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10 oz. (283 g) for a US M9,
9 oz. (255 g) for a US W7.5
39 mm in heel, 33 mm in forefoot (6 mm drop)
Cruising on a cloud of DNA Loft comfort
Huge slab of DNA Loft v2 foam, GlideRoll geometry
MEAGHAN: If you’ve been following us for any amount of time, you know we’re not huge fans of Brooks over here (myself very much included). I just felt like the brand lacked any sort of innovation and excitement (I’ll make an exception for the Aurora BL). But here we are, talking about a brand new shoe in my favorite max cush category, and I’m pretty excited about it.
The Ghost Max is designed with a nice big stack (39 mm / 33 mm) of DNA Loft v2, a GlideRoll rocker, a plush mesh upper, and a broad base for added stability. My US W7.5 came in at 8.6 oz. On paper, it checks a lot of boxes, but how did it feel out on the roads? Let’s jump in.
THOMAS: I’m the first to admit I’ve been rough on Brooks. While the shoe brand crushes sales year after year, making Warren Buffett peel back a toothy grin, its conservative approach to running shoes has left me bored and uninspired.
Yet, somehow, Brooks remains the Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwich of major running shoe brands — an essential staple in the elementary school lunch, the peanut butter and jelly sandwich works on the unrefined palate. That’s why so many running stores sell Brooks to the average runner. To the newbie or the “I bought this last time” consumer, a bland shoe with little character fits the bill — no need to risk trying new foams, lighter uppers, or carbon plates.
However, once in a while, Brooks lets its team cook up a more exciting entree. One of my favorites was the Aurora BL, the original Hyperion Tempo, the Hyperion Max, and now the Ghost Max. I still can’t tell if the Ghost Max is a great running shoe or a great Brooks running shoe, but maybe by the time I finish writing this, I’ll figure it out.
CHAD: I have to say that Meaghan’s first thoughts are ALMOST spot on with how I have seen Brooks in my time as a runner. I agree that the brand has never had much wow factor other than the occasional wild colorway it releases. But I’ll admit that I’ve always been a Brooks fan, largely because of the consistency in the quality of their shoes. More often than not, you’re going to get a nice, comfortable upper. You’re going to get a shoe that performs for the style of running for which it was designed.
But what happens when Brooks eschews its bland reputation and comes out with something new for the running world? Introducing the Ghost Max, Brooks’ entry into the max cushioning realm. With a hefty heap of DNA Loft v2 foam, a smaller 6 mm drop than we’re used to seeing from Brooks, a wide platform, and what the brand calls its GlideRoll rocker geometry, the Ghost Max has everything I look for in a shoe.
AUSTIN: When Believe in the Run dropped the first images of the Brooks Ghost Max on Instagram, I knew the comments section would be good for some laughs. “I’m going to mow so many lawns in these shoes,” said one. “What is it about Brooks shoe design that always reminds me of the interior of a 1996 Ford Taurus?” said another. Like these honest souls, I’ve run in Brooks for years but have never been wowed by the design or the ride. Step-in comfort is consistently great year to year, but the experience is meh. Boring, folks. Truly. Rarely do I consistently reach for a Brooks model for the next run. That’s changed, though — at least for now.
MEAGHAN: I love starting with aesthetics, and Brooks did not disappoint with this one. I received the Crystal Gray / White / Tuscany colorway that has real Kardashian vibes, but what I really like is the simple design. There are no crazy overlays or fancy designs on this one, just a simple, sleek-looking shoe.
The upper is plush and very accommodating of my wider feet. There is lots of padding around the collar and tongue, which makes for a nice step-in feel. This, paired with a big stack of DNA Loft v2, creates an overall comfortable shoe. The foam felt super light underfoot, and while it’s not extremely bouncy and responsive, it provides a smooth transition from landing to toe-off. Brooks’ wide base made it feel very stable, and the miles just seemed to click by. On paper, this shoe isn’t that light (8.6oz for a US W7.5), but because most of the weight seemed to come from the upper, the shoes felt really light out on the roads.
THOMAS: I’ll start at the top and work my way down. The upper fits true to size and feels great against the foot. Broks picked a mesh that is soft, flexible, and breaths well. While it’s not gusseted, the well-cushioned tongue has no problem staying centered over the foot. I don’t usually list spongy laces aren’t on my good list, but these work well, helping you get a secure fit and stay tied. I had no issues with heel lift or any rubbing in the shoe.
Moving on to the midsole, the DNA Loft v2 does the job underfoot, and I enjoyed the GlideRoll rocker on the Ghost Max. The character of the foam itself is forgiving but not soft. It feels light and hollow, almost like a rubberized styrofoam. You don’t really sink into it, and it does have some bounce back. Under the midsole, the rubber outsole provides good traction and tackiness. With nearly complete coverage rubber, durability shouldn’t be a problem.
Not only did I enjoy my miles testing this trainer, but I also liked the style. The Ghost Max is a Brooks shoe I would wear casually. The trainer is heavier on the scale than it feels on the foot. While running, I thought the shoe was in the mid-8-ounce range, and once I weighed it, I was surprised to see 10.4 oz. (307 g). I’ve gotten carnival-level good at guessing shoe weights over the years, but this one through me for a loop.
CHAD: I cannot rave enough about the comfort and ride of the Ghost Max. As I said before, it’s a Brooks shoe, the upper is comfortable and well-padded, with a good amount of volume. Underfoot, the DNA Loft v2 foam is soft and cushioned while still retaining enough of its shape to not feel mushy, utilizing the rocker profile to roll smoothly through the transition from heel to forefoot. To those people who look for lower-drop shoes or shoes with a rocker to help alleviate pressure from the knees and hips, this shoe has both, and they work incredibly well in tandem. Unlike a lot of max cush shoes, I didn’t feel like I needed to expend extra effort to turn the legs over.
