Sunday, January 14, 2024

Brooks Hyperion Elite 4 Multi Tester Review: 7 Comparisons

Article by Sally Reiley, Ryan Eiler, and Michael Ellenberger

Brooks Hyperion Elite 4 ($250)


The Hyperion Elite, Brooks’ elite level road racer sees a complete makeover for its fourth edition. It gets a new DNA Flash v2 supercritical nitrogen infused foam which Brooks claims increases energy return by nearly 10% while being lighter than v1 DNA Flash foam.

Its Speedvault + plate is a skeletal design. It is produced in an additive molding very low waste process by Brooks partner Arris.  Using this approach does not constrain the plate design to cutting the plate shape from sheets of composite as in the past and for others.  The Arris approach also allows design and engineering of the plate patterns and ribbing to provide stiffness where needed to maximize performance with material not used (and wasted in cutting to shape) where not needed.  Further the plate can be tuned given the additive manufacturing process by shoe size with correlation to the runner’s approximate weight, etc.. and not just for plate size based on shoe size. 

Hyperion Elite 4 sees a 4mm increase in stack height to 40mm at the heel while retaining its 8mm drop. The super streamlined upper is clearly more breathable and lighter than the previous upper.  

The changes “add” up as we see a significant 0.9 oz / 25g drop in spec weight to 7.2 oz / in a US men’s 9 and this despite the increase in stack height.

Early elite race results are promising!  Des Linden raced a late prototype to a US Masters record 2:27:47 at the 2023 Chicago Marathon and world 1500 meter champ Josh Kerr not only won the 5th Avenue Mile in his but took 2 minutes off his 2022 half marathon PR to 61:51 this late fall.

So is Brooks finally in the marathon super shoe top ranks for the rest of us after the not particularly inspiring if very training worthy first 3 editions? The stats and improvements point that way.  Let’s find out!


Well-fitting upper that is immediately comfortable with secure lockdown: Sally/Michael /Ryan

Incredibly breathable upper provides fantastic ventilation: Sally/Michael/Ryan

Great looking shoe all around, lux features such as soft ultrasuede like ankle collar and heel tab: Sally/Michael

Tongue has just enough cushion at center for comfort, is tacked to the upper high on the medial side so no slippage, well ventilated down low: Sally/Ryan

Outsole provides excellent traction even on wet surfaces: Sally

Natural feeling ride with a nice rocker propulsion and without any awkwardness: Sally/Ryan

Very snappy turnover, low inertia, low volume feeling on foot: Ryan

Simple and straightforward, no-frills ride: Ryan/Sally


Not as bouncy and definitely not as soft as some of the other marathon day super shoes (I like bounce) Michael/Sally/Ryan

Firmer and less cushioned than I might want for 26.2: Sally/Ryan

Snug upper fits well yet does not have enough “give” to allow for foot irregularities (bunions etc)  

Outsole coverage under the toe is lacking: Ryan

Toe box too loose as compared to midfoot: Ryan

Please find the testers full run bios at the end of the article after Comparisons.


Approx. Weight: men's 7.6 oz  / 215g (US9)  /  women's  6.7 oz / 192 g (US W8)

  Samples: women’s 6.7 oz / 192 g (US W8) 

                  men’s 7.83oz  / 222g (US M9.5)

Stack Height: 40 mm heel / mm 32 mm forefoot ( 8mm drop spec) 

                 v3: 35mm heel / 27mm forefoot, 8 mm drop

Platform Width: 75 mm heel / 66 mm midfoot / 106 mm forefoot

$ 250 Available now.

First Impressions, Fit and Upper

Sally: I was fortunate to attend The Running Event (TRE) in Austin, TX Nov 28-30 representing RoadTrailRun and waSinvited to some private shakeout runs while I was there. One such event was a morning run along the Austin riverfront with Brooks and several of their professional athletes, including my hero Des Linden, the new American Masters Marathon Record holder (set at Chicago Marathon in October). 

It was so cool to run alongside and chat casually with Des - she is so NORMAL and relatable and yet so cool and so smart.  If you have not listened to her podcast with Kara Goucher, do so immediately! “Nobody Asked Us” is entertaining and informative and a great listen. 

