Our verdict

The Brooks Ghost Max is like the regular Ghost but on steroids, offering a skyscraper-high midsole combined with a stable ride, especially for heel strikers. In our tests, we were impressed with its performance on long runs and easy days. And despite its substantial size, it's still surprisingly lightweight. The upper is really comfortable and it's well-ventilated, though it does fall short in durability and lacks a gusseted tongue. However, these are minor quibbles in what we found to be an excellent, fairly-priced maximalist option from Brooks, capable of devouring miles with ease.

Pros

  • Exceptionally cushioned
  • Impressively lightweight for its size
  • Extremely comfortable
  • Remarkably stable
  • Durable outsole with long-lasting performance
  • A genuine maximalist version of the Ghost
  • Reasonably priced at $150
  • Offered in three width options

Cons

  • Tongue is not fixed to the sides
  • Lacks energy return

Audience verdict

90
Superb!

Who should buy

We think the Brooks Ghost Max is an excellent pick for:

  • Enthusiasts of the regular Ghost looking for a softer, more cushioned alternative for their long runs and easy days.
  • Runners who loved the OG Nike Invincible feel and are searching for a max-stack, plush training shoe.
  • Fans of maximalist shoes eager to explore options beyond the usual picks like Hoka.

Brooks Ghost Max

Who should NOT buy

While the Brooks Ghost Max offers a super-stacked running experience, its plush midsole doesn't provide the best energy return on the market. For that, we suggest shoes with PEBA-based foams like the Nike Invincible 3 or the ASICS Superblast.

We also believe that the Max also isn't the top choice for those seeking a high-quality upper. Although it's quite decent, the tongue isn't attached to the sides and it falls short in durability. Both the Saucony Triumph 21 and the Nike Pegasus 40 address these issues while retaining most of the Brooks' positive features.

Brooks Ghost Max

Breathability

We think the team at Brooks nailed it with the upper design of their latest model, sticking to the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" philosophy.

This approach has certainly paid off, as the upper closely resembles its smaller sibling, the Ghost 15. In our tests, it earned the same solid 4/5, showcasing its ability to handle long, hot-weather runs with ease.

We used a powerful light to pinpoint the most breathable areas of the Max. As expected, the toebox is the winner here, but we were also impressed with the decent airflow through the midfoot. This airflow comes to a halt in the rearfoot.

Brooks Ghost Max micro

Brooks' strategy for achieving top-notch ventilation involves crafting small holes in the 3D Fit Print mesh at strategic points.

These are more visible under a microscope, but their impact on airflow is noticeable.

Brooks Ghost Max

We were also impressed by the upper's eco-friendly construction. Over 50% of the materials are recycled, with Brooks using up to 9 plastic bottles per shoe, earning them the CarbonNeutral certificate.

But the cherry on top? This sustainable approach doesn't compromise comfort at all. We found the Max really plush and cozy!

Test results
Ghost Max 4
Average 3.8
Compared to 234 running shoes
Number of shoes
1
Breathability
5

Durability

Toebox durability

We often find that shoes emphasizing extreme comfort and ventilation tend to fall short in durability. And sadly, the Ghost Max is no exception. We put it through our rigorous Dremel test, using the standard 5K@3.2N that we apply to all shoes.

The results were disappointing, to say the least. We discovered a big hole, leading us to give it a dismal 1 out of 5 in this test.

Brooks Ghost Max Toebox durability
Test results
Ghost Max 1
Average 2.4
Compared to 168 running shoes
Number of shoes
1
Toebox durability
5

Heel padding durability

Luckily, the heel area of the Max proved to be impressively tough, holding up well in our second Dremel test.

We're happy to report that it scored a strong 4/5, indicating a performance that surpasses many shoes currently on the market. This resilience in the heel area is a big win, showing that the Max can handle wear and tear in the Achilles area much better than most shoes.

