Brooks Anthem 4 review and lab test

Comfort on a budget! 

 

Not everyone needs a high-performance running shoe made from the latest technology, and even fewer people can afford one. Enter the Brooks Anthem 4, a lightweight daily trainer priced to be affordable. 

The Anthem 4 is a budget-minded, entry-level running shoe with a simple design aimed at comfort. 

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Who should buy the Brooks Anthem 4

The Brooks Anthem 4 is ideal for runners just starting out. It’s a simple, lightweight shoe that can work in most conditions and for most types of runs without much fuss. 

If you are on a tight budget and don’t need anything fancy, and just plan to jog recreationally this is a great product that will outperform many generic box-store shoes. 

Who should not buy it 

Don’t buy the Anthem 4 if you want:

  • A high-performing shoe. There are many shoes with better technology and a better ride out there. Check out the Brooks Hyperion Tempo if you want a fast, high-tech Brooks
  • A plush recovery shoe. Although the Anthem is marketed as “cushioned” the midsole is dense and dull. Check out the Hoka Clifton series or the New Balance Fresh Foam More V3 for truly plush shoes. 
  • A fun exciting ride. The Anthem is pretty standard and won’t really get your excitement on high. Check out the Skechers GOrun Razor+.  

Anthem 4 fits true to size 

The Anthem 4 fits true to size and should work for a wide variety of foot types. This shoe is really designed as a one-shoe-fits-all, for the masses of runners who need an affordable shoe. 

As always, super-wide feet may struggle but the upper is pretty flexible and did accommodate my slightly wider foot fine. 

One small issue for wide-footed runners is they may experience some gapping between the tongue and the lacing structure as there are no gussets and the tongue is a touch narrow. 

Comfort on a budget lacks real comfort

The shoe is comfortable, but it’s a budget type of comfort. This is not a super-plush, overly padded shoe, but it feels fine on your feet, and I wasn’t in any sort of hurry to get it off my feet after testing. 

One issue I noticed is the insole is not tapered on the edges or cupped in the heel and on one shoe I could feel the inside edge of the insole under my heel and arch. Not a big deal, it should eventually pack out and form to my feet but annoying nonetheless. 

It does have a 5.6mm thick tongue which is nicely padded and right at the average thickness for most tongues, making the top of the shoe hug your foot without any lace bite when the shoe is tied tightly. 

Brooks-Anthem-4-Tongue-Thickness.jpg

Nimble but a bit dull 

There’s enough cushioning underfoot to dampen impact, but it’s not an exciting ride. The midsole feels a bit on the dense side even though it measures in at just 19.5HA on the durometer (average midsoles are 23.3HA). It’s not soft enough to really love, but not firm enough to add any pep at toe-off.

Brooks’ standard DNA foam midsoles leave a bit to be desired in response, energy and feel. 

Brooks-Anthem-4-Midsole.jpg

The shoe really feels generic and isn’t all that fun or memorable. 

The main positive of the Anthem 4 is it feels low to the ground and nimble, and it’s very conservative meaning it will work for just about any runner, there’s no learning curve or surprises with this shoe’s ride. 

Brooks Anthem 4 needs slight break-in

The shoe is pretty ready to go right out of the box, the only thing that I think needs some break-in is the insole. Once you pack that out a bit and it molds to your foot it should soften the edges and feel a bit better. 

Nice and light on the scales 

Brooks did a good job on the weight of this shoe. At 8.6 ounces (245g) it’s pretty commendable. The average weight in our lab series is 9.5 ounces (268g). 

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This helps this shoe feel quick and nimble even without tech like a super responsive midsole or a rockered design. 

Durable stiff outsole

I have a few concerns about the durability of this budget shoe. 

The midsole feels dense underfoot but at just 19.5HA it’s actually fairly soft and may pack out quickly. And the upper is thin which could so wear prematurely.

And although the outsole is just 3.4mm thick (average is 3.8mm) the positive is the hard, full-rubber design. At 83HC on the durometer, it’s stiffer than average outsoles (79.4HC) which should help it wear slowly. 

Brooks-Anthem-4-Outsole-Thickness.jpg

Grip of the Anthem 4 is adequate

The grip on the Anthem 4 is fine. It should work for a variety of surfaces and weather conditions. 

