Brooks Levitate 6 Review: Mileage May Vary
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Weighs 10.5 oz. (298 g.) for a US M9 / 9.5 oz. (269 g.) for a US W8
Lighter DNA AMP v2 midsole… but is it better?
We can all agree that the upper has it going on
It’s firm, but when does firmness become stiffness?
Available now for $150
RENALDO: Welp, it’s finally happened. Brooks has made a shoe I can sing praises about. The newest iteration in their neutral trainer line, the Brooks Levitate 6, has officially gained a fan in this road runner. In the past, I’ve been very open about my lack of experience with Brooks and embracing the chance to dive into each shoe I get from them. I’ve found that their comfort and “ease of use” come up second to none. Everyone loves them, and everyone has them. I even bought my mom a pair.
However, for all that comfort, there was always something about the Brooks line of products that I would have a small nitpick about. A little too firm, too clunky, and too “normal,” if that makes any sense. But this time, they hit it out of the park, and I’m excited to tell you about it.
KALEB: Brooks is one of those brands up there on the heels of death and taxes — most runners will find themselves in a Brooks shoe at least once in their lives. It’s almost inevitable. It’s not surprising, seeing as Brooks targets its shoes toward the average runner. Everyone — even the best of the best — has passed through that demographic at some point.
However, when you’re aiming at such a broad audience, you’re also bound to get a wide range of opinions. I have friends who have fallen in love with their Brooks and never moved on, and I have other friends who claim to have found “a scientific link between Brooks and plywood.” The Brooks Levitate 6 was my first foray into the polarized world of the Seattle-based brand, and I went into it with an open mind. Was that a mistake? Read on and see.
SAM: Brooks, Brooks, Brooks. We meet again. Like most runners, Brooks was my gateway into the running universe. Like Charon ferrying the souls of the dead to the underworld, Brooks ferried me into a lifelong love of running. After my first pair way back in the day, I left to try out countless other brands and shoes, only returning post-injury when the Adrenaline GTS nursed me back to health. Needless to say, I’ve been out of the loop with Brooks for a long time. Will the Levitate 6 be the shoe to bring me back to the brand that started it all?
RENALDO: Let’s start with the tech. The Brooks Levitate 6 has a lighter midsole with Brook’s DNA AMP v2 foam. 10% lighter, to be exact. Considering they added 2 mm more foam to the midsole for a more comfortable ride while keeping the shoe light and snappy, I like to think it’s a pretty amazing feat. And, once again, that Brooks comfort shines through with its amazing creel mesh upper, giving the shoe that “glass slipper” feel from the first wear the brand is known for.
The main event for me was actually running in this shoe. I was shocked at how well it felt to run in compared to something like the Brooks Ghost 15 — another neutral trainer that felt too bulky and blocky for me. The Levitate 6, on the other hand, had just the right amount of give and squish on the road, making me feel supported while not having to think about how I wanted to take a turn or hill.
KALEB: Renaldo covered a good bit of the tech: lighter midsole foam, bouncier ride, and more stack. I’ll move from the bottom up with my thoughts.
In the Levitate 5 review, Aldren mentioned that the rubber coverage wasn’t sufficiently grippy. Either Brooks read his review and made the change for version 6, or someone spilled superglue into the rubber formula. This stuff is GRIPPY, and the coverage is sufficient. While I didn’t get the opportunity to take it on a rainy run, it’s a 10/10 rubber formula in my book, and I have no doubt it would rise to the challenge.
Moving up, DNA AMP v2 certainly is an interesting foam. And by interesting, I mean firm. I typically log my miles in the Saucony Ride 14, which is in the top five firmest running shoes on the market. I’m okay with a firm midsole, and I think firm foams get a bad rap. The DNA AMP v2 in the Levitate’s midsole felt just as firm, or even firmer — though I don’t have the numbers to back that up — than my Ride, but it had more of a bounce to it.
Despite my negative experiences with the shoe (more on that later), I enjoyed the idea behind the ride of the Levitate 6. I liked how the foam reacted as I ran, even if I wasn’t a fan of how it was executed in this shoe. Brooks markets this as an “Energy” shoe, meant to have some spring to it, and I can see where they were going with that. I’d be interested to see Brooks use DNA AMP v2 in a slightly lower-stack shoe model; I think that’s where it would truly shine.
