Brooks Ghost Max review

8 expert score
5 user's score
As editorial policy, we do not accept free samples. We purchased this pair at Running Warehouse with our own money.
Review written on 15th October by Brandon Law Marathon Runner and Shoe Expert
157 other reviews

Brooks Ghost Max Verdict

The Brooks Ghost Max is a good, text book daily trainer which can perform a variety of runs well. It has a balanced ride with good stability and a typical Brooks comfortable upper. The Ghost Max is a spinoff series of the regular Ghost. It has a softer, more cushioned ride which feels more lively than the Ghost 15.

The pros

  • Comfortable, luxurious upper
  • Softer than regular Ghost
  • More forefoot cushioning
  • Modern ride
  • Stable

The cons

  • Lower than average outsole durability
  • Laces fray easily


Rating breakdown

Comfort
8.0
Build quality
9.0
Upper
9.0
Sole unit
7.0
Landing
8.0
Transition
8.0
Toe-off
8.0
Traction
7.0
Durability
6.0
Value / Price
7.0

Facts / Specs

Brand
Model
Ghost Max
Family
Weight
10 oz (283 g)
MSRP
$150.00

Heel
39 mm.
Toe
33 mm.
Heel drop
6 mm.
Carbon plate
No plate

Size/Fit

Sizing
True to size
Heel fit
Normal
Midfoot fit
Normal
Toebox fit
Normal

Cushioning & ride

Type of cushioning
Balanced
Amount of cushioning
Highly cushioned
Stability
Very stable
Flexibility
Medium

Usage

Racing
Speedwork
Daily training  
Long distance racing
Ultra distance racing

Who should buy the Brooks Ghost Max ?

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.

Who should not buy the Brooks Ghost Max ?

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.

Brooks Ghost Max Introduction

Picture of Brooks 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.

Picture of Brooks Ghost Max

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.

Brooks Ghost Max First Impressions

Picture of Brooks Ghost Max

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.

The trainers that it reminded me of were the Hoka Clifton 9 and the ASICS Novablast 3. All 3 trainers have deep cushioning, mild rockers and are relatively lightweight.

Brooks Ghost Max Upper

Picture of Brooks Ghost Max

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.

Picture of Brooks Ghost Max

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.

Brooks Ghost Max Sole Unit

Picture of Brooks Ghost Max

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.

Picture of Brooks Ghost Max

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 Ghost Max Conclusions

Picture of Brooks Ghost Max

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.

The Novablast 3 and Mach 5 are $140 while the Max Road 6 is only $130.

How does the Ghost Max compare?

Asics Novablast 3
Brooks Ghost Max
Hoka One One Clifton 9
Expert score
8
8
8
User score
Best price
Retail price
US$140
US$150
US$144.95
Weight
8.9 oz
10 oz
8.7 oz
Heel Drop
9 mm
6 mm
5 mm
Recommended for
Daily training
Daily training
Daily training, long distance racing
Cushioning type
balanced
balanced
balanced/plush
Cushioning amount
Highly cushioned
Highly cushioned
Highly cushioned
Flexibility
flexible
medium
flexible
Stability
very stable
very stable
very stable
Sizing
buy half size smaller
true to size
true to size

Why you can trust us

As editorial policy, we do not accept free samples from companies.
We purchased this pair of Brooks at Running Warehouse  with our own money.

This page contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases. Read more about our policy.

Reviewed by Brandon

This review was written by Brandon Law on 15th October.
Brandon is a South African who lives and trains in Malaysia. He is a marathon runner who eats, sleeps and dreams running shoes. While most people wear shoes to run, he runs to wear shoes.

User feedback (7)

  • avatar-comment-1036004
    Mary Jo McGrath
    1 month ago

    Love your shoes , one problem with them I get a hole near my big toe. Both shoes, girls at work are complaining that they are ripping out at the sides. Like I said love the shoes, but I hate paying 130 or more for shoes that only last 6 months at the most. Also can we have some bright colors , for us girls with big wide feet?

  • avatar-comment-1035994
    Tony Shepherd
    1 month ago
    8 score

    I have never had plush cushioned shoes like this before. I like the 6mm drop. I brought the Ghost Max hoping it will be kind to my 75 year old legs on long runs. So far so good but it is only early days. I need a 4E width and the Max is very roomy perhaps a little to much. There is a lot of volume in the upper especially over the toes and instep. It took my orthotics with ease. Not a bad thing but has taken a bit of getting used to. This is my first pair of Max, certainly a different feel and I might even try a 2E.

  • avatar-comment-1034798
    Sam
    3 months ago
    1 score

    As a brooks ghost wearer was excited to try the max 2 weeks in my knees are in agony from them really struggle to change brands as I have wide feet
    Thank goodness brooks have a great return policy

  • avatar-comment-1033867
    Eric Munson
    5 months ago

    So, in regards to the standard Ghost feeling like a trainer of five years ago, what’s wrong with that? Brandon is correct in his observation that those of us who run in the Ghost year in and year out do so because we like consistency, reliability, and quality. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

  • avatar-comment-1033849
    Nina
    5 months ago

    I’m scratching my head over why this Hoka-wannabe shoe is being marketed under the Ghost name…it’s nothing like what one expects the Ghost to be. It’s actually kind of the opposite. Half the drop, marshmallowy, thick soles…it’s just weird. If this is the future of the Ghost, I guess I’m going to have to look for a new go-to running shoe.

  • avatar-comment-1032613
    Mary Jo McGrath
    6 months ago

    I love brooks ghost,but my toes leave a hole in the top of the shoe. I have bought several pairs over the last three years.same thing happens everytime..the shoe are only lasting 4 to 6 months..I buy them because these are the only shoe I don’t have to break in…any one else have this problem..p.s my toe nails are short so that’s not the problem..

  • avatar-comment-1032610
    Terry Reilly
    6 months ago
    6 score

    I have been distance running for 40+ years and selling all brands and models of running shoes for 40+ years and perhaps the only truism over all that time is that nothing stays the same for very long, including the Ghost. Incremental changes frequently add up to more than that-ask long time Ghost wearers! I’d agree that the Ghost 15 feels firmer compared to the undeniable Hokafication of many models from every company. My fearless prediction is that within two years Brooks will discontinue the Ghost and keep only the Ghost Max, drop the Max part and do business as usual, much as Asics wisely concluded that the Kinvara Lite and Nimbus lite were dominant enough that they(Asics) didn’t need to saddle themselves or dealers with the confusion of two so similar models. I’d also say the Max is way more palatable than the unnecessary and outdated Dyad(RIP).

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