I’ve been looking for a pair of trail shoes specifically for the McNaughton 200 mile trail run in 2012. During the McNaughton 150 thanks to wet trails my feet became water logged. On the second day of running the bottom of my feet were so sore and tender it hurt to put any weight on them, especially running. I decided to try a pair of Gore-Tex trail shoes to see if water proof shoes are the way to go. Enter the Brooks Ghost4 GTX. After a few months of running in these and lots of testing on the trail in dry and wet conditions here’s what I’ve found. First though, some data about the shoes
These shoes have the DNA technology. This is a non-Newtonian fluid along the midsole that adapts it’s stiffness to each strike. If you are a heavy runner the shoe stiffens up, if you are a lighter more nimble runner it runs more like a flat and has less cushioning. Press release HERE if you want to read in detail a lot of info about DNA.
The BioMoGo is an additive in the midsole to cause the shoe to break down faster when in the landfill. Doesn’t add or take away from the running, it’s an environmental thing.
Heel Caterpillar Tech is a fancy way of saying that the heel of this shoe is segmented in a way that if you do heel strike it folds and absorbs a lot of the impact. You don’t feel this action as it happens to quick. I’d love to see a slow motion video of a heel strike to see exactly what this section of the heel does during impact.
As usual with the Brooks trail shoes I feel like it’s too stiff for me, if I weighed about 20-40 lbs more I think it would ride quite nicely. This is just a preference thing, I like a softer nimble shoe. I’ve met runner who are much lighter than me and love these shoes. Brooks claims that it’s a neutral shoe. To me it runs like a cushioned shoe and it’s got a beefed up heel and is thicker through the arch like a cushioned shoe is. Again this is all preference stuff, if you like cushioned shoes then you’ll like this one.
During dry single track conditions these shoes have good traction and they hug the trail well for me, I don’t feel like my footing is in doubt. I purchased these shoes specifically for running wet trails to keep my feet dry. Every time it’s rained I’ve gone out in these to test them over and over again. I keep finding the same thing, they don’t have secure footing when it’s muddy. Wet trails, wet leaves, mud, slick sticks… the shoes never bite. I have to really adjust my footing, take much smaller strides to keep my weight centered and minimize my toe off to not go down. These shoes lack the deep lugs to really bite and hold during muddy conditions. The soles look like road shoes with dimples on them to improve wet traction, but they don’t work well for mud. If I want to do a long slow run then they work, but any speed on a muddy trail is impossible.
The Gore-Tex works great! If the trails are muddy or wet and it doesn’t got above your ankles (more on that in a moment) then your feet and socks really do stay dry. I’ve gone out with some buddies on wet trails and their socks have been soaked right away, at the end of our run my feet are still dry and I was running through puddles to check it out. They absolutely work to keep your feet dry. It’s a very cool sensation to go through a puddle and not get your feet wet. The tongue is gusseted to keep water and debris out, which works.
Any water below the ankle of the shoe stays outside the shoe where it belongs. I’ve been in plenty of trail runs where the water gets shin, waist and even chest deep. Once the water gets above the ankle it starts to pour in around your foot. Gore-Tex works both ways, the water outside your shoe stays there, the water inside your shoe stays there. It’s a weird sensation to run with a shoe full of water that doesn’t squeeze out the upper with each foot strike. I’d take off my shoe and pour out any water inside at the end of a run. To demonstrate check out the picture of my shoe filled with water in the kitchen sink, it doesn’t drain at all.
Overall I’m pretty neutral on this shoe. I don’t dislike it, nor am I excited about it. On a dry day when you don’t need Gore-Tex I don’t want to run in this shoe. Now that I’m done testing it I won’t. On a super wet day or one where I know I’m crossing deep creeks I don’t want to wear them either. The day after a hard rain, with no creek crossings and I don’t need speed I’d take them on a run. It’s a very specific condition that I’ll take these out in. As far as McNaughton goes I’m going to bring them as a back-up pair of shoes.