My other primary observation was the inherent stability in the Ghost Max, a shoe that Brooks markets as a neutral offering. From heel to toe, the base is fairly wide on this shoe, similar to the platform feel of the New Balance FreshFoam More v4. Despite the 39mm stack of reasonably soft foam, I had no calf, Achilles, or post-tib tendon issues during or after my runs in the Ghost Max. I’d definitely consider this to be stable-neutral, which is my jam.
Was the Grey/Black/Sharp Green colorway I received exciting? No, but the design was very well done and very sharp. Meaghan used the right two words: simple and sleek.
AUSTIN: Meg’s right about the colorway (Crystal Gray / White / Tuscany) she received: it’s snazzy. Brooks should have exchanged that scheme for the Gray and Black yawn that landed on my doorstep. That said, the Ghost Max shines twofold where it matters most. First, the hefty, soft midsole provides just enough pop to not bottom out, though I’d be unlikely to wear the Max for speedy efforts based on the stack height and weight.
And second, the GlideRoll technology. In fact, can we all take a moment and revel in the development and implementation of rockered midsoles? What a fantastic gift to professional and amateur runners alike. Smoother transitions and better efficiency through the gait cycle. Such good stuff. I stuck with easy runs in the Ghost Max, though I did take it out for 13 miles one weekend with no issues, i.e. blisters or unusual aches.
At times I picked up the pace in the final miles, and while the Ghost Max responded in kind, the thick stack anchored my feet a bit from peak performance. Still, I accumulated 50 miles with ease. I enjoyed running in this model. Lastly, I’m amazed that the shoe came in at 10 ounces for a men’s nine. Out of the box, it looked like a brick, but the shoes felt light during my runs, thanks to GlideRoll.Shop Brooks Ghost - Men Shop Brooks Ghost - Women
MEAGHAN: I’m struggling to find much to complain about with this one. I guess if Brooks could lighten it up a bit, that would be cool.
THOMAS: I don’t have much to say here. I like the way this shoe rides. If I had to press for a negative, I’d say the Ghost Max could use more bounce or energy return.
CHAD: I had a very hard time finding something wrong with this shoe. I really can’t even complain about the weight because I think I would consider the Ghost Max in my rotation as a recovery run or easy day shoe, so the 10 oz. for a US M9 is pretty reasonable. Plus, it does feel lighter once it’s laced up and on the run.
AUSTIN: I think it’s possible that all four of us may close this section out without some gripes. I’m excited to see what Thomas has to say. Yes, the weight could come down a few ounces, and I’d like to see some better colors (see: Asics Nimbus 25).Shop Brooks Ghost - Men Shop Brooks Ghost - Women
MEAGHAN: The Brooks Ghost Max was a really nice surprise. It’s a simple, max-cush trainer that can handle lots of miles. While I’ll probably keep this strictly for recovery and easy days, the midsole foam feels light and responsive enough that you could use it for some faster days as well.
THOMAS: The Ghost Max is an excellent running shoe and an exceptional Brooks Running shoe. I would put it in the same category as the Asics Nimbus 25, New Balance 1080, Nike InfinityRN 4, Skechers Ride 11, and Hoka Clifton 9. If you haven’t tried a Brooks in a while, give this one a shot.
CHAD: The Brooks Ghost Max has earned its way into my rotation as my new go-to recovery shoe. Its high stack of DNA Loft v2 foam, a 6 mm drop, inherent stability, and a rocker profile is the best Ghost-related quartet since Venkman, Spengler, Ray, and Winston. If this shoe is an example of what’s to come from Brooks in the future, then consider my membership in the Brooks fan club renewed.
AUSTIN: You heard it here: I’m digging this shoe. The fact that the word Ghost appears with that affirmation surprises me too. It occurred to me recently that the Brooks Ghost Max is what I always wanted the regular Ghost to be. A lower drop, a softer midsole (and it doesn’t have to be max cushion), and a rockered geometry. That’s a winning trifecta in shoe development, one that would serve Brooks well in the future. That and designs that don’t evoke images of the interior of a 1996 Ford Taurus.
You can pick up the Brooks Ghost Max for $150 on October 1, 2023, at Running Warehouse (featuring free 2-day shipping and 90-day returns) using the buttons below.Shop Brooks Ghost - Men Shop Brooks Ghost - Women
Meaghan signed up for her first marathon three weeks before the race, because it was $10 more than the half she planned to run. She learned everything in running the hard way. Now a USATF & UESCA certified run coach, she loves encouraging friends to go for big goals as she continues to chase faster times. She enjoys a hot cup of coffee, a cold martini, and making bagels for friends and family.More from Meaghan
As the founder of Believe in the Run, Thomas’s goal is to help runners pick the shoes and gear that will make their running experience the best that it can be.More from Thomas
An attorney by day, Chad lives in Central Pennsylvania with his wife and three kids. Never much for running growing up, Chad began running as a way to improve his physical health. He went from his first 5k in 2015 to running the Paris Marathon in 2016. Given his larger physical build, Chad is the resident Clydesdale runner, providing shoe and gear insights for those with a bigger build and taller stature.More from Chad
Austin, who lives north of Atlanta, is a stay-at-home father and running store part-timer (year eleven). Based on his inability to provide a 10K or 5K personal record, he should probably race those distances more. It’s rare to not see a party size bag of peanut M&Ms in his pantry and a pair of Shokz on his ears during a run.
All-time favorite shoes: OG Altra Escalante, Saucony Kinvara 3, Nike ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT%More from Austin