Brooks-Anthem-4-Outsole.jpg

I didn’t test it in wet conditions though, and with its slightly stiffer outsole it could become slippery when wet, but further testing is needed to determine that (we don’t get a lot of rain here in Colorado in July).

Where to run the Anthem 4

Everyone always asks what type of run a shoe is designed for, and the Anthem 4 is really a generalist type of shoe. 

As an entry-level trainer, this shoe would work for daily runs, recovery/slow/long runs, and can be taken to your next 5K. It doesn’t do anything specifically well, but it does everything ok, and that’s a good thing in a budget shoe. 

Surprisingly breathable

The shoe is very breathable. 

Brooks-Anthem-4-Upper.jpg

The mesh upper has plenty of perforations and it’s thin without too much padding or layering of fabrics. Heat easily escapes through the many venting hole and scores a 4 out of 5 in our fog tests thanks to the upper's design.

No heel slip in the Anthem 4 

I didn’t have any problem with lockdown or heel slippage in the Anthem 4, which surprised me. 

The heel counter is pretty stiff, and most budget shoes slip and slide in the fit department.

Obviously, it could use a gusseted tongue, but it’s a budget shoe and that’s a higher-end feature.  

Brooks-Anthem-4-Logo.jpg

Anthem 4 freezes up in cold weather

Many budget shoes have this problem, but when they get cold, lower-tech foams tend to stiffen considerably. 

Brooks-Anthem-4-Freezer.jpg

In our freezer tests, the flexibility of the shoe stiffened by 90.1% (average shoes stiffen just 37.5%) from 24.3N to 46.2N on the flex test. 

This isn’t all bad news since the average stiffness of shoes in our freezer test is 50.8N, meaning this shoe is still not as stiff as the average cold shoe, but it’s going to feel drastically different than it does at room temps with that 90% increase. 

Overall it’s dull...

Lastly, it’s just a bit dull. It performs dull, and it looks dull. Brooks has a few other colorways in this shoe, but they are all some iteration of gray… 

There’s a need for budget shoes in the market for sure, but they don’t have to be gray, spice it up next time Brooks!

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Complete lab-specs overview 

  Anthem 4 Average
Whole shoe
Weight (g) 245 268
Drop (mm) 8.6 9.5
Flexibility of the shoe (N) 24.3
39.4
Flexibility of the shoe (Freezer 20 min) (N) 46.2 50.8
Flexibility of the shoe (% of change) 90.1 37.5
Lace slip test with the knot (N) 12.4 23.6
Longitudinal flexibility (1-5 scale, 5 being the stiffest) 2.0 2.9
Torsional flexibility (1-5 scale, 5 being the stiffest) 2.0 3.0
Upper
Thickness - Tongue (mm) 5.6 5.6
Width Upper - Forefoot (mm) 97.8 98.7
Width Upper - Heel (mm) 73.1 75.7
Lace Stretch (1-5 scale, 5 being the most stretchy) 2.0 2.6
Flexibility of the heel counter (1-5 scale, 5 being the stiffest) 4.0 2.8
Tongue: gusset type None -
Heel: pull tab None -
Midsole
Width Midsole - Forefoot (mm) 113.4 112.8
Width Midsole - Heel (mm) 89.9 89.4
Stack - Forefoot with insole (mm) 21.4 25.0
Stack - Heel with insole (mm) 32.5 33.2
Durometer Midsole Heel (Room temperature) (HA) 19.5 23.2
Outsole
Outsole thickness (Heel) (mm) 3.4 3.8
Lugs Depth (mm) N/A 3.1
Durometer Outsole Heel (Room temperature) (HC) 83.0 79.4
Insole
Insole Heel Thickness (mm) 4.5 4.4
Insole: removable Yes  

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Author
Paul Ronto
Paul Ronto

Over the past 20 years, Paul has climbed, hiked, and ran all over the world. He has summited peaks throughout the Americas, trekked through Africa, and tested his endurance in 24-hour trail races as well as 6 marathons. On average, he runs 30-50 miles a week in the foothills of Northern Colorado. His research is regularly cited in The New York Times, Washington Post, National Geographic, etc. On top of this, Paul is leading the running shoe lab where he cuts shoes apart and analyses every detail of the shoes that you might buy.