Friday, November 1, 2013

Shoe Review - Brooks Ghost 4

Advertised Weight:  11.5 oz. (size not specified)
Actual Weight:  11.9 oz. (men's 9.5)
Heel-toe drop:  11.1 mm

Miles Logged:  ~300
Tagline:  "Friendly to a variety of runners across the neutral spectrum, this shoe delivers bounce and balance."

I got these shoes roughly two years ago, and by now, the Ghost 6 has been released.  So you're not likely to read this review and then go out and buy them, because by now, you won't find them.  Still, you might get an idea of the Ghost line from this, and I mostly write these reviews for fun anyway.  In any case, here's a review of an everyday trainer that can be used for almost anything.

The fit of the Ghost 4 is very standard; almost exactly what you would expect.  The few exceptions are at the toe and heel, both of which are a little roomy.  Lots of people tend to like a roomy toebox, only I personally found it to have a little too much room, not that it was uncomfortable or negatively affects my running, but it just seemed like an unnecessary amount of space.  With the heel, it doesn't quite form a grip, so your heel is going to slip just a bit on every step.  Still, it seems like that's done by design, like that's supposed to happen, and the rest of the shoe fits so well you don't feel like anything is anywhere it shouldn't be.  And as soon as your foot comes off the ground, the shoe snaps right back into place against your heel.  It takes a little getting used to, but it becomes a non-issue, and overall, the shoe has a good fit and feel.

Like many/most/all Brooks shoes, this one feels pretty cushy.  I always feel like I'm almost sinking into a Brooks shoe.  That being said, they're some of the most comfortable shoes I've ever worn when it comes to point of impact.  When this shoe first came out, Brooks was making a lot about its new DNA gel.  If that's the stuff making these shoes as comfy as they are for long runs, I call that stuff a huge success.  Two generations later, they're still using it, so it must be good stuff.

With a traditional drop, these shoes are probably intended for heel-strikers first, midfoot-strikers are OK too.  That being said, there's hardly any pronation control (if any), so it does have a natural feel to it.  The shoe does have a slightly wide base, so if you're new to a neutral shoe or something with a more natural ride, this provides a touch of stability and could be a good transition into a shoe that offers "less."

On the outsole, Brooks elects to use a fairly durable material throughout, with a slightly aggressive tread for a road shoe.  This makes the shoe last longer and overall makes it ready for any surface, though it does add a little weight (more on that later).  I've run on nearly every surface with this shoe - track, concrete, asphalt, packed dirt, loose gravel, and sand - and it handles all of them reasonably well, if not admirably.  These are truly a do-anything, run-anywhere shoe.

The weight is somewhat of a concern - 12 ounces is a little high for any road shoe.  And I'm personally trying to make a transition to somewhat lower-drop shoes, so anything above 10 mm is a little excessive, and I generally try to stay between 4-8 mm.  That being said, when I go on vacation and only bring one pair of running shoes, this is the pair I bring.  I can lace these up and do pretty much any run with confidence.  And since these shoes are primarily intended for training, extra weight isn't such a big deal.  I like it when on race day, I put on my lighter shoes and instantly get a speed boost.

If it were up to me, I'd reduce the width, shrink the toebox a little, lower the drop to 8 mm, and probably find ways to shed weight on both the upper and the outsole, thereby reducing the shoe's weight to around 10.5 ounces (a very small amount of research indicates that describes the Ghost 6 very well).  But that's bordering on nitpicky.  This shoe is meant for every day, all-purpose training, and if a little extra helps it accomplish that, I'll allow it.  I like this shoe a lot, especially its versatility, but it's a little too conservative/safe to allow me to put it over the top.  Good, not great.

Oh, and it only came in white.  Boo!  Not only is white boring, but white shoes don't stay white for long.  Fortunately, this has since been fixed in later models (sort of - they're still not pretty).

Bottom Line
Thumbs up
Best Use:  everyday trainer, pavement first, trail capable, perhaps long races (if speed is not a concern)
Pros:  comfortable, overall good fit, versatility
Cons:  a little heavy, possibly too much room in toebox and heel, higher drop than some might like, just a little "too much shoe" in all facets, poor color