Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Brooks Ghost Max : Unboxing and Review

 The Return of Maximalist

Looking for more cushioning, stable but yet light and responsive? Brooks may just score a big one with Ghost Max

I was sure excited
2023 has seen me worn-out 4 shoes from Brooks, thanks to Sports Paragon. The Hyperion Tempo, the Hyperion Max, the Hyperion Elite 2, and the Ghost 14. 

I've received the ever-proven Cascadia (version 16) and has clocked pretty decent 150km on it in and out of trails. Lets not forget the Peak UP3.0 version 2 which is really underrated (and I owe you all a write up on this)

As replacement for the retired shoes above, I received another Tempo, another Max and another Elite 3 (in Pink!), so I could very well run to 2024.

In event that I do not get my ambassadorship renewed in 2024 with Sports Paragon, I am pretty set for the next 1000km of training and racing (aka 4 months worth of mileage). So thank you Sports Paragon, for being my biggest supporter and I am Running Happy no doubt.
Legit Brooks-ed (but spot the imposter)

As I write this, the replacement shoes has very well went past it's 150km (Tempo black colorway), 380km (Hyperion Max Green colorway), which leaves me with two units of Elite 3 yet to seen any mileage. In between I've reviewed (long term) another competitor cushioned shoe, which provided a very solid segue to my review of the Ghost Max today.

Hello Ghost Max that has stopped ghosting me
The Unboxing
Where do I start. There is a lot to unpack with this iteration. Brooks could had called it Ghost 16, but that would meant it gives impression that is the same shoe from Ghost 13, 14 and 15. In reality, having worn out Ghost 14 with it's 12mm drop and expected ride, I am hoping (and was told by the Sports Paragon team) that this is a totally different shoe altogether. 

To start with, the shoe looked stacked. Maybe because it is. And this colorway is what Brooks call as Surf The Web/Peacock/Sulphur which I am still trying to wrap my head around the description of what is dark blue with tinge of yellow and whitish label.
Well, Hello there
The Ghost Max is a Neutral trainer, coming in at 39mm-33mm stack, it technically right below the 40mm limit to be "race-legal" for any sanctioned running and triathlon races. Likely the highest stacked with lowest drop (6mm) trainers I've ever owned in the past 2-years. 
(For the record: The plated Elite 2 and 3 is 37-29 @ 8mm drop; Tempo is 31-23 @ 8mm; HMax 36-28 @ 8mm; Peak UP3.0 37-31 @ 6mm; Cascadia16 29-21 @ 8mm; GRR11 38-32 @ 6mm)

I obtained the US11.5 sizing (i wear 45 sometimes 46) which comes in at 330grams. The US9 Male size was rated at 283grams, so the weight vs size was appropriate for the additional volume of the shoe. At this weight, it was similar to the GRR11 that I reviewed (US11 @ 313grams). So indeed, the heaviest trainer I have worn in the past 2 years, not just the highest stacked with lowest drop.
Despite the bulk, it doesn't look big
While the Hyperion Max comes with RapidRoll which is a highly rockered profile, the Ghost Max has GlideRoll, which gives the first impression on smoothness of the transition on toe-off. The Ghost Max comes with a full length DNA Loft Version 2, which was available in Ghost15 as well. So one can expect a plush ride. LoftV2 is a blend of EVA foam, rubber, and air, which makes it lighter and more responsive than DNA or DNA Loft. 
Full length rubber with a channel in the middle
When looking at the sole, i realized how it is wide on the bottom which will offer stability. The middle channel is interesting and something I've noticed in all the Hyperion range - this channel allows the heel and near mid-sole to splay on contact, further allowing more contact patch while offering stability, and save weights.

The outsole is from green rubber aka recycled materials. Sustainability in mind, and it is generously thick at 5mm, similar to Tempo and Hyperion Max. I reckon for a trainer, this will last as far as the other Brooks has been serving me, close to 1000km at least. 

