If you ever went into a running speciality store looking for a pair of running shoes, chances are you were recommended a Brooks Ghost. That's because the Ghost franchise is a dependable daily trainer. It's not too flashy or expensive, and it is also certified CarbonNeutral®. Overall, it's an inoffensive shoe that will get the job done.
Enter the Brooks Ghost Max, the subject of this review. The shoes are very much on-trend, with all big-ticket manufacturers adding more foam underfoot to their popular franchises these days (see also: Saucony Kinvara Pro review, etc.). Which is great, to a certain degree, as who doesn't like a cushioned running experience?
On the other hand, it's also slightly confusing, as creating these max-cushioned versions of your favourite shoes muddles the lineup significantly. Whereas before, there were only a couple of these in every brand's stables, now, you have five. This is also fine, but it might make it harder to decide which shoe to get, as they are all becoming very samey-samey.
That said, is the Brooks Ghost Max a good running shoe? I was lucky enough to be sent a pair prior to the UK release and managed to squeeze in a few runs in them, despite slaving away on the computer more than usual because of Black Friday/Cyber Monday. Below, you'll find my initial thoughts. Once I have the chance to put a few more miles in the Brooks Ghost Max, I'll update this review.
[First reviewed: December 2023]
Brooks Ghost MAX review
Brooks Ghost MAX review: price and availability
The Brooks Ghost Max has already been released in the US on 1 October. In the UK, the official release date is 1 December 2023. Therefore, the shoes are now available to buy in all countries for a recommended retail price of $150 / £140/ AU$ 260. The Brooks Ghost Max is available in women's and men's versions in several colourways. For the best prices, check out the price widgets at the top and bottom of this review.
Brooks Ghost MAX review: specifications
- Best for: long-distance training, daily trainer
- Midsole drop: 6mm
- Weight: 10.0oz / 283.5g
- Cushioning: max-cushion
- Support: Neutral
- Sustainability: certified CarbonNeutral®
Brooks Ghost MAX review: design and technology
Despite the similar name, the Brooks Ghost Max offers a different running experience from other Ghost shoes, such as the Brooks Ghost 14. It features a 'super-stacked' DNA LOFT v2 foam, designed to provide a plush, protected feel without compromising responsiveness.
It's softer than your standard Ghost because you have more foam underfoot. It's the same store as the On Cloudmonster: the Helion 'superfoam' was pretty hard on its own, but once On added another layer of it on top, all of a sudden, the shoes became bearable to run in for more than just 10k.
In addition to adding more foam, the Ghost Max also introduces another structural change, the GlideRoll Rocker technology. The more pronounced shape of the sole reminds me of Hoka's early-stage Meta-Rocker technology (see also: Hoka Mach X review) as well as Nike's top-banana racers, such as the Nike Alphafly 2 (less propulsive due to the lack of carbon plate, of course).
Brooks claims the GlideRoll Rocker provides a "shoe-assisted transition from heel to toe," which in turn helps to reduce pressure under the forefoot.
Furthermore, Brooks tweaked the upper of the Ghost Max, which now features a double jacquard warp knit. Brooks says it provides softness, breathability, durability and flexibility, and I tend to agree. It did wonders in supporting my wide feet without feeling too restricted. The brand says the upper is more aesthetic; I beg to differ. The tested Red Orange/Black/Surf The Web colourway looks eerily similar to the Orange/Crown Blue/Blue Brooks Ghost 20.
Brooks Ghost MAX review: running performance
I only went on a few runs in the Brooks Ghost Max, but I'm happy with what I've seen and experienced so far. It performs exactly as you'd expect, providing a soft landing, smooth transition, and generally inoffensive running experience. No wonder running shops always recommend Ghosts!
There is no heel tab, so it's a hair more difficult to get in the shoes. The support around the ankle and the heel is spot on, and thanks to the wider platform and the well-designed rocker, the Ghost Max feels stable and supportive.
In terms of firmness, it's softer than the Ghost 15 but not as cushy as the New Balance Fresh Foam X 1080v13, which is either positive or negative, depending on your needs. I know some people find the Fresh Foam X a bit slumpy – I love it – so if you want a tad more snap, the Ghost Max is a better option.
The upper is supportive and comfortable. The padded tongue and soft laces help distribute pressure evenly at the top of the foot. The toe box feels accommodating but not loose, and the reinforced areas don't rub or cause chafing. Thanks to the near-perfect support coming from the rear, running in the Brooks Ghost Max felt lovely.
Brooks Ghost MAX review: verdict
Brooks' Ghost franchise provides a balanced, reliable running experience, which helps runners, novice and experienced alike, cruise through their sessions comfortably. The Brooks Ghost Max switches things up a bit by adding more foam, introducing a more pronounced rocker geometry, and throwing a double jacquard warp knit upper at the top.
Thanks to these changes, the Brooks Ghost Max feels more comfortable and supportive, making it the most Ghost-like shoe of all the Ghosts. And because the shoes look and feel like Ghosts, albeit taller and softer, it's almost impossible to get excited over them. They are... nice enough. Nice enough to look at, nice enough to wear and nice enough to run in.
If you're looking for an inoffensive, well-cushioned daily trainer that will do its job fine without attracting too much attention, the Brooks Ghost Max is your best bet. No one will point fingers at you, saying, 'Oh, those are the new Brooks Ghosts!' And there is something comfortable in that thought.
No one wants to be that guy being ridiculed at the local Parkrun because they are wearing a box fresh pair of Alphaflys! You won't have this problem with the Brooks Ghost Max. Better still, you'll also benefit from the added stability and support. Wins all around.
Brooks Ghost MAX review: also consider
Have a look at T3's best running shoes guide for more options.
The ASICS Gel-Nimbus 25 might be a good alternative. It uses a new, softer Gel (PUREGEL), new midsole foam (FF Blast Plus ECO), a new knitted upper and a new outsole, making the now 25-year-old shoes feel fresher than ever. Read my full ASICS Gel-Nimbus 25 review.
If you want more snappiness, check out the Hoka Mach 5. It inherited the softer and more responsive PROFLY+ foam from the Mach Supersonic and added a stripped-back creel mesh upper, a lay-flat tongue and a rubberised EVA underfoot to provide runners with an agile yet stable ride. Read my Hoka Mach 5 review.