Brooks Ghost Max Heel padding durability
Test results
Ghost Max 4
Average 3.2
Compared to 164 running shoes
Number of shoes
1
Heel padding durability
5

Outsole hardness

Shifting our focus to the outsole, we were eager to examine its durability, especially since the regular Ghost model had performed quite well in this area.

Brooks Ghost Max outsole

The Max boasts an impressive amount of rubber in its outsole, covering most areas while leaving a deeper central channel. This design enhances torsional flexibility and helps with water evacuation.

We began by measuring the outsole's hardness. With a score of 80.4 HC, we found it to be pretty average. Then, we were curious to see how this translates into its wear and tear performance over time.

Brooks Ghost Max Outsole hardness
Test results
Ghost Max 80.4 HC
Average 80.5 HC
We use an average of four tests. The photo shows one of those tests.
Compared to 285 running shoes
Number of shoes
52.1 HC
Outsole hardness
93.0 HC

Outsole durability

But let's remember, hardness is just a number. That's why we were keen to put the outsole through its paces, and for that, there's nothing quite like another Dremel test.

In our third and final test, the outsole only showed a 0.5-mm indentation after the Dremel worked its magic. This is an outstanding score, assuring us of the outsole's long-lasting performance.

Brooks Ghost Max Outsole durability
Test results
Ghost Max 0.5 mm
Average 0.9 mm
Compared to 146 running shoes
Number of shoes
0.0 mm
Outsole wear
2.0 mm

Outsole thickness

Finally, we meticulously measured the thickness of the rubber and found it to be 3.3 mm. This is typical for most daily trainers, yet this one stands out as clearly tougher.

That's why it's obvious to all of us in the lab that no matter what surface you run on, the durability of this rubber will be impressive, ensuring that runners can trust it to withstand various terrains like soft trails or gravel roads without wearing down quickly.

Brooks Ghost Max Outsole thickness
Test results
Ghost Max 3.3 mm
Average 3.2 mm
Compared to 304 running shoes
Number of shoes
0.0 mm
Outsole thickness
6.6 mm

Weight

Turning our attention to our trusty scale, we discovered that the Max weighs in at a reasonable 10.3 oz (291g). Honestly, that's not too bad! Considering it packs in a lot more foam than the regular Ghost, the half-ounce increase in weight is pretty impressive.

In our view, the Max definitely strikes a great balance between added cushioning and maintaining a manageable weight. 

Brooks Ghost Max Weight
Test results
Ghost Max 10.26 oz (291g)
Average 9.38 oz (266g)
Compared to 305 running shoes
Number of shoes
5.26 oz (149g)
Weight
12.56 oz (356g)

Cushioning

Heel stack

This Ghost earns its name 'Max' thanks to its impressive stack height.

Brooks Ghost Max

Sporting a hefty 39.8 mm in the heel, this is a maximalist, beefed-up Ghost that can easily tackle 20-mile long runs.

Test results
Ghost Max 39.8 mm
Average 33.7 mm
Compared to 304 running shoes
Number of shoes
7.6 mm
Heel stack
45.7 mm

Forefoot stack

The forefoot follows suit, reaching a tall 30.3 mm, offering a cushioned ride for both midfoot and especially forefoot strikers. Of course, forget about bottoming out with these.

Brooks Ghost Max Forefoot stack
Test results
Ghost Max 30.3 mm
Average 25.0 mm
Compared to 304 running shoes
Number of shoes
7.6 mm
Forefoot stack
36.9 mm

Drop

This gives us a 9.5 mm heel-to-toe drop, which is a big change from the brand's stated 6 mm and also a shift from the regular Ghost's 12 mm.

The truth is, we often see big differences between our measurements and the brand's claims. We measure every shoe according to World Athletics guidelines, but not every brand follows these rules...

Brooks Ghost Max Drop
Test results
Ghost Max 9.5 mm
Average 8.7 mm
Compared to 304 running shoes
Number of shoes
-0.8 mm
Drop
16.1 mm

Insole thickness

The insole is super cushioned at 6.1 mm, adding to the shoe's overall comfort.

