Summary

We spent 7.3 hours reading reviews from experts and users. In summary, this is what runners think:

7 reasons to buy

  • Some purchasers have stated that the midsole unit is reactive and able to attenuate shock.
  • The grip given by the outsole unit of the Brooks Levitate 3 is welcomed by those who desire surface steadiness and slip resistance.
  • The aesthetics of this Brooks running shoe are appreciated because they permit casual wear.
  • Forward motion and energy are given by the platform, as claimed by runners.
  • A handful of testers have noted that the upper unit is breathable enough to permit all-day activities.
  • Based on a couple of reviews, the fabrics of the silhouette are able to hug the foot with relative ease.
  • Rearfoot security is perceived by some consumers, and they feel well-supported by the heel-hugging elements.

4 reasons not to buy

  • The heel part of the collar is deemed a bit irritating to the skin of the ankles.
  • Several consumers believe that toe-splay is limited because of the restrictive in-shoe experience.
  • A few people believe that the weight of this product is a bit heavier than expected.
  • Some runners have commented that the heel construction is too rigid.

Bottom line

The Brooks Levitate returns in its third iteration as a road running shoe with a “super springy” ride, thanks to proprietary technology and plush interior lining. The shoe’s new sock-like upper generated mixed reviews from runners, but the overall in-shoe experience of the majority is positive because of the efficient traction and cushioning.

Facts

Expert Reviews

84 / 100 based on 8 expert reviews

  • 85 / 100 |

    Brooks Levitate 3 – A daily trainer or a race day shoe?

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    The Brooks Levitate 3’s have been sort of a puzzle to me, I have been trying to place them into a category I know and have had no luck yet.

    The description given by Brooks sheds no more light onto this conundrum "the Levitate 3 road-running shoe delivers a super springy ride and a perfect fit - thanks to the sock-like upper."

    So, is it a daily trainer? Is it a race day shoe? Recovery? Speedwork shoe? Let’s try and find out!

     

    The looks

    This one sure is a looker! My favorite feature (set to disappear in the Levitate 4 by the way) is the shiny space-age silver midsole; it really looks striking and sets it apart from what could be a very blend knit-upper shoe.

    The upper is knitted in three-tone-stripes with the Brooks logo printed in a matte insert. The shiny midsole goes around to the bottom of the shoe, and that black rubber outsole completes a very striking look.

     

     

    The upper has a very attractive stitching pattern, with matte and glossy overlays, making it simple and striking. The Pull tab, as much as it is a necessity, ads a very nice touch to the profile of the heel counter.

    In this shoe, even the outsole is a looker; you’ll want to keep them clean and shiny. Even the flat shoelaces complement the looks quite well.

     

    The midsole 

    Brooks Levitate 3 is –as obviously stated- the third iteration on the Brooks Levitate. The star of the show here is the BASF Co-Developed DNA AMP foam (If BASF sounds familiar, think of BASF as in Adidas Boost).

    DNA AMP is a Polyurethane foam (PU) reserved for the Levitate, Bedlam, and Ricochet shoes.

    Brooks claims it's the most energy-returning foam in the market, also the most durable. Its Thermoplastic polyurethane or TPU casing is what gives the DNA AMP its characteristic silver look. 

     

     

    To keep a long story short, the foam would flat out if it wasn’t for that TPU casing.

    That directs the deformation of the midsole downwards, having the casing resisting the expansion gives DNA AMP – Codename “Roo” for Kangaroo - its bounce, also, PU is more durable than the most common EVA (Ethylene-vinyl acetate) foam.

    So, does all that chemistry show up in your stride? Well, yes and no.

    In my experience using the Levitate 3, the bounce is definitely there but needs redirection.

    This means that unless your vector of applied pressure is tilted forward, you might miss the effect. This makes the stride a little complicated at first, but you get used to it quickly.

    The upper & fit

    The upper is superb. It is a knit one-piece bootie with moderate padding on the heel area.

    The different aspects of the knit upper manage to be snug without being restrictive (I am looking at you, Nike Flynit). The material is more cotton than plastic, meaning it is softer than others. 

     

     

    The construction of the heel collar is like a sock, with a pull tab in the rear. The mesh is fairly breathable, and the lacing is tight. The extra eyelet on the bootie that goes under the second-to-last one is imperative to secure the heel. 

    The toe box is surprisingly roomy for a knit upper; it is very true to size. I have rather narrow feet, and I have to wear them with thicker socks to get a snug feel, even when the length of the shoe is correct for my size.

     

    Performance

    The claimed energy return on the Levitate 3 is surely present. My first impressions were of feeling like a dribble, similar to a basketball.

    So, the maximum energy return claim is present there. The harder you push, the more you can feel the rebound from the midsole.

    The lack of any kind of shank or plate in the midsole makes way to a very flexible bend in the forefoot that has been long gone in racing shoes these days.

    It's all about carbon and rigidity now. So these have a firm landing and a present toe-off with a bit of that dribble.

