be, the weight and quite ponderous transitions evident so.. I forgot about trying to move them along and enjoyed the sights along the way. 

All of this said, the ride here pales and is dated in comparison to the far lighter, far more energetic DNA Loft v3 supercritical foam and geometry of  the “concept” Aurora-BL max cushion trainer (RTR Review) and even while camouflaged by the outsole the DNA Loft v2 in the Cascadia 16 which has an energetic and stable dense feel.  I think Brooks needs to rapidly move on from DNA AMP.

Sally: Stable, predictable, controlled… Joost summarizes the ride well. And yes, it responds to pushing the pace, not like a plated shoe or a max cushioned shoe would, but as a traditional old school shoe might. The impact dampening under the heel is clearly felt on the downhills and much welcomed. I found myself running on my toes often in this shoe, especially on the uphills. Somehow the ride is stiff and not fluid for me, perhaps because I do not weigh enough to activate the DNA AMP midsole? But this is a very comfortable shoe, and it is always a pleasure to  have your feet feeling happy at the conclusion of a run.

Derek: The bottom line for me is that the ride is somewhat inferior to the Levitate 4. The new upper is not as supportive, and there is a less connected feel between the foot and the midsole-outsole as a consequence. The ride is still smooth and responsive and even springy at faster paces, but it is not altogether very comfortable at the faster paces, because the deficiencies of the upper become magnified as you go faster. 

I fear that the StealthFit Levitate 5 has ventured more into the realm of the athleisure category than a true performance shoe. My struggles with the upper have made it difficult to really test the shoe over longer distances, and i've maxed out at 8 miles in this shoe. In terms of ride, I see it being a more durable trainer version of the Hyperion Tempo, going solely on ride quality, so people who like the Hyperion Tempo should have a hard look at this shoe to see if the fit works. 

Conclusions and Recommendations

Bryan: From opening the box to taking the Levitate StealthFit 5 on runs, the experience was one that went downhill. The two positives are the looks, and that I somewhat managed to enjoy the ride offered by the DNA Amp midsole through a disappointing package. The shoe does not work on multiple levels. On a personal level, the shoe does not fit into my rotation; it is like a heavy racing flat that doesn’t offer sufficient lockdown or an everyday training shoe that isn’t flexible and versatile enough to handle variation in paces. 

From a marketplace point of view, the shoe does not fit in well performance wise, but could perhaps be seen as a fashion trainer for the runner who is seeking a pair for everyday casual usage with low volume and slower paced training. Again, it is a shame the DNA AMP midsole is muted for me by the poor performing upper and outsole. At $150 or AUD$250, the StealthFit does not present good value for money, and for the utility that it offers.

Bryan’s Score: 6.25/10 

Ride: 7 (50%) Fit: 6 (30%) Value: 3 (15%) Style: 10 (5%)

Joost: As an exercise, I tried to imagine who of my running friends and group would be a good match for the Levitate 5. Personally I think I’m too light and tread too lightly to make the best of this shoe. After a little thinking I came up with Chivela, a local runner I sometimes train with in group settings for normal easy days, hilly long slow runs and some fartleks. He’s built like a tank and has a very powerful stride. He would be the one to overcome some of the issues I had with the rigid and firm midsole/outsole combination and I think that with his powerful stride, the DNA AMP midsole would offer more of its bounce than it does to me. The relatively high weight of the shoe wouldn’t be an issue. That being said, at $150, the Levitate 5 sits at too high a price point for what it offers.

Joost’s Score: 7.95/10 

Ride: 7.5 (50%) Fit: 9 (30%) Value: 7 (15%) Style: 9 (5%)

Sam: I puzzled mightly over the two Levitate 5 versions I tested taking them for multiple runs including A/B test runs GTS vs non GTS. The  GTS Stealth Fit version comes in at a very commendable 10.26 oz while Bryan’s without GTS is decently under the magic 10 oz barrier. The circular knit upper version without GTS checks in close to 11 oz, up there for its relatively low stack. DNA AMP even lightened by 20% in the prior version and here is a relatively dense and heavy midsole foam and knit is almost never light and Brooks has worked around the upper and outsole the last two versions with mixed success to lighten things up. 

