Brooks Levitate: My Human Hamster Wheel Shoes

Brooks Levitate

In thinking back about my runs in the Brooks Levitate, I realized that I haven’t taken them for a spin outdoors. As my motivation to run has waned (seriously, seriously waned), I’ve opted to throw on shorts and a T-shirt and hit the treadmill rather than take the time to pile on the layers and risk saying “to heck with it” and skipping a run altogether. Spending 10-15 minutes to get my gear together because I always seem to forget something and have to go from room to room looking for it is agonizing. It makes me feel like the run is taking forever and the run hasn’t even started yet! Cold weather and slippery roads are a good excuse to stay inside, but really I’m not afraid of harsh conditions, just afraid of getting too frustrated to stick with running through the tough times to get back to my previous fitness level.

So, I have a treadmill-exclusive pair of shoes.  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Weight
My men’s size 8 weighed in at a hair under 10.6 oz. This comes as no surprise. The Levitate is a premium daily trainer with all of the bells and whistles: a plushly padded heel collar, a thick, full-coverage rubber sole, and Brooks’s new polyurethane-based DNA AMP midsole. I generally prefer lightweight shoes. If I start light my feet and I’ll stay light on my feet, plus less to carry over the long haul. However, some shoes’ performance belies their weight. The OG Saucony Triumph ISO springs to mind as a built-up model that feels ready to fly — it’s one of my favorite marathon shoes since it’s forgiving when I’m fatigued and my form deteriorates. The Levitate isn’t nearly as inspiring of a heavyweight. Its weight gets in the way of any springy sensation I’m supposed to feel from the DNA AMP. This might change when I put it to the test on pavement, but on a treadmill it just feels heavy. Sacrificing some of the luxe features might have made this a livelier shoe. 5/10

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Ride
I didn’t notice the promised energy return from the DNA AMP (Brooks’s answer to Boost, incidentally also licensed from BASF), but I didn’t hate the ride. The full-coverage blown rubber outsole provides ample cushioning and allows for smooth transitions. Heavy, but they don’t run like bricks. I like the feel enough to still reach for these for treadmill days and I am looking forward to new models that will make use of the DNA AMP midsole material. 7/10

Fit
Brooks is famous (with me, at least) for having pointy toe-boxes. The Levitate is no exception, but the smooth knit upper material is accommodating and allows my toes to splay. My narrow heel stayed locked in the padded heel cup. Not a tuned racer fit, but excellent for a trainer. 8/10

Comfort
The Levitate boasts a premium price and premium materials, but only manages middle of the road comfort as far as I’m concerned. I’m expecting an “ahhhh” experience when I step into these and they’re just alright. Disappointing given the components and cost, but taken alone, not bad. 6/10

Traction
I can’t offer an informed opinion about the traction in outdoor conditions. The traction pattern looks reasonably aggressive and I had no problems on the treadmill. I can’t in good conscience take any points off in this category. 10/10

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Flexibility
There’s not much of it. I think this is a plus as it seems to keep me in check (whereas the VERY flexible Altra Escalante had me flopping all over the place if I didn’t pay close attention). Stiffness is a plus for me on the treadmill as when I’m exhausted and pushing the pace at the end of a session I occasionally misstep onto the sides of the belt if my feet have too much free rein. 7/10

Durability
Another trait Brooks is famous for (again, with me) is its luscious blown rubber. This buttery soft sole material contributes to great cushioning and grip, but it also wears about as fast as butter would (unproven theory, obviously). Even with only treadmill miles on these, I’m already seeing significant wear in the forefoot and the lateral heel of each shoe. The upper seems to be holding up beautifully. If I stick to only using the Levitate on the human hamster wheel, they could last for 300+ miles (about what I’d hope to get out of a premium trainer if I ran my shoes into the ground instead of compulsively growing my collection), but that’s hardly a reasonable use case. 6/10

Looks
The Levitate is pretty smooth looking for a Brooks shoe. With only 3D-printed overlays and precious few of those, the Levitate has risen above (ha) Brooks’s “traditional old school trainer” look. I wouldn’t recommend wearing them on a date and they don’t compete with the likes of most Nike sneakers and some of New Balance’s suaver models, they’re just fine. They look sporty and there’s no need to make excuses for that since they’re a literal running shoe! I’d be happier with a white midsole (I have to admit that I like parts of the “traditional old school trainer look”) than the shiny silver, but that’s really just a quibble. 7/10

