Friday, September 01, 2023

Brooks Ghost Max Multi Tester Review: 12 Comparisons

Article by Michael Ellenberger, Jana Herzgova, and Jeff Beck

Brooks Ghost Max ($150)


The Max is no surprise.. the max cushion flavor of the Ghost with the same DNA Loft v2 foam but with a much higher 39mm heel / 33mm forefoot stack height and thus at 6mm also half the heel to toe drop of the regular Ghost. To move the big soft stack along, it features Brooks new GlideRoll technology of carve outs into the midsole and decoupling of the outsole. Weight is approx.10.25 oz /290g US men's 9 with pricing at $150. The Ghost Max will be released in early October 2023


At long last from Brooks, a modern lower drop all around max cushion trainer: Sam/Jeff

Deep, well balanced max cushion midsole: Sam/Michael/Jana/Jeff

Smooth any pace toe off from very effective front rocker geometry/outsole for such a big forefoot stack shoe : Sam/Jeff

Runs lighter than its weight : Sam/Michael/Jana/Jeff

Inherently stable without resorting to GTS GuideRails and other add ons : Sam/Michael/Jana/Jeff

Impeccable, true to size, comfortable fit. Not a surprise from Brooks: Sam/Jana/Jeff


Wish it had Brooks’s supercritical, lighter more energy returning DNA Loft v3 foam Sam/Michael/Jeff

Heel counter (and whole back of the shoe!) is stiff and overdone. Michael

6mm drop on a shoe of this bulk is slightly too low: Michael/Jeff


Estimated Weight: men's 10.25 oz  / 290g (US9 based on US8.5 sample)

 Samples: men’s 10.02 oz  /  284g US8.5, 10.65 oz / 302g US10.5

      women’s  9.60 oz  /  272g US10.5

Full Stack Height: men’s 39 mm heel / 33 mm forefoot, 6mm drop 

 Ghost 15: 35 mm heel / 23 mm forefoot, 12 mm drop 9.88 oz  / 280g (US9) $140

$150. Available October 1, 2023

Sam’s Ghost Max Video Review 

First Impressions, Fit and Upper

Jana: I have never been a fan of high cushioned shoes, as I prefer to feel the ground under my feet, so I have never really tested nor bought any higher stacked shoes. Hoka's line up of high stacked stability shoes ( Speedgoat 3 in particular) has been as close as I came to higher cushioned shoes, and I was not a fan at all. My experience with the Brooks shoe line up is very minimal (Catamount 2 only), so when the opportunity to test Ghost Max came, I wanted to try them. 

While the design is not very impressive nor modern, the ride is definitely the opposite - at least for me. I have not found a single flaw with this model. After running a little over 120 miles in them, on very hot surfaces during Utah’s very hot summer, I can see only a very minor wear on the outsole - something I expected more of. 

To summarize my first impressions (and they remain the same after testing) - super comfortable and breathable upper, great stability, quite light, very smooth and soft feel , and fluffy cushioning. 

While the Ghost Max is not designed to break records, it is a well executed shoe for slow and steady runs, long runs, and I would recommend it to walkers as well, or just for casual wear. I felt some nice breeze passing through them on a windy day run. 

The plush and seamless upper is not new in the shoe industry, but I find it breathable and comfy, with plenty of room in the toe box. There is plenty of padding on the tongue and heel collar, but it does not feel stiff.  

The shoelaces are stretchy and long enough to accommodate higher arch feet. I got caught in a light rain while on a run in them - no problem with traction at all. While they were soaked, they did not feel heavy at all, nor took any longer to dry out then any other higher padded shoes I have had.

When I opened the box they looked like a brick due to the high stack cushioning, but they are surprisingly light, and also true to size.. 

Zero flaws for me - in my rotation for longer and slower runs now. 

Michael: The upper on the Ghost Max is, admittedly, boring - but boring can be functional, and I have no real complaints about the front ⅔ of the shoe. This isn’t a hyper-light upper, or anything flashy (I ran these on a day that tipped over 100*, and I can’t say they were sufficiently breathable, but… nothing really would be!), but they do enough to get you excited. 

My only real issue with the shoe comes in the rear third, particularly the heel counter, but also the surrounding padding. Now, many readers know I love to whine about my Achilles (a longstanding problem for me), but I think even runners with iron tendons could take issues with the over-stiff and harsh-riding heel here. 

Not only is the heel counter itself immovable, but it’s surrounded by pillows of padding that, frankly, add nothing. 

We’ve seen that good heel design can be light and open, and that more material often leads to more blisters, rather than added comfort, and I think that’s the case here. It wasn’t enough to stop me from running in the shoe, but I would love to see a more refined and stripped-back design in v2.

