By Austin Bonds
In years past, Brooks has used a pointed phrase to describe the feeling of the Ghost: “scary good.” While I can appreciate a good pun, I don’t fully agree with this sentiment when I consider the recent versions of this high mileage trainer. The sixth, seventh, and eighth rendition of the Ghost have not been to my liking compared to other models in the marketplace right now, but the Brooks Ghost 9 is another story. I’m actually inclined to say that it’s scary good as the changes for 2016 are solid and sound. Let’s have a closer look at this namesake model and year number nine.
Out of the box, the Brooks Ghost 9 is striking from a design standpoint. The Ultra Boost by Adidas casts a long shadow from an aesthetics standpoint, but the Brooks chevron is sharp, and it’s nicely accented by a dark blue (in one of the men’s color schemes). Needless to say, color is subjective and uniquely personal, but I believe that all runners appreciate an emphasis on the look of the final product – provided it is comfortable too.
Moving on to the upper, I’ll begin by remarking on one of the major improvements in the Brooks Ghost 9. This change concerns the joining of the tongue with the upper inside the shoe. The stitching in the Brooks Ghost 8 where these two pieces meet was uncomfortable across the top of the feet. After pulling version nine out of the box, I readily made it a point to reach down into the shoe and gauge the stitching – all felt as it should be. All felt good.
Since runners are generally curious about shoe weight, I sensed that the Ghost 9 might be lighter than its predecessor, but there was no change. I weighed a men’s 9.5 in version 8 and version 9, and observed both to be 11 ounces. Brooks is using an “engineered mesh upper” across the top of the shoe, along with minimal stitching, to provide more room for the feet. Speaking of room, the Ghost 9 feels wider than the Ghost 8. The tongue is still thick, but is softer to the touch, as is the area surrounding the heel. Plush fabric accounts for this. The laces are flat (again) and seven eyelets on each side of the upper make for a secure lacing platform and secure midfoot (more on this later).
What of the ride and feel underfoot? For that, I revert back to my initial phrase: “scary good.” Brooks carries the well-known BioMoGo DNA into the Ghost 9, but the shoe is softer (and quieter) upon impact. The cushioning in the heel and the forefoot are ample for whatever distance strikes your fancy; be it 2 miles or 22 miles, the Ghost is ready to go forth and fly.
Some shoes are easy to critique – the Brooks Neuro for instance. Thomas and Meaghan made some intriguing remarks on this unusual model in a February article. The Ghost is harder to criticize as it is generally free of major fit issues from one year to the next. But I will point out a few areas of note and their effect on the fit for the Brooks Ghost 9. First, as a male runner with a narrow foot type, the midfoot felt slightly wide to me, but I believe that the vast majority of runners will find the midfoot to their liking.
Second, as a mid to forefoot striker I have discovered that it’s possible to run efficiently (i.e. demonstrating good form) in any shoe, but I tend to favor those with a lower heel offset (4-8 millimeters). To my knowledge, the Brooks Ghost 9 will continue with a higher heel offset at what is likely to be 12 millimeters. Personally, I’d like to see this number fall in the coming years.
Finally, the life cycle of the Ghost’s midsole may continue to be an area of critique. I have a Ghost 8 with roughly 200 miles as of now, but what miles remain is what concerns me. I only managed about 250 miles in the Ghost 7 before I detected some knee pain that indicates – at least for me – that the midsole is nearing the end. 300-500 total miles in a running shoe is a guideline, but the Ghost has repeatedly fallen on the lower side of this spectrum. I hope the Ghost 9 will prove otherwise.
In summary, the Ghost 9 (still $120) is a solid update. The fit is better and the ride is softer; the toe box is spacious and the transition is fabulous. Maybe the drop will drop in time, but for now, I will appreciate the shoe for how it is currently constructed. That sounds like a good proposition. Or is it a scary good proposition?