Here the uppers are very clearly improved and now differentiated through two types: comfort for the “regular” and more performance oriented and certainly performance looking with the lighter Stealth Fit which now is a super fine “knit” upper that isn’t the painful experience of the Levitate 4’s.

My conclusion is that the Levitate (uppers) in non GTS flavors are essentially the premium hybrid run to some workout/gym/lifestyle shoes of the Brooks line and the Stealth Fit upper is spectacular looking in that context. From that standpoint, the Levitate 5 may be a good value when compared to say adidas Ultraboost or some of the Nike at $180 and above.

The GTS versions delivered a more compelling dedicated run experience for me and especially if you need some light support or even if you don’t as I don’t.  The GTS Guide Rails go quite a long way to move things along more decisively than without them, acting as a dynamic mid foot platform and this even with the commonly shared continuous and not particularly well decoupled or flexible outsole, the model’s continued weak link in my view. 

All models are good choices for heavier weight runners, especially slower beginner runners who tend to heel strike due to the excellent rear vibration dampening and stability (in either version). DNA AMP is a midsole foam that comes alive and delivers when  greater or increasing forces/weights are applied. That became apparent in my testing as while ambling along at slower paces just fine, always slower than I expected, at faster paces I ended up faster than expected  if not always with much character to the ride beyond the noted deliberate and dense pneumatic rebound with the GTS clearly having more pop. And as said in Ride it’s time for Brooks to move on from DNA AMP to DNA Loft v3 and even the trail focused DNA Loft v2 and I expect they will.   

Levitate GTS 5 Stealth Fit: 8.65 /10

Levitate 5: 8:33 /10 

Sally: The standard Levitate 5 is a truly comfortable and classic looking shoe that many will find enjoyable for mellow runs. Heavier runners will benefit from the fine energy-returning performance of the midsole. It is a relatively heavy shoe with a firm feel and not enough pop for my liking. Yes, we all need the slower recovery run shoes, but I would gravitate to one with more cushioning for those days. As a lightweight runner, I personally struggled to get the shoe to work well for me, but I did find it a delightfully comfortable shoe for walking the dog!

Sally’s score: 7.75 /10

RIde: 7.4  (50%)  Fit: 9  (30%)  Value:  7 (15%)  Style:  6 (5%)

Derek:  I foresee this shoe to be very polarizing at the end of the day, and a lot of it will come down to the fit. If it fits well, i can see it being a pretty good all-rounded daily trainer that caters to people who enjoy a more stable and responsive sort of ride. Otherwise, it will be quite difficult to get to the point where you can forget the fit and focus on the ride of the shoe. I'm not sure the move from crystal rubber to the new rubber outsole was a great decision. It is very durable and grippy, but it takes away a bit of spring from the ride of the earlier Levitates, as Sam has already alluded to. For me personally, i prefer the upper of the Levitate 4, and the more fuss-free fit experience.

Derek's Score 7.75/10

Ride 8 (50%) Fit 7.5 (30%) Value 7 (15%) Style 9 (5%)

13 Comparisons

Index to all RTR reviews: HERE

Brooks Levitate 4 (RTR Review)

Derek: I wear US9.5 in both shoes. I actually prefer Levitate 4! Levitate 4 has the more breathable and more supportive upper and complements the firm ride a little better than the StealthFit upper on the Levitate 5. 

Sam: Sorry Derek not me. The single thing in the Levitate 4 that has me for sure leaning to the Levitate 5 Stealthfit was the 4’s terribly firm front of toe bumper which did not agree with my big toes at all, a rarity. 

