Our Run Research Lab scientists collaborate globally to study the intricacies of running, examining everything from upper body rotation to ankle movements. These insights inform our gear design. We also gather extensive feedback from thousands of runners, while rigorous testing over hundreds of miles ensures that our gear meets their wants and needs.
In shoemaking, a shoe last refers to a three-dimensional foot-shaped mold or form around which a shoe is constructed. It serves as the foundation for shaping and building the shoe's upper, sole, and other components. The last determines the size, shape, fit, and overall comfort of the shoe. It acts as a representation of the human foot and is typically made of wood, plastic, or other durable materials. Shoe lasts are designed based on various factors, including foot measurements, intended use of the shoe, and the desired fit and style.
The team who developed Brooks’ latest innovative shoe shares insights behind the biomechanics-driven process of building a new shoe from scratch.
A shoe doesn’t just magically appear out of nowhere — it’s a product of meticulous planning, understanding of consumer needs, and creative design. We chatted with footwear product line manager Brittany Gleaton, footwear designer Jake Braghini, and footwear developer Josh Spratt to shed some light on the story of the all-new Ghost MAX.
Brooks Running (BR): Can you share a little about your roles at Brooks?
Brittany: As a product line manager, my main responsibilities include creating the product brief, collaborating with the design and development teams, managing the product line from concept to commercialization, and ensuring that the final product meets consumer needs and aligns with the brand’s vision.
Jake: My job involves the actual design of the shoe. We base our designs heavily on biomechanical insights derived from our large database of runners, as well as on market feedback and the vision of our product line moving forward. We like to think of our design process as a fork in the road. We balance functionality with aesthetics, presenting a product that’s both functional and appealing.
Josh: As a footwear developer, I work closely with the design and engineering teams, focusing on fit, performance, and cost. For the Ghost MAX, my responsibilities involved controlling the fit and feel of the shoe, managing cost targets, and collaborating with the team to bring the design to life.
BR: What was the team collaboration like, and how did decision-making work?
Brittany: We worked closely together throughout the entire development process of the Ghost MAX. We shared insights, ideas, and made joint decisions to ensure that the shoe met our collective vision. It was a highly collaborative and iterative process, with regular communication and feedback among the team members.
Josh: This project was special in terms of collaboration. We took an insights trip before we started the project. So, we all knew what Brittany was trying to achieve with this shoe for the consumer. Sometimes, before the seasonal kickoff for a project, we meet with different accounts to ask them what they'd like to see in the shoe and what they like or dislike about our products to gain insights. We also went to a podiatrist conference, which influenced this shoe a bit.
BR: How did the idea for the Ghost MAX come about and what were the main goals for the shoe?
Brittany: The idea for the Ghost MAX came from our desire to push the boundaries of cushioning and provide runners with a shoe that offers a plush and responsive ride. The main goals were to create a shoe with high stack height, smooth transitions, and excellent cushioning to enhance the overall running experience for our customers.
BR: Jake, can you describe your design process for the Ghost MAX?
Jake: The process is actually quite interesting. We hold ourselves to a standard of doing eight sketches a week, including upper, bottom, and heel views. With this commitment, I crank out numerous designs. For the Ghost MAX, we collectively decided on different features we liked.
After weeks of work, we presented three design options. We had one preferred choice, but we had to present alternatives as well. We liked an upper I had sketched early on and a tooling idea. Brittany suggested we combine these, and we all agreed it looked fantastic. We hoped leadership would agree with us — and they did.
BR: How did biomechanics research and runner feedback influence the development process of the Ghost MAX?
Josh: Biomechanics research and runner feedback played a crucial role in the development of the Ghost MAX. We always rely on research data and insights from previous studies to inform our design decisions and ensure the shoe meets the needs of runners in terms of fit, ride, and transition. Runner feedback, obtained through testing and real-world use, allows us to adjust and improve throughout the development process.
BR: What kind of protection does the Ghost MAX offer?
Brittany: The Ghost MAX is a protective style thanks to its high stack of foam and midsole rocker geometries. The high stack of cushioning helps reduce pressure underfoot while the Glideroll Rocker assists in moving the runner from heel to toe. Both of these features combine to create a more comfortable and pain-free running experience for some runners.
BR: Josh, were there any significant challenges you encountered as a developer during the Ghost MAX project?
Josh: Yes, the new last for the shoe gave us some struggles. Developing a new last meant we didn’t have prior feedback or experience to rely on, and it required careful adjustments to achieve the desired fit and feel. Additionally, with the Ghost MAX being a new Max cushion shoe on a unique platform, we had to establish new standards and geometries for the midsole. Balancing lightweight construction with stability and durability was another challenge, but we made decisions based on testing and feedback to find the right balance.
BR: Can you discuss the sustainability of the Ghost MAX?
Josh: Sustainability is an important consideration in our shoe development process. We use recycled materials in the upper and employ a less water-intensive dyeing process called dope dyeing. Additionally, we strive for good pattern efficiency and minimize the need for extra parts and components in the shoe, reducing weight, cost, and environmental impact.
The development of the Ghost MAX involved a meticulous and collaborative process driven by biomechanical insights learned in our Run Research Lab, consumer needs, and creative design. The result is an all-new shoe that demonstrates Brooks' commitment to research, innovation, and performance. Special thanks to Brittany, Jake, and Josh for sharing their thoughts on the process of creating the all-new Ghost MAX.
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More about the new Ghost MAX
The Ghost MAX is designed to help your feet land more comfortably with every step. That’s because inside there’s super stacked DNA LOFT v2 Foam to help deliver soft landings, along with a GlideRoll Rocker to actively assist with heel-to-toe transitions. We even shape the midsole and outsole uniquely to provide inherent stability for a secure feel. It all adds up to a super comfortable, smooth ride to help reduce the impact on your body.