Brooks Levitate 3 review
Several test runs proved that the Brooks Levitate 3 has no real identity when it comes to a run-specific shoe category.
Some may see this as a good thing, where the shoe offers great performance in a variety of areas. The difference here is that the Levitate 3 underperforms in the variety of runs and feels like a lot of work to run in due to the weight of the shoes.
I would definitely recommend “trying before buying” if the Brooks Levitate 3 is on your shopping radar.
First impressions of the Brooks Levitate 3
Out of the box, the Levitate 3 has a sleek look with grey, black, and a shiny silver coating covering the entire midsole. I couldn’t help but notice the weight while pulling out one shoe from its packaging.
Compared to the Hoka Clifton 6 I was previously training in, the Levitate 3 felt two to three times heavier.
Taking a closer look, you’ll find a few key features making this Brooks’ third edition unique that I will be reviewing below. In my testing, I looked to find out what the key features of the Levitate 3 are and how this fits into your next shoe rotation.
The integrated collar system is better than running shoe predecessors who began adding knit collars around the heels. Brooks keeps the heel area comfortable with its smooth collar design.
Design of the Levitate
At first, I had assumed with the Levitate 3’s appearance that Brooks might be following trends in the market where shoes now cross over into several categories. Your go-to running trainers may be made to take on daily commutes, gym workouts, distance training, and race days.
The materials used in designing the shoe look well-built with clean stitching and molds that present a nice streamlined look. The dark colors of the upper combined with a sleek silver colorway gives this shoe a very clean look.
The platform of the outsole appeared to have a wide enough base that offered stable ground contact and base for the bottom of the feet.
The snug upper in the Levitate 3 uses a flat-knit mesh material that is actually what I would consider the main appealing feature of this shoe. With the flat-knit upper, the material is flexible and gives the feet a sock-like feel without having an abrasive texture.
The tight-knitted area above the toes allows air to flow (although more restricted than traditional synthetic mesh) while the overall feel is very pleasing. I received no blistering or any hot spots in my testing.
The tongue also stays in place due to a semi-integrated tongue. I would have added a little more length to it since I tend to use up all the eyelets and don’t prefer the top laces hitting my ankle. Another great feature that I always praise is the pull tab.
The Levitate 3 pull tabs work just as they should and are convenient when you want to quickly slip them on, get out the door, and run.
Laces were simply designed with flat construction and were a lightweight feature for these shoes. I noticed I need to always tie them down 2-3 times to get rid of the excess length, however.
Firm, sturdy midsole
The Levitate 3’s DNA AMP midsole. If you’re unfamiliar with this cushion technology, here’s what Brooks has to say, “Offering our best energy return, the Levitate 3’s DNA AMP midsole technology gives you back more of the effort you put in.”
DNA AMP is created with polyurethane (PU) based and is designed with one thing in mind: energy return. The foam is unique in that it naturally expands as force is applied.
To take best advantage of Brook's DNA AMP, Brooks encases this foam in a thermoplastic polyurethane skin that resists expanding side-to-side and allows the foam to expand vertically with the applied force. The result is what many runners describe as a springy ride in their running gait cycle.
Contrary to many reviewers who describe this spring-like feeling, the DNA Amp is what I consider a firmer ride than your average running shoe. The cushion wrap technology surrounding the cushion allows the midsole to be very durable and resistant to scuffs and abrasions.
The Levitate 3’s drop consists of 8mm from heel to toe, which feels suitable for runners with medium to high arches.
The arrow-patterned rubber outsole covers the entire length of the shoe. The shallow grooves from the forefoot to midfoot offers flexibility during each step off.
The grip was okay in dry areas and even through mixed gravel and dirt. On the other hand, wet road surfaces were nearly an utter disaster for the Levitate 3’s grip.
During a few rainy days while sidewalks were wet, I managed to slip in what felt like being in the middle of an ice skating rink.
Usually, a rubber outsole would allow at least some grip to maintain stability in wet conditions, but the composition of the Levitate 3’s rubber just didn’t work here.
The identity crisis of Brooks Levitate 3
In my attempts to run in these shoes over multiple terrain and varying distances, I was searching for this shoe’s purpose. Would the Levitate 3 be best used for a daily trainer, race marathoner, or gym workaholic?
I have to bring up the point that no specific type of run felt just right in these shoes. And the reason comes down to the one most important disadvantage: weight.
The Brooks Levitate 3 tops out at nearly 12 ounces for a men’s size 9. In all distances, the weight was very noticeable making it difficult to get into my normal running range of motion over longer runs past eight to ten miles.
The upper held up well even when the humidity was high and sleet and rain were present. In cooler weather, my feet remained warm and had enough ventilation to breathe. Temperatures above 60 degrees left the feet slightly warmer than preferred.
I would anticipate during hot summer runs the majority of people would lean towards a more ventilated model.