Brooks Ghost 14 (RTR Review)

Sam: if you seek a softer ride in a Brooks the now all soft and decently bouncy DNA Loft midsole Ghost or for that matter Glycerin with DNA Loft ( but I have not tested) are clear alternatives to the Levitate. It does not have the pneumatic rebound of the Levitate but it is comfortable, soft, and versatile at more paces for me than Levitate. If you are a heavier runner you might lean towards the Levitate over the Ghost in this match up.

Sally: TTS W8 in both. As a lighter runner, I prefer the versatile and classic looking (and running) Ghost over the bouncier Levitate. The Ghost is more of a do-it-all-at-all-paces one shoe quiver shoe.

Derek: I wear US9.5 in both shoes. Both shoes have rather sloppy fit in the forefoot, but I prefer the Ghost 14 overall for having a more secure lockdown in the midfoot and heel. It is also more cushioned and versatile as a daily trainer, though it is and does feel heavier on the run.

Brooks Aurora-BL (RTR Review)

Sam: Where Brooks needs to go and I expect they will! More cushioned, dramatically lighter by 2 oz yet more cushioned and for sure more exciting to run as it is powered by a nitrogen infused super critical foam. It has a superb upper that holds, breathes, and via its light materials including mono mesh and an integral heel cup that extends for some mid foot stability leads to a weight of 8.5 oz for this max cushioned wonder. While $50 more no contest and the future of Brooks.

Brooks Trace 1 (RTR Review)

Joost: M9.5 in both. The Trace is a new entry in Brooks’ lineup and it’s meant as a starting runner’s everyday shoe or an easy day shoe for most runners. It’s less bouncy than the Levitate, but also a fair bit lighter and especially a lot cheaper. For easy days, the Trace would be my pick and if I’d have to choose, I would go with the Levitate for uptempo work, in spite of the weight.

Brooks Launch 8 (RTR Review)

Joost: M9.5 in both. The Launch is still a tad firmer, but due to its lower weight better suited to picking up the pace. It’s the kind of traditional feeling shoe lots of people still like for any kind of run. I’m also a sucker for elf-shaped heel counters, so my vote goes to the Launch. If you’re a heavier, harder striking runner, the Levitate is probably better suited.

Sam: I tested both the regular and GTS versions of the Launch 8 and preferred the GTS, especially for faster paced runs as it provided a similar propulsive midfoot kick as the Levitate GTS does. Both the lower weight of the Launch and its firmness are felt and if a more plush modern feel up top and underfoot are what you are seeking for easier running the Levitate despite costing $50 more is a better choice as would be the Ghost which sits between the other two.

Sally: TTS W8 in both. The Launch is definitely lighter and firmer and encourages a quicker traditional ride. The Levitate is more plush and comfortable, but didn’t work as well for me as a lighter runner. The Launch is also $50 less….

Saucony Triumph 19 (RTR Review)

Derek: I wear US9.5 in both shoes. The Triumph has a more performance oriented fit and an overall bouncier and more forgiving ride. It is not as responsive as the Levitate for faster paces, but it is better at just about everything else. I prefer the Triumph for better fit and versatility. 

Saucony Endorphin Shift (RTR Review)

Derek: I wear US9.5 in both shoes. The Shift has a much higher stack and more prominent rocker feel to the ride. It is much more versatile and cushioned, but the outsole is definitely weaker both in durability and grip, versus the Levitate. Shift also fits more foot shapes better. 

Adidas Ultraboost 21 (RTR Review)

Sam: Heavier yet with a complex construction and knit upper these two compete in the near lifestyle category. Looks are in the eye of the beholder but I prefer the “Stealth” look of the Levitate to the loud cartoon show at adidas although the design of the UB 21 is stunning, just not my cup of tea. On the run the adidas is firmer with clearly more dynamic propulsion from its extensive underfoot plastic but heavier in feel. 

