Friendly Daily Runner, Mellow Daily Trainer with 9 Comparisons

Article by Dominique and Sam Winebaum

Brooks Running Ghost 15 ($140)

Key Highlights

  • New DNA Loft v2 midsole foam
  • Neutral, flexible, softer 12mm drop trainer 

Introduction

Sam: The Ghost is Brooks stalwart “traditional” daily trainer, so a shoe suitable for most runs, it has a 12mm drop from a stout 35mm heel and a flexible profile up front. I note that the Ghost 8 we reviewed in 2015 was $120, had about the same stack height and the 12mm drop, had prominent midsole stability features, and weighed 0.6 oz more. 

Over the years these basics have not changed but the ride has, particularly with the Ghost 14, a very soft almost mushy shoe with a voluminous mostly unstructured upper. 

On the surface, the 15 appears identical and by stats it is. Same weight, same stack height, same on the ground measurements and even an upper which “appears” almost identical.  The only hints of differences are a different midsole side wall geometry. 

Yet, there are 2 key changes that bring the Ghost forward: DNA Loft v2 foam as found in the trail Caldera 16 replacing DNA Loft  and for me a new fit to that identical appearing upper. 

Read on to find out how it all turned out. Is the Ghost back to be a solid daily trainer or it it, as the 14 was for me, a mellow, very mellow daily runner or.. did Brooks pull off both with this update?

Pros: 

Engineered mesh upper is well designed with a snug and comfortable fit Dominique/Sam

New foot shape appropriate fit:  upper now considerably more secure with a narrower more appropriate fit in regular, with wide also available Sam 

A great option for runners who gravitate toward a high drop shoe Dominique

Protective midsole with a soft feel Dominique/Sam

DNA Loft v2 is a touch firmer and considerably more dynamic than DNA Loft in 14 Sam

Smooth and fun ride Dominique

12 mm drop is quite frankly not noticed as such due to soft foam: Sam/Dominique

Good value Dominique

Increased pace range versatility: regains some front snap and pop, absent from 14 Sam

Cons:

Would prefer more stack height of cushion in the forefoot (and less drop), 23mm is pretty slim these days Dominique

Pleasingly soft and bouncy forefoot rubber could be firmer for more snap & durability: Sam

Stats

Approx. Weight: men’s 9.88 oz  / 280g (US9)  /  women’s 8.35 oz / 236 g (US8)

  Samples: men’s  9.63 oz / 274g US8.5, 

                  women’s 8.85 oz / 251g US9

Stack Height: men’s 35 mm heel / 23 mm forefoot, 12 mm drop

Available now $140 including at our partner Running Warehouse US HERE

First Impressions, Fit and Upper

Dominique: Brooks motto “Run Happy” is quite fitting testing the Ghost15!   This is my first introduction to Brooks’ most popular model which I would characterize as a traditional road shoe, i.e., a 12mm drop and flexible vs. modern high stack rigid rocker, but quite frankly I found it to be a crowd pleaser for its distinctly smooth and fun ride. 

True to size, the fit is extremely comfortable and quite secure.  The engineered mesh upper has a soft and supple feel with a good breathability factor, along with design features, such as 3D Fit Print, that enhance the shoe structure for added support.  

The well-padded collars and tongue create snug surroundings for my feet with the reinforced heel counter keeping them firmly grounded.  The shoelace system complements the overall design and feel of the upper with its extended line of eyelets – 6 + 1 heel lock – with flat shoelaces that glide quite well, all conducive to a comfortable and secure fit. 

 

In terms of looks, it is quite handsome in its simplicity, especially in my Peacoat/Pearl/Salt Air. The women’s version of the Ghost 15 is available in six (6) different colors, but most importantly, in three different widths for women: medium (1B), wide (1D), and narrow (2A).   It is well priced at $140. 

Sam: Dominique has described the upper well. Supple, quite unstructured as there is no gusset tongue or extensive overlays. As always with Brooks the upper is very comfortable, room and step in feel being a high priority for them, sometimes to a fault as far as I am concerned for actual running.  Looking at you Glycerin 20 and for sure Ghost 14 in regular mesh uppers which I found barely suitable for my narrower to medium feet for anything other than easy run paces.

So I went into the tests scared as there were no real differences in the upper design, mesh or overlays I could see. 

But once tried on for  an A/B test run one on each foot (RTR Video) it was clear Brooks reduced the volume of the upper just enough so that the fit was secure yet still very comfortable and accommodating. 

I am not sure a gusset tongue is needed but it is close. I do think more midfoot underlays would perfect the wrap. There are none now.

My narrower right foot still has a bit of excessive room (and a bit of tongue migration as a result)  while my left fits perfectly. 

I am true to size. This was not the case with the Ghost 14 and while yes I was a half size up from normal in the 14  the fit was very sloppy and voluminous on both feet. OK for walking and slower running but not much else. Not to worry, wider higher volume foot folks there is plenty of well held room in the regular fit and wide is available. I am glad Brooks “normalized” fit to something more reasonable and expected here. 

