Wednesday, July 07, 2021

Quick Strides #8: Skechers Speed Freek and Max Road 5, Brooks Levitate 5, Foot Biomechanics and Plates, Craft CTM Ultra

 Article by Sam Winebaum, Alex Filitti, Adam Glueck, Michael Ellenberger, and Jeremy Marie

Quick Strides is a weekly article at RTR. The format and content will be as our contributors wish. More blog posts than in depth reviews, we hope to bring our readers yet timelier brief information in advance of our full reviews as well as fun and interesting content from our many perspectives on this wonderful sport.

This week: Skechers Speed Freek and Max Road 5, Brooks Levitate 5, Foot Biomechanics and Plates, Craft CTM Ultra

Sam (New Hampshire) 

Brooks Leviate 5 & Levitate 5 StealthFit in GTS and non GTS versions.

The DNA Amp midsole Levitate gets complicated in 2021 with 2 upper flavors: a soft circular knit (left above) and StealthFit a more compressive thinner upper that is “similar” to Levitate 4’s. 

Further, in a trend started with the Launch 8 and Glycerin 19, GTS (Go-To-Support) versions in both uppers will also be available. GTS provides some rail based guidance/support through a higher sidewall of the same foam as midsoles on the lateral side and a slightly firmer co-molded foam on the medial side. 

Everything else underfoot midsole and outsole is identical across all 4 models, and as far as I can tell, and Brooks tells us, is also identical to the Levitate 4.

I am testing the Levitate 5 with the circular knit (directly above) and the Levitate GTS 5 StealthFit. 

Levitate  5’s new upper gets away from the unpadded stiff thin prior knit with a super comfortable plushly padded new circular knit but physics gets in the weight of the new upper increases the weight of the shoe to about 11 oz, a 0.5 oz gain in a US9  while at the same time its newfound flexible/pliable upper improves the ride. I call this comfort cruiser Levitate 

The Levitate GTS 5 StealthFit knit upper is more minimal than the regular and as such the weight of my GTS (with its support  sidewalls) is a very commendable 10.3 oz /292g in a US9 sample.  I imagine the non GTS version will check in at about 10 oz which is excellent for a shoe with this much durable and extensive rubber coverage (too much really as weight could be reduced yet further I think). 

The upper comparison here is to the Levitate 4 which had a very stiff painful top center of toe bumper knit area and a conventional tongue. The new upper has an integral knit tongue and solves the front toe bumper pressing issues with a still very adequate toe bumper with no pressures as before as the knit itself is also softer and more stretchy. The rear and mid foot hold is impeccable, for a knit upper. A really, really fine knit type upper about the best I can recall: neither sloppy nor overly compressive and with none of the dreaded top of rear collar flapping around as so many have. Either StealthFit version is your more uptempo faster flavor, and I think as with Levitate 4, it looks great and now fits great. 

In terms of ride both are similar with their DNA AMP ( a PU foam) midsoles providing a dense kind of pneumatic rebound.  Yet there are differences… The GTS side rails in combination with the more secure StealthFit upper seem to provide a very distinctive stable rebound sensation off mid the foot without the rails being that noticed by this more neutral shoe preferring runner.  

In terms of fit I was sent a half size up from my normal 8.5 and would stay half size up in the StealthFit version and go true to size in the regular Levitate 5,

Full multi tester review soon.

Alex (France via Brussels) 

Skechers Max Road 5 

First let’s wish a happy 4th to all RTR readers in the US! It was a happy day here in Brussels as well, running in the Skechers Max Road 5  (RTR Multi Tester Review. This shoe is truly superb and at $135 it is a rare animal in the carbon-infused-plated-shoes segment. The ride is soft, cushioned but springy. 

No stability issues despite the 38/32 stack height, most likely thanks to the H-shaped carbon-infused plate in the forefoot and a good lockdown. The fit is on the roomy side of true to size and the extra plush heel counter and collar offer a nice touch of comfort.

I even took the Max Road 5 on some light trails this weekend and the outsole worked well. One of my biggest surprises so far this year! 

Alex: Skechers Speed Freek - First run

The shoe feels super light (and is actually light at 228g in my US11), the ride is snappy as expected but the highlight from today’s first run was the soft heel landing and super smooth yet nimble transition towards the forefoot. I’m not a heel striker myself but noticed it in the first descent of my loop and back on the flat I almost was forcing myself to heel strike just to experience that nice motion.

Adam (New Hampshire)

This week I have been testing the Skechers Speed Freek.  This is another high stack height carbon plated racer.  It’d be easy to think the most interesting part of this shoe is the large chunk of hyperburst foam, but for me it’s actually the unique design of the plate.  

It’s two pieces (visible on the side that form an arc from the toe to under the ball of the foot.  They both reach toward the middle of the shoe under the ball to stabilize in an H shape , but are primarily on the side walls.  Seeing that this shoe didn’t have a full length plate, I was worried that I’d lack the fully propulsive rocker and quality of many of the other carbon plated shoes.  

After running in them and thinking about the design, I’ve reconsidered what the purpose of a carbon fiber plate is anyways.  The theory I’ve seen for carbon plates and rockers is that they roll a midfoot or heel strike propulsively forward delivering that energy at the toe off.  