    The outsole, besides striking-looking, the shape makes for a smooth fore-to-midfoot transition.

    Brooks describes the outsole pattern as: “Flattened lug design for improved ground coverage and traction.” In my opinion, the outsole makes its job nominally, nothing fancy here.

     

     

    The 8mm drop is actually spot on because it does not feel like falling forward like other maximal offerings.

    My only complaint about these is the weight. Since the knit upper is so minimal, the weight comes from the midsole, making them bottom heavy.

    This makes the displacement a bit harder than it needs to be, but it also helps to keep a good balance when standing. The stack height of 26 mm on the heel and 18 mm on the forefoot is not exactly minimal, but it does not feel like you’re riding too high in spite of that.

    An identity crisis?

    For me, I cannot place the Levitate 3 in a specific category. They are comfortable but not super plush to be a long run or recovery shoe.

    Also, they mean to go fast, but the weight keeps them from being a race day shoe. At 11.6oz/328.9g, they are not feather-light.

    On a side note, the Levitate 4, to be released in 2020, claims to be 20% lighter, an amazing improvement worth waiting for!

    This identity crisis is actually beneficial. It turns them into an all-purpose shoe, covering most bases in comfort, smooth and bounce transition from fore-foot to back, and a noticeable bounciness that can be tamed to your advantage.

    When the run is going to be spontaneous, the Levitate 3 will get you covered in most respects. If I had to pick a place for the Levitate 3 in the Brooks line-up, I'd say it is the daily trainer to the Ricochet 2, being the latter your race day shoe.

    The good

    • Comfortable and springy ride
    • Killer looks
    • Roomy toe-box

    The bad

    • Lean on the heavy side
    • I wish the fit were a bit snugger
  • 80 / 100 |

    The Brooks Levitate 3: Light & stable

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    I was expecting to receive the ugliest shoe color combination since these were test shoes, and sometimes you get the colors they can't sell. I was very pleasantly surprised to see a very nice looking black/ebony/silver pair of shoes sitting inside the box.

     

     

    Brooks, at one point not so long ago, was my favorite running shoemaker. However, they lost my trust with a very expensive pair of trail shoes that fell apart. Then, I was given the opportunity to test the Caldera 3's last year.

    After that, I felt that they might be back on track to making good quality shoes again resulting in my looking forward to testing this shoes as it might just win me back to being a sole Brooks buyer.

    My Initial impression

    The upper is made of flat-knit with and integrated collar (more on this later) to give a more sock-like fit. I liked the fabric, and it does seem like it will fit like a sock, maybe running sans socks.

     

     

    It's been many years since I ran with no socks and being that it is winter, I don't think it's going to happen with these shoes. Umm, maybe I will give it a shot on the treadmill.

    The laces are the flat style, which I like, and it seems that all shoe manufacturers have now transitioned to. The Levitate 3 come pre-laced, and they aren't laced in the traditional crisscross style that I've been used to.

    The midsole is made from Brooks DNA AMP, but this shoe is sporting a metallic silver, and the soles have a tread pattern that is supposed to project you forward and cause you to be more energy-efficient.

    After 100+ miles

    Winter poses a problem for running on the roads when you live in the mountains. I was able to get 75+ miles in on the roads, but they were usually covered in snow and ice.

    I also ran about 50 miles on the treadmill, which allowed me to pick up the pace and open my stride. I am amazed by the amount of traction that I had from these shoes on snow- and ice-covered roads.

     

     

    While I never feel completely comfortable on full-on speed workouts in these conditions, these shoes provided me with as much confidence as any other shoe that I have ever run on ice with.

    I would have full confidence on wet pavement that these shoes are going to put the power to the pavement.

    The midsole offers plenty of cushion. The amount isn't enough to make you feel unstable but enough to soften each blow.

    As an older runner who has been running for 40 years and most of these years at an elite level with triple-digit miles per week, I appreciate the Brooks DNA AMP.

    I didn't, however, feel that I had worked any less or that I was less tired from the more energy-efficient than any other modern shoes that I run in.

    There may be some scientific studies that show that I have gained some more efficiency or I'm taking less impact, but I didn't feel it in my legs or body.

    The sock-like fit that is supposed to be provided never came to fruition for me. The forefoot and toe box are made for someone with a slightly wider foot than mine.

    At the bottom of the laces, I would get a bunching of fabric. It never bothered my runs but looks a bit goofy.

    My biggest complaint with this shoe is the heel of the shoe, at the top of the heel cup. The design looks nice and like it's going fit like a glove or sock—in application, the engineers missed the mark. At least, they missed the mark for me.

     

     

    The support in the heel cup that runs along the back of the Achilles, in my opinion, comes up too far not allowing the top of the heel to flex enough while running.

    The result is that the top of the shoe pokes my Achilles area and rubs blisters or becomes nearly too painful to enjoy the run. This is most evident when doing speed work as the foot needs to flex more.

