Once upon a time, in this place called "Canada", Brooks' shoes spent more time outrunning a questionable reputation than running the streets on people's feet. To be fair, Brooks has always had a strong catalog, with their fallout resulting from a series of organizational decisions that have long since been rectified. As Fit Specialists in one of Ottawa's premiere specialty running stores, I can recall countless sessions assuring our customers that the brand was a legitimate competitor on the footwear industry, and not some Walmart 30-day-throw-away. Fast-forward to 2018, and the stigma has finally run its course, with much credit to a strong, running focused product line that has truly blossomed with time.
When you have a stable of strong performers, made up of both veteran models and youthful ingenuity (we're looking at you, Levitate), it can be hard to pick a standout, and yet the Ghost 11 rises above the pack with winning a combination of style and function. For all of this shoe's virtues, here are 5 of the top reasons I love the Brooks Ghost 11:
5. DNA Loft
In the last few years, Brooks has released some real standouts when it comes to cushioning technology. For the Ghost, the company's new DNA Loft cushioning not only reduces the weight of the shoe, but adds a uniquely plush ride that also does a great job of resisting compression set thanks to the incorporation of rubber into the EVA mixture. In simple terms, it's cushy and it stays cushy for a long time.
4. The upper
When it comes to footwear, the upper materials play a large part in how well things are going to fit, which kinda makes sense since it's the part of the shoe that covers your foot. Often times, it can be hard to find the perfect balance between a comfortable, non-restrictive fit and that feeling of support that most runners crave. The Ghost solves this puzzle by utilizing a mesh top that incorporates an appropriate measure of elasticity, allowing the material to expand around the wider parts of the foot while securing the slimmer regions in an sock-like fashion. It also helps that the material has a pleasant heathered look to it, which is a nice departure from the traditional "running shoe" look we're so used to seeing. Very classy, Brooks.
3. Orthotic friendly
When I first started working at Sports 4 I noticed a few strange things, one of which was that our customers seemed to enjoy taking the sample shoes off the wall and trying to fold them in half. It turns out that, contrary to my initial belief, these people were NOT reveling in the destruction of our wall displays, but testing the structural rigidity of the shoes. Shocking.
When fitting up someone with orthotics (custom molded insoles), it's important that the footwear has the appropriate amount of stiffness in the mid-foot region of the shoe. It's also important that this mid-foot area also be wide enough to provide a base for the orthotic, otherwise your $10000000 piece of custom work won't be able to do its job properly. What's impressive about the Ghost 11 is how broad this area is, especially when compared to its predecessor. While it may not be replacing its straight lasted cousin, the Dyad (blasphemy!!), it does a fantastic job of giving most custom insoles the foundation they require.
Many runners have often pondered "Why do these companies always mess around with a good thing? If it works, then why can't you just leave it alone??". And while I can sympathize with a brand's need to maintain relevancy in an increasingly competitive industry, I can also understand the qualms most people have with drastic changes to perfectly good shoes.
When it comes to creating a fresh product, with a dash of familiarity, Brooks seems to balance both elements with grace. The Ghost has remained true to its traditional running shoe roots, maintaining a higher offset profile (12 mm for this year), a robust stack height, and a well structured body, but the aforementioned changes to the upper, introduction of an improved cushioning system, and overall visual enhancements keep this shoe exciting. If you want to convert runners to your brand, take a page out of the Ghost Bible.
1. AVAILABLE IN WIDTHS!!!!
When we talk about "wide shoes" or "shoes that come in wide", we're probably talking about New Balance. Yeah, I know other brands make "widths" in select models, but it's hard to argue that NB hasn't had an iron grip hold on that portion of the industry. In particular, the 880 has been the definitive ruler of the roost, especially on the men's side with its ever spacious 4E (extra wide) variant...that is until Brooks decided they wanted a piece of that sweet apple pie.
To be clear, the Ghost has almost always come in widths, but I wondered why they opted to forgo the extra-wide option in favor of the less common narrow sizing. This year, someone decided to go all out and bring us a 4E that truly delivers in all aspects, from base width to overall toebox volume. As someone who appreciates a shoe that can offer size flexibility, this is probably one of the most exciting additions to a model that has already made a case for being the best-in-class. The only thing missing is a 2E variant for the women's Ghost, but then again, there's always next year.