Price
At $150 retail, the Levitate is not cheap. There are more budget-friendly models available with adequately nice materials that can beat the Levitate in many of these categories, and a number of category peers that could too. The upper, midsole, and outsole strike me as overbuilt rather than premium since they make the shoe far heavier than it needs to be. I’m not so put off that I’ll steer clear of v2, but I’m not overly impressed. I might be missing out on how this shoe shines on the road. If that’s the case, I’ll post an update. But for now, I can’t endorse the price. 4/10

Suitability for Intended Purpose
I think a lot of people would like these for daily training, and despite my words of tough love, I am a fan too. The Levitate features a comfort fit, ample sole material, and enough cushioning to absorb high mileage. 10/10

Overall
Weight: 5/10
Ride: 7/10
Fit: 8/10
Comfort: 6/10
Traction: 10/10
Flexibility: 7/10
Durability: 6/10
Looks: 7/10
Price: 4/10
Suitability for Intended Purpose: 10/10
TOTAL: 70/100

Your mileage may vary unlike my all treadmill, all the time mileage on these shoes, so take this review with a bigger grain of salt than usual. The first iteration of the Levitate is a decent workhorse, but uninspiring. I’m hoping that Brooks can drop the weight (or at least the price) when they release v2.

 

 

 

Brooks Ghost 4 Review

20140111-195553.jpgI really, really love running shoes. I love trying new pairs out and seeing how they affect, or don’t affect, my running. The latest models can attract me with strong reputations among runners, long pedigrees, smart design, innovative technology, or even factors as base as newness, good looks, and slick marketing. I’m only human!

As much as I love running shoes, I just can’t get excited about the Brooks Ghost 4.

I think my first pair of Brooks was the Ghost 3 in the white, lime green, and blue colorway. Small pops of color, often seriously heinous color, was par for the course in running shoe design at the time, so I considered these shoes to be pretty neat looking. They also performed like champs, so I really couldn’t complain.

Fast forward to (I think) early 2012. I went to my favorite local running store for my first real shoe fitting there. Instead of just picking a shoe off of the wall based on a Runner’s World review, an expert would analyze my gait and make some shoe recommendations tailored to my needs. I’d been running in the O.G. Brooks Pure Flow and I was looking for another minimal-esque shoe. The store employee who handled my shoe fitting didn’t listen to me. He served up the Brooks Ghost 4 for its mild pronation control and not only was it the most boring looking shoe on the wall, but it was way more shoe than I was looking for. Not wanting to ignore a pro’s advice, I bought the shoes despite not really digging them. I’d had a good experience with the Ghost 3, so the Ghost 4 probably would work just as well once I got over what I perceived as their lameness.

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Problem was, I didn’t get over it. I ran in the shoes for a little while (this was when I ran only a couple of times per week) and went back to the same store for another fitting at the same store. A different employee helped me and I walked out with a pair of shoes I loved, the more performance-oriented, flashier Mizuno Wave Elixir 7 which I loved so much I stuck with through version 8, after which the model was discontinued. I have a pair of Elixir 8s that I wore for one ten mile race that I’m hoarding until quit grieving and give in and try the Wave Sayonara (maybe before the Sayonara 2 comes out?). But I digress!

Point is, I never really gave the Ghost 4 a chance. In 2013 I realized that I wouldn’t feel good about throwing this shoe away or giving it away since it was still in such good shape. So I put it in my rotation…occasionally. And that’s where it’s stayed. I run in this solid workhorse trainer only every once in a while. Because I think it’s ugly. Yes, really.

And seriously, isn’t it?

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The Good:
-Price: If you can find this discontinued shoe, it’s sure to be steeply discounted.
-Sole: Plenty of rubber which has held up well against my sole-chewing stride and which offers a sure-footed grip even in the rain
-Comfort: No pain after a 15-mile run when long runs weren’t a regular thing for me. Lots of protection and a bit of pronation control is a recipe for a run-all-day shoe. Despite the Ghost 4’s weight, I forget that it’s on my feet when I’m running. It doesn’t blow my mind with pillowy softness; it just quietly gets the job done.

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The Bad:
-Looks: Compared to all of the flashy competitive options available today, this conservative shoe is a snore.
-Laces: Ugly gray stripes (plain white would have been much better) and entirely too long. Strange that Brooks would whiff on something so simple.

The Bottom Line:
If you can get past the looks of these ugly ducklings, you’ll love how they fly, er, run. Sorry for the throwback review of a discontinued model, but hopefully this gives you a sense of what the Ghost family is like when you look at the current model. And who knows, maybe a comparison of the Ghost 4 and the Ghost 6 is in the future!