Midsole

Dominique: The midsole has been updated featuring DNA LOFT v2 cushioning, which is a blend of rubber, air, and EVA foam.  It is soft and lighter than its predecessor –  DNA LOFT.  This is my first pair of GHOST and I was definitely seduced by the softness of the cushioning and the smoothness of the ride. In terms of the thickness of the cushioning, given the stack height at 35mm/23 mm, I tend to prefer a higher stack height in the forefoot, and of course, less of a drop.  I would not characterize the cushioning as super plush or deep but it is soft with some firmness to it and very protective. 

Sam: The DNA Loft v2 midsole foam is the big update to the Ghost. While the Loft foam of the 14 was just plain soft and almost mushy, the v2 foam is a tiny touch firmer (confirmed in my A/B test) with considerably quicker rebound.  It is not the springy supercritical process rebound of DNA Loft v3 as found in the Glycerin 20 and trail Caldera 6 as it has a more rubbery bounce like feel. 

The midsole foam provides plenty of cushion at the heel. The forefoot, while only 23mm, is notably more forgiving than similar low front stack height high drop shoes such as the Wave Rider 26 or Nike Pegasus 39. The softer foam (and excellent heel crash pad and underfoot decoupling) also help mitigate any real sense that Ghost is a 12mm drop shoe. 

Interestingly, Pegasus Trail 4 has a similar softer rebound to its similarly thin stack forefoot. As the market moves to more cushioned higher stacks, and especially upfront with often 29mm or more front height (23mm here), Brooks compensates and also differentiates from most traditional daily trainers by going soft with the forefoot rubber which is about the same softness to pressing as the Ghost 14’s. Most all shoes in its category have firmer outsole rubber upfront and thus, when combined with their midsoles, have a firmer front feel and I find a snappier quicker forefoot response. More about this in the Ride section. 

Outsole

Dominique: The outsole is designed to promote smooth transitions from landing to toe-off.  The Crash Pad in the heel is made of hard rubber for landing whereas the midfoot and forefoot is made up of softer rubber generating a pleasant toe-off.  It is a great combination enhancing the smoothness of the ride. 

Sam: The outsole is very similar to the Ghost 14’s with firmer more durable rear rubber with the orange very slightly softer than the rear blue. 

The front rubber is a blown rubber type and quite soft.  I am already seeing some scuffing up front something I would not see on more conventional full rubber. It is very thick, providing lots of wear thickness  and clearly adds to the front cushion feel. To pressing, it feels a touch less firm than the Ghost 14’s. 

I do note that the front cross bars of rubber are now full coverage thus fuller contact without the grooves in each pad (lighter red above) of the 14. 

This, in combination with the midsole geometry, makes the Ghost 15 a bit stiffer and this is a good thing for me as it gives the 15 a more snappy response than the 14 which was down right mushy and soft up front. 

Ride

Dominique: Even though I tend to be judgmental about a drop in the double digits, the 12 mm drop is barely noticeable, unlike competitors at the same drop such as the Mizuno Wave Rider 26 (RTR Review).  I am really enjoying the ride and was able to keep up with my friend who is much faster than me, running a six miler at a 9:35 min/mile pace, in comparison to my regular pace of 11 min/mile. It has a very stable ride and is preferably for heel strikers given the high drop.

Sam: As I ran the Ghost 15 I thought of a review title and came up with “Friendly Daily Runner, Mellow Daily Trainer.”. By this I mean that the ride is ideal for those easy daily runs of moderate distances and paces for any runner, and for sure beginners seeking a comfortable easy flowing softer ride. 

By mellow daily trainer I mean that if you like a softer easier flowing more flexible shoe for all your runs including faster ones, the Ghost stands in contrast to more aggressive riding shoes in its category such as the Nike Pegasus 39 (RTR Review) with its firmer stiffer and thinner feeling forefoot due to its Zoom Air unit  and firmer rubber and the Mizuno Wave Rider 26 (RTR Review) with its Wave plate and firmer outsole rubber and its more noticed identical 12mm drop.  

Conclusions and Recommendations

Dominique: My 92 year old mother who lives in Geneva, Switzerland, started wearing the Ghost 14 this year.  She walks 10,000 to 15,000 steps per day and her feet have never been so happy!  She is getting the GTX version from us for Christmas!   

My experience with the Ghost 15 has been a positive one though as a RTR reviewer I do test shoes that have more of an edge to them.   It is a reliable shoe that is well priced and a great option for runners who prefer a high drop.  

Dominique’s Score: 9.4 /10

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Sam: The Ghost 15 is a successful update. The 14 was overly soft and mushy, had a voluminous sloppy fit, and quite frankly was a chore to run. The 15’s new DNA Loft v2 midsole remains soft and friendly but clearly has quicker rebound, improving the ride. The forefoot while still on the thin side compared to many lower drop more “modern” trainers is not as thin feeling and firm as many of its competitors due to its soft foam and soft forefoot rubber (some durability concerns).  As stated above, due to the soft foam and excellent geometry the high drop is not really noticed and is an asset in moving the shoe forward smoothly given the softness of the platform. 