Jeff: I’m on the other end of the spectrum from Jana, I run in almost exclusively massively stacked shoes, though I had the same first impression. Yes, they look a little dull, but dull isn’t a bad thing. Not every shoe needs to turn heads, and this seemed like a great easy day trainer right out of the box. That said, I didn’t have any issue with the heel counter Michael did, but I’m also a much bigger guy, so the extra structure isn’t necessarily a bad thing for me.

The upper isn’t revolutionary, but I don’t have any real gripe with it. It’s not quite comfortable enough for me to think of it as plush, but it’s not spartan, and it does breathe quite nicely. The toebox is adequate, I don’t love it, but it didn’t turn any of my runs in the shoe into a blisterfest, so that’s a good thing. The tongue isn’t gusseted, but was fully planted and didn’t move off center, so no problem there. I wouldn’t hate a great heel pull tab, but the lack of one doesn’t ruin the shoe by any stretch.

The Ghost Max fit seems right on true-to-size. There have been a number of other max stack daily trainers that have plenty of platform width, but effectively a narrow footbed - not the case here. I’d term them as “wide enough” without being sloppy or overly roomy. 


Michael: There’s a lot of midsole here, eh? 39mm of stack at the heel, 33mm in the toe - this is just a high-stacked trainer. And it feels… fine. If you’re familiar with Brooks, it feels like an extra portion of DNA Loft v2. There’s some distinct benefit here - as Sam points out in his video walk-through, this foam is soft, and having a lot of it is, well, extra soft. There’s no, like, additive benefit where another 5+ mm of material makes this feel magically different - it feels like there’s just more, soft material under your foot as you run. And, for many, that’s quite a good thing! 

I got a kick out of true easy days in the Ghost Max. I did not particularly enjoy them on the treadmill (just a little too much mush), but for outdoor, medium or longer easy days… this is a top-tier option. No plate, no fancy next-gen foams - just smooth comfort. Brooks’ “Guide Roll” geometry makes sense here, too - it’s not like what you get in, for example, a Saucony Endorphin Shift (which feels much more propulsive), but instead is a little more relaxed and midfoot or heel-centric in its delivery. Not bad, not even dull, just… you know, regular. The shoe is surprisingly flexible, given its overall platform and bulk, and though I’d prefer an 8mm or even 10mm drop here, just to help with that geometry, the 6mm drop does suffice.

Jana: Michael's summary above is similar to mine. The foam feels light and fluffy underfoot. 

I took it on a progression run workout style, not really anticipating the Max being a very responsive shoe. While it definitely provides less bounce and responsiveness, the transition from heel to forefoot was rather smooth - a pleasant surprise for me. 6mm drop is a sweet spot for me as well, so zero complaints here as well.

Jeff: Michael nailed my thoughts better than I could. I was a bit disappointed, but it isn’t a disappointing shoe, it’s just…regular. And with the very dynamic DNA Loft v3 in their repertoire, regular feels kind of underwhelming. Also, the only only DNA Loft v2 midsole shoe I have tested, the Cascadia 16, was surprisingly great - making me think this midsole really thrives on dirt. And in taking the Ghost Max on a couple very tame dirt trails, yeah, that holds up. I didn’t mind it on the treadmill either, but it didn’t come alive there by any stretch. So if you are looking for a shoe to wow you, I think you’ll be left looking - because this is a really well cushioned, and very comfortable, but regular shoe.


Jana: As I mentioned above, I had zero issues with traction during light rain run, nor did I have any other traction issues. After 120+ miles on very hot roads during this summer in Utah, I can only see very minor wear on the outsole. I am not hard on my shoes and on road shoes particularly, so it is always hard for me to try to estimate what mileage I’ll be able to “squeeze” out of them.  My guess is that the super cushy feel will go before the outsole will. Time will tell.

Michael: I’ll repeat myself from the “Upper” section here - the outsole is boring, but it works just fine! I noticed some potentially premature wear after only about 40 miles on the shoe, but I think it to be cosmetic, rather than functional - the rubber here is thick, but it has thinner “accents” (captured well in the photo above) which may lead one to think they’re wearing through it. 

The thinner “grip elements” of the outsole pattern may also lead to potential traction issues in particularly iffy weather conditions, but I’m confident for two reasons - one being that nearly the entire outsole is coated in rubber (even if the textured grips are a bit less pronounced), and the other being that, in general, Brooks is perhaps the brand I expect to get the most longevity out of. Accordingly, I expect this to be a comfortable 400+ mile shoe (of course, I’ll update this if future testing suggests otherwise!).