Back to the Hyperion Elite 4…. We were each handed a pair to wear in Austin while running with the Brooks group. My pair in size W8 fit comfortably true to size right out of the box. 

Those first few runs in Austin were mellow and the shoe fit and felt great. Easy on, no hot spots, secure hold, very breathable upper, classic looks. 

It is not a shoe that wows you with the stack height or the super soft foam or the bounciness or the futuristic look and almost-unnatural rocker geometry of some of the recent shoes. It is more of an old school traditional racing flat look and feel but in a modern lightweight package with a carbon plate and responsive midsole. 

The upper seems to fit my slightly narrow foot like a glove, snug but not too tight.  

And when I say very breathable upper, I mean incredibly well ventilated with a lacy holey weave, particularly across the top of the foot and even in the tongue. 

This will be great for hot weather runs, but perhaps not so great for runs in the dead of a cold New England winter. My initial miles were very enjoyable and positive. I was admittedly not much of a fan of the earlier Hyperion Elite versions thinking they felt a bit dead underfoot to me, but wow, this one is different. Brooks may now have a legit racer for many of us.

I should point out one challenge I had with the fit of the HE4 after numerous miles: I developed pain at the site of a bunion (inside ball of foot at big toe) that I had totally forgotten about. The upper does not have the stretchiness to accommodate that irregularity in my left foot, and I felt it. 

Michael: There’s something classic about the look (and feel, but we’ll get to that!) of the Brooks Hyperion Elite 4. It just looks… fast! And fast, without the semi-organic, neo-futuristic look of the Alphafly (or 361 Furious Future - or, hey, what about Brooks’s own Aurora BL?!). No, the Hyperion Elite 4 looks like it belongs at the starting line today, but also at the starting line of a race in 2010, and maybe in 2000, too. It’s timeless in an inoffensive way, but I dig it.

So from that favorable opinion, I’m happy to say the fit and finish of the Hyperion Elite follow - again, this is far from the flashiest option, but the upper is particularly lightweight (I’ll refrain from any “holy” jokes but yes - it is quite porous!) and fits quite snugly. 

My 8.5 was true-to-size (on the smaller end, which I appreciate in a racer) and, genuinely, I didn’t have much to complain about across the upper. Lacing is good, heel-lock is good, I even found the semi-rigid (but padded) heel collar to be gentle on my dodgy Achilles … I’ve only good things to say about the Hyperion Elite 4 from this perspective and that’s not always the case on recent-model Brooks shoes!

Ryan: I wasn’t a huge fan of the past members of the Hyperion Elite line. Whether it was the fit and sizing of the upper or the blocky ride of the midsole, it historically hasn’t been a shoe that I’ve been eager to reach for. However, this iteration feels entirely different and fresh, and after putting the Hyperion Elite v4 through its paces I’m happy to report that Brooks has hit on something that is changing my mind.

For a marquee racing shoe, and in comparison to its competitors, its looks are slightly subdued, but that’s fine by me. You’ll immediately notice how much weight savings there is in the upper by its very precise, very airy engineered mesh. My M9.5 ran true to size, consistent with Michael’s and Sally’s experiences. Because of the looser weave in the toe box, it feels like there’s plenty of room to wiggle and splay your toes. It’s certainly not sloppy, but it delivers what I’d call a marathon-specific type of fit up front. 

There’s tons of ventilation atop the foot (and even back behind the overlays), while the weave is tighter and stronger as it gets closer to the midsole as well as behind the logo overlays.

In contrast, lockdown in the midfoot portion of the shoe feels much stronger and worthy of a 5k-10k racer. There, a tighter weave in the mesh, along with medial and lateral overlays tha allow for an impressive level of foot containment. 

And feel free to crank down the serrated laces, as the padding in the tongue does a fantastic job of alleviating bridge pressure without adding much weight. 

Although the heel construction is on the leaner side, there is a thin strip of rigidity running vertically up to the pull tab, bolstering the heel cup nicely. 

With a ring of suede-like internal padding surrounding most of the heel, lockdown is solid enough – I had zero issues with heel lift or rubbing. The tongue design is significantly improved here, and combines an ease of entry, protection from lace bite, and even some great airflow through its lower portion.