One other thing I noticed as well is the Ghost Max mid to toe section outsole is continuous and do not have the two parts flex-grooves like the Ghost14.
Ghost14 after 150km. The two grooves are the black portion running across the sole
What this meant and noticeably when i took them for a run was the forefoot of Ghost Max felt stiffer and flexes less; and add that with the GlideRoll, it gives you an easy feet turn-over with very little effort. 
Not aggressively rockered but it's there. Note the elevated heel counter at the Ghost Max name
Another feature than lend stability on the Ghost Max is the wide heel counter which will help you to control your feet movement. There is also a rubber section at the heel, which was unlike other Brooks. Wearing them, I believe this rubber section at heel, with elevated side height help to stabilize the heel even further - sort of a GTS (Go-To-Support) GuideRail without the actual GTS GuideRail.
Heel counter extend/flare beyond the upper profile. Note the rubber blue heel part

Now compare this to the Hyperion Max
And for the record, the Hyperion Max is already a wider sole shoes which is already considered stacked and stable. The Ghost Max literally took it a step or two wider/stable-r (is there such a word?)
Closer look of the Ghost Max upper and mid-sole
What we know of the midsole
  • Stacked 39-33, 6mm drop feeling grounded, stable despite the height
  • Full DNA Loft V2 providing cushy cushioned feel from heel to toe
  • Heavy on scale but not on foot thanks to the GlideRoll rocker transitioning on every steps
  • Responsive when compared to older Ghost versions
The Top - Fitting
The top is a comfortable, plush engineered mesh and breathable despite the heavy knitted look. The fit is true to size (i took half a size bigger as the Ghost14 I took was just nice). If you have wide feet like me (men dress shoe E-wide), there is no issue even on this D-width.
Clean simple no overlay, one piece 3D mesh that both sock-like and comfortable

The tongue and heel collar is padded and provide a comfortable fit with or without socks. There is no hotspot felt and the inner is smooth. The tongue is not gusseted, and I did find it moving to the (outer) side if I do not tie down the shoe firmly. 
Padded Heel-counter and tongue

Approximate thickness of the tongue
There is the lace loop running vertically from the top to almost the bottom of the tongue. I decided to lace-through them the first time as I wanted to show the GHOST MAX name - and it turned out to be a good decision as the tongue stay up even when I wasn't wearing the shoe. 
Stretchable round laces with nice orange tip
The laces that came with this shoe is round and stretchy, which takes a bit of trying to get the lock down on your feet. There wasn't any need for a runner's loop as heel slip was not present even if i were to tie the laces less than firmly.
No budge on the toe/bunion (if any) despite D-width
Despite the D-width, there wasn't any issue in the toebox as it allowed for my toes to splay out and yet provide a lot of comfort. No hot spot despite running sockless, which I do 95% of the time. The heel lock was solid, no movement that may cause hot spot at the ankle/heel area, and it is also padded for comfort. 
Inside of the Ghost Max showing the mesh and smooth upper

Breathability is not an issue so far, as I've ran in them over the past 10 days in cooler (London) temperature and the overcast skies at home. You may noticed in the photo above, there is toe-guard to keep the shape and to protect against minor bumps (the far end white portion)
Perforation on the front and tongue to help with breathability
The insole of the Ghost Max is generous. As in Generously thick. It is the thickest Brooks insole that I had experienced. I believe if i were to remove this insole, I may get a 2mm or 4mm drop if I replace with a fully thin Hyperion Tempo insole. The insole is basic, but sufficient

Not kidding about the thick insole. This is the heel section
The thick insole lend to more cushioning. Very similar approach as Skechers GRR11 which I reviewed. However the material is different and if you are not aware, the insole of the GRR11 shrunk by 30% at least after 200km. Something I don't believe will happen (or not happened) to any Brooks I've used (or any other Skechers I've experienced). I believe that was likely due to the rubbery foam material (ArchFit as they called it). For me, the issue with Brooks insole is bunching up - particularly for the thinner insole for Tempo and Max. I've provided feedback to Brooks Running Malaysia, and hope to see improvements in the near future.

