Article by Stephanie Beck, Nils Scharff, and Sam Winebaum
Brooks Ghost 14 ($130)
Sam: The Ghost is one of Brooks’ most popular trainers. A neutral sub 10 oz neutral shoe with a 12mm drop it can be called, given the evolution of running shoes, traditional in geometry. Quite frankly, I have never gotten along that well with the model remembering stiff versions, firm versions, some with dense and suffocating uppers and in the 13 (RTR Review) getting away from the overly dense uppers but ending up with a very soft, flexible mushy forefoot which a firm outsole tried to back up, and not so well as that.
The Ghost 14 retains almost exactly the same 9.88 oz /280g US men’s 9 weight, the big 12mm drop, and as far as we know the full 35mm heel /23m forefoot stack also remains unchanged.
The upper is similar to the 13’s but is now a yet softer more pliable engineered mesh with no overlays beyond the logo and 3D printed shapes towards the rear of the shoe so as to provide some lace up and rear collar structure.
It does see changes underfoot, some significant. Instead of dual density midsole with softer DNA Loft on the lateral side and firmer BioGoMoDNA more medially, its midsole is now entirely DNA Loft. I sat up when I read this dreading a yet softer mushier midsole but was curious as in 2021 Brooks has 2 flavors of DNA Loft in addition to regular v1: DNALoft v2 a firmer more responsive flavor in the trail Cascadia 16 (RTR Review) which all our testers loved and Loft v3 a supercritical very light and energetic flavor in the Aurora-BL (RTR Review), a wildly innovative and light max cushion trainer. The 14 has the regular or maybe a v1.x flavor. I say 1.x as Brooks never says much if anything beyond marketing words about their foam.
More clearly seen is that the midsole geometry changes with what appears to be a wider rear and mid foot platform and more vertical side walls.
While the outsole appears quite similar I immediately noted a more filled in less segmented medial forefoot. This was promising as it seemed this more extensive coverage might help stabilize the forefoot and give it more pop.
Finally the Ghost 14 is the brand's first carbon neutral shoe incorporating recycled materials, assessment of manufacturing, and using well vetted carbon offsets as part of a more general initiative at Brooks to have net carbon zero emissions by 2040
Sam/Nils/Steph: Gains snap and response: still soft and now all DNA Loft, but no longer has a mushy overly flexible forefoot
Sam/Nils/Steph: Simple, comfortable upper with mostly effective hold
Sam/Steph: Well balanced, smooth daily training ride
Sam: Brooks first carbon neutral run shoe.
Nils/Sam: If you need stability search somewhere else, like the GTS versions of Launch and Glycerin
Sam: Unstructured front of upper could use a gusset tongue for better front lockdown
Sam: Minor sizing issues: may run half size small for somewhat wide feet, true to size for narrow feet.
Nils: It’s my first 12mm drop shoe - would love if the Ghost had less.
Approx. Weight: 9.88 oz /280g US9 / women's 9 oz / 255g
Samples: men’s 9.88 oz /280g US9; 10.72 oz / 304g US10.5
women’s 10.01oz/284g US11
Available July 1st, 2021. $130Tester Profiles
Nils: 30 years old. Heilbronn, Germany. My young running career just started 4 years ago with a company run which I joined together with some colleagues in 2017. I ran roughly 1000km in my first year, doubled and then tripled that number in 2018 and 2019. I've run 4 marathons to date with a PR of 2:57 marathon. My other PRs are 17:32 for the 5k, 37:33 for 10k and 1:22 for the half.
Sam is the Editor and Founder of Road Trail Run. He is 64 with a 2018 3:40 Boston qualifier. Sam has been running for over 48 years and has a 2:28 marathon PR. These days he runs halves in the just sub 1:40 range 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 to many fine New England IPA.
First Impressions, Fit, and Upper
Sam: Mostly two tones of lighter gray with a matching conservative blue for the logo and with a hint of red from the outsole, the look is conservative and classy with the three colors very vaguely reminding of 1970’s Tiger Cortez but with gray instead of white for the main upper. The functional 3D printed pattern adds visual depth and is well done.
My sample pair was a US9, so half up from my normal. The fit was close to true to size for width on my wider left foot and a touch too roomy on my narrower right. The length was just about right for both so they may run a touch short.
The toe box is unstructured, beyond a fairly high toe bumper stiffener running past the reflective highlights. The toe box has plenty (too much for me) over the toes room.
The mesh is soft and very pliable if not super thin. The midfoot hold is just fine as is the moderately padded and not overly soft tongue.
Beyond that, the mesh is softer and more pliable with the toe box similar to the Ghost 13 in fit: comfort oriented, very decently broad, higher volume but not exactly a performance locked down fit.