Due to the mostly unstructured upper and underfoot platform is a resolutely neutral shoe so for more serious pronation control look elsewhere.  The upper fit is improved with somewhat lower volume that better locks the foot to the platform while remaining a comfortable easy going fit, with a touch more lockdown through underlays maybe in order.

I do wish the front outsole rubber was slightly firmer for more pop and snap, the upper dialed in a touch more, and that overall the midsole foam was a touch (tiny touch) firmer.

The Ghost remains a strong value at $140  for a versatile trainer now with a more modern dynamic foam and a comfortable and now decently secure upper. I can recommend it as a strong choice for those seeking a higher drop daily runner or daily all around daily trainer with a softer ride. It is also a friendly choice for beginner neutral runners and walkers, as my 92 year old mother in law can also attest with her previous shoe the Hoka Clifton.

Sam’s Score: 9.23/ 10

Ride: 9.25 Fit: 9.3 Value: 9.1 Style: 9

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9 Comparisons

Index to all RTR reviews: HERE

Brooks Ghost 14 (RTR Review)

Sam: Covered in the review. The 15 is more energetic while still soft and has a better fitting more secure upper, with wides available as well as for women narrow in addition to regular and wide. Even on sale I would avoid the 14.

Brooks Glycerin 20- regular mesh (RTR Review)

Sam: The higher stack lower drop Glycerin has Brooks excellent DNA Loft v3 which is also soft but springier due to its supercritical processing rather than rubberized bouncy as the Ghost has.  The issue for me with the Glycerin 20 and my sample was the GTS support version was the upper. it was sloppy and unstructured as the Ghost 14’s was if slipper comfortable. I think the Stealthfit knit upper version would resolve that as my fellow testers in the review above had no issues as did those with wider feet in the regular mesh version. 

Nike Zoom Pegasus 39 (RTR Review)

Sam: Nike’s classic daily trainer has a stiffer, firmer more aggressive forefoot with its air unit prominent. A better shoe for faster paced running and workouts, the Ghost 15 pulls ahead on the easier stuff. Both true to size with the Nike upper more performance oriented, not quite as comfortable and with a broad but lower toe box. Both true to size for me.

Nike React Pegasus Trail 4 (RTR Review)

Sam: A great choice as a road and of course trail runner. It has softer React foam than the regular Pegasus which is similar in feel to the Ghost 15 with a bit firmer forefoot. I would chose it over the regular Peg any day for any run. The Ghost 15 is a bit softer and more cushioned and easy going overall with not quite the upper security, that is for sure, so more comfort oriented top to bottom. For a versatile any surface trainer I lean Peg Trail 4 over the Ghost. 

Mizuno Wave Rider 26 (RTR Review)

Sam: Also 12mm drop with a plastic rear to mid foot Wave plate, the drop is far more noticed in the Rider as a sudden drop forward and propulsive element off the heel and midfoot. It has a somewhat firmer but more cushioned forefoot as it has firmer rubber and more stack all around at 38.5 mm / 26.5 mm vs. 35mm / 23mm for the Ghost. More stable and with a more secure upper if you need a touch of stability the Wave Rider 26 is a better choice than the Ghost but it is not as smooth flowing or easy going while it is more protective. 

Saucony Ride 13/14 (RTR Review)

Sam: The Ghost reminds me a lot of these 2 Rides with the difference the Ghost is softer and less responsive up front. 

Saucony Ride 15 (RTR Review)

Sam: The Ride 15 changes the model with softer more energetic foam, more stack height and a very secure (more secure than Ghost) and comfortable upper. At 8.7 oz vs. 9.9 oz it is considerably lighter than the Ghost 15 with the same heel stack of 35 mm but 4mm more foam up front. More shoe, lighter weight, similar ride if not quite as flexible the Ride 15 wins in this match up. Now if the Ghost had the lighter more energetic Loft v3 I am pretty sure it would win the match up.

Available now including at Running Warehouse US HERE and our other partners below.

Tester Profiles

Dominique has run for over 40 years, consistently about 25 miles per week at paces between 10 and 11 minute miles. She races rarely, but always surprises more hard core runners in her age group when she does. She has a 1985 marathon PR of 3:16 in her second marathon which at the time put her on the top 10 Swiss women’s lists. She is the mother of two grown children, both runners post college, and enjoys nordic and alpine skiing, hiking and trekking, and gardening. 

Sam is the Editor and Founder of Road Trail Run. He is 65 with a 2018 3:40 Boston qualifier. 2022 will be Sam’s 50th year of running. He has a decades old 2:28 marathon PR. These days he runs halves in the just sub 1:40 range if he is lucky, training 30-40 miles per week mostly at moderate paces on the roads and trails of New Hampshire and Utah. He is 5’9” tall and weighs about 164 lbs, if he is not enjoying too many fine New England IPA’s.

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