Jeff: Plus one to the outsole being fully fine. I did notice some wear in the little bit of exposed midsole under the forefoot, but I don’t think it’s anything problematic. The rubber they use is a solid balance of traction and durability, and while it isn’t the thickest rubber around,

it doesn’t factor into the shoe’s lack of flexibility, the thick midsole and Glide Roll Rocker tech carved in does that all itself.

Ride, Conclusions and Recommendations

Michael: This is the summer of surprises (at least to me!). I was dubious of both the Saucony Kinvara Pro and the Brooks Ghost Max, and both ended up being shoes I kept coming back to even after my “duty” as a shoe reviewer was over.

On the Ghost Max, specifically, I think Brooks has done a fine job with its initial entry into the max category and (again, can’t believe I’m saying this!) hope that this model sticks around in the future. So many running shoe lineups seem overcrowded, and I was ready to say there was no place for a Ghost Max - but I’m just as pleased to be proven wrong. 

For generation two, I’d love to see a slimmed-back heel, a slightly higher drop, and perhaps (if we’d be so lucky!) a next-gen foam, like DNA Loft v3. But don’t let promises of the future distract you from the present - the Ghost Max is a darn good shoe, and one I’m going to keep running in deep into the fall. Spooky good!

Michael’s Score: 9.2/10 

😊😊😊😊😊 (for the surprise factor - who would have thought this was a shoe I’d enjoy so much?!)

Jana: Brooks Ghost Max is now my go shoe for my recovery / slower runs. And I mean all such runs. And what a pleasant surprise for someone who has not been a fan of highly cushioned shoes. They have been amazing for me. I have had zero issues with them from day one. I am really struggling to find any complaints. 

The only suggestion I would make to Brooks is to try to make the design more modern. I received the Crystal Gray / White / Tuscany version of the colorway - it is still a sleek and simple design, but maybe a change of color or a “ splash of pop” may not be a bad way to go about it. I imagine more colors will come. And for $150 retail price, it is a well executed and price point friendly option.  

I am digging this shoe. 

Jana’s Score: 9.9/10. 😊😊😊😊😊 (the missing 0.1 point to make these an absolute perfection for me is the design factor - let’s hope Brooks will keep this shoe around and add some pop to them in the next version)

Jeff: As you can see from above, if you’re looking for a well-cushioned daily trainer, the bread-and-butter type of shoe, there’s something new to consider. It isn’t the most lively, but that should make it easier to recommend - bouncy shoes are polarizing and while well-cushioned but, as Michael put it, “regular” shoes are universally liked-to-loved. I wouldn’t mind if they were a little cooler looking, or had a slightly wider toebox, but looks are subjective and the toebox is wide enough. I appreciate that the platform width is very close to the actual width for the foot, no restrictive bucket to dig into any part of the foot if you don’t have a narrow foot. 

I was initially expecting a little more lively shoe, but after putting nearly 50 miles on my pair, I’m not putting them away any time soon. Turns out regular and predictable is a great recipe for a daily trainer. And at just a hair over 300g in a 10.5 isn’t remotely heavy for the amount of shoe under foot.

Jeff’s Score: 9.25/10  😊😊😊😊

Ride: 9 (50%) Fit: 9.5 (30%) Value: 10 (10%)Style: 8 (5%)

12 Comparisons

Index to all RTR reviews: HERE

ASICS GEL-Nimbus 25 (RTR Review)

41.5mm heel / 33.5mm forefoot  10.3 oz  / 292 g (US9)

Jeff: Very similarly cushioned shoes, with the N25 midsole feeling noticeably softer and the platform is wider - though the footbed isn’t wider than the Ghost Max. The added softness of the Nimbus is nice, but it doesn’t have much in the way of the dynamic bounce back that many softer shoes do. Toe boxes are very similar, with the Nimbus being just slightly wider, and the Nimbus upper is definitely more plush than the Ghost Max. The Nimbus slots in cleaner as a recovery and purely easy day shoe, the Ghost Max’s slight firmer ride makes it more versatile - with this much stack and cushioning it can be your easy day shoe, or your every day ride.

Brooks Ghost 15 RTR Review:  

35 mm heel / 23 mm forefoot, 12 mm drop 9.88 oz  / 280g (US9) 

Michael: Go with the Max! Neither shoe is particularly gripping (Brooks retains its title of most boring lineup, even though it has some really great options!), but the Ghost Max is everything the Ghost is, and more. If you want a Ghost-like shoe that isn’t the Max, I’d try the Hyperion or even Launch before deciding on the Ghost 15. But between these two, I’m a fan of the Max!