There is no elastic gusset connecting tongue to midsole and I think one is needed to help secure the front.
The rear hold again is very comfortable, more than adequate in hold but not exactly locked down as it feels to me the foot entry is a touch too broad at the rear but they sure are easy to put on. First try on impressions are very, very good, maybe too good!
Brooks clearly was seeking a fantastic step in feel, a comfortable pressure free hold, a near wide (mainly due to the materials) quite unstructured toe box fit, and very solid breathability. And wides are also available.
All of the foregoing is well executed, like a fine slipper that runs but those expecting a snugger more performance oriented fit won’t find it here and so far I am seeing this upper as best suited to easier daily miles, recovery runs, and long runs, again at moderate paces. No tempo runs for me in the Ghost.
Steph: As the only woman reviewer for this shoe, I have to say my first impression of this shoe was, “WOW!” I have known a lot of women runners who are tried-and-true Brooks fans and as a primarily New Balance gal, I was really impressed.
The Ghost 14 is a simple looking shoe, not a lot of bells and whistles. However, there is something to be said about black with a pop of bright hot pink that makes this shoe aesthetically pleasing. The Ghost 14 is not a clunky looking shoe to me, looking very similar to my New Balance 1080. I received a women's size US11 and in hand it feels like a nice light shoe.
The fit was perfect! Plenty of room in the toe box, the support in the mid-foot felt fantastic, and the extra cushion in the heel was divine! There were no issues with my bunion, no heel slip, and no rubbing anywhere on my foot. I was blown away!
Nils: While Sam’s colorway is more subtle, I was lucky enough to draw a more vibrant one. The aquatic blue looks like summer to me and the orange applications create a nice contrast. And the shoe feels exactly how it looks - nice and comfy.
My US 10.5 fits true to size with enough room in all areas. The padding feels great and is maybe overdone a little. But I get it. If you buy a Ghost you probably just have one running shoe in your closet - and this one needs to feel good everytime you step in. The upper mesh is stretchy and for my narrower foot a little loose around mid- and forefoot. But I can see that it should fit most feet pretty well.
Sam: The midsole is now 100% DNA Loft with the geometry said by Brooks to be modified for smoother transitions. Previously the lateral side of the midsole was Loft with the medial BioMoGoDNA. My sense is that either the DNA Loft here is a touch firmer or the outsole a touch softer in combination with its new less segmented pattern, or maybe both, as the odd disconnect up front in the Ghost 13 of a very soft mushy outsole and relatively firm and sharply contrasting in feel outsole is gone.
The DNA Loft here is soft yes but it has clearly improved rebound compared to the Ghost 13 and for sure is more lively than Saucony’s denser firmer PWRUN, Nike’s React or adidas Lightstrike. It approaches the bounce of say PWRUN+ a TPU material but with a lighter feel. It does not quite get to the supercritical springy feel of Puma’s Nitro, Skechers Hyperburst or Brooks own DNA Loft v3 in the Aurora-BL or Nike’s ZoomX.
All of this said it is a soft forgiving foam, a bit softer than I prefer but one that has not left me bogged down at slower paces as the Ghost 13 clearly did.
The midsole geometry is changed for what Brooks calls out as “smoother transitions”. Again marketing meets reality.
The heel landing on what appears to be broader more bulbous geometry is particularly forgiving yet stable as well and this was especially noted on steep downhills.
I said stable at the heel, and that is the case, but overall this neutral shoe and its soft ride and unstructured upper will likely not be ideal for over pronators.
Steph: The Ghost 14 absolutely blew me away on my first run in them. It’s been about a decade since I last ran in Brooks, at the time they offered the right amount of support for my feet, but they were way too firm for me.
Not so for the Ghost 14, there’s plenty of cushioning and protection for my feet. I actually opted to try them without my normal orthotic inserts because the amount of stability I felt just walking around the house in them was amazing. There isn’t as much spring as my usual daily trainer Nike ZoomX Invincible and it didn’t feel quite as cushioned as the New Balance 1080, but I got past all that pretty quickly once I focused on how great the shoe felt.
Nils: As Sam describes it, the DNA Loft has a nicely soft and energetic feel to it. Especially the heel with its much more cushion (compared to the forefoot) really feels bouncy.
But as already mentioned I’m not used to this high of a drop. And while the shoe is relatively stable for what it is, it’s just not the best choice for me as an overpronator. The soft heel, while feeling great, just doesn’t provide enough stability for me.
At the same time the forefoot feels almost firm because of the huge stack difference from heel to toe. It isn’t in reality - but it feels a little unbalanced compared to the heel. I would love to have the exact same shoe with an 8mm drop - that would be a killer!
Sam: The outsole appears to have 2 densities of rubber: the lateral “L” shape is firm and very durable with all the rest of the outsole a softer rubber.
