Brooks Ghost Max Review
The Brooks Ghost Max is designed to be an everyday neutral training shoe. This is the running shoe that you use for the bulk of your mileage. This covers your easy runs; recovery runs and long runs. Going on the name you would assume that the Ghost Max was a Brooks Ghost 15 with a higher stack height. It is a very different shoe to the Ghost 15.
The Ghost Max midsole is made from DNA Loft v2, which is the same material that is used to make the Ghost 15 midsole. However, that is the only similarity. The Ghost Max midsole is much thicker and the heel to forefoot drop is 6mm compared to the Ghost 15’s 10mm. This makes it much easier to land midfoot in the Ghost Max and together with the rocker in the midsole discourages a heavy heel strike. Despite the extra midsole, the Brooks Ghost Max weight is very similar to the Ghost 15. The women’s UK 5 is 255g and the men’s UK 8 is 283g. When running in the shoes I found they felt a lot lighter. This is partially due to the rocker and partially due to the density of the foam. Unlike a lot of other ‘max’ cushion running shoes, the Ghost Max midsole isn’t really soft. It has a slight spring to it but you don’t sink into the midsole on impact.
Brooks describe the rocker as a ‘Glide Roll Rocker’ which sums up the feeling perfectly. You feel like you are just gliding a long in the shoes while running on the flat. When running uphill the curve at the toes gets in the way a bit and makes it hard to maintain a quick cadence. You are more aware of the stack height and it feels like you are plodding up the hills. This is an improvement on a lot of other max cushioned shoes though. Usually they are really soft and you sink into the midsole and feel like you are working really hard to get up the hill. The Ghost Max just felt a little awkward and has been something that I have got used to and isn’t as much of an issue now. On the downhill, shoes with rockers often ‘pull you’ down the hill. This isn’t the case with the Ghost Max. The rocker is much more subtle. You can cruise down the hill at your leisure. The midsole does compress more on the down-hills and gives a nice rebound that takes away any feeling of jarring.
The fit of the Ghost Max is very similar to the Brooks Dyad 11. The Dyad 11 is a stable neutral shoe that Brooks is actually phasing out. The Ghost Max is made on a much straighter last than the Ghost 15 or Glycerin 20, which means that it doesn’t cut in as much through the waist of the shoe. Like the Dyad this makes the Ghost Max a good shape for inserting an Orthotic. The broad base to the shoe makes the Ghost Max offer an Orthotic a good stable base. The only potential issue is that your foot sits inside the midsole of the Ghost Max so if you were going to use them with an Orthotic then you would need to make sure that the Orthotic fitted into the space in the midsole and wasn’t too wide.
There is also no shaping through the arch of the shoe. Which means that your foot is able to function without any obstruction. When your foot touches the floor your arch should compress to absorb the shock and then reshape allowing you to push off from the end of your big toe. Shoes that have some shaping in the arch might feel supportive but, they obstruct the foots normal function as the arch isn’t able to compress fully. It must stretch over the arch shape in the shoe. How much of an issue this is depends on how much foot function you have but if your foot isn’t functioning then it becomes a passenger in the shoes and doesn’t get any stronger.
The toe box of the Ghost Max has a straight big toe line similar to the Dyad. This allows for a much stronger push off. It also means that because the big toe isn’t push across, like it is in a shoe with a more pointed toe box, the other toes are free to wiggle and function. This makes the toe box feel roomier than it is in reality which feels a lot more comfortable to a lot of runners.
The midsoles of Brooks shoes tend to be firm and responsive. This means that when your foot has touched the floor it is encouraged to function because it has hit something firm. In a soft midsole shoe the foot isn’t stimulated at all and so doesn’t spread on impact. So, you lose the natural shock absorption, stability and propulsion that your feet give you. The straighter big toe line frees up the toes and allows for more foot function than you would expect to get in a shoe with a big stack height and a rocker.
If you are running in the Brooks Ghost 15 and feel that you need a bit more cushioning in the forefoot then the Brooks Ghost Max would be worth a try as it has noticeably more cushioning in the forefoot than the Ghost 15. However, if you like the fit and high heel to forefoot drop of the Ghost 15 then a better option might be to consider the Brooks Glycerin. These have a similar shape and ride. The midsole is DNA Loft v3 which has a softer feel than the DNA Loft v2 and is also Nitrogen Infused. This means that the midsole is in effect like a balloon, so the air doesn’t escape when you land on it and you get a much more bouncy ride. Although you do lose some of the feel for the floor.