My one quibble relates to the lockdown of the forefoot vs the midfoot. While the midfoot offers great structure and strength, feeling capable of tackling 5k pace, the forefoot and heel are clearly more in the marathon-focused camp. I was able to push these around the track for a set of 400m repeats without thinking about lockdown, although my toes had a little more freedom than I would have preferred for that session. 

Aside from the midsole seeming slightly conflicted about whether it wants to be a long-haul shoe or a 5k shoe, which is admittedly a small nitpick, the upper is a huge, impressive improvement that most folks will enjoy.

Midsole & Platform

Michael: Underfoot, Brooks has really overhauled this version, gifting us its newest “DNA Flash v2” foam - it’s a Nitrogen-infused, supercritical foam. Apparently there’s a claim that energy return has increased 10%…. I can’t verify that, but it really is enjoyable, and I keep coming back to this feeling of “sharp” or “fast” underfoot. It’s not crazy bouncy (Adios Pro) nor firm and propulsive (recent-model Saucony racers) - it’s somewhere in the middle. Plus, at 40mm stack with an 8mm drop, I think the racing geometry here is extremely well done.

Also, the “plate” technology here is… wild. And I have to put that term in quotes, because when you see what it looks like outside of the shoe, you won’t believe it goes in the shoe (or really associate it with the term “plate” at all!). Brooks calls this the “Speedvault Race+” system, and they get it from a company I had not hard of, called Arris. It’s some sort of lattice (it looks like something 3D printed, and maybe one day it will be!) but it’s a bit of technological precision that I’m glad Brooks baked in here, both because it leads to an immensely enjoyable, sharp ride, but also because I think the technology is cool, and I’m glad to see something like this implemented.

Ryan: Let’s start with the most exciting part: the ‘Speedvault Race+’ plate, made by Brooks partner  Arris Composites. Instead of taking a sheet of carbon and cutting it to shape (removing material), Arris used additive manufacturing to sculpt and bake a series of carbon fibers into a precise shape. This process allegedly allows the plate’s properties to be tuned by adjusting directionality and in  thickness in a way that isn’t possible with conventional methods. It also leads to less waste.

The result is a lattice-like plate, interspersed with strategically positioned gaps that you can see in the midsole cutout on the bottom of the shoe. 

All I’ll say to this technology is that it feels like a welcome improvement over its predecessors, whose midsole platforms could feel imposing and overly prescriptive. In this generation, the plate is stiff but not overbearing, and seems to be more balanced than its predecessors when paired with the ‘DNA Flash v2’ midsole. It doesn’t share the pliability of the plate found in the New Balance SC Elite 4, but it worked nicely for me during workouts. I think the firmness of the midsole foam around it makes it ‘fit in’, and is in some ways less noticeable than a stiff plate paired with a soft midsole, where you can feel the plate’s tension as you work through a softer transition. Don’t be mistaken though – this is a stiff shoe that won’t take kindly to casual, recovery running.

The midsole foam is a new DNA Flash v2 nitrogen infused supercritical foam which Brooks claims increases energy return by nearly 10% while being lighter. It leans toward the firmer end of the spectrum for high-stacked distance racers. It makes the shoe feel more like a 5k-half marathon shoe, especially when you compare it to something like a Vaporfly, Adios Pro, Endorphin Pro 3 and (especially) a New Balance SC Elite 2,3, or 4. So while it doesn’t offer the same depth of cushioning as those aforementioned competitors, it does serve up an exceptionally snappy and responsive ride. 

This turned out to be perhaps my favorite part of this package – it feels like a low volume, low inertia shoe even when the pace gets spicy. I’d go so far as to say that the turnover of this HEv4 is among the quickest I’ve felt in a distance shoe, and it seemed like my ground contact time was shorter than usual (a good thing).

What I also came to appreciate was the simplicity of its performance. The midsole is relatively firm, so it scores high on stability and is quick to pop its energy back up into your legs. But keep in mind, there’s also 40mm of the stuff at the heel so I certainly wouldn’t call it a rough ride.

There aren’t any nuances or attention-seeking features that take getting used to, and for that reason I think this is a midsole suitable to a wide range of folks looking for a fast but stable race day shoe.