As noted in the introduction, while the Ghost is still a flexible shoe the less segmented front outsole than the Ghost 13 provides a more stable platform for toe off eliminating the mushy feel of the 13 upfront for me. The combination of front rubber and midsole is now more seamless in feel with almost no contrast between midsole and outsole as in the 13 and this is a huge improvement for me.
Steph: I feel the outsole is very basic looking. It’s very reminiscent of a late 90s/early 2000s daily trainer, so I wasn’t expecting much when I first jumped on my treadmill. As I started walking I actually felt and heard the grip on the treadmill. I wasn’t sure how that was going to affect my runs and intervals, but I experienced zero issues and it honestly felt really good to have that feel of grip underneath me. The grooves allow it to have plenty of flexibility, and the rubber is holding up very well so far.
Nils: I haven’t had the chance to run many miles in the Ghost 14. But from what I have experienced so far I don’t have any complaints in regards to the outsole. The segmentation is nicely done and provides a good forefoot flex. At the same time the almost full coverage provides a good amount of additional stability. I also can’t foresee any early wear and tear. This outsole is going to last a while.
Sam: The ride is on the soft side, easy going and smooth. There is enough response from midsole, outsole and geometry moving me along that I never felt bogged down at slow and moderate paces as I did in the 13.
I also never felt much dynamic pop from the platform or the kind of lockdown from the upper that said this was a “speedier” trainer.
There is very little sense that this is a 12mm drop shoe, something more clearly sensed in its most direct competitor the Mizuno Wave Rider 25 which is identical or nearly so in weight, stack, and drop.
This is an ideal ride for beginner neutral runners as it is forgiving yet lively, flows smoothly, and is plentifully cushioned.
For me the Ghost’s ride is just about ideal for slow and easy days and recovery. It is not a tempo ride, there are better choices, for that. if you want to stay with Brooks for those kinds of runs the Launch 8 (RTR Review) or considerably lighter Hyperion Tempo (RTR Review) better fits that bill as both firmer, more responsive and with more performance rather than comfort oriented uppers .
Steph: This shoe felt great during my recovery runs, endurance runs, and even when I picked up speed for intervals. I never felt this shoe held me back, and I’d agree with Sam almost completely, it is very easy going and smooth and there isn’t much of a pop when you run in them. But it’s a very smooth ride, with great cushioning, and when I picked up my pace they didn’t get in the way.
Nils: Steph and Sam both report a smooth ride - and I agree. Nothing is really outstanding here, besides maybe the soft heel. But the Ghost 14 just gets the job done for almost every moderate run - from recovery to (semi) longruns. Unfortunately the fit is a little too loose for my narrow midfoot. It feels comfortable, yes. But the combination of a soft heel, a stretchy upper, a bit too much width and my overpronation is just a little too much to be ideal for me all added up.
Conclusions and Recommendations
Sam: Well done Brooks! The Ghost 14 is all about comfort, cushion, and a smooth traditional high drop ride with some decently lively rebound from the combination of DNA Loft 1.x and the reconfigured outsole.
If Brooks went too far here on the comfort theme it is with the upper. It is a bit too unstructured given its soft pliable mesh and could use better front lockdown for faster paced efforts. That said the Ghost is one of the most comfortable, if not the most comfortable wear all day for anything run shoes I have tested this year. Mind you the upper hold is not a “problem” for mellow miles and the target consumer likely will love the fit and hold here but I could use a touch more security and hold particularly in the toe box, maybe via a gusset tongue which similar very pliable softer mesh often include.
I also think a tiny touch firmer forefoot rubber might give the Ghost more pop. That said the “pop”, rebound, and cushion feel is much improved over the mushy 13.
As I said in the Ride section Ghost 13 is a great choice for the beginner runner and for me for more mellow and recovery runs and is finally a Ghost I really do enjoy running in.
Sam’s Score: 9.13/10
Ride: 9.2 (50%) Fit: 8.9 (30%) Value: 9.3 (15%) Style: 9 (5%)
Steph: I agree with Sam. Well done Brooks! The Ghost 14 weighs slightly more than my womans US11 New Balance Rebel (9.13oz) and just a bit less than my womans US11 New Balance 1080s (11.11) and yet the ride gave me similar support and cushion as the 1080 and the light weight and grip to really crank it up a notch like the NB Rebel.
I would say this shoe is great for both beginner and intermediate runners. For beginner runners looking for a great well-balanced shoe that has a supportive upper and gives you nice cushion under your feet, this is it! For intermediate runners who love having a little more of an outsole, but in a shoe that can still keep up with your cadence during some speed work, this is still a great shoe! Though I still wish this shoe gave me the spring of the Nike ZoomX, I am continually surprised by how much I really enjoy running in these shoes and I’m really interested to see how they feel after more miles.
