If you find the Ghost 15 too firm and flat, the Ghost Max is worth a try. It has a more modern ride which feels more engaging.
If you buy the Ghost every year because you enjoy how firm, stable and consistent it is from year to year, you shouldn’t buy the Ghost Max.
I’ve reviewed the last 3 versions of the Ghost and I’ve come to the same conclusion each time: the Ghost is for runners who don’t like change. The Ghost is one of the most consistent running shoe series on the market when it comes to fit and ride.
If your eyes were shut and you were wearing different versions on each foot, it would be extremely difficult to tell them apart. That’s how little difference there is between each version.
So far, this recipe has worked very well for Brooks. It’s well-known that the Ghost is one of the most popular running shoes in the world and it’s used by beginners as well as seasoned marathoners.
In my opinion, the Ghost is lagging behind the competitors when it comes to the ride department. If you’ve worn really modern daily trainers like the New Balance Propel v4, the Hoka Mach 5, or the On Cloudsurfer, you will know what I’m talking about. The ride of the Ghost feels dull, flat and firm in comparison.
This year, there’s no Ghost 16 but instead, we get a spinoff of the Ghost series. The Ghost Max is a modernised version of Brooks’ most popular running shoe. It has a higher stack height and it weighs 10 oz (283 g) which is 0.1 oz (3 g) less than the Ghost 15.
The most surprising spec of the new Ghost Max is that its drop is 6 mm, half that of the Ghost 15. The high 12 mm drop has always been the signature Ghost feature.
My first run was an easy 10 K and I was pleasantly surprised how different the Ghost Max felt compared to the Ghost 15. The main difference was that the ride felt slightly softer. It also felt more nimble, like it could pick up the pace much more easily.
I also noticed that the fit felt more narrow than the regular Ghost. I could feel the arch when walking but when running, the sensation disappeared. Foot lockdown wasn’t great and I could feel that the heel was loose so I had to change to heel lock lacing.
I’ve never experienced a bad Brooks upper and the Ghost Max continues this trend. The fit is true to size, the width is perfect and there are no components that irritate my foot.
The tongue is not gusseted but the tongues of the previous Ghost versions were also not gusseted. Lockdown is good but I have to use a runner’s knot.
The one thing I’m not a fan of is the choice of shoe laces. It’s the soft, oval type of lace which frays easily. The flat laces of the Ghost 15 are a lot more durable.
I find the Ghost Max more narrow than any other Brooks trainer that I’ve tried and I think that wide footed runners will need to opt for the wide or extra wide version.
The ride of the Ghost Max will appeal to both Ghost loyalists as well as runners who are not fans of the regular Ghost. I would describe it as really well balanced- soft enough for easy runs, firm enough for uptempo runs.
In terms of cushioning softness, compared to other mid-range daily trainers, it’s on the firmer side of the spectrum. It’s firmer than the Cumulus 25 and the Cloudsurfer 7 but softer than the Ghost 15 and about the same as the Saucony Ride 16.
I’ve tested the Ghost Max at all kinds of speeds, from recovery pace, all the way down to threshold pace, and it can handle most paces reasonably well. It feels most comfortable at easy and steady paces.
Compared to the Ghost 15, there’s 4 mm more foam in the heel of the Ghost Max, 10 mm more in the forefoot so the Ghost Max has more cushioning depth and is a better long distance trainer than the Ghost 15. You can definitely do a full marathon in the Ghost Max.
When I tested the Ghost Max during a long run, it felt energy-saving because of its slight forefoot rocker which assisted me through transitions. The rocker isn’t as prominent as in plated trainers though and it feels natural.
Brooks says that it’s DNA Loft v2 foam in the midsole of the Ghost Max, just like in the Ghost 15 but it feels completely different. It feels less dense, lighter and it returns more energy. They really should have renamed it v4. The Brooks cushioning naming system needs to be rebranded because it’s too confusing.
In order to increase stability, they raised the edges of the rearfoot so that it cups the foot. This is a very stable neutral trainer with a wide base although it isn’t as stable as the regular Ghost because the midsole is firmer and it has more lean bias.
Another good feature is the shallow, guidance groove underneath the centre of the rearfoot. This makes the shoe feel more agile because it saves weight and allows the heel to splay.
On the outsole, the Ghost 15 had 2 flex grooves that extended the entire length of the forefoot. On the Ghost Max, there are none, so the forefoot feels stiffer. This allows the rocker to function better.
Brooks outsole rubber isn’t as tough as other brands. I’ve noticed higher than average outsole wear on the forefoot rubber as well as on the midsole foam under the ball of the foot. If you are hard on outsoles, you might be disappointed with the durability of the Ghost Max’s outsole.
Brooks should have called the Ghost Max the Ghost 16 because it’s an improvement over the Ghost 15 in almost every aspect. It’s more cushioned, it’s softer, more efficient and it returns more energy. I also don’t miss the high 12 mm drop.
My favourite thing about the Ghost Max is that it feels more modern than previous Ghost versions. The Ghost no longer feels like a trainer from 5 years ago and I think this version of it will win over some new fans.
It’s definitely won me over and the Ghost Max will stay in my rotation for mostly zone 1 and zone 2 runs. It’s a firmer, stabler daily trainer than most of the competitors and I enjoy its stiff, mildly rockered ride.
At $150, I think the Ghost Max is too expensive compared to other mid range, neutral daily trainers. They should have made it $140, the same as the Ghost 15 which came out last year.