Sally:  Brooks might be the number one selling shoe for the everyday runner (fact check needed, but isn’t the Brooks Ghost the top selling shoe over all performance running shoes ?), but it has also had a reputation in the past for not keeping up with the modern shoe tech. Well, this shoe changes that. The technology behind the SpeedVaultRace+ plate, developed in conjunction with/ by Arris Composites, a Berkely, CA developer of continuous carbon fiber composites for a variety of applications, is ingenuous.  And it  should be celebrated for its sustainability focus: they have basically “developed a process to take scrap carbon composites and realign and remold them” into the lattice like web of carbon that they hope will prove unmatched in the stiffness to weight ratio. 

Combine that carbon fiber plate with Brooks’ new nitrogen-infused DNA Flash V2 midsole foam and we have a shoe that is at the forefront of current shoe technology. They claim that the new midsole foam is lighter and more responsive with a 10% greater energy return (I am curious as to how they actually measure that). There is also some curved sculpting of the midsole that they are calling Rapid Roll Rocker.

I found the shoe very light on the foot and noticeably firm, but with plenty of rebound. 40mm of foam, even if somewhat firm, still absorbs impact to keep your legs feeling fresh. This is not a soft bouncy ride like some of the other marathon super shoes (think New Balance SC Elite series), but it is a more traditional and peppy quick turnover ride. 

Des Linden wore a prototype of this shoe to set the Masters World Record at the Chicago Marathon in October, but it is not necessarily a marathon shoe in my mind. It excels at the short fast distances; as a case in point, world 1500 champion  Josh Kerr (who holds the European indoor mile record with a time of 3:48) won the Fifth Ave Mile in them and then shortly after ran a 2 PR of 61:51 in what we think is the same shoe. I am convinced a wide range of runners will find this a versatile race day shoe for a variety of distances, from the mile to the marathon. I would personally like to race a half marathon or a 10K in the shoe.


Michael: Grip and durability are my two criteria here, and while the grip is better than I expected, the outsole durability is… inconclusive (also, I want to make clear, outsole durability is not shoe durability/mileage expectations, though of course they are linked, as if your outsole is shot, you may be unable to put more miles on the shoe… you get it!).

On grip - These aren’t stellar, but I did wear them on some wet days (what day isn’t wet lately!) and didn’t have real issues. I wouldn’t wear them in a winter race, as they were noticeably slidy on really slick painted elements and those corners where the snow/slush have compacted and you just know you’re going to have to stutter-step… but they definitely are not behind the bulk of their peers in the racing category here, and I’d rather wear these in the winter than, say, an Adios Pro.

On durability - I had some immediate toe-wear after my first run (treadmill) and more after a couple more outdoor runs. Surprisingly, the rear foam came out looking perfect (and I don’t think I only ran on my forefoot, since I did a mix of fast and slow running). Don’t panic - and definitely don’t hold these back only for race day - but I’d suggest you keep an eye on it, and maybe think-twice on running in slick conditions if you’ve put more than 100 miles on these and that front rubber is wearing thin. There isn’t much to start!

Ryan: The outsole shares a pattern similar to that of the plate embedded in the midsole just above it. It’s a latticework of three patches of ridged rubber up front, and what is becoming a very common sight at the heel – two small islands of rubber protecting either side of the midsole foam. In contrast to some previous versions of the shoe, grip felt great and I have no complaints about the choice of rubber used here. 

I do wish they’d used more material in the toe, however. There’s about the same rubber protecting the toe as there is in parts of the forefoot that see less abrasion, and after only 20 miles I could see some wear showing in both the foam and rubber of the toe.

Sally: I likewise had plenty of opportunity to test these shoes in wet conditions, as the weather here in New England has been challenging at best of late (rain, snow, wind, ugh). I had no issues with traction on cornering and wet roads. There seems to be enough rubber to grip well enough. 

Durability is always hard to determine after only a few runs, but I have about 60 miles in my HE4. There is some visible wear of the rubber on the very front of the toe,  and also on the outside edge of the forefoot (weird, right?).  As Michael said, I would keep an eye on it. 

All in all, I like the way Brooks has a lattice pattern of rubber on the outsole that does the job without adding too much weight. The outsole is not silent, but not loud like some of the marathon supershoes (here’s looking at you - earplugs in - Alphafly!).