Plus, there's a handy bonus—if you want more room inside the shoe, just switch the insole for a thinner one and you're all set!

Brooks Ghost Max Insole thickness
Test results
Ghost Max 6.1 mm
Average 4.5 mm
Compared to 300 running shoes
Number of shoes
1.5 mm
Insole thickness
7.3 mm

Midsole softness

Note: a low durometer measurement equals a soft material, whereas a high measurement means it's firm.

In the midsole, we found DNA Loft v2 as in the Ghost 15, but it's definitely not the same formula.

Not only did it score lower on our durometer (13.0 HA versus 15.9 HA), but the minimal weight gain in the Max also suggests that the foam is less dense—softer and lighter.

And that's exactly how it feels. The ride is more like a plush shoe, perfect for those who crave a more marshmallow-like ride. So if you're one of those who prefer a softer ride, you'll probably find the Max more enjoyable than the v15.

Brooks Ghost Max Midsole softness
Test results
Ghost Max 13.0 HA
Average 21.4 HA
We use an average of four tests. The photo shows one of those tests.
Compared to 232 running shoes
Number of shoes
8.5 HA
Midsole softness (soft to firm)
41.5 HA

Difference in midsole softness in cold

We ran the same test in cold temperatures to see if the underfoot feel changed after 20 minutes in the freezer. In this case, the shoe turned clearly firmer at 19.5 HA, marking a 50% increase.

This is a disappointing result, but not unexpected, given that DNA Loft v2 is based on EVA, which becomes brick-like in freezing temperatures, as we explained in our guide about this topic.

Brooks Ghost Max Midsole softness in cold
Test results
Ghost Max 50%
Average 25.5%
Compared to 231 running shoes
Number of shoes
0%
Difference in midsole softness in cold
100%

Stability

Lateral stability test

Pairing 40 mm of stack height with super-soft foam might not sound great for stability, but Brooks played their cards right.

Brooks Ghost Max sidewalls

One key feature is the massive rearfoot sidewalls that hug the foot and extend throughout the shoe.

Thanks to this design, neutral runners will find the ride surprisingly stable for its height. It might even work for those with minor pronation issues. However, don't expect it to match the stability of a regular Ghost.

Torsional rigidity

Another trick Brooks uses is the shoe's increased torsional rigidity. While the regular Ghost scores a 3/5 in this test, the Max hits a 4/5. So, basically, you're trading some agility for better stability.

Test results
Ghost Max 4
Average 3.2
Compared to 283 running shoes
Number of shoes
1
Torsional rigidity
5

Heel counter stiffness

The Ghost 15 already had a pretty stiff heel counter, which was unexpected since daily trainers usually have softer heels.

The Max continues this trend with a 4/5 stiffness. This should be fine for most runners, but those sensitive to stiffer heels—like runners with Haglund's deformity—might want to look into softer, high-stacked options like the ASICS Novablast 4.

Test results
Ghost Max 4
Average 2.8
Compared to 267 running shoes
Number of shoes
1
Heel counter stiffness
5

Midsole width in the forefoot

The shoe's forefoot dimensions are quite average, with our measurement coming in at 115.2 mm.

This makes the Max's impressive stability for midfoot and forefoot strikers even more noteworthy.

Brooks Ghost Max Midsole width in the forefoot
Test results
Ghost Max 115.2 mm
Average 113.7 mm
Compared to 305 running shoes
Number of shoes
100.5 mm
Midsole width in the forefoot
126.5 mm

Midsole width in the heel

However, it's in the heel where Brooks' designers really went all-out.

With a lowered heel-to-toe drop—encouraging more runners to strike the ground with their heel or midfoot—it was crucial to enhance stability in this area. So, they broadened the heel to an impressive 100.2 mm.

