Brooks Ghost Max versus Brooks Glycerin

A side by side comparison of the Brooks Ghost Max and Brooks Glycerin.

The Brooks Ghost and Brooks Glycerin 21 are two of the brand's best selling models for neutral cushion lovers. If you walk into any Fleet Feet store, most outfitters will tell you that the Glycerin is the next step up above the Ghost in terms of cushion—in essence, a max-cushion version of the Ghost.

So we were understandably thrown for a loop when Brooks released their Ghost Max in October 2023. Where does this leave the Glycerin? Turns out, the Brooks Ghost Max and the Brooks Glycerin are quite different.

Let’s break down the differences between the Brooks Ghost Max and the Brooks Glycerin.

Buy the Ghost Max if…

  • You prefer a lower heel-to-toe drop
  • You love a tall stack of cushioning
  • You want a more cushioned trainer for long runs and recovery runs

Buy the Glycerin if…

  • You prefer a higher heel-to-toe drop
  • You like your shoes to feel flexible
  • You want a lighter daily trainer to tackle a variety of runs
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Tech Specs


Tech Specs

Brooks Ghost Max

Brooks Glycerin 21

Weight

9 oz (W), 10 oz (M)

8.8 oz (W), 9.8 oz (M)

Heel-to-toe drop

6 mm

10 mm

Stack height (heel/forefoot)

39 mm/33 mm

28 mm/18 mm

Category

Neutral

Neutral

Surface

Road

Road

Price

$150

$160

The upper of the Brooks Ghost Max.

Brooks Ghost Max vs Brooks Glycerin: Fit & Materials

The Ghost Max uses a mesh upper, while the Glycerin 21 offers a warp-knit upper, which is a new material from Brooks that somehow manages to feel remarkably similar.

“I think Brooks fans love their shoes because they are consistent in their fit and feel,” Kate said in our Brooks Glycerin 21 review. “For the most part, Brooks doesn’t tend to make big changes to their bestsellers––just small refinements.”

Both shoes offer a consistent Brooks experience–roomy in the forefoot and snug in the midfoot and heel.

I found the Brooks Ghost Max to be a bit too spacious for my taste, while the Glycerin 21 fits perfectly around my feet. However, all of our other reviewers thought the fit of the Ghost Max was perfect.

Both the Ghost Max and the Glycerin 21 feel luxuriously plush in the upper, with soft padding around the heel and tongue and thick, tubular laces.

“The moment I slipped my foot into the Ghost Max, it felt like luxury in shoe form,” Mandy says. “The upper is plush, comfortable and hugs me in all of the right places. I really like the heel cup in the back—for someone with narrow heels, it really locks the fit down well.”

“The Glycerin 21 feels like a nice hug around my foot,” says Travis. “I really enjoyed the knit material in the forefoot–it makes the shoe feel breathable, light, and accommodating. I am not usually a big fan of plush tongues but this one hit in all the right places without feeling intrusive. Plus, the stretchy laces helped me lock in the fit even more.”

Brooks Ghost Max vs Brooks Glycerin: Midsole & Outsole

The Brooks Ghost Max.

Comparing the midsole and outsole is where the differences between the Glycerin 21 and the Ghost Max really start to become apparent.

First, the Ghost Max has a much higher stack height compared to the Glycerin (39 millimeters in the heel versus 28). The Ghost Max also has a lower heel-to-toe drop, 6 millimeters compared to the Glycerin’s 10. Because the Ghost Max has so much cushioning, the lower heel-to-toe drop is likely done to add some stability to the shoe.

“I found the Ghost Max to be a lot smoother than other Brooks models, mostly due to the lower heel-to-toe drop and the slight rocker shape,” Travis says.

The midsole foams used in the shoes vary as well. The Ghost Max uses Brooks DNA Loft v2 foam, an innovative blend of rubber, air, nitrogen and EVA foam.

The Glycerin 21 uses DNA Loft v3 foam, which is injected with nitrogen. The nitrogen then turns from a liquid to a gas, making this foam lighter than traditional EVA foams (like DNA Loft v2).

While I enjoy the ride of both shoes, I have to disagree with Travis’ earlier comment. The Glycerin feels smoother to me, maybe due to preferring higher heel-to-toe drops, or because the lower stack height makes it feel a bit more flexible.

When it comes to the outsole, reviewers found both of the shoes to feel remarkably durable.

“The bottoms of the Ghost Max look like they’ve hardly been worn, despite putting over 50 miles on them and being a heavier person. I expect that I will get lots of mileage out of this shoe,” Mandy says.

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