The Brooks Ghost 5 is so supremely smooth and impeccably balanced, it’s scary. Brooks took the best of the award-winning Ghost 3 and 4 designs, built in new innovations, and then merged it all with striking colors and patterns. To get an inside look at the inspiration and design of the new Ghost, we caught up with Brooks Sports Footwear Product Line Manager Jon Teipen.
Q. The Ghost is a shoe that’s gathered a huge following with runners; what do you think makes the Ghost unique and stand apart from the competition?
A. “What makes the Ghost unique and standard apart is that it delivers on so many levels and hits the sweet spot on the benefits runners crave. It has Brooks’ signature fit that just works for a lot of different feet. Great forefoot capture and midfoot wrap that secures the foot in place. It provides an amazing combination of cushioning and energy return creating the desired protection with the right amount of spring that keep the legs fresh. The heel to toe transition is smooth and effortless and provides a balanced ride that sets the foot up for a very efficient toe-off. While we don’t categorize the Ghost as a lightweight shoe, the perception is that it does feel light on the foot. Finally, I’d be lying if I only mentioned the performance qualities of the shoe…we also want this shoe to look great! From the meshes, to the chevron treatment, to the effects on the materials, to the colors we want to deliver a beautiful shoe that people want to wear.”
Q. Knowing that the Ghost has a loyal following, what aspects of the design & performance were you looking to keep intact, and what were you looking to change?
A. “When updating product such as the Ghost, we have a philosophy we call ‘evolution not revolution.’ We want to continually improve each shoe from one season to the next, but we don’t believe in making dramatic changes just for the sake of it. If the shoe is working and has a loyal following, we want to be loyal to that runner and continue to deliver what they want. We are constantly looking for new technologies, materials and processes that can be implemented to advance a shoe. Can we create a closer to foot fit? Can we make the shoe ride smoother? Can we improve cushioning? These and other questions we are constantly asking ourselves. However, if you’ve worn the Ghost before, when you try the updated version, our goal is for it feel and be recognizable as part of the Ghost franchise but even better than its predecessor.”
Q. Talk about some of the key changes that will be found in the Ghost 5….
A. “We focused on three attributes to improve the Ghost 5 compared the Ghost 4: smoother ride, better forefoot flex, and a more adaptable fit. The biggest change we made was removing the lateral midfoot shank (plastic piece under the midfoot on the outside). We filled this in with midsole foam and outsole rubber creating consistent ground contact along the entire bottom of the shoe allowing for a smoother transition and more consistent ride. The next change was putting multi-directional grooves in the forefoot rubber (we call them Omni Grooves) improving forefoot flexibility and promoting a natural forefoot motion. Finally, we incorporated some stretch into the eyestay creating an adaptable fit that accommodates more foot shapes.”
Q. Barefoot/Minimalism has been a hot-button topic in running footwear over the last several years; how has that affected how you approach footwear design, both in terms of minimalist product and ‘traditional’ styles like the Ghost?
A. “We believe the best way to create product is by talking to runners. When this whole barefoot/minimal trend bubbled up, we wanted to make sure we answered it in a thoughtful way. So, we went out and spent a lot of time talking to runners about this topic. There were a ton of take aways and learning’s, but the big revelation was that it is all about the running experience each runner wants his/her shoe to deliver. Do you prefer to not feel the ground, to have more cushioning and protection, and let the shoe guide your foot or do you want to be closer to the ground, have a lightweight shoe and empower/activate your muscles? The overarching concept we came away with was Float and Feel. Neither is right or wrong, but it empowers to the runner to decide what’s preferred and most comfortable. As a result, we created our PureProject line of shoes which is a collection of lightweight shoes that deliver on the ‘Feel’ experience and we have our Core line of traditional shoes that deliver on the ‘Float’ experience. These lines aren’t mutually exclusive as many choose to alternate day to day depending on how they feel.”
Q. How is the process different when you’re updating a franchise style as opposed to designing a brand new style from the ground up?
A. “On established styles, consistency is critical. Once a franchise is established it’s all about thoughtful updates while staying true to what made the shoe successful. With a new model, there’s a blank canvas. There are no preconceived notions or expectations on what they should be or look like. In a lot of ways, it’s more challenging to update an established franchise than introduce a new model because there is a lot more scrutiny placed on it. With that being said, we approach new and existing shoes the same. We identify the consumer and business opportunity. Define how it needs to function and look aesthetically. Then we go through necessary steps to create it and take it to market.”
Q. Brooks has developed some standout footwear technologies in recent years; can you talk about how this has changed the product from, say, five or ten years ago?
A. “The R&D team does an amazing job creating new materials and processes that improve our shoes and our designers always come up with creative ways to incorporate these materials or alter the geometries on shoes to make them better. One of the most notable technology breakthroughs in the past few years is Brooks DNA. It’s an adaptable cushioning system that customizes the ride to each runner’s individual needs. A larger runner’s cushioning needs are different than a smaller runner as they apply different amounts of force to the shoe. The DNA technology instantaneously reacts to different forces in order to optimize the cushioning accordingly. This technology is found in the heel and forefoot of the Ghost 5 as well as most every other shoe in our line.”
Q. With the Ghost 5 just released, can you give us a hint at what to expect for the Ghost 6 or Brooks Running in general in the near future?
A. “All I can say is we are working on the Ghost 6 now and I am excited about it! I can’t be too specific, but are going to really raise the bar in a couple areas on this shoe while staying true to the Ghost’s heritage.”