Ride, Conclusions and Recommendations

Michael: I’m really, really happy with the Hyperion Elite 4. It’s my favorite Brooks racer ever, and the first version I think can genuinely compete with the top-of-class shoes. That’s not to say it’s identical. Nike has springier, livelier shoes (particularly Alphafly 3, but even Vaporfly 3 is in that camp!), and Adidas still has a foam that really can’t be touched for unrivaled bounce, but I think the Hyperion Elite 4 is level with the ASICS and New Balance of the world (note that I have not tried SC Elite 4!), and whether it’s Des Linden or your average marathoner, I think many runners will be suited by a fast and more traditional ride (with some extremely non-traditional technology!).

Michael’s Score: 9.5/10

Ryan: The performance of the latest Hyperion Elite came as a nice surprise. No longer is the ride blocky and clunky, but rather snappy and highly efficient. The firmness of the DNA Loft v2 midsole, its conventional geometry, and its miniscule inertia produce a refreshingly quick turnover. There is something to be appreciated about its simplicity too. The designers didn’t try to get overly clever with variable densities or elaborate midsole shapes, and it pays off. 

The partnered Speedvault+ plate also pairs nicely with the midsole and makes for a serious but non-intimidating ride. The midsole is a little firm for those who like a rockered roll from heel to toe, so I’d suggest Hyperion Elite 4 is the type of shoe that is ideal for runners who tend to pop from the midfoot. But truly, it’s a simple enough ride that I think it will appeal to a wide swath of running styles.

The drawbacks in my eyes are that the shoe doesn’t provide a modern level of cushioning for a marathon, so there are likely better suitors there at this $250 price point. In the same vein, if we consider this as more of a 10k racer, the forefoot and heel may be a little underpowered (and overpriced). It’s a small personality conflict, definitely not large enough to keep this from being a superb speed-oriented shoe. There’s also the minor issue of the way that the toe rubber is laid out.

All in all, I’m quite impressed at the massive improvements that Brooks was able to deliver in v4 of the Hyperion Elite. It occupies a somewhat niche part of the super shoe spectrum, being the end which favors stability and responsiveness over depth of cushion and maximum bounce. It’s still a maximal-stack (40mm) shoe with a beautifully executed internal plate, but it’s quite a bit different than the other ‘supers’ we’ve been testing recently (see our review of the New Balance SC Elite below, which occupies an altogether separate, more casual, end of the super shoe spectrum). This Brooks is a shoe that I’ll definitely be reaching for from time to time when I need that feeling of fleet-footed turnover.

Ryan’s Score: 9.2 /10

(Deductions for blending 10k midsole with marathon style upper, toe rubber layout, price)


Sally:   I was pleasantly surprised by this shoe, and think that Brooks might finally have a real race day contender. Previous versions of the Hyperion Elite left me cold with a stiff dull ride and a so-so upper, but this is an all new shoe. The innovative lattice like carbon fiber plate combined with 40mm of a new DNA Flash v2 midsole foam, packaged in a lightweight snug and secure traditional looking upper results in a quick, somewhat firm but responsive ride. 

It does not feel anything like some of the other marathon race day shoes such as the Alphafly or Vaporfly, or NB SC Elite that are softer and bouncier, but this feels more like a traditional race flat updated with all the modern technology. 

I see it as a race day shoe that will appeal to a wide range of runners seeking a more traditional peppy ride, particularly for shorter race distances such as 10K or Half Marathon. I totally agree with Ryan that this shoe encourages a quick turnover, so when my PT advises me to up my cadence I will lace them up. I need more cushion for the marathon distance, but this is a winner for the shorter races. And will look good doing it!

Sally’s score: 9.55 / 10.0

Ride (50%):  9.5 Fit (30%): 9.6 Value (15%):  9.5 Style (5%):  10.0

😊😊😊😊 1/2

Michael Ellenberger's Video Review (4:40)

7 Comparisons

Index to all RTR reviews: HERE 

Hyperion Elite 1-3 (RTR Review)

Ryan: Each Hyperion Elite of yesteryear seemed to have some sort of stand out problem that I couldn’t look past, but that’s not the case with this latest v4. In version 3, the sizing was too long, the upper material wasn’t the best choice, and the wide, stiff platform could make for a clunky ride. Brooks finally had the courage to change the midsole shape and its composition of v2 and v3, and that change has paid off in v4, which delivers a smoother and quicker sort of ride. The transition of v4 is notably better, and as I mentioned in the review above, it happens to have one of the snappiest turnovers of any distance shoe I’ve worn. The new, more thoughtfully constructed upper is better in almost every which way, which includes foot containment, breathability, sizing, and comfort. The outsole still isn’t best in class, but it works plenty well in dry conditions.

