Brooks' marketing pitch: Same smooth ride and balanced feel with a plush interior and refined upper.
Upper: Engineered mesh, molded foam, filmic laminates, synthetic leather.
Midsole: Dual density compression molded EVA foam.
Outsole: Hard carbon rubber under heel, softer blown rubber under forefoot.
Weight: 334 gms/ 12 Oz for a half pair of Men's US 10/UK 9/EUR 44/CM 27
Widths available: B-narrow, D - regular (reviewed), 2E- Wide.
As far as being marketable goes, the Brooks Ghost 9 lags behind its peers. It doesn’t have the seductive responsiveness of the adidas Boost foam or Nike Zoom Air bags, nor does it have the visual impact of Asics Gel and the Mizuno Wave plate.
And yet, the Ghost has a few things going for it.
In an age when most shoes have stripped down their material package to a bare minimum – rubber-less outsoles and all that – Brooks seems to have completely ignored that memo.
On an aesthetic level, the Ghost 9 lords over other shoes in this price band. The upper mesh is plush, and the tongue and heel sections offer luxurious accommodations.
Underneath, a complex midsole design uses old school compression molding to produce a dual density midsole. And Brooks uses outsole rubber like it’s going out of fashion tomorrow. The whole shoe has a premium look and feel unmatched by any other $120 shoe.
The entire shoe is over-engineered and structured in design, and we do mean this in a positive way.
Functionally speaking, the Ghost 9 harkens back to the good old days when all one expected of a running shoe was a comfortable upper blended with an uncomplicated ride quality.
It isn’t the lightest shoe around, and the midsole doesn’t have cushioning superpowers. But what you get is a good all-rounder with very less to dislike. The upper is an improvement over the outgoing Ghost 8, and the midsole maintains its padded, yet supportive ride character.
The nutshell is that the Ghost 9 crams in a lot of value for its price. It is a sturdily built, daily use shoe with a no fuss ride quality and spacious upper. That combination makes it suitable for medium paced workouts, including the occasional long one.
The term ‘comparable model’ is used in the chart loosely, with the goal of laying out some of the neutral cushioning alternatives. That said, there has never been so much variety when it comes to the sheer breadth of upper fit and ride quality.
The Asics Cumulus 18 is soft and flat. The adidas Glide Boost 8 is medium soft and responsive. The UA Gemini has shades of the Brooks Ghost 9 when it comes to the firm ride.
The current trend is that the $110-$130 price-band has become the new battleground for running shoe brands. Everyone’s trying to cram their signature cushioning tech into their $120 hero shoe. Be it a full Boost foam midsole, dual Zoom Air bags or front and rear visi-Gel pads, brands are bringing their A-game to this price point.
There’s something which the Ghost 9 does very differently than most of the shoes – it feels very neutral. Here’s why.
Considering the balanced midsole design, it has none of the laterally biased lean experience which is now all too commonplace. It won’t be a stretch to say the Brooks Ghost and Glycerin are the most neutral of all neutral shoes.
DESIGN AND MATERIALS
Brooks took the last year’s Ghost 8 upper and further relieved it of layers. The toe-bumper is now made of a single material with a revised pattern, replacing the previous synthetic strip+laminate version.
The multiple strips over the forefoot have been eliminated. In its place is a spongier, open-pored engineered mesh with no overlays, increasing the Ghost 9’s ventilation in the process.
The midfoot and eyestay gets the synthetic detox treatment too. A film-like strip fused to the mesh supports the midfoot, and the lacing eye-stay is built using molded mesh instead of rigid synthetic. For added reinforcement, the Ghost 9 lacing area has molded TPU on top to prevent fraying.
It isn’t just the lacing eyestay which has changed, but the eyelets too. The Brooks Ghost 8 had these ‘speed-loops’ built into the panel; the Ghost 9 replaces them with regular eyelets.
The tongue has no sleeve tethering it inside the upper, and yet tongue slide isn’t a problem. Brooks uses a unique feature in the form of a lace-loop which keeps the tongue from sliding.
When tongue slides happen on other shoes, it does so towards the outer side. A small loop locking the laces prevents the Ghost 9’s tongue from burrowing itself deep inside the lateral upper.
The rearfoot upper is softer too. The Ghost 9 gets rid of multiple synthetic overlays and substitutes most of that with a molded mesh material. Brooks also has an updated heel collar fabric which resembles the soft kind used on the more expensive Glycerin.
Reflectivity gets an upgrade over the Ghost 8. The heel has ample doses of it in the form of strips stacked vertically.
The Ghost 9’s midsole is built using two densities of compression molded EVA foam. Sure, Brooks calls this DNA foam, but it’s basically a form of EVA. There used to be a time when Brooks used a Gel insert by the same name (DNA), so you mustn’t confuse the two.
If you look at the way the midsole foam is stacked, the new design bears a closer resemblance to the Ghost 7 than the 8. The Ghost 9 now comes with a separate medial crash pad like the Ghost 7, which is a departure from the single density design of the Ghost 8.
Under the arch, the midsole flares upwards in a slight curve. This design revision leads to a small increase in under-arch support over the Ghost 8.
The outsole is generously rubber-clad with a familiar layout. The lug design has been updated, though. The outsole lugs are now smaller and densely packed, compared to the bigger lugs and the relatively open layout of the Ghost 8.
The Ghost 9 has excellent grip performance, as the case is for most Brooks shoes. The softer compound combined with the rubber lug design delivers excellent traction under most conditions.