The Ghost Max has an engineered mesh upper with a well-padded tongue and heel cup which is a trademark of Brooks running shoes that are designed for everyday training. This gives the Ghost Max a very plush, comfortable feel when you first slip your foot into the shoes. The length is in line with other Brooks shoes. I use a UK 11 in Brooks, Altra, Topo and NNormal. A UK 1.5 in Hoka, New Balance and La Sportiva gives me a similar length.
There is an extra lace hole so you can Butterfly the laces or thread the lace through the hole to get an extra tight fit at the heel. The heel is constructed of half a plastic heel cup which together with the broad base to the Ghost Max makes it quite a stable neutral shoe.
I have covered just over 200 miles in the Brooks Ghost Max to date. The feel and ride has changed a bit in that time as it does with all running shoes. The midsole has become a little softer and more flexible. This has improved the shoes for me. I feel like I can run a little more naturally in the shoes now that they have become less stiff. They weren’t really controlling when I first used them and where a nice shoe to run in from the off but, that bit of flex that they now have in the forefoot makes it easier to trot up the hills and my gait feels a little more natural.
I have used the Ghost Max for mainly easy runs. Although the midsole is firm enough to run a little quicker, I feel that there is just too much shoe on my foot to naturally run quickly. I find that they are nice and smooth. Perfect for my everyday runs and long runs. I could just pop them on and get on with my run without really thinking about them.
The rocker in the midsole is there to keep your foot moving. It does some of the work for you by rocking the foot backwards. There is an argument that shoes that have this shaped midsole don’t work the hamstrings and glutes as much as shoes without it. This I can testify to as when I have been reviewing shoes with a rocker for a few weeks and then run in shoes without one it is quite hard to run in the shoes without a rocker until my hamstrings and glutes have got turned back on. The rocker in the Brooks Ghost Max is less prominent than in other shoes with a rocker and the toe spring quite pronounced. This seems to encourage you to lift your heels up, which is good running form, rather than ride the shoe. So, my hamstrings and glutes are still working. I noticed that after long runs my hamstrings and glutes were tied in the same way they would be after running in shoes that don’t have a rocker. So, despite the smooth gliding feeling of the shoes it appears that I am still working my glutes and hamstrings.
I am not normally a fan of shoes with a thick midsole and was expecting to not like the Brooks Ghost Max. However, I am pleasantly surprised. I like the firmness of Brook’s midsoles but struggled with the more pointed toe boxes and the high heel to forefoot drop. The Ghost Max has addressed both these issues and for that reason is a Brooks shoe that other runners who haven’t previously enjoyed Brooks shoes might want to try.
The Brooks Ghost Max is available in two width men’s and two width women’s, so if you have wider feet then the Brooks Ghost Max is still an option.
In summary the Brooks Ghost Max is a highly cushioned everyday neutral training shoe. Ideal for all the ‘bread and butter runs’ but possibly a little too bulky for the faster workouts.
New Balance 1080v13: A much softer and bouncier feel but, this makes the 1080v13 feel a lot less natural to run in. https://www.northernrunner.com/blog/new-balance-1080v13-review/
Altra Paradigm 7: A similar firm feel to the cushioning. A broad rounded toe box offers a bit more room for foot function than the Ghost Max. A zero drop promotes a more natural midfoot strike. https://www.northernrunner.com/blog/altra-paradigm-7-review/
Karhu Mestari: The rocker and fulcrum offer a bit more propulsion. Similar straight big toe line and room in the toe box. https://www.northernrunner.com/blog/karhu-mestari-run-1-0-review/
On Cloudsurfer: A much softer ride. Straight big toe line and good volume in toe box. https://www.northernrunner.com/blog/on-cloudsurfer-review/
Altra VIA Olympus: A broad rounded toe box. Made on Altra’s original last which is there most roomy. A firmer more clumpy shoe than the Ghost Max. https://www.northernrunner.com/blog/altra-via-olympus-review/
Hoka Bondi 8: The original shoe of this type. A more pointed toe box. The midsole is softer and the rocker more noticeable. Available in three width Men’s and two width Women’s. https://www.northernrunner.com/blog/hoka-bondi-8-review/