Adidas Ultraboost PB (RTR Review)

Bryan: Very different shoes that perhaps would serve similar functions i.e. slower and lower volume training. Both are bottom heavy shoes but the Ultraboost PB definitely offers a more pleasant experience, with the Celermesh-like upper proving far superior in functionality and breathability to the StealthFit knit. Whilst I would almost say that the firmer DNA AMP is capable of faster paces, the upper in the StealthFit knit would prevent the Levitate from being the faster running shoe of the two. I would imagine that the general runner would prefer the soft yet responsive, although outdated Boost over DNA AMP.

Adidas Solar Boost 

Bryan: The Solar Boost is a shoe that I have a love-hate relationship with, mostly due to its chunky looks and neoprene upper which I truly am not a fan of. That aside, it was my staple mileage trainer of choice. The lockdown offered, ample stack and overall smooth ride made it a versatile shoe that I could take out on recovery runs and up-tempo sessions alike. Conversely, the Levitate StealthFit is a sleek and low profile shoe that does not come close to the Solar Boost’s functionality.

Mizuno Wave Sky 5 (RTR Review)

Sam: The Wave Sky 5 ditches knit for a stretch woven upper that is not quite the plush roomy comfort of the Leviate 5 or the easy but effective compression of the Stealth Fit but ends up more run suitable overall than either. The ride is more conventional and slightly more cushioned and stable, and is more effective at varied paces with a mix of two types of Enerzy and EVA and a better designed outsole than the Levitate.

361 Meraki 4 (RTR Review soon)

Sam: A sharp contrast in shoes weighing about the same. The Meraki has a very supportive engineered mesh upper, a more conventional riding midsole that is firmer but tempered by a top layer of rubberized foam that gives it measured response and a more effective if still overbuilt outsole that in combination with a small mid foot linear fiberglass plate gives it a touch of guidance support (less noticed than GTS) and some propulsion as well.  

ASICS GEL-Cumulus 23 (RTR Review)

Sam: Somewhat softer especially upfront the Cumulus 23 has a more effective geometry and moves along equally as well as slow as fast making it a more versatile daily trainer than the Levitate.

ASICS GEL-Kayano 28 (RTR Review)

Sam: Weighing 0.25 oz less the Kayano competes with the GTS versions here. Its support elements include a somewhat extended heel counter in the area of the Levitate’s medial Guide Rail and a slightly firmer midsole sidewall on the medial side. Its support is lower in feel and more pronation control oriented than the Levitate’s higher GTS approach but still adaptive and fine for neutral runners. Its outsole is more effectively matched to its platform and midsole. I prefer the GTS approach but overall the Kayano, if you need some support in the mix or if you are a lighter runner, is a better choice.

ASICS GEL-Nimbus 23 (RTR Review)

Bryan: Looks wise, the Levitate StealthFit wins hands down over the clunky Nimbus 23. The Nimbus is probably as traditional that a modern trainer can achieve looks wise, but it offers a very plush and protective ride - perfect for slower paces but capable of going the distance. The ride is smooth and feels natural with a bit of ground feel. From a performance and functionality point of view, the Nimbus wins hands down.

Sally: TTS W8 in both. The NImbus 23 has a loyal following for a reason: a traditional looking shoe that can do it all for the everyday runner. I would actually choose the Nimbus over the Levitate for the smoother and easier on the legs ride.

Salomon Sonic 3 Accelerate  (RTR Review) 

Joost: M9.5 in both. The first time I felt the dampening effect of the Levitate, it reminded me of reviewing the Sonic 3 Accelerate, especially on downhills. The firmer ride and dampening is probably where the comparison ends. The Salomon is lighter and easier to pick up the pace in, and it’s cheaper, so my vote goes to the Salomon.

Tested samples were provided at no charge for review purposes. RoadTrail Run has affiliate partnerships and may earn commission on products purchased through affiliate links. These partnerships do not influence our editorial content. The opinions herein are entirely the authors'.

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