Michael: It’s normal to expect a shoe to get better every generation, and while I don’t think the Hyperion Elite 4 is a perfect shoe (clearly!), I do think it’s superior than its predecessors in pretty much every way. Version 1 was poppy and firm, and they over-corrected with the mushy (but smooth!) v2. I didn’t review v3, but it was closer to 2 than 1, and still not quite there for marathoning - v4 knocks it right down the middle. If you’re a fan of v1, you’ll appreciate the similarly simple, straightforward approach of v4 - propulsive and fast, but not in-your-way. If you’re a fan of v2, you’ll enjoy the cushioning and bounce of v4. This is probably my favorite Brooks shoe, and I’ve liked it a lot lately!

Nike Vaporfly 3 (RTR Review)

Ryan: The Vaporfly 3 has a more nuanced and energetic personality than the HE4. Its ZoomX midsole feels softer and more leg-friendly, but it also isn’t as stable or responsive as the DNA Flash 2.0 midsole foam present in the HE4. 

The heel of the Nike is especially soft when compared to the Brooks, making it feel more appropriate for marathon distances. Where the HE4 edges out the Vaporfly is in the category of turnover, where its snappy, relatively firm midsole allows you to pop off the ground incredibly quickly. Contrast this to the Nike, where the deeper compression of the ZoomX makes transitioning the shoe more of a thought-out process. The HE4 is noticeably more stable than the Vaporfly, especially in the heel.

Both shoes share a similar type of upper, with a highly engineered mesh – very perforated and meshy in the toe, and more tightly woven in the midfoot. The Brooks feels like it locks the midfoot down slightly better with its extra overlays on both lateral and medial sides. The Vaporfly wins for  outsole design, as it simply puts more rubber onto the pavement and has a cleaner toe-off. Given that these shoes come in around the same price point, I think the Vaporfly wins out. Both fit true to size.

Sally: (W8 in HE4, W8.5 in VF) I ran my all-time marathon PR at London in 2022 in the Vaporfly 2, and now am running in the Vaporfly 3. The Nike is a bouncier, livelier shoe that boosts your confidence and makes me feel as if I am floating over the ground. The HE4 is more traditional but peppy and quick, encouraging faster turnover, so it comes down to what type of runner you are (perhaps akin to the Metaspeed Sky vs Edge difference of stride vs cadence). Both uppers are secure and lightweight, with the HE4 being the most breathable upper I have ever worn (great for the hot climates!). I would choose the VF3 for a marathon but the HE4 for a 10K.

Michael: I’ll cut to the conclusion first - I can’t genuinely say I prefer the Hyperion Elite 4 over the Vaporfly 3 in really any event, but that is not to say the HE4 is a bad shoe. Both are firmer than, say, the Adidas Pro 3, but between the two I do get a little more bounce from the Vaporfly 3. And in fact, I actually prefer the upper on the Brooks to that on the Nike, which has some weird tongue issues (which is not to say it’s bad… we’re talking relative here!). But the Nike shines in its forward propulsion; there’s just something special to the foam-plate combo, and I really enjoy the rolling/pushing/popping (whatever!) sensation that the VF3 provides. It’s there on the Brooks, but it’s more muted.

New Balance SC Elite v4 (RTR Review)

Ryan: The SC Elite v4 is a far softer, more approachable racer than the HE4. With the SC’s buttery soft and rockered midsole, as well as its forefoot flex, it appeals to folks who like to mash and roll through their transition. The NB SC/RC Elite line has always seemed to appeal to more casual pace marathon racers, those who like to heel mash, or those who simply love the feeling of the softest, bounciest cushioning available. Both are excellent shoes, but the Brooks works better for faster, snappier efforts thanks to its relatively firm midsole and stiffer plate, whereas the New Balance is better suited for higher mileage and runners who aren’t as concerned with stability or turnover. The Hyperion also feels considerably lighter on foot, although it doesn’t have the grip or durability that the SC Elite offers. Both fit true to size.

