November 17, 2023 10:05 am
Paolo Sandoval is Commerce Editor at InsideHook, having previously contributed to Valet Mag. He writes and reports about style, running, grooming, wellness, menswear trends, cultural media and other pursuits tangential to looking and feeling like a million bucks.
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The past decade has ushered in a revolutionary new era for running shoes, with the advent of record-breaking racers and carbon footplates fundamentally changing what it means to perform in everything from the 1500m to the marathon. It’s caused a reevaluation of just what quality gear can do and introduced a climate where folks care more about their sneakers than ever, myself included.
And it’s not just the so-called “super shoes” that have changed. The daily trainer, the runner’s bread and butter —multiple studies suggest “easy “milage should make up about 80% of your training — has gone through something of a revolution itself, with running brands like Hoka, Nike and On introducing maximalist, low-drop models specifically designed to cushion from the road’s worst and protect from potential injury. These trainers have quickly dominated the market, cropping up on the feet of couch-to-5K amateurs and elite athletes alike.
The latest entrant in this category comes from Seattle-based Brooks Running, a cult favorite label among runners thanks to an insanely speedy roster of Olympians, massive network of testers and a much-lauded lineup of footwear. The Brooks Ghost Max launched in October and promises to improve on the best-selling Ghost silo’s already-tested formula of sturdiness and comfort. Stacked on a pile of Brooks’ proprietary DNA LOFT v2 cushioning and equipped with a GlideRollRocker, the Ghost Max is purportedly designed for easy, low-intensity runs.
As both a skeptic of the maximalist shoe trend and a longtime Brooks fan myself — the Catamount 2 is part of my current rotation of trainers — it only felt appropriate to put this just-dropped behemoth to the test and see how it holds up against stiff competition. And after a month of miles, I’ll admit I’m impressed. More on that below.
Brooks Ghost Max, At a Glance
Brooks Ghost Max
- Midsole Drop: 6mm
- Weight: 10 oz.
- Type: Road
- Support: Nuetral
- Widths: 1D-4E
- Sizes: 7-15
- Colorways: 7
- Best for: Easy Runs, Recovery Runs, Walking
How We Tested
Just like always, I’ve put significant mileage — somewhere in the ballpark of 80 miles — into the Brooks Ghost Max over the past month, taking them on a variety of easy runs, fartleks and standard errands. On said runs, they’ve encountered light rain, dirt and pavement.
What We Liked
- Plush (But Firm) Cushioning: Immediately noticeable from the first step, the star of the Ghost Max show is undoubtedly the massive, 28mm midsole stacked with DNA LOFT v2 cushioning. The 39mm stack height may be comparable to competitors, but the feel of the foam is markedly different. Unlike other maximalist styles, you don’t sink into the midsole when you strike, but rather move through your stride atop it, making for a slightly firmer and much more responsive ride. Despite testing dozens of styles, it’s the first time I’ve experienced this kind of feel outside of a carbon-plate shoe, and a feature I thoroughly enjoyed.
This is not to suggest that you lose any of the typical benefits a max cushion trainer is designed to provide. The proprietary foam still works to decrease pressure underfoot and reduce chance of injury, and the energy absorption reduction tech across the foot prevents muscular fatigue. Basically, you’re reaping the benefits of a easy day shoe, with all the responsiveness of a speedy trainer. Zero notes. It rocks.
- Sure-Footed Stability: Another unique feature the Ghost Max is the oversized outsole. It’s similar to the Clifton Edge in expanse (although markedly less clown shoe-ish), and provides a secure step across the totality of the foot. For me, that meant surefooted runs on gravel and park trails, and zero worries that I was going to roll around in the shoe.
- Cohesive Construction: Beyond the foam and outsole, I was all about the construction of the Ghost Max. The woven upper is accommodating, and the shoe has handled dozens of miles with relatively little wear and tear. It’s also worth noting that, as someone with a slightly wide foot, I didn’t find the Ghost Max restrictive or skinny, and even for those big-footed runners, the brand offers 2E and 4E sizing.
- Sustainability Advancements: Removed from the actual performance, the Ghost Max is an achievement in and of itself as a completely carbon-neutral style. Part of Brooks’ commitment to a more sustainable future, I’m happy to see the new silo prioritize green practices while still maintaining a base-level quality.
What We Didn’t
- Occasional Clunkiness: While I enjoyed logging miles in the Ghost Max, I think it’s important to point out that the trainer has consistently felt a bit clunkier, for lack of a better term, than other shoes that I regularly run in. I didn’t find the GlideRoll Rocker particularly noteworthy, and occasionally felt drag when moving through my stride, especially near the forefoot.
- Wanting Speedwork: Likewise, it should come as no surprise, but the Ghost Max is not a fast shoe. Clocking in at 10.0 oz, the trainer isn’t very light by modern standards and, given the high-stack and oversized outside, moving at a tempo pace or fastest doesn’t feel particularly comfortable. Not that they should — even by Brooks’ own admission, the shoe is best for easy runs and walking — but don’t expect to score an all-in-one trainer with this one.
The Verdict: Should You Buy the Brooks Ghost Max?
As you’ve undoubtedly guessed by now, I’m sold on the Brooks Ghost Max. I certainly won’t be pulling it out for my time trials or races, but the maximal trainer has won a spot in my easy day rotation thanks to its stacks of firm midsole cushion and ultra-stable base. Try it for yourself — you won’t be disappointed.
Brooks Ghost Max
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