    I was amazed by the lack of wear that this shoe showed throughout all the miles that I put on this shoe. This could be due to many of the miles over snow-covered roads and on the treadmill but either way they held up very well.

    While I do have some complaints about the Levitate 3, I must still state that it is a solid training shoe. While the shoes don't feel light or fast, it provides good stability and cushioning.

    The quality of construction and materials is very good, and these shoes will last for many miles.

    Pros

    • Solid construction
    • Stability
    • Cushion
    • Looks great

    Cons

    • Heel cup cuts into Achilles
    • The sock-like fit might be a big for average to narrow feet

    On a scale of 1-10 with 1 being horrible and 10 being the best shoe ever I score this shoe:

    • Aesthetics: 9
    • Comfort: 5
    • Cushion: 8
    • Stability: 8
    • Durability: 9
    • Overall: 8

    Conclusion

    The Brooks Levitate 3 is a great training shoe that will provide long miles with enough cushioning for any old runner to appreciate.

    If the heel didn't cause such a negative for this shoe, it would surely be one of my favorite training shoes. Unfortunately, due to the heel cup, I find the shoe hard to wear especially for faster workout days.

  • 88 / 100 | The Active Guy | | Level 5 expert

    I like the updates to the shoe, but still think it feels a little heavy for middle to long distance runs.

  • 85 / 100 | Phidippides | | Level 4 expert

    Overall, most Levitate fans should like the update and it should continue to win new fans with its mesh upper and responsive yet soft midsole.

Become an expert

The Brooks Levitate 3 is a product that is designed for the neutral pronation of the foot. It is also meant for daily running sessions. The design of the silhouette is inspired by its predecessor, but with a knitted upper headlining the overall look. However, stitch-reinforcements, a helping of printed overlays, and a heel tab differentiate it from its progenitor. The same DNA AMP midsole graces this product.

The Brooks Levitate 3 is made to be true to size. Runners can get a pair with their usual choices of size in mind. However, it is a welcome act when the shoe is tested first or if reviews are read/watched. Having such an advantage can advocate an accommodating in-shoe feel.

The shape of the foot is the basis of the upper unit’s construction. The shoe has a semi-curved layout and conforming fabrics that influence the in-shoe experience.

The outsole unit of the Brooks Levitate 3 is made of a rubber compound. The job of this feature is the shield the midsole from wear-and-tear. It also offers traction, a trait that is essential for every running shoe.

Grooves line the external pad to encourage the natural flexibility of the human foot. The heel-to-toe transitions can become smooth and effortless with these elements present in the design.

The tread pattern of the outsole is likened to forward-facing arrows. These elements encourage quick and effortless steps, propelling the foot through the cycle of stepping with ease and speed. The brand touts this feature as a means of perceiving energized motion without expending too much energy.

DNA AMP serves as the midsole unit of the Brooks Levitate 3. This full-length cushioning unit is made of a polyurethane foam piece that is coated with a thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) outer skin. Reactive cushioning is the name of the game when it comes to the foam, but consistent shape and performance is the purpose of the TPU coating.

A lightly cushioned insole is placed right on top of the primary cushioning unit. This add-on provides a surface of softness that the foot can use to remain comfortable throughout the run. It doesn’t add much weight to the shoe, and it doesn’t sacrifice flexibility. It can even be removed or replaced with a new one if the runner wishes to do so.

The upper unit of the Brooks Levitate 3 is made of a knitted fabric. This element aims to evoke the feeling of being wrapped with woven cloth. There are breathing zones comprised of pores and holes, and they’re meant to ventilate the in-shoe environment. Many well-known running shoe series use knitted uppers, including the highly revered Adidas Pure Boost line.

The tongue is partially integrated into the inner sleeve of this shoe. The near-bootie construction permits a smooth and seamless feel. Tongue deviation is an event that is prevented by this design.

A traditional lacing system graces the roof of the upper unit, offering the runner with a means of adjusting the tightness or looseness of the fit. The flat shoelaces and discreet eyelets maintain an incognito look.

A stretchy fabric collar wraps the foot securely like the topmost end of a sock. Dirt and debris on the running path are stopped by this accouterment from entering the foot-chamber and causing discomfort.

Printed overlays grace the sides and the eyestays. These synthetic prints have the job of heightening durability and helping in the attainment of a snug yet secure fit.

A pull tab is stitched onto the rear of the upper. This add-on is meant to widen the opening of the shoe for ease of wearing. It can also be used to hang the shoe for storage and aftercare.

Author
Jens Jakob Andersen
Jens Jakob Andersen

Jens Jakob is a fan of short distances with a 5K PR at 15:58 minutes. Based on 35 million race results, he's among the fastest 0.2% runners. Jens Jakob previously owned a running store, when he was also a competitive runner. His work is regularly featured in The New York Times, Washington Post, BBC and the likes as well as peer-reviewed journals. Finally, he has been a guest on +30 podcasts on running.

jens@runrepeat.com