As for the upper, the fit is what I’d call slim. It’s not narrow, but it holds the foot well and breathes nicely. No complaints about the last. It’s the tongue and laces where things got a little messy…
SAM: I’ll keep it real with you, dear reader. I don’t have much to put here, but I will try my best. Reno and Kaleb have made some great points already, and what I would like to add is that there was a subtle stability I felt while running in this shoe. We’re reviewing the neutral option, while the GTS option will come from Aldren and Mercer. Despite that, I thought this shoe had a smooth and stable ride. It is a lower stack shoe, and the midsole is on the firmer side (foreshadowing my cons), so this encourages a quick transition that keeps your foot moving through your stride and not bogged down.
Personally, I was a big fan of the upper and lace lockdown. I think that the fit of shoes is something that Brooks has always knocked out of the park, and I would argue that they do it again here. The laces are a great length, the tongue fit my ankle well, and there were no hotspots throughout the upper. Like Goldilocks, the fit of this shoe was not too hot and not too cold, but just right. The last comment on the upper is on the Holiday colorway, which I loved. I got several compliments walking around in these shoes during the holiday season, but I would love to see Brooks branch out to other holidays as well. There’s no overt Christmas imagery, but a red and white shoe represents only one holiday.Shop Brooks Levitate 6 – Men Shop Brooks Levitate 6 – Women
RENALDO: Honestly, there isn’t much here that I didn’t like. At 10.9 oz, though, I’m sure some folks wouldn’t reach for this shoe on a tempo day. But the energy return from the DNA AMP v2 foam, combined with the firmer forefoot for a snappier toe off could make this shoe a contender for someone wanting a little pep in their step on a long run or a group run with a couple of speedy friends. I took my pair on a 10 miler not too long ago and was hitting nice paces at a comfortable clip without noticing any extra “heft.”
The colorway selection is a little bland again. Your basic blacks, navy blues, greys, and all whites. However, I also got a pair of the Levitate 6 in the more seasonal Run Merry edition. A snow white upper, with gold snowflakes and a flannel interior. If you ever have the option, definitely go for that pair.
KALEB: As much as I wanted to like this shoe, my experiences in it didn’t rise to my expectations. The first thing I noticed was the stiffness of the shoe. As I said, I think firmness has become a bit of an unnecessary taboo with modern shoemaking when it’s the stiffness of a shoe that causes more issues. I’m not talking about “snappy, carbon-induced, energy-filled” stiff; I mean “work against the natural function of your foot” stiff. I think it’s the combination of the firmness, the bounciness, and the stack height. On paper, the three work well together, but on the road, I found that the shoe didn’t really work with my gait cycle.
I didn’t feel a proper toe-off as much as I was just trying to pick my foot up off the ground. Like I said, I think this issue could be solved by making the shoe a little lower-stack. This would let the sole flex with the foot while allowing for the springy benefits of DNA AMP v2 — and goodness knows it’s a firm enough foam not to bottom out. This would also help the nimbleness of the shoe; so much of such a firm compound didn’t let me take turns as cleanly as the rubber’s grip should have allowed.
I will also note that this stiffness issue caused the bottom of my right foot to flare up. While it’s certainly possible that the shoe itself wasn’t the original source of the pain, it definitely added to it.
Another thing that gets a bad rap is weight, but I would argue weight is only a problem if it’s not distributed well. I didn’t feel that this shoe was extremely heavy, but it did feel clunky. I tend towards a midfoot strike, but the shoe pushed me to strike more with my heel, and as I said, it never allowed for a great toe-off, either. Heel-striking runners may have a great experience in this shoe, but as far as personal experience, the ride wasn’t super intuitive.
The laces and tongue were the final — and biggest — issue I had with the Levitate 6. Some of the other problems could be fixed with a solid lockdown. The stiffness could become an aid, the cornering issues could be eliminated, and the clunky ride could also be helped if the shoe were fastened securely to the bottom of the foot. With that in mind, I cinched the laces to the max on my second run in the Levitate. Big mistake. The laces (which I don’t have a problem with other than that there are way too many eyelets to be conveniently tightened) put a bunch of pressure right through the thin tongue and onto the tendons on the top of my foot. During dorsiflexion (flexing the foot up), those tendons would strain into the laces, which were pretty unforgiving. It wasn’t until I took the shoes off that the pain hit, and it was bad enough that I took over a week off of running to heal back up.
Was it on me for tightening the laces beyond what was necessary? Almost definitely. Should a decent shoe be able to keep you from crippling yourself by attempting to lock in a performance fit? I certainly think so.