Sally: (W8 in both): I agree with all that Ryan said. The HE4 is a lightweight more traditional shoe with a firm midsole that responds well to uptempo quick turnover efforts, while the SC Elite 4 wows you with its soft, super-cushioned bouncy ride that suits some (like me) well for the long mileage training efforts and others for the marathon race day. 

Adidas Adios Pro 3 (RTR Review)

Ryan: The Adios Pro 3 is the far wilder, less stable choice of these two. It has a stack that returns much more energy, but is less stable and takes some getting used to. The Adios Pro has been my go-to marathon shoe for several years now, so in my mind it wins this battle when it comes to 2+ hour runs; however, the HE4 certainly has its place for shorter, quicker efforts. The firmer Brooks midsole feels less bulky on foot and delivers a snappier turnover for 5k-10k efforts. When comparing uppers, the HE4 is less finicky and easier to appreciate than the more complex eyelets and nuanced lockdown of the Adidas. I prefer the outsole of the Adios Pro for its uniform, tacky grip and stronger toe-off. I’d recommend the Adidas for marathoning, but the Brooks for anything under a half marathon.

Michael: I’ll try and be a little more short-winded (is that a phrase? Oh, I’m already off the mark) on this one, and just tell you - the Adios Pro is a better choice for the marathon, and the HE4 is a better choice for pretty much everything else. There! Both are really terrific shoes, and I’ve maintained that the midsole composition of Adidas is the springiest that exists. But, the instability it provides - and the lackluster (not bad! Just lackluster) upper of the Adidas do leave something to be desired. Plus, if you’re running on anything slick, I’d look to the Brooks. Two amazing shoes, regardless.

Nike Alphafly 3 (RTR Review)

Ryan: The Alphafly 3 stacks up as a far more artificial and sophisticated tool for the job. Its Zoom Air units pair with its massive ZoomX midsole to deliver a highly unique ride – love it or hate it. 

By contrast, the ride of the HE4 is far simpler and easier to adapt to. With the Nike, if you aren’t mashing into the pods in the midfoot, you aren’t maximizing the shoe’s energy return – which is to say that the shoe can feel prescriptive at times. With the Brooks, its more uniform and conventional geometry makes for a cleaner and quicker transition – no extra focus needed to make things work properly.

That said, if the Alphafly is your type of ride (certainly among the most energy efficient of any shoe to date) then the Brooks will lose this fight by a mile. The HE4 is much firmer and more responsive, which is excellent for 5k-10k efforts and encourages better leg turnover, but I think the Alphafly is more protective, bouncy, and capable of setting a marathon PR.

The upper of the Alphafly is more sock-like than that of the HE4, as the Nike doesn’t have any overlays and also utilizes a stretchy, tongue-less design. The HE4 has better lockdown, thanks in part to its padded, more conventional tongue. The difference in uppers also makes the Nike far more appropriate for marathons, while the HE4’s appeals to shorter distances. Grip and toe-off is better in the Alphafly thanks to its more copious rubber.

Choose the Alphafly for longer running, but consider the HE4 for shorter, faster efforts. Both fit true to size.

Michael: Alphafly 3 is better. Unfortunately (for Brooks, fortunately for you!) I do think Nike’s shoes retain 2 of the top 3 positions (Adidas holding the third), and the Alphafly is just such a comfortable, bouncy, fast performer that there really isn’t anything to complain about. Even the outsole is, in my book, superior to the Brooks. Once again, I echo myself - the Brooks is really good! It’s just that, for everything the Brooks does well - upper, midsole comp, even outsole - I think the Alphafly has it beat.

Saucony Endorphin Pro 3 (RTR Review)

Ryan: In a similar fashion to most other ‘supers’ these days, the Endo Pro 3 focuses on delivering a massive depth of cushion with plentiful bounce. This gives it a personality which is quite distinct to that of the HE4, which prides itself on a firmer, much snappier ride. Whereas the Saucony likes you to load the foam and roll off of its rockered “Speedroll” midsole, the Brooks prefers that you quickly pop off of its stable midsole and newly designed plate, rather than focus on trying to find that ‘trampoline effect’. The HE4 feels less voluminous on foot and has a lower inertia thanks to the design changes made to this version. 