Brooks Glycerin 20 RTR Review 

34 mm heel / 24 mm forefoot, 10mm drop, Regular upper approx. 10.35 oz / 294g US9

Jeff: This shoe’s existence is part of why I was expecting a little more dynamic ride out of the Ghost Max, DNA Loft v3 is bouncy, and in the G20 it was just a little bouncy. That said, when worn against each other, the big brother Glycerin feels a little underwhelming in stack (okay okay, it’s only the big brother to the standard Ghost, not the Ghost Max - following that logic you have to wonder if there’s a Glycerin Max coming, though I think I prefer the Glycerin 20’s upper. For now we’ve got two well-cushioned Brooks daily trainers , one ultra cushioned and not as bouncy (Max), the other just well cushioned and more bouncy (Glycerin).

Hoka Bondi 8 (RTR Review)

​​39mm heel / 35 mm forefoot, 5mm drop.10.97 oz  / 311 g (men's US9) 

Jeff: The longtime king of max cushion, the Bondi 8 is even bigger than the Ghost Max - both vertically and in the platform width - and it shockingly even has a bigger toebox (Hoka has historically had pretty narrow toeboxes), but the interior of the shoe is much narrower and digs into the arch of the foot, while the Ghost Max doesn’t have that issue at all. The Bondi is everything the Ghost Max is, and then some, but unless you have narrow feet or really high arches, the Ghost Max is probably the better fit.

Skechers Ride 11  (RTR Review

38mm heel / 32mm forefoot ( 6mm drop spec). 9.7 oz  / 275g (US men's 9)

Jeff: Surprisingly similar stack height feel, the Ride 11 has more bounce and an overall lighter feel. The Hyperburst Ice has a much more dynamic ride, while still being pretty controlled. The upper is lighter and feels more premium at the same time. While the Ghost Max outsole has no issues, the Goodyear rubber on the Skechers Performance is in a higher class in the durability and traction department. Both can be solid every day trainers, just a matter if you want a lot of firm cushion or ever-so-slightly less bouncy cushion.

Skechers MaxRoad 6 (RTR Review

41mm heel / 35mm forefoot ( 6mm drop spec). 10.9oz / 309g (men’s US9) 

Jeff: While I usually take the “give me every bit of squish you can” stance, in this case the extra stack of the MR6 loses some of the magic that the Ride 11 has, even though it has the same midsole and just a few millimeters more. Against the Ghost Max, the MR6 feels like it’s got every bit the stack the Brooks has and then some, while being more bouncy, but it’s one of those situations where the total is less than the sum of its parts. Ghost Max is a much easier daily trainer to recommend.

NB 1080 v12 (RTR Review)

34 heel / 26 mm forefoot, 8mm drop. 10.30 oz / 292g  (men's US 9) 

Jeff: The v12 was one of my favorite 1080 to date, but it doesn’t have the stack height to measure up to the Ghost Max. The NB upper feels much more premium, and I favor the outsole as well, but the lack of midsole stack makes it feel a little flat by comparison.

Saucony Ride 16 (RTR Review)

35mm heel / 27mm forefoot, 8 mm drop. Approx weight: 8.8oz / 250g US M9 

Jeff: Similar shoes in that they are both well cushioned with a relatively firm stack, the Ride 16 has a lower ride height, while still being very well cushioned - just a testament to how much midsole the Ghost Max has. The Saucony upper is much nicer with a little bit more premium feel, though the outsole doesn’t have nearly the durability of the Brooks. If you want a decently cushioned firm riding trainer, the Ride could be your jam, if you want that, but more, look at the Ghost Max.

Saucony Endorphin Shift 3 (RTR Review)

35mm heel / 27mm forefoot, 8 mm drop. Approx weight: 9.5 oz / 269 g (US9) 

Michael: I’m a fan of the Endorphin Shift series, and as I wrote above, they aren’t necessarily direct comparators. The Shift is a quicker-feeling, more engaging ride. Almost like a plated shoe, but not quite there. The Max is more relaxed, and lends itself better to true recovery runs. If you want a softer platform, go Brooks, but between the two I do have a slight preference for the Shift! 

Jeff: I’m with Michael, the Shift is firmer but it’s got the exaggerated rocker that keeps it moving forward - not ideal for the easiest days. Following his advice, and I do prefer a softer platform, I definitely favor the Ghost Max. 

