Brooks Levitate 4 review
The Brooks Levitate 4 is a good all-around training shoe and could be used for marathons and ultra-marathon races. It’s not the shoe of choice for 5K races or any race that I would be relying on my speed to take the win, but it can be used for speed work if you’re going for one pair of shoes to do everything.
I really enjoyed this shoe and will continue to put miles on this shoe until I have to find a replacement.
Be forewarned that there were many updates from the Levitate 3 enough that if the Levitate 3 were my favorite shoe I wouldn’t be happy to find out that all it’s a completely different shoe now.
My initial impression of the Levitate 4
I was pleased to find a shoe that has a grey-on-black knit upper with a pearlescent white outsole. On the flip side, I was also concerned due to the heel reminding me of the blisters that the Levitate 3 has caused.
I have a love-hate relationship with Brooks shoes. Some shoes have fallen apart on their inaugural run while others have felt that they been tailor-made for me.
My initial thought on the fit was I've found my new favorite shoe. It fits true-to-size, with a medium to narrow toe box and ample arch support. My foot is as average as average gets; average size, arch, width, and runner's toes.
The laces lace-up and hold tightly and they didn't loosen during my first run. The heel cup fits perfectly and I didn’t have any issues with it digging into my Achilles tendon. The shoe is very comfortable that I always look forward to my next run.
You should be warned that leaning too far forward in this shoe might land you on your face. This is a bit of an over-exaggeration, but there is some serious return on energy with every step.
This is the first shoe I've ever put on that I could feel a difference in function from all the other shoes I've worn.
LSD and Short Quick Distance (SQD)
Before anything else, I didn't exceed 30 miles while testing this shoe. With its energy return, I still felt fresh on my runs. So much so, that I've never felt sore the following day.
On SQD runs, I felt like I was getting more spring in each step. However, the forefoot didn't allow much toe roll as I would like.
The result of the forefoot's lack of flexibility was my mile splits becoming slower. But, the data that I collected have shown that I was still running the same pace I do in my other shoes.
Fartleks, Speed Work, and Hills
While the shoe is suitable for speed work, don't expect it to feel light and fast. Brooks has trimmed down its weight, but it's still not a track shoe.
I've experienced a bit of foot slap when I tried to pick up the pace, and I believe this is due to the continuous outsole and less flexible forefoot.
As with the speed workouts, I've experienced the same forefoot slap when running downhill. I attribute this to the same outsole issue from the track. But when running uphill, the shoe performed very well.
The transition from heel strike to toe was very controlled and stable. This is very much appreciated especially on hill workout days when I really didn’t want to run up another hill.
Cushioning is a step in the right direction
The shoe's midsole is comprised of Brooks' DNA AMP, and its structure is designed differently than the Levitate 3. With the new construction, I could tell the shoe provides energy back in each step. So much so that I felt bouncy and young again.
Below, I will compare the Levitate 3 and 4 so that you can see the differences. The reformulated DNA AMP of the 4 makes it lighter, which I didn't notice much. What I did notice was the energy return in each stride.
If you are looking for a soft, cloud-like running shoe, you will be disappointed with this as it pushes back to propel you forward. If my Physics is still good, when energy is transferred into the shoe, it will either need to absorb or deflect the energy to another form.
So, a softer midsole will soak up the energy while the stiffer midsole will return some of the energy.
In the Levitate 4, Brooks has found the right balance. The shoe returns energy, making me feel fresh at the end of a 30-mile run while being soft enough that I didn't feel beat up either.
Upper could use some ventilation
One of my complaints about the shoe is it's less breathable than its predecessor. The picture above shows how much sunlight penetrated the knit upper, and it’s not much. As a matter of fact, the two elongated areas of light come from the lace holes.
For some background, every run has been either on the track or road. All but two of the runs were in temperatures between 90-102°F.
I am sure that the temperature coming off the pavement was brutal for the shoe. I did two runs where I wore the Levitate 3 on one foot and the other, the Levitate 4. Surprisingly, I didn’t notice a difference between the two shoes, since my original assessment had been that the Levitate 4 was worse.