I also greatly prefer the upper of the HE4, as it has superior lockdown thanks to a more thoughtful engineered mesh, as well as more capable overlays on either side of the shoe. I had terrible luck with the Saucony’s durability, with both of its overlays cracking and peeling prematurely, as well as the thin rubber in the toe wearing away after an unreasonably low number of miles. Both fit true to size, but the Brooks tends to feel more snug because of how capably it contains the midfoot. I’m not a massive fan of either outsole, but they both work reasonably well under fair conditions.

New Balance SC Elite v3, RC Elite  (RTR Review)

Ryan: The previous version of the SC Elite (v3) was a bit too casual to be considered a full-on super shoe in my eyes. Its midsole was soft, but not explosive enough, and its upper was quite comfortable but didn’t cut the mustard for a racing shoe – its tongue-less, slip-on design left the laces to do way too much of the lockdown, and foot containment suffered as a result. Contrast this to the HE4, whose engineered mesh is much more elaborate and effective at controlling the foot in the most important places, and letting it breathe elsewhere. I strongly prefer the upper of the HE4.

As for the midsoles, well, they’re entirely different creatures. The New Balance offers up a cushy, inviting, and plush feeling of compression, whereas the Brooks takes a much firmer approach in its midsole design. The SC Elite v3 wants you to mash into its split heel and roll through its rocker while engaging the plate, whereas the HE4 encourages you to get through your foot strike and transition in a far more expeditious manner. Which is also to say, the Brooks turns over and reduces ground contact time by its nature, whereas the SC Elite v3 offers much more cushioning and a more relaxed approach to long runs. I don’t have a strong preference for either outsole, as both perform reasonably well.

If you love depth of cushion and don’t mind some instability, the SCE3 is a fun, welcoming ride. But if you want something far snappier and responsive, the HE4 is the clear choice here.

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Tester Profiles

Ryan Eller A hopeless soccer career led Ryan to take up running, and after taking a decade-long break from competing, he is back racking up mileage whenever he can.  He calls the 2018 Boston Marathon the hardest race of his life, where he finished in 2:40, barely remembering his name at the finish line.  More recently he solo time trialed the 2020-2021 super shoes, often sub 15 minutes for 5K. Ryan has a PR of 2:17:16, an Olympic Marathon Trials qualifier from the 2023 Philadelphia Marathon after two other 2:18 efforts in the last year.

Michael is a patent attorney and graduate of Northwestern University Law School. Prior to law school, he competed collegiately at Washington University in St. Louis (10,000m PR of 30:21). Michael’s PRs include a 67:43 half-marathon (Chicago Half-Marathon) and a 2:21:19 marathon PR at the 2023 Grandma’s Marathon. Michael continues to race on the roads, and is chasing a sub-2:20 marathon and potential OTQ in the future.

Sally is a lifelong runner and mother of five who agreed against her better judgment to run her first marathon at age 54; she has since run the past ten Boston Marathons, two NYC Marathons, one Chicago, and one London with the WMM Six Star Medal now in her sights. With a Boston PR of 3:25:55 in 2022 (9th place in AG) and two consecutive 2nd place in Age Group W60 awards in NYC, she competed in the Abbott World Marathon Majors Age Group World Championships at the 2022 London Marathon and ran an all-time PR of 3:24:02, placing 6th in the world in her women’s 60-64 age group.  She also competes in USATF races with the Greater Lowell Road Runners team. To add meaning to her Boston Marathon races she runs with Team Eye and Ear and has raised over $275,000 for Massachusetts Eye and Ear Hospital. Sally is 5’2’’ and 105 pounds and lives in Marblehead, MA, training outdoors year round. She blames her love of skiing out West for any and all Boston Marathon training challenges.

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

Comments and Questions Welcome Below! Please let us know mileage, paces, race distances, and current preferred shoes

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Terrence said...

FYI Ryan's Ride/Conclusions: We know you meant DNA Flash, but you indicated DNA Loft

Ryan (RTR) said...

DNA Flash indeed! Good catch.

Michael (RTR) said...