Thursday, 5 January 2012

Comparison: Brooks Ghost 4 vs Brooks Glycerin 9

Ive been lucky enough to get the opportunity to run in both the Brooks Ghost 4 and the Brooks Glycerin 9. Both very popular neutral shoes from the brooks lineup. Ive reviewed both in the past Brooks Ghost - An Allrounder & Brooks Glycerin - How far is too far. This time I wanted to compare them and give my thoughts on each in comparison for the benefit of those who havent had the chance to run in both.

Welcome ladies and Gentlemen to this Neutral Shoe Championship bout. In the Blue corner we have the Brooks Ghost 4, a favorite of many, and a real good all-rounder. In the red corner we have the Brooks Glycerin 9, a long standing staple, and built to go the distance. I’ve seen both of these shoes in action, they are both outstanding, we should be in for a real good match up. I don’t expect an early knockout, this one will go the full 12 rounds.

Let’s get ready to Ruuuuuumble!

Round 1 - Weight
The Ghost plays to one of its traditional strengths and leads off with its weight, 320g in the Men’s size 9. I’m not so sure that was a good call, the ghost has put on a few grams in the last few years from its early lightweight days at 303g- The Glycerin counters with its 343g a 14g drop on last year. In my mind the difference between the weights of these shoes is now too close to really make any effect, but I’m not sure how the judges will see it.

Round 2 - Cushioning
The Glycerin brings out its big guns, the full length DNA, a great move. This non-Newtonian liquid helps provide custom cushioning, softening when you apply less force i.e. when you’re going slow and firming up as you speed up. But the Ghost has some DNA of its own located in the two primary strike zones the heel and the forefoot. Both shoes have more than enough cushioning to take you comfortably to the end of a long run, But high volume runners might appreciate the extra cushioning of the glycerin especially for those back to back weekends.

Round 3 - Flexibility
The ghost impresses with its flexibility, this has become a hallmark of the ghost series and the Ghost 4 is no exception, It has great forefoot flexibility. Unfortunately lack of flexibility is something the glycerin 9 has been criticized for by some. And it’s true the Glycerin doesn’t have the same flexibility of the ghost. I’m a big guy and have no problems flexing the Glycerin, I don’t see this as an issue but others might.

Round 4 - Styling
Both of these shoes have somewhat reserved styling, you don’t have the loud colors of some of their lightweight cousins. However the Ghost 4 does appear to be ever so slightly more aggressive with some marking that if you really use your imagination could resemble flames on the toe box and an upswept overlay that extends from the midfoot to the heel cup. The Glycerin eschews such frivolities for a very stable looking midfoot wrap.

Round 5 - Fit
This is a hard one to call as Fit is so subjective. Personally I found the toe box of the Glycerin 9 to be a little more open and unrestricted than in the Ghost, The overlays on the ghost come up higher and are a little more restrictive for the toes. The glycerin also feels a little plusher around the ankle collar, and in the tongue, although the Ghost 4 has made significant inroads in this area. For fit I have to give it to the glycerin.

Round 6 – Outsole and Heel
Turn these shoes over and both are very similar in the layout of the outsole, both shoes segment the forefoot area into 4 main bands with omega flex groves between them, These are slightly more pronounced on the Glycerin. In the heel area both have the caterpillar crash pads. The Glycerin sports a slight bevel to the back of the heel, while the ghost’s heel is flat throughout. 

Round 7 - Durability
This one is a hard one to call for me, I’ve not seen either of these particular shoes run to exhaustion. I do have an earlier version of the Ghosts in my current rotation that has seen 1200km’s and is still in good shape, although that’s much longer than most runners would want to wear them. I expect the glycerins will easily be the match of the Ghost for Durability. Perhaps with its slightly less flexible midsole it might even last a little longer for the average runner.

Round 8 - Price
Here the Ghost 4 has the initial advantage, although if the Durability does come out in favor of the Glycerin you would do well to consider the price per km, rather than just be swayed by what’s on the sticker on the box.

Round 9 - Areas of use
The ghost impresses as a bit of an all-rounder. It’s equally at home knocking out intervals, or accompanying you on a long run. The Glycerin’s slightly heavy weight and its reduced flexibility mean that its less suited to those faster workouts, but what it does well it does really well, long runs will float by in the glycerin.

Round 10 - Construction
Both of these shoes are well made, if the ghost has a fault here its that the blue element of the midsole in the forefoot area is just painted on rather than being made up of actually blue colored foam that is only in the heel of the ghost whereas the coloured foam is used throughout in the Glycerin. Neither of my examples has any manufacturing flaws that I can discover, but I expect no less from Brooks.

Round 11 - Schlupfgefuhle
Another subjective round, Perhaps I’m a little bit clouded in this by the timing of when I first tried on of the ghosts, but for me the Glycerin’s plush feel and there nonrestrictive toe box gave it the clear advantage here. I should point out that once my feet recovered from their Ultra ordeal I was able to run a first run of over 20km in both shoes… both have run straight from the box credentials

Round 12 – Rotation
For the runner with a number of different types of shoes in their current rotation the Glycerin offers a very capable long run expert with ample cushioning to ensure that your legs are not getting beaten up too much making for a faster recovery, For the runner with a smaller or even non-existent shoe rotation the Ghost 4 offers an excellent all-rounder, It is more than capable of handling all but the craziest long runs, but also can be used in speed work and tempo runs. Naturally the glycerin can manage that too but not with quite the same class as the Ghost.

Well what a match up, It’s going to be a close call, For me the Glycerin has the slight advantage. The slightly better Fit and the souvarain cushioning for those really long runs, more than make up for the minimal increase in weight, The ghosts advantages for faster work are eliminated by the fast run specialists in my current shoe Rotation. But I’m not sure how the Judges have scored it.

Let’s take a look, so, how do you score it? If you’ve tried both which one is your favorite? If not which do you tend towards and why?


  1. Excellent review. Thanks. I read this after trying both at the running store. I only ran around in the parking lot, but I chose the glycerin without knowing the price of the two. I agree that the toe box feels a little more roomy. But this makes me a little nervous since I like my shoes to hug tightly.

    1. Thankyou Spencer,

      Im not actually sure if the toebox is actually larger in the glycerin, It is in my opionion just a little less constricted by the overlays than in the ghost. Which means if you need a smidgeon more give then the glycerin has it available.

      The glycerin clearly didnt feel sloppy in the toebox for you or you would have gone for something else, so I dont think you have too much to worry about.

  2. Ive been lucky enough to get the opportunity to run in both the Brooks Ghost 4 and the Brooks Glycerin 9. Both very popular neutral shoes from ...