Steph’s Score: 9.6/10
Ride: 9.5 (50%) Fit: 10 (30%) Value: 9 (15%) Style: 10 (5%)
Nils: I must admit that I didn't have high expectations when the Ghost 14 arrived at my door. But Brooks surprised me with a modern looking and smooth feeling daily trainer. Sure, as noted above the Ghost isn’t my type of shoe. My overpronation has me staying away from soft heels and high drops - two of the core attributes of the Ghost 14.
If you have a proper running form the Ghost 14 is a fine daily trainer. It looks fresh and feels great. The only minor complaints I have is a little loose mid- and forefoot and a little too much weight. Other than that I wish for a lower drop, but that’s something that would upset many Ghost fans. Therefore I guess it should stay as it is - it just isn’t for me. But and especially if you are looking for just one running shoe in your quiver, the Ghost 14 is worth a look!
Nils’ Score: 8.08/10
Ride: 8 (50%) Fit: 7.5 (30%) Value: 9 (15%) Style: 9.5 (5%)
Index to all RTR reviews: HERE
Mizuno Wave Rider 25 (RTR Review)
Sam: The Wave Rider shares almost exactly the same weight, stack height, drop, and close to the same price (+$5) with the Ghost. Both have an energetic softer midsole. The Wave Rider’s very similar upper and mesh is more secure as it includes a gusset tongue and stouter heel hold. It is a touch less forgiving and broad up front but its hold there is clearly superior. Their rides and cushion are very similar with the Wave Rider with its Wave plate and deep decoupling driving the transition quicker and with more mid foot stability while its heel while stable feels narrower. Up front, the Wave Rider feels a bit thinner and firmer (firmer outsole rubber I think) and thus more agile and responsive. Its Enerzy foam is more dynamic and lively in feel but it is close. For a more mellow very slightly softer ride Ghost 14, for a touch more pop Wave Rider.
Sam: Both of these feel dated in ride energy and softness in comparison to the Ghost but are somewhat faster but denser and firmer feeling with the 880 closest to the Ghost. The 880v11 upper take the prize in the comparison as it has superior support while the Ride 14 has similar support but is denser and heavier, somewhat overbuilt. Both, and especially the Ride 14, have a faster ride when wound up but are more plodding than the Ghost at slower paces for me.
ASICS GEL-Cumulus 23 (RTR Review)
Sam: About 0.3 oz heavier, the 10mm drop Cumulus with its 35/25 stack height is a close comparison to the Ghost with a similarly softer ride and softish forefoot. I lean towards the Cumulus in this match again due to upper hold (although scratchier and denser in feel) but also as it is a touch more responsive and faster feeling even if heavier.
New Balance Fresh Foam 1080 (RTR Review)
Nils: The 1080v10 was one of the best daily trainers of last year, the v11 is one of the best of 2021. It seems like the heel fit ( a minimal molded piece) is a hit or miss for some in the NB, but as it fits really well for me I really love this shoe. The ride is softish but energetic, the subtle rocker gets you going and provides a little stability. I don’t know why, but the 1080 works even for my overpronating right ankle. The 1080 weighs roughl y0.4 oz less and is a more rounded “do it all” trainer. The Ghost on the other hand has the softer heel, is more comfortable and leans towards more relaxed runs. Both TTS.
Nike ZoomX Invincible Run (RTR Review)
Sam: Broader underfoot, squishier, softer and more energetic the Invincible Run is a special ride. Tons of fun but maybe not as practical as the Ghost 14 which is for sure there in the soft, bouncy and squishy department but in a more muted way. Broader feet will likely be happier in the Ghost’s upper.
Puma Velocity Nitro (RTR Review)
Nils: The Velocity was one of the bigger surprises this year. And while also on the softer side it’s Nitro foam is more energetic than what Brooks has to offer. The lower 8mm drop is very welcome, the stout outsole is one of the best in the game and the upper, while very basic, offers a better lockdown for my narrow feet (compared to the Ghost). If you want something to pick up the pace in the Puma is the better choice. If you are just looking for a comfy cruiser I would lean towards the Ghost. Velocity runs a little long, Ghost is TTS.
Nike Pegasus 38 (RTR Review)
Sam: Nike’s more "classic" daily trainer is firmer, more stable, faster and “more opinionated” with its front air bag a definitely felt presence and requiring some force and speed from a more mid foot type strike to activate. Your easy runs will feel better in the Ghost and your harder efforts and even light trails will feel better in the rugged Peg.
The opinions herein are entirely the authors'.
EUROPE Men's & Women's SHOP HERE
AUSTRALIA Men's & Women's SHOP HERE
AMAZON Men's & Women's SHOP HERE