Brooks Ghost 15 vs Brooks Ghost MAX

With the Ghost from Brooks being one of the brand’s all-time best-selling shoes, the release of the Ghost MAX makes for an interesting choice of neutral, cushioned everyday training shoes.

Here we’ll take a look at both the Ghost 15 and the new Ghost MAX, check out which features they have in common as well as how they differ.

But perhaps most importantly, I’ll explain which one is the best shoe for you based on my own experience of running in both shoes.

Key points:

  • Brooks Ghost 15 is great for someone looking for a single, versatile running shoe,
  • Brooks Ghost MAX is more suited for someone looking for something for easy or recovery runs,
  • There are subtle design differences that can help guide your choice, read about them below.
Brooks Ghost 15 vs Brooks Ghost MAX

The Stats:

Brooks Ghost 15Brooks Ghost MAX
Weight:286g / 10.1oz
(women 258g / 9.1oz)
283g / 10.0oz. 
(women 255g /  9.0oz)
Stack:35mm‘full stack’ 39.33mm
Drop:12mm6mm

Brooks Ghost 15 vs Brooks Ghost MAX

On paper at least, both the Ghost 15 and Ghost MAX appear very similar. They are priced very close to each other, weigh very similar amounts, and share the same cushioning technology.

For many runners, the main factor when considering a running shoe is the cushioning material or technology.

Both shoes here use Brooks’ DNA Loft V2 cushioning material in their midsoles. It’s a compression-molded EVA-based material, that’s a blend of EVA, rubber, and air. 

Lots of brands use similar cushioning materials and generally, it’s the amount of each of the elements used in the midsole ‘mixture’ that makes them different.

For example, inject more air into a midsole during the manufacturing process and it makes for a softer and lighter material. Less air would create a denser foam that’s a little firmer.

DNA Loft V2 has proved to be a great success for Brooks as it provides a great combination of relatively soft cushioning that absorbs impact well, works for a wide range of runners, and proves to be durable.

Both the Ghost 15 and Ghost MAX share the same midsole foam in their cushioning units and it’s interesting to see that DNA Loft V3 wasn’t used. 

DNA Loft V3 is the brand’s Nitrogen-injected foam that’s used in the Glycerin and Glycerin GTS. 

It creates an interesting point. Use Nitro foam and create a shoe that competes with the top-of-the-range model or use the DNA Loft V2 and create a competitor for the best-selling model!

Perhaps it’s important to also remember that the term DNA Loft V2 can be somewhat of an umbrella term for the cushioning material as there are slight variations in the feel of shoes from Brooks that all use this midsole. 

Brooks Ghost 15

So, What’s Different?

The main difference in the shoes comes from the stack heights and heel-to-toe drops of the midsoles.

The Ghost 15 features a 35mm stack of cushioning in the heel, with a 12mm drop into the forefoot.

The new Ghost MAX uses a 39.33mm (Brooks measured this one pretty closely) stack in the heel with a 6mm drop into the forefoot.

An interesting point made in the brand’s literature for the new Ghost MAX is in the measurement of the stack, where they quote ‘full stack’ before the 39.33mm.

Stack heights quoted by manufacturers should really follow the guidelines created by World Athletics.

After the introduction of limits to stack heights of competition shoes, we all pretty quickly became accustomed to quoting these figures. Before these new rules, no one really quoted stack heights, and let’s be honest not many people cared!

So, the stack height should measure the total depth of a shoe’s cushioning including the outsole, midsole, any lining material and the inner sole.

This measurement should also be taken at a distance of 12% of the overall length of the shoe from the heel. It can become a little confusing, but ultimately, we now have a reference point for comparison.

Brooks Ghost MAX

On The Run

I did find that the Ghost MAX felt a little softer than the Ghost 15 from the word go. My first run in the shoes was an easy five-mile run. The pace was at my general pace of around 7 minutes and 30 seconds per mile. 

I noticed the heel of the shoe felt a little softer and much more stable.

Now the Ghost 15 isn’t an unstable shoe, in fact, it is itself one of the most stable and ‘safest’ neutral shoes around, yet the Ghost MAX feels much more planted and steadier on the ground, almost to the level of the Adrenaline GTS.

