By Brian Metzler
Quick question: What’s the best-selling running shoe in America? Well, given the headline of this review, you probably figured out that it’s the Brooks Ghost, a cushy, neutral-oriented everyday trainer that has, for many years, set the bar for comfort, cushioning and a middle-of-the-pack coolness. (Yes, the Nike Pegasus is up there too, but Ghost is definitely No. 1.) I won’t drop any figures here, but there are a LOT of Ghosts sold every year. And with good reason – it’s a great, reliable shoe that can fit the needs of many types of runners.
It’s no surprise that the success of the Ghost parallels the rise of Brooks to the No. 1 spot among brands sold at running specialty stores over the past 12 years or so. Back around 2008, most brands were focused on creating the ultimate minimalist shoe during the “Born to Run” era. Brooks certainly dabbled in that area, too, but the Ghost arose from the need for a well-cushioned, do-everything workhorse built with a modern design ethos. The Ghost might not stay on top forever – running shoe technology, materials and trends are changing all the time – but it’s a legacy shoe that’s earned a place in the pantheon of memorable models. Certainly, no runner would do wrong by having a Ghost in their quiver.
What’s New: The newest aspects of the Ghost 15 are the introduction of the new DNA Loft v2 midsole cushioning and a refined 3D Fit Print air mesh upper. The new foam is softer, lighter and a little bit springier than the original composition. It’s soft enough to be comfortable and responsive, but it’s also firm enough to be stable. The stretchy upper is soft and seamless, offering a great deal of comfort as it forms around the unique shape of a runner’s foot and has just enough structure to contribute to the shoe’s locked-down security.
Why It’s Great: It’s great because it’s a comfortable, smooth-riding and reliable shoe that doesn’t have any major flaws. And, for the considerable durability it offers, the price tag ($140) is a relative bargain. It can be a go-to everyday training shoe for casual runners and marathoners alike, no matter what your mileage or pace might be. It can also be a great easy-run shoe or faster, for advanced runners. It’s not as soft and plush as the Brooks Glycerin 20, but it also doesn’t have the higher price tag ($160) of that premium-level shoe. The bottom line? The Ghost is a versatile shoe that can chop the wood and carry the water necessary for a lot of your running needs.
Fit-Feel-Ride: The Ghost 15 fits true to size and has a medium volume from heel to toe, although it feels slightly more snug in the midfoot/arch area and slightly more roomy in the toe box. The step-in feel is soft and luxurious and it remains one of the most comfortable everyday training shoes available on the market. The updated engineered mesh upper and a modified lacing system create a more compact and cozier fit for a variety of foot shapes. Although it has a higher heel-toe offset (12mm) than many shoes on your local running store’s shoe wall, it doesn’t feel awkwardly high in the heel and allows for an easy to moderate heel-striking gait style. The ride is very similar to the previous versions of the Ghost – buttery soft, elegantly smooth and extremely shock-absorbing. The full-length DNA Loft v2 midsole serves up a mildly energetic vibe in every stride, making it more conducive to tempo-paced running than previous versions of the shoe. The toe-off sensation feels less mushy and more snappy than previous versions. But the most important feature of the Ghost 15 is the consistent, comfortable ride from the first mile to the last.
Why You’ll Love It: It’s a terrific do-everything shoe that you can run in every day, even if it might not be a shoe you’ll want to run in every day. The Ghost actually started as a much leaner and faster shoe. But its debut came at a time when Brooks had considered dumping the lightweight and very affordable Launch shoe (which actually disappeared from the line for several years). However, as the minimalist boom was happening, runners and running stores were simultaneously craving shoes that had more cushioning. Brooks continued to adapt the Ghost, evolving it with more (and better) foam and a wider footprint, thus making it more accommodating to a wider range of runners for a wider range of paces. In doing so, it remained light enough to run some faster types of runs and cushy enough to run as long as your heart desires.
Brooks Ghost 15
Weights: 8.8 oz. women’s 8; 9.8 oz. men’s 9
Heel-Toe Offset: 12mm (34mm in the heel, 22mm in the forefoot)
Pro: It’s softer and lighter than before. Runners who appreciate a soft, smooth and reliable neutral-oriented training shoe will really like the Ghost 15. The slight refinements make it an exceptional high-mileage trainer, a shoe that’s just light and nimble enough for some types of faster running but also excels as a comfy shoe for recovery runs. It’s a smidge lighter than last year’s edition, helping it become slightly more agile. Softer and lighter are almost always better, especially when it comes to training shoes, especially on long runs.
Con: OK, let’s face it, the Ghost isn’t an especially fast shoe. You can run fast in it, but it takes more effort. When it comes to everyday trainers, it falls somewhere in the middle when it comes to running at faster paces. It’s not slow or sluggish, but it’s not the shoe you’d choose to run mile repeats or a fartlek session. Can you run a tempo-paced run in it? Yes. Can you run a half marathon or marathon in it? Absolutely. But it just doesn’t have the speed-oriented chops for high-performance running.