Brooks outsole has always been less durable than the others in the industry. However, the redesigned outsole lugs placed closer together on the Ghost 9 does a better job at delaying wear and tear.
The midsole is like regular foam, so over time there will be a decline in cushioning performance. But taking into account the firm quality of the foam used, it is unlikely that the midsole will go flat before 500 miles. The first point of failure will likely be outsole wear.
You should not encounter any short-term issues with the Ghost 9’s upper. The upper is solidly built using a premium material package, and there aren’t any stress areas.
UPPER FIT AND FEEL
In the front, the toe-box gets more vertical room so the foot doesn’t feel as pinned down as inside the last year’s Ghost 8.
The fit change is caused by the redesigned toe-box and forefoot, where the lack of overlays over the (new) open-pored mesh creates additional space. Apart from the extra space, the new mesh feels more comfortable over the foot.
The midfoot goes easy on some of the previous fit pressure and stiffness. There are a couple of things working together here; the first is the updated lacing panel. Changing that part from a thick synthetic to molded foam decreases stiffness.
Secondly, the Brooks Ghost 9 no longer has the speed lace loops of the Ghost 8. So the lacing pressure is now evenly spread, instead of tightly cinching the mid-section.
With the material update, the collar fit feels plusher than the Ghost 8. The grip is no problem either; the collar walls have ample foam padding. If one needed extra grip around the ankles, then the revised placement of the last eyelet assists in heel-lock lacing.
There are a few welcome fit changes on the Ghost 9’s toe-box and forefoot.
The toe-box is wider due to the larger open mesh area, as opposed to the layered design of the Ghost 8.
The 2015 Ghost 8’s bumper also extended further over the toe-box sides. As a result, the big toe felt hemmed-in on the G-8. That isn’t the case anymore on the G-9 because of the toned-down bumper design.
Even for a standard D width, the Brooks Ghost 9 is a spacious shoe. Compared to the previous versions, the forefoot has a lot more room owing to its deconstructed design.
And just in case you wanted a narrower (or an even wider) version, multiple widths are available – ranging from B to 2E.
RIDE QUALITY AND BEHAVIOR
Most will not notice the ride difference between the Ghost 8 and 9. That said, the forefoot is slightly firmer, and the heel is marginally softer.
As noted in last year’s review, the Ghost 8 was firmer than the Ghost 7. In a way, the Ghost 9 is similar to the Ghost 7, increasing rear-foot softness due to the separate crash pad.
The midsole foam doesn’t have a whole lot of give. The ride quality can be categorized as medium-soft, where you get more than adequate cushioning and ground insulation but minus the mushiness.
Ok, we’ll be blunt. This is one area where you shouldn’t get your hopes too high. The DNA set-up lacks any form of spring-back/rebound behavior. The DNA Gel based Brooks midsoles used to be responsive, but that’s now ancient history.
The most you get is a reassuring quality of padding muffling your run, and you should accept the Ghost 9 for what it is. In other words, it is a medium-soft neutral shoe with a no-frills ride behavior.
Remember what we said right at the start of this review? That the Ghost 9 is a very neutral shoe; the heel area is extremely supportive due to the midsole material and design.
The shoe does not have a bias towards either side – both the lateral and medial sides are supportive. While the Ghost 9 will work for most runner profiles, its firm and supportive ride makes it a great shoe for heavier runners.
Conventional wisdom states that softer shoes are better for heavier runners; solereview disagrees. Firm and supportive is functionally better than soft and wobbly, no matter what the bodyweight is.
Design features such as an articulated (grooved) outsole with smaller lugs aid the firm and supportive midsole to achieve a smooth quality of transition.
PROS AND CONS
With the shoe’s balanced approach towards its design, there aren’t any negatives worthy of note. The Ghost 9 has a lot of material and aesthetic niceties, which is rare for a $120 these days. The upper fits better than the last version, and the ride is satisfyingly cushioned and supportive if not exceptional.
The downside of owning most Brooks shoes applies to the Ghost 9 as well. The outsole tends to shred faster than, say, an Asics, Nike or Saucony. And there’s the subject of shoe weight. All that structural over-engineering has a trade-off, with the Ghost 9 crossing 12 oz for a half pair of US 10.
Within Brooks’ assortment, you have access to the familiar pairing of the Ghost-Glycerin, with the Glycerin 14 being a more cushioned version of the Ghost. On the speedier side, the Hyperion is the perfect accompaniment to the Ghost. Both the Glycerin 14 and Hyperion have a supportive ride despite its neutral categorization.
In the outside world, the Nike Vomero 11 is the shoe to buy if you need a cushioned and responsive ride. And instead of the Hyperion, we suggest the adidas Boston 6 Boost – a shoe which deploys the tried and tested Boost platform in a lightweight package.
Is the Brooks Ghost 9 an improvement over the 7 and 8? The answer is a resounding yes.
While the ride quality hasn’t changed much, the upper does the world of good by freeing up more space. The wider and higher toe-box is something which most will find a welcome update, and the relaxed forefoot and midfoot is a bonus.
For a $30 up-charge over the Ghost ’s price, one gets the Glycerin 14. If softer cushioning (than the Ghost) is on your shopping radar, then, by all means, go for the G-14. Just be aware that the Glycerin 14’s plusher upper comes with less space inside the forefoot.
The Launch 3 is Brooks’ entry-level neutral model. It is positioned at the threshold where mid-weight neutrals end and lightweight racers begin.
So you’ll get a bit of both in the Launch 3, except for a firmer ride, snugger upper, and no optional widths. Given the different nature of the Launch, it works as another shoe to rotate and not a Ghost replacement.