The Ghost MAX has a broader base than the Ghost 15 and also features a much more ‘cupped’ shape to the top section of the midsole.

In a similar manner to the GuideRails of the Adrenaline GTS and other support-type shoes from Brooks, the cushioning wraps up a little around the rear of the foot.

It’s neither as high nor as firm as the GTS models, but nonetheless, it does a good job of creating a very stable base for the foot.

Brooks Ghost 15

The Ghost MAX also features what the brand is calling GlideRide technology. Essentially this refers to the overall shape of the shoe and the midsole. 

In much the same way as HOKA seemed to coin the word ‘rocker’ for the shape of the forefoot of their shoes, Brooks has a ‘rocker’ in the heel and forefoot to contribute to the overall GlideRide feel.

The ride is smooth and rolls along nicely and I think it’s a combination of the stack, drop, width, and rocker shape of the midsole. 

Perhaps the slightly softer feel comes from the slightly higher stack but also the slightly lower drop.

This drop maybe smoothes out the foot’s natural forward gait to give the impression of a softer material when in fact, it’s actually promoting the foot to function a little more effectively.

Whatever is going on, it feels pretty good and it makes for a soft, smooth, and rather relaxed ride.

This ride is again something that differs between the Ghost 15 and the Ghost MAX.

Side by side, I’d say the Ghost 15 is now a more versatile, everyday trainer, with the Ghost MAX being better suited to steadier-paced running or recovery-type runs.

The Ghost 15 can pick up the pace a little if required, whereas the Ghost MAX is simply saying, ‘Hey, let’s take things easy and just enjoy the ride.’

The Ghost MAX feels stable throughout the length of the shoe, with the cupped heel and a similar shape to the forefoot situated at the broadest part of the forefoot. The MAX is a little wider in the base of the shoe throughout its whole length too. 

These features all contribute to its generally more stable fit, feel, and ride.

 Brooks Ghost MAX

Other Features

Elsewhere the shoes share a similarly well-constructed upper, with the Ghost 15 having a mesh-type construction compared to the more engineered knit of the Ghost MAX.

Both are very well made and offer no great benefits or losses compared to the other.

Both shoes have good levels of padding in the tongue, around the ankle collar, and Achilles area. The Ghost MAX does have a slightly lower construction to the heel in the Achilles tab area, but again, nothing too different as to cause any issues. 

The Ghost MAX features a new sole pattern, grip wise it performs exactly as that of the Ghost 15 but I’d say its design is perhaps trying to create a smoother ride, forward down the road, with slightly more curve to the flex grooves. Again, this is a very minor point.

Brooks Ghost 15

Conclusion

In conclusion, I’d say there is room for both shoes in a runner’s shoe rotation. Of course, this depends on the type of runner and their weekly mileage.

For a ‘one shoe does it all’ type of runner, I’d go with the Ghost 15. It’s versatile for any type of running you might throw at it throughout the week. 

For those who perhaps run a little more often and have more than one pair of shoes, the Ghost MAX makes a great choice for a relaxed or easy run day type of shoe. 

We know the competitors to the Ghost 15 already, those mid-range models such as the New Balance 880, Saucony Ride, and ASICS Cumulus.

With the Ghost MAX, the competition is a little more blurred. The shoe, by nature of the amount of cushioning, comes up against models such as the New Balance 1080, HOKA Clifton, and ASICS Nimbus.

Of course, there are many more models to consider, but against these choices, it does make a compelling argument.

I’d say the Ghost MAX is a better value than the New Balance 1080 sand ASICS Nimbus and more stable than the HOKA Clifton.

Again, much of this will be personal preference, but for now, it looks like Brooks has created a very good shoe that will prove very popular in 2024. 

Brooks Ghost MAX
Photo of author
Paul Freary really does have a lifetime of experience as an athlete. Paul’s father, Mike was British record holder over 10,000m in 1966, so Paul was almost born to run. With best times ranging from 3:56 for the mile to 13:55 for 5k, and ran 2:40 at the 2023 Berlin Marathon at age 55. Having worked with several leading brands as well as in retail he also knows running footwear inside out and also has experience in gait analysis and orthotics. Paul writes regular running shoe reviews for our site and our Youtube channel!

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