The Ghost Max is certified Carbon Neutral. The top is made from 98% recycled material, and that include their dye-ing technology too. This is one way that Brooks is hoping to help with the climate change issue. Infact to say that Brooks is just doing it is unfair, they have a whole sustainability agenda and it is pretty impressive. Read about them here. The Ghost 15 series and now this Ghost Max has achieved this status of being Carbon Neutral, which include buying of carbon credit to offset the Green House Gas (GHG) involved in the end-to-end process.
Scope 3 reduction
If that is nice to hear, you be happy to know that the Ghost Max has been certified by the American Podiatry Medical Association (APMA) as products that promote good foot health. There are to date, a total of 16 products by Brooks that has this APMA seal, so you are definitely getting a product that help protect your feet as you move.
Upper - Insole - Outsole - Certification
  • Engineered mesh that is breathable, true to size, no hotspot
  • Padded heel and tongue providing additional comfort
  • Stretchable laces may be a bit tricky to secure
  • Thicker insole lending more cushioning effect
  • 5mm thick outsole rubber from recycled materials potentially providing higher mileage
  • Carbon Neutral production for the environmentalist in you
  • APMA certified knowing you won't need to spend more for podiatry-certified shoes/insole
Running in Ghost Max
Ghost Max is my birthday shoe from Brooks Running Malaysia. To-date I have used it for the past 10-days in my latest work travel to London. I travel light and that meant the Ghost Max is not just my running companion, but my travelling, walking and commuting good friends. 
5 Walks, 10 runs. 
On the walk, this shoe is perfect. It is often hard to find a shoe that does both and still allow your legs to be not tired having to stand or moving whole day long. As evidence, these are my steps when I was in London, cumulative of running, walking and commuting! I clocked on average 20k steps over the period of Nov 12 to Nov 18. 
After close to 90km as of writing today, I can give the Ghost Max feedback as follow:
  • Secure feel with lacing as expected need a bit of work to get pressure right
  • Socks-like inner and zero hotspot
  • Heel cup perfect and I hardly noticed the thicker padding on the collar or the tongue
  • I felt tall, stacked, I finally know what 5 feet 10 felt like.
  • Very stable with minimal lateral (side to side) movement
  • Due to stack height, the DNA LoftV2 felt super plush when compared to Cascadia16 and definitely more cushioned than the already stacked Hyperion Max
  • Stiffer mid-toe but GlideRoll made the transition and take off effortless. Good for easy, tempo and even up-tempo day
  • It looked heavier than it actually felt. Bulk of weight is on upper but the midsole and outsole felt light
  • Responsive - something I won't ever say in older Ghost
  • Good for Marathon and I dare say anything above 50km as well due to the cushioning
  • Cushioned. Stable. Responsive.
  • 6mm drop is awesome, been a while since i wore a low-drop shoes
  • GlideRoll rocker moves you forward fast without feeling the weight
  • Secure heel and no hotspot
  • Able to run easy, uptempo and even interval, despite the stack profile.
  • If there is one is the stretchable laces - easy fix is to replace them
  • I can't find anything else to "hate" it, but if I am pressed for it, slightly lighter to sub 280grams for US11.5 would be great!
The Ghost Max is available in all Sports Paragon and Brooks store in Malaysia. It retail for RM650. However, you can own it by buying it online at www.brooksrunning.com.my and use my code EEVANOFF25 for 25% off, which net off at RM487.50. 

More Discount??? You Want Cheap?
As part of my sponsorship with Paragon Vests under the Team Sports Paragon, I have a few discount codes you can use to purchase your next Brooks shoes if you want. Older models at higher discount is available in www.sportsparagon.com website. Sizing can be a challenge, which explained the better discount. If you want newer and better sizing, head over to www.brooksrunning.com.my and score a few newer models.

I have the full discount codes and brands that support me in 2023. But if you are lazy to click, here they are...

Promo Code: SPEV02
Footwear: 55%
Apparels: 50%
Sandals: 40%
Accessories: 50%

Promo Code: EEVANOFF25
25% OFF of all items ( exclude sale items )

Promo Code: ZOOTEEVAN20
20% OFF Zoot website Non promo items
10% OFF Zoot website Promotion items

Keep Showing Up
Here are more photos of the Ghost Max to keep you wanting. by the way, I've seen more colorway coming and some are lets just say... bright and colorful. I can't share them but I can tell you I be wearing this off as soon as I can so I can request for a replacement in another colorway!

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