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 Brooks’ third edition unique that I will be reviewing below. In my testing below, 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 theirs with the shoes smooth collar design.
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.
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.
Performance & durability
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.
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.
The DNA AMP, flat-knit upper and overall construction are a plus for the shoe. I would definitely recommend “trying before buying” if the Brooks Levitate 3 is on your shopping radar.
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.
- Solid construction
- Looks great
- 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
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.
The Brooks Levitate 3 is a solid everyday trainer. While its combination of traits isn’t tailored towards any particular type of runner or specific workout, it’s a great shoe for nearly any distance runner.
Weight: 11.6 oz. Drop: 8 mm
This is one of the few places there’s anything to complain about. Sizing is spot-on, and overall, the shoe has a good fit throughout. There’s no part of the shoe that feels too roomy or too snug.
I can’t put my finger on it, but there’s something strange about the shape of the underfoot heel area. It feels like there’s a bump nudging into the outside bottom of your foot.
It’s not enough to bother you or cause any kind of pain, not even enough to change anything about how you run, and after two minutes of running, it seems to go away. But when you first put these on, the fit is kind of odd.
The heel cup looks overly aggressive, which can cause pain or discomfort in the Achilles tendon, but the top edge of the heel cup is flexible, so the shoe conforms to the shape of your ankle.
This provides a good, snug fit in the heel area with no discomfort whatsoever.
The biggest complaint here results from a combination of two things: The heel cup rises higher than most, and there’s a seam right on the edge of it.
It almost looks like an unfinished prototype; it’s hard to believe someone OK-ed a shoe with a hard seam like that, especially in a location that’s in direct contact with the runner, especially in a location that might not be covered by a sock!
As a result, it’s a good idea to only wear socks that come to the top of the ankle or higher; no-show socks are a bad idea for this one. If the seam were smoothed over, or if the heel cup didn’t come up so high, this wouldn’t be a problem.
The Levitate 3 uses a knit material, which is comfortable, flexible, and breathable. Few uppers would compete with this one.
There aren’t any overlays, but that’s a good thing. Going without overlays keeps dead weight off of the shoe and also provides maximum breathability.
Instead, the shoe’s upper is stretchy (and so are the laces), so it hugs your foot, providing a sock-like fit. As such, no reinforcing structure is needed.
On the top of the toe area, the knit is a more open weave, providing oodles of airflow. It would be great if there were more parts of the upper like this, but chances are durability would be an issue. As it stands, it’s one of the most breathable shoes I’ve tried.
If you run in the rain, your feet will get wet in a hurry. But if it stops raining during your run, the Levitate 3 breathes so well; you might have dry feet by the time you make it home.
The tread is perhaps slightly more substantial than you see on some shoes designed primarily for road.
Almost the entire outsole is covered in rubber, adding some weight, but also adding durability. Compared to many shoes that leave foam exposed, you’ll get more miles out of the Levitate 3.
Brooks claims the arrow-shaped pattern makes you faster; I don’t know about that, but the tread pattern doesn’t slow you down on pavement like a trail shoe does, but it also provides good grip on nearly any surface, including dirt and gravel.
While the Levitate 3 isn’t ideal for an entirely off-road race, it makes a better door-to-trail shoe than many trail shoes.
This is where the Levitate 3 truly shines.
Brooks’s DNA AMP midsole isn’t groundbreaking or without peer, but it’s one of the better midsoles out there when it comes to energy return. After hours of running, the ground still feels soft, and yet the ride never feels mushy.
The energy return in the midsole adds some pop to your step. Too much cushion feels like running in sand, but the Levitate 3 feels like jumping on a spring mattress.
While the Levitate 3 is well-cushioned, it’s still a neutral shoe. If you need a stability shoe, this isn’t it.
Most shoes in this weight range, and with this level of cushioning, are at least a moderate stability shoe, so it’s good to see a neutral option with these characteristics.
I like it!
Some of the color options have a strange half-striped pattern with a bunch of stippling, but thankfully, there are a few that don’t look like a modern art piece. It would be nice if there were more exciting color options than white, grey, black, and navy, but you can never go wrong with a pair of black shoes.
Props to Brooks for not making any of the outsoles white. Points off for barely any reflectivity.
Probably the biggest knock on this shoe is the question, “But who is this shoe for?”
It’s too heavy to be a racer or an uptempo trainer, and it’s too neutral to be a stability shoe. The correct answer to the question is... Everyone!
While it’s a heavy shoe, it’s as fast as or faster than many shoes in a lower weight class. The DNA AMP midsole does a good job propelling you forward and also encourages you to run faster.
The Levitate 3 is at its best when you’re running at speed.
The Levitate 3 isn’t a race day shoe; it’s an everyday trainer. For that purpose, extra weight can be a good thing.
If you get used to training in a heavy shoe, your performance on race day will be that much faster and more effortless. Heavy shoes make you tougher.
That said, there’s not an ounce of fat on this thing. All of the extra material pulls its weight by providing a better grip or adding more spring to your step. The Levitate 3 isn’t a Ferrari, nor a limousine. It’s a muscle car.
If I were going on vacation and could only pack one pair of running shoes for the week, I’d pick the Levitate 3. The high heel cup, with a badly placed unfinished seam, and the strange fit under the heel bring this one down to an A-minus. Fix those issues, and the Levitate 3 is a nearly perfect everyday trainer.
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."
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.
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.
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.
- Comfortable and springy ride
- Killer looks
- Roomy toe-box
- Lean on the heavy side
- I wish the fit were a bit snugger
Good to know
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.
How Levitate 3 compares
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