Levitate 4 fits right
The fit was unbelievable for me! If I had one complaint, it would be that on long runs with high temps, the toe box becomes a bit too narrow.
As my feet swell, I typically like to move my toes around a bit and there isn’t much room to do this in the Levitate 4. This is only a minor complaint and I wouldn’t have any problems choosing to run a road ultra in this.
The arch support, while perfect for me, would not work for a flat-footed person. The shoe is designed for average to high arch, and I felt that they provided the best arch support than I have had in a stock insole.
With the Levitate 3, the heel cup was a little loose and the back of the shoe caused blisters in my Achilles tendon. These have all been resolved in the Levitate 4. The heel cup was snug and I never felt any kind of slip or looseness
Overall, the fit gave comfort to the mind as it felt stable and secure, albeit a bit on the hot side.
Outsole is a big upgrade
I feel like the outsole might cause people to love or hate this shoe. While I don't personally feel strongly about it, it makes a big difference in how the shoe performs.
The single-piece outsole has some areas that are thinner (closer to the midsole than to the tread) for flexibility. It’s a completely different ride than the old segmented outsole of the Levitate 3.
There is so much difference in the performance of this shoe that it doesn't really represent the Levitate 3. Warning: this shoe isn't the Levitate 3 if you loved it so much.
What is great about the outsole? The one-piece design offers great heel-to-toe transition, and I believe it adds to the stability of the shoe as well.
When running with one Levitate 3 and one Levitate 4, the difference in support is substantial. The Levitate 3 offers more forefoot flexibility, lending to a softer transition however it felt slower.
I am a huge toe-off runner, pushing off my toes so hard that have fractured my big toe on multiple occasions. I never thought I would like this shoe, given my running style but it offers a new feeling of speed and control that I really enjoy,.
I didn't have the opportunity to test the shoe in any kind of inclement weather. It's only been sunny and hot; no rain, no clouds, just hot sun. Despite not having tested this on wet pavement, I believe that it will do fine.
Levitate 3 vs Levitate 4
The upper as you can see is now constructed of knit material on the Levitate 4 and is obvious from the picture. While the knit upper conforms to the foot better, I didn’t find that it had any additional benefit.
The lace hole on the Levitate 4 are now slotted and hold the flat laces in place. I never had an issue with the laces slipping or loosening up during runs. The new holes also helped me with my OCD issues of trying to keep the laces from twisting.
On fit, the Levitate 4 is snugger than the Levitate 3 throughout the shoe. The toe box is narrower, and the heel cup and laces hold tighter. I think that the upper changes are an improvement.
If I haven't mentioned it enough, the midsole has a new structure and the DNA AMP has changed, as well. Now, the shoe feels more stable and is the best shoe I've ever run in, feeling the energy return in each step.
I don't know if the outsole is the biggest change, but with its one-piece design combined with the new midsole, the shoe is changed to something new. The transition from strike to toe-off is quick and stable but offers less flexibility. The segmented outsole of the Levitate 3 offers more flexibility in the forefoot but comes at the cost of less stability.
While I love the name Levitate (one of my son’s name is Levi and I’m Tate), I think the changes are so drastic that this is its own shoe.
My background as a runner
I'm a runner who's been running for 38 years. I've basically run every distance, from being a half-mile (800 yards) specialist back in college to completing 28 marathons and multiple 100-mile races.
I’m always looking for reviews from runners who know what they are talking about. While I’m getting up there in age, I’m still able to cover marathons in the 6 min/mile range but watch my teenage children run away from me.
If you are looking to see how the Brooks Levitate 4 feels while doing cross-fit, I hate to tell you, but I only use my running shoes for running until they're only good for yard work. Now, I would use my shoes for the running portion of cross-fit, but I would swap them out when not running.
This is a review of the Brooks Levitate 4 by a runner who covers 50-120 miles a week. Each week contains track speed and hill workouts, intervals (fartleks), long slow distance (LSD), on-road and on-trail runs.
Tip: see the best running shoes.