Brooks Ghost Max Midsole width in the heel
Test results
Ghost Max 100.2 mm
Average 90.5 mm
Compared to 305 running shoes
Number of shoes
74.9 mm
Midsole width in the heel
106.6 mm

Flexibility

Stiffness

In our 90-degree bend test, where we consistently apply force to gauge the shoe's longitudinal flexibility, the Max delivered a 32.5N result.

Though it's not a plated shoe, it sometimes feels like it has a Pebax plate, and 32.5N it's nearly double that of the regular Ghost! This suggests that if you're planning to use this shoe for walking or gym activities, it might feel less comfortable than your typical daily trainer.

Test results
Ghost Max 32.5N
Average 29.2N
We use an average of four tests. The video shows one of those tests.
Compared to 287 running shoes
Number of shoes
2.2N
Stiffness
94.4N

Difference in stiffness in cold

The EVA foam may have underperformed in the softness test under cold temperatures, but we were pleasantly surprised by its performance in the stiffness test.

After spending an additional 20 minutes in our lab's freezer, it only got 3.2% stiffer.

Test results
Ghost Max 3.2%
Average 35.9%
Compared to 287 running shoes
Number of shoes
0%
Difference in stiffness in cold
148%

Size and fit

Toebox width at the widest part

Right from the moment our feet slipped into the Max, we felt a strong similarity to the regular Ghost, and the room inside seemed pretty average compared to most shoes. To confirm our thoughts, we took out our calipers and measured the widest part at 97.3 mm.

Brooks Ghost Max upper

This is a tried-and-true approach, aiming to cater at least to 80% of runners. For the remaining 20%, in typical Brooks fashion, they offer the Max in select markets not just in Wide (2E) but also in Extra Wide (4E)! That's extra fantastic.

Brooks Ghost Max Toebox width at the widest part
Test results
Ghost Max 97.3 mm
Average 98.4 mm
Compared to 305 running shoes
Number of shoes
89.5 mm
Toebox width at the widest part
109.1 mm

Toebox width at the big toe

Thanks to the Max's wider platform, the big toe area is less tapered at 79.4 mm. This leaves a bit more room for the toes to wiggle than what we're accustomed to.

Brooks Ghost Max Toebox width at the big toe
Test results
Ghost Max 79.4 mm
Average 78.2 mm
Compared to 179 running shoes
Number of shoes
60.4 mm
Toebox width at the big toe
92.5 mm

Tongue: gusset type

We're let down by the absence of a gusseted tongue in the Ghost Max, especially considering its $150 price tag.

Although it's not a big issue for slow paces, it might hinder achieving the ideal lockdown that some of us desire for every run.

Brooks Ghost Max Tongue: gusset type
Test results
Ghost Max None

Comfort

Tongue padding

During our initial manual assessment of the upper, we got a glimpse of how plush and padded the tongue felt. But we needed to measure it for accuracy.

Brooks Ghost Max tongue

Tighten the laces as much as you like—the padded tongue has got your back.

Now, with our findings, we can confirm it: at 8.5 mm, the tongue promises a comfortable ride, no matter the distance.

Brooks Ghost Max Tongue padding
Test results
Ghost Max 8.5 mm
Average 5.6 mm
Compared to 302 running shoes
Number of shoes
0.5 mm
Tongue padding
14.2 mm

Heel tab

Brooks typically doesn't include heel tabs in their road running shoes, as seen in the Ghost Max. However, they do add them in some trail shoes, like the Cascadia 17.

Brooks Ghost Max Heel tab
Test results
Ghost Max None

Removable insole

The insole is removable and not glued down. That's why we said in a previous test that you can swap the standard one with a thinner alternative.

Brooks Ghost Max Removable insole
Test results
Ghost Max Yes

Misc

Reflective elements

Sadly, Brooks skipped adding any reflective elements to the Max.

Brooks Ghost Max Reflective elements
Test results
Ghost Max No