SAM: I am glad Reno likes this shoe because there’s a shoe for every person and a person for every shoe. Like Kaleb, the Levitate 6 is not the shoe for me. To continue with my honesty, I must say that I did not have a positive experience running in this shoe. Don’t be fooled by Brooks’s advertisements of running on literal springs. The only reason I felt energized running with this shoe on was that I desperately wanted to get home and take it off. As I mentioned before, the ride of this shoe is very efficient and has a quick transition. This comes, in my opinion, from the incredibly firm midsole packed into this shoe. It pushes you through your stride because there is little cushion in the heel and no cushion in the forefoot.
I would also argue that this shoe is too heavy to be considered energizing. My US M9.5 came in around 11 oz, and with a midsole stack that I would guess is in the low 30 mm range in the heel and mid-20 mm in the forefoot, that’s too much mass packed into too little space. Energizing shoes like the Novablast 3, Magic Speed 2, Endorphin Speed 2, and Deviate Nitro 2 are doing more with less weight than the Levitate 6. If every other company can do it, even with adding a plate to some of these shoes, I know Brooks can as well. Also, paying $150 for a firm, lower-stack shoe with no plate feels wrong.
Lastly, I want to add that I could not escape this shoe without an injury. I have been doing 70-90 mile weeks recently without issues, but after the two runs I wore these for, my right knee was so sore I had to take the day off. Take that as you may, but this is not a shoe I will return to again.Shop Brooks Levitate 6 – Men Shop Brooks Levitate 6 – Women
RENALDO: This is my favorite Brooks shoe so far. It has the comfort of the Ghost 15 and Glycerin 20 without the blockiness that I tend to notice in both of those shoes. At $150, I’d say the Brooks Levitate 6 is a “can’t miss” option for someone looking for a neutral daily trainer to help them reach their running goals in 2023.
KALEB: The fact that Renaldo enjoyed this shoe so much proves that there are probably certain runners or running forms that this shoe is better suited for than my own. The three of us had generally contradictory experiences in the Levitate, and that goes to show that every runner’s needs are unique. It also shows that it isn’t the shoe for as wide an audience as Brooks is aiming for. I’m not going to tell fans of the Levitate series not to buy the latest iteration, nor will I go out of my way to recommend it to anyone. The issues I had with it may have originated with the shoe or been exacerbated by it.
Regardless of where the blame lies, if I dedicate the bulk of my miles to a daily trainer, I want it to work with me even after a few aches and pains.
SAM: The Brooks Levitate 6 did not have me levitating. I felt like I had cinderblocks strapped to my feet, and a mafioso was about to toss me into the Baltimore harbor. I’m encouraged to see Brooks coming out with new midsole technology, but I know they can do better than this. I will end by saying that Brooks’s idea behind the DNA midsole is that it adapts to your specific foot and your specific stride. While this wasn’t the shoe for Kaleb and me, it was for Reno. At the end of the day, your opinion is just as important, so head to your local running store and give it a try yourself (support small businesses). Though for $150, I believe you can and will find something better.
You can pick up the Brooks Levitate 6 for $150 at Running Warehouse (featuring free 2-day shipping and 90-day returns) by using the shop link below.Shop Brooks Levitate 6 – Men Shop Brooks Levitate 6 – Women
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Kaleb is one of the younger, “both of my knees still work” reviewers on the BITR team. As a high school cross country, track and field, and road racing athlete in Pennsylvania, Kaleb loves hearing about the latest endurance-athletics studies and seeing how everything out there can fit into a well-rounded training program. If you don’t see him drinking a weird health concoction or doing some strange warmup technique, he’s probably already started the race.
All-time favorite shoes: Saucony Ride 14, Nike ZoomX DragonflyMore from Kaleb
Renaldo is a running enthusiast that’s enthusiastic about pretty much everything. Born and raised Baltimore, Renaldo still resides in his home city and has shared miles with a good chunk of the Baltimore running community. A captain in A Tribe Called Run run group, Renaldo can easily be spotted running with Faster Bastards, Believe Run Club, or doing a solo long run through Baltimore’s midtown. If you spot him, be sure to give him a big “REEENOOO!” or challenge him to a game of pool 🎱
All-time favorite shoes: Hoka Mach 4, Skechers Razor Excess 2, Asics Noosa Tri 13More from Renaldo