From my experience I’ve also found that carbon plated racers take stress away from the intrinsic foot muscles and calf because the foot has to do less than park for the heel to toe transition.  That’s when I thought back to a class I took in college about primate biomechanics (not for my major, it just sounded interesting).  I recalled the concept of a mid tarsal break, where the foot dorsiflexes at the calcaneocuboid joint of non-human primates. Most humans don’t have this for better walking and running efficiency, and it basically means that our foot only flexes in the metatarsals/tarsals (toes and forefoot), and at the calf.  

Some humans have a midtarsal break though it’s rare.  You can see the difference between barefoot walking as well as in the force plate data.  Source:  Ioannis Poulakakis, Madhusudhan Venkadesan, Shreyas Mandre, Mahesh M. Bandi, Jonathan E. Clark, Koh Hosoda, Maarten Weckx, Bram Vanderborght, Maziar A. Sharbafi,

Chapter 7 - Legged Robots with Bioinspired Morphology,

Editor(s): Maziar A. Sharbafi, André Seyfarth,

Bioinspired Legged Locomotion,



Pages 457-561,

ISBN 9780128037669,


Essentially this means that our feet don’t dorsiflex from the heel to the metatarsals.  Therefore, it doesn’t necessarily provide a benefit to stiffen this area with a plate, as it already doesn’t bend much.  Suddenly, the reason Skechers used the H plate in this shoe, and why  Adidas uses Energy Rods in some of their newer shoes starts to make more sense. If you’ve noticed that Adidas doesn’t connect the energy rods and carbon plate in the Adios pro, the reason this doesn’t disrupt the effectiveness of the plate/energy rods is because the foot is already stiff in between those and that plate is primarily for stabilizing the heel.  All of this is conjecture and I am not a doctor, but it did change the way I think about carbon plates.  That isn’t to say that full length carbon plates don’t make sense (as the longer lever probably works better at higher speeds and allows for a more effective rocker for heel striking), but it’s interesting to think about.  

As for the shoe itself, it has a different approach to carbon plates from shoes I’ve run in before and I quite enjoy it. The Skechers Speed Elite actually lets you see the carbon H plate externally 

It’s very stiff to bending, and you can see the shoe flexes behind the plate when you try to bend it:

There’s a firmer foam insert right under the plate (you can see it as slightly darker foam that feels firmer and more plasticy.  Hyperburst is bouncy as per usual with durability yet to be determined.  The upper is thin and feels a bit plasticy, but still is pretty comfortable.

The outsole is unique, with good (year) rubber coverage under the carbon plate upfront.  If you look at force plate data from both walking and running, there’s rubber where there’s usually force so that makes sense.

I am curious to see how the shoe holds gvien the exposed Hyperburst.  Stability is good probably due to the low and wide forefoot plate.  The shoe is extremely light, and will potentially be in my race rotation.  Running with the H plate is interesting.  

When heel striking, the heel absorbs and rebounds, but doesn’t really direct that energy forward.  As a result it’s easier to run in at slow paces than a full length plated shoe like the endorphin pro, yet less propulsive because of it.  

When you speed up and get into midfoot striking, the plate works magnificently and turnover feels easier.  I still think I’d take the RC Elite 2 (RTR Review)  for a marathon, but the Speeed Freek  is in the running for the half and shorter.  I’ll be using some RunScribe pods to see if I can quantify the effects of this different plate design.  Stay tuned for our full multi-tester review.

Michael (Chicago) 

Closing out some miles on the Craft CTM Ultra (RTR Review) this week - while my pair is a little too small for me (US8.5 - I’d suggest going a half-size up), I have enjoyed putting some miles on them over the past week or so - especially with the variable weather we have. Devoted readers will know I’m not often on trails (and basically never, over the past few months), but with torrential rains and all that comes with them, I have been navigating puddles, mud slides, etc., in getting my miles in - all of which makes me think that the CTM Ultra makes a great door-to-trail shoe. It may not be technical enough for our mountain-running contributors, but if you’re a casual trail-shoe-wearer, I’d give it a serious look.

I’ve also been putting in some miles on the Puma Magnify (with NITRO foam - review to come, Sam’s initial video review here) and some residual strides in the ASICS Metaspeed Sky (RTR Review). I’m excited to try its counterpart, the Edge - but man, ASICS really did things right with the Sky. Even for slow summer strides on out-of-shape legs, they give the illusion of fitness. 

Jeremy (France)

Just like Michael, I’m currently putting some miles in the non-plated Craft CTM Ultra. I can definitely say that it is one the biggest 2021 surprises for me. First it comes from Craft, not the first brand that comes to mind when speaking about shoes. Second...this shoe is 

It’s light, efficient, does not get  in the way of your natural stride, partly thanks to the absence of a carbon plate allowing for some flex, and has a tremendous amount of protection, but a responsive and dynamic kind of protection. All with one of the more airy upper I’ve run in.

It’s really far from an everyday miles shoe, and clearly more of a tempo/marathon pace shoe. I’ve put two long runs in the past two weeks in it, around what would be my target marathon pace, if I were to run a marathon. That’s around 32kms@4’10/km and 38kms@4’13/km. And man it just rolls smoothly on (dry) road.

This shoe really shatters my preconceived notions about those “super high stack marathon shoes” that I have  looked at with disdain  as a long time lover of low drop, low cushioning flexible shoes. Simple as that.

Considering it is actually on sale at Craft Sportswear website, it really is an enticing choice and I encourage runners looking for this kind of shoe to give a shot at the Craft CTM Ultra (non-plated!!)

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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