Brooks’ first stab at a max-cushioned shoe is a success. The Brooks Ghost Max offers a comfortable and smooth ride that will please runners of all levels and although there are some cushioned shoes I rate more highly, the Ghost Max is an excellent cruiser for daily training—and it comes in cheaper than most mega-stack shoes.
- Smooth ride
- Durable outsole with good grip
- Not the liveliest foam
- Not versatile
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After resisting the max-stack trend for a couple of years, Brooks has jumped in with both feet. The Brooks Ghost Max hits heights of 39mm at the heel and is the most cushioned shoe in the company’s range.
Though they share a name, the Brooks Ghost Max is quite different to the Brooks Ghost 15, and I found the Max both more comfortable and smoother to run in. It’s one of the best cushioned running shoes available, though it’s still bettered by other maxed-out options I rate as the best running shoes in this category, like the Asics Gel-Nimbus 25 or Saucony Triumph 21.
Brooks Ghost Max: Price And Availability
The Brooks Ghost Max launched in September 2023 in the US and goes on sale December 1st 2023 in the UK. It costs $150/£140, which is $10/£5 more than the price of the Brooks Ghost 15. However, the Ghost Max is actually at the cheaper end of its category, where many max-cushioned running shoes cost more than $160/£160.
How I Tested This Shoe
I've run 36 miles in the Brooks Ghost Max ahead of its UK embargo, using it for a mix of training including a 13-mile long run. I have also tested the Brooks Ghost 15 and older Ghost models, as well as the Brooks Glycerin 20, plus a wide range of the best cushioned running shoes available from other brands.
Design And Fit
Standing 39mm tall at the heel and 33mm at the forefoot, the Brooks Ghost Max is the most cushioned shoe Brooks has ever released. The regular Ghost 15 has a stack height of 35mm at the heel and 23mm at the forefoot, so the Max has more foam and a substantially lower drop of 6mm, compared with 12mm on the Ghost 15.
Despite all the extra foam you get, especially under the forefoot, the Ghost Max is not that heavy at 10.7oz/304g in my UK 9 (the Ghost 15 is 10.5oz/297g in the same size). The foam used is Brooks DNA Loft v2, which is fairly soft but not particularly bouncy.
The GlideRoll Rocker geometry in the shoe is designed to create a smooth transition from heel to toe and ease the impact of running on your legs. High stacks can make running shoes feel unstable, so the Ghost Max has small sidewalls of foam and a broad base to counteract this. There’s also an internal heel counter to help with stability. The rocker and a groove running through the outsole also help to support a neutral transition from heel to toe.
Most of the outsole is covered with a thick layer of rubber that has gripped well on wet pavements covered with slick leaves. This outsole should be durable and I’ve seen zero signs of wear after 36 miles in the shoe, and Brooks’s DNA Loft v2 foam is also known for being long-lasting.
The engineered mesh upper has a lot of padding around the collar and tongue. The Ghost Max fit me well in my normal running shoe size, the same size I have for the Ghost 15 and Glycerin 20.
The first shoe to use the moniker Max in Brooks’s range was the Brooks Hyperion Max, which is not at all a max-cushioned shoe. If anything it’s quite a low-profile option.
The Ghost Max lives up to its name, though, and feels very cushioned and comfortable to run in. The rocker is the star of the show though, because it creates a smooth and agile ride that belies the size of the shoe.
It feels great when rolling through long and easy runs. I particularly enjoyed using it on my Sunday long run of 13 miles, especially on flatter sections when the Ghost Max helped me to tick along on tired legs after a big training week.
It’s not a speed-focused shoe, but when I have run faster in the Ghost Max it’s performed OK. I did a progression run finishing at around 6min/mile pace and ran long sections of the half marathon I did in the shoe at 6min 25sec/mile pace, and it didn’t feel too big and heavy.
I’d certainly pair it in a running shoe rotation with a faster, lighter shoe, but newer runners and those less concerned about speed could use the Brooks Ghost Max as an all-rounder.
The foam is not as soft and springy as some, like Nike’s ZoomX or the FF Blast+ in the Asics Gel-Nimbus 25, but it is comfortable and this slightly firmer feel helps with stability. If you have no concerns about stability, however, there are max-cushioned shoes with livelier, more enjoyable rides, like the Gel-Nimbus 25 or Puma Magnify Nitro 2.
Brooks Ghost Max Vs Brooks Ghost 15
The lower drop and rocker on the Ghost Max give it a much smoother ride than that of the Ghost 15. The Ghost Max is more comfortable too, especially under the forefoot, owing to the greater amount of foam
While the Ghost 15 will remain popular as one of the few 12mm drop shoes on the market, I much prefer the smoother feel of the Ghost Max, which is more in line with the wider trend of giving cushioned shoes high stacks and rockers. I’d prefer to use the Ghost Max for any type of run and it’s certainly more comfortable over long distances.
Is The Brooks Ghost Max Worth It?
The Brooks Ghost Max is one of the top options for those seeking a stable max-cushioned shoe, whether you want an easy-run option to add to a rotation or a protective all-rounder. I rate it among the best Brooks running shoes as the best cushioned option, because it’s better all-round than the Ghost 15 and a bit more comfortable than the Brooks Glycerin 20, though the DNA Loft v3 foam in the Glycerin has a bit more rebound to it on faster efforts.
Part of me thinks it might be worth holding out to see if Brooks launches a Glycerin Max in the near future, because I do think the foam in the Glycerin is a little more impressive and it would be interesting to find out how it feels with a bigger stack.
There are some excellent max-cushioned shoes out there already though, and I prefer the Asics Gel-Nimbus 25 to the Ghost Max, because of the slightly softer and springier ride of the Asics. The Saucony Triumph 21 is another great option and one of the most versatile max-stack shoes if you want a highly cushioned shoe to use for everything, including faster runs.
Both of those are more expensive than the Ghost Max though; the main rival around its price is the Puma Magnify Nitro 2. The Puma has a more impressive, bouncier foam than the Ghost Max, and it also has an outstanding outsole. The Ghost Max rocker creates a smoother ride though and it is probably a touch more comfortable, especially under the forefoot.
Nick Harris-Fry is a journalist who has been covering health and fitness since 2015. Nick is an avid runner, covering 70-110km a week, which gives him ample opportunity to test a wide range of running shoes and running gear. He is also the chief tester for fitness trackers and running watches, treadmills and exercise bikes, and workout headphones.
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