Confession: With the exception of one pair of New Balances I got a couple of years ago, I’ve always run exclusively in Hoka shoes. I’m a bonafine Hoka Honey, if you will. All that cushioning and shock absorption are exactly what I crave when I’m pounding the pavement.
But Hoka is far from the only brand offering max cushioning these days. And when I learned that Brooks Running was coming out with a cushy new option based on its most popular shoe, the Ghost, I knew it was time to branch out.
With the American Podiatric Medical Associations’s Seal of Acceptance, the Ghost consistently tops running shoe lists all over the world, and the OG is currently on its fifteenth iteration. Now, in response to consumer feedback, the brand is introducing the Brooks Ghost Max ($150).
As its name implies, the Ghost Max takes the design of the ever-popular Ghost and adds more cushioning to the midsole. With that extra foam underfoot, the heel-to-toe drop comes down from 12mm to just 6mm for a flatter placement of the foot in the shoe. The team also added a more exaggerated rocker bottom, meant to help propel you forward with each stride.
So what does all that actually feel like on a run and in the gym? I got a pair to try them out for myself.
Full stack height: 39mm:33mm
Heel-to-toe drop: 6mm
Upper: Structured breathable mesh
Midsole: DNA LOFT v2 Cushioning
Outsole: GlideRoll Rocker that promotes smooth heel-to-toe transitions
Weight: 9 oz. (women) | 10 oz. (men)
Fit: True to size
- Thick, removable insole for extra shock absorption if you want it
- Padded tongue and heel collar for comfort
- Upper mesh is breathable and supportive
- Not super bouncy
- Slightly more expensive than the regular Ghost
How the Brooks Ghost Max performs during different activities
When I received the Brooks box, I was surprised at just how light this pair was. At first glance, the midsoles on the Ghost Max are considerably bigger than those on the traditional Ghost, but they’re still not as thick as the ones I’m used to in Hokas. Curious to see how they perform in various scenarios, I took them out for runs on the street, dirt paths, and the treadmill.
Running on the sidewalk in the Brooks Ghost Max was a welcome change of pace—literally. I was able to run each mile a little faster than usual. In fact, I shaved off about 30 seconds from my typical mile pace when I hit the pavement in these shoes.
As far as comfort, I noticed that there was a slight bounce—which was nice but not that significant. In fact, since the heel-to-toe drop (meaning, the height difference between the bottom of the heel and the bottom of the toe) was only 6mm, I didn’t find the rocker bottom was much help when it came to propulsion. That said, the cushioning and padded insole offer solid shock absorption. On a scale of one to 10, I’d rank the Brooks Ghost Max a solid nine when it comes to road running.
Here, I use “trail running” loosely to mean running outdoors while not on the road or sidewalk. Since the grip on these shoes isn’t exactly built for more technical terrain, I didn’t take them up any mountains.
Instead, I mostly used them to run at the park on flat, dirt ground. In this setting, the Ghost Max performed well—but the traction isn’t totally ideal for dirt terrain. These are by no means trail running shoes (nor do they claim to be) but once I got a good sense of my footing and made sure I wouldn’t slip, I realized that I could comfortably sprint in these kicks. For that reason, I’d give the Ghost Max an eight out of 10 for running on flat, packed dirt trails.
At the gym
I’m a runner. More specifically, I’m a road runner. I am also a journalist who wanted to provide a well-rounded review. That’s why I knew I had to test the Brooks Ghost Max on the treadmill when I went to the gym. In this case, the Ghost Max was a dream. I barely felt them on my feet—but when I thought about how they felt, supportive and light are the two things that came to mind.
Despite my love for running in Hokas, those shoes are admittedly not great for strength training because they have a higher heel-to-toe drop, making it difficult to keep your balance when lifting weights or doing leg workouts. I’m happy to report that this is not the case with the Brooks Ghost Max. Though there’s plenty of cushioning, the lower heel-to-toe drop makes me feel more stable on the gym floor.
So when it comes to the gym, I prefer these shoes over my Hokas. And for me, that’s certainly saying a lot.