Nike InfinityRN 4 (RTR Review)

39mm heel / 30mm forefoot ( 9mm drop spec) 11.16 oz / 316g (US9)

Jeff: Nike’s recently released mild stability trainer has a similar stack while it feels much softer. The Nike upper has a more premium feel and some nice stretch, but it definitely feels heavier underfoot and is. I think it’s the best shoe in its line, but if you’re looking for a standard daily trainer, I think the Ghost Max has the advantage for most runners.

Saucony Triumph 21 (RTR Review)

37 mm heel / 27 mm forefoot 9.8oz  / 279g (US9)

Jeff: Saucony’s big daily trainer that got a very mild update from the T20 (my shoe of the year last year) and made a great shoe only a bit better. While it’s only a little lighter, it feels much lighter, and has a softer landing with much more bounce to it with each step. The upper is also miles better than the Ghost Max. The heel stack is very similar in height, but the lower drop of the Ghost Max makes the Brooks more cushioned under the forefoot - but the Triumph 21 has that much better of a ride.

Topo Phantom 3 (RTR Review)

33 heel / 28 mm forefoot, 5mm drop 9.43 oz  / 267g (US9) 

Jeff: Topo’s biggest stacked shoe is noticeably lower than the Ghost Max, but also noticeably softer while still being very well cushioned. The toebox debate is no contest with Topo’s design taking the cake, and while I do appreciate the extra foam under foot, I think the ride of the Phantom is a little more pleasant for day-in-day-out training.

Watch Sam's  Brooks Ghost Max Video Review (12:44)

The Brooks Ghost Max will be available Oct.1, 2023

Tester Profiles

Michael is a patent attorney and graduate of Northwestern University Law School. Prior to law school, he competed collegiately at Washington University in St. Louis (10,000m PR of 30:21). Michael’s PRs include a 67:43 half-marathon (Chicago Half-Marathon) and a 2:21:19 marathon PR at the 2023 Grandma’s Marathon. Michael continues to race on the roads, and is chasing a sub-2:20 marathon and potential OTQ in the future.

Jana Herzgova took up running in 2016, after a back injury. Prior to that she was a speed skater, but due to back pain and doctor's recommendation, she transitioned into running. Since then, starting with shorter ultra distance races she quickly evolved into an avid long distance and unsupported mountain runner. She also loves to take on challenges/races in arctic and subarctic climates, mainly in unsupported and semi-self supported style. She currently lives in Utah/Wyoming.

Jeff Beck is the token slow runner of the RTR lineup, and as such his viewpoints on shoe and gear can differ from those who routinely finish marathons in three hours or less. Jeff runs 20 miles per week on roads and trails around Denver, CO (and sometimes on the treadmill when the weather gets too much for a Phoenix native). Jeff only got into running in his 30s, as a result his career PR's are 4:07 for the marathon and 5K at 23:39. Jeff has finished several ultra marathons, from 50K up to 50 miles, and is still debating if he wants to go down that road again.

Samples were provided at no charge for review purposes. RoadTrail Run has affiliate partnerships and may earn commission on products purchased via shopping links in this article. These partnerships do not influence our editorial content. The opinions herein are entirely the authors'.

Comments and Questions Welcome Below!
Please let us know mileage, paces, race distances, and current preferred shoes

Please Like and Follow RoadTrailRun
Facebook:  Instagram: @roadtrailrun
Twitter: @RoadTrailRun You Tube: @RoadTrailRun

Men's & Women's SHOP HERE
FREE 2 Day Shipping EASY No Sweat Returns

EUROPE Men's & Women's SHOP HERE

Europe only: use RTR code RTR5ALL for 5% off all products, even sale products 


Men's and Women's SHOP HERE
  • 10% Savings Every Day*  5% Back in Rewards Cash
  • Test Run Shoes 90 Days Worry Free
  • Crazy Fast, FREE Shipping

Men's & Women's SHOP HERE

Men's & Women's  SHOP HERE

Men's & Women's  SHOP HERE

Men's & Women's SHOP HERE
Use RTR code RTRTOP4 for 5% off all products, even sale products

Men's & Women's  SHOP HERE

Men's & Women's  SHOP HERE

Men's & Women's SHOP HERE
FREE Shipping on most orders over $40

Men's & Women's SHOP HERE

Men's & Women's SHOP HERE

Men's and Women's SHOP HERE


Find all RoadTrailRun reviews at our index page HERE 
Google "roadtrailrun Shoe Name" and you can be quite sure to find just about any run shoe over the last 10 years

Enjoyed this post? Never miss out on future posts by Following RoadTrailRun News Feed

Please Like and Follow RoadTrailRun
Facebook:  Instagram: @roadtrailrun
Twitter: @RoadTrailRun You Tube: @RoadTrailRun

No comments: