Brooks Mazama Review Facts
The Brooks Mazama trail shoe was released in October 2016 and hailed by the manufacturer as the “lightest, fastest trail shoe,” featuring a neutral design and 6mm drop. This shoe is not a modification of an existing Brooks design but instead was designed from the drawing board in collaboration with ultra-runner Scott Jurek to deliver a new intuitive tempo run and trail racing model. The speed line shoe is complete with excellent features for the handling of various terrain and trail conditions, without sacrificing the spring in your step. Once unveiled, many were stunned by the speed capabilities of these shoes and their comfort and durability for longer distances. I had a chance to test out this shoe for the past month and was highly impressed!
The shoe outsole features bi-directional lugs and a sticky rubber material to provide traction for both climbing and descending. Offset behind the sticky rubber is a propulsion plate which protects feet and creates a stable platform for the toe-off motion. The rubber toe bumper is effective without feeling bulky or intrusive.
I was pleasantly surprised to note the high quality of the midsole considering how lightweight this shoe is. The shoe has a de-coupled midfoot, enabling the heel and the forefoot to move independently of each other, which affects the power generation, particularly when running uphill, and is also a nice feature when navigating uneven terrain. The shoe features “BioMoGo DNA cushioning” which translates to adaptive cushioning that responds based on the amount of force placed upon it. Thus, the shoe feels firmer when you’re doing speed work and lighter at slower speeds due to its midsole technology.
The Mazama has a unique multidirectional double mesh system which wraps feet in a snug hug, despite looking thin on first glance from the outside. The upper design features thin laces and a minimalistic tongue with a built-in lace garage (which offers peace of mind for racing but I did not ever need to use it as the laces stayed put even on longer distances).
This is one of the lighter trail options out there. Weighing in at 7.9 ounces (women’s size 8) and 9.3 ounces (men's size 9), the Mazama is a great choice for races and training runs alike. Many runners compared the feel of this shoe to a lightweight road running shoe, which is hard to come by when shopping for trail shoes
. A large number of users described the feel of this shoe as one that inspires speed from the moment you lace up. I have to agree – I honestly felt like a springy and nimble deer from the moment I put these shoes on!
Brooks has key shoewear engineering of pertinent functional priorities like breathability down to an art, and the Mazama is no exception. Runners in hot climates report no problems with overheating. The fabric is quick-drying when it gets wet. In my experience, the fabric was also sufficient to block light wind in near-freezing temperatures, though I may not be inclined to take them out in an Alaskan blizzard.
Most runners who have tried the Mazama applaud it for its minimal break-in time and ability to maintain comfort across a larger volume of semi-technical miles. The toe box is roomier than it appears because the length of the shoe is slightly longer which makes the shoe look more on the narrow side. However, most agree that the toe box is ideal for good toe splay without feeling too wide. (On the flip side, a handful of ultra-runners hypothesized that the toe box could actually be narrow for ultra distances that require room for foot swelling). The Mazama is slightly longer than my experience with other brands (maybe ¼ size?) but it did not feel clumsy or seem to affect my proprioception, and after a few runs I stopped noticing it.
Bold colors and textures bring the most style points for this shoe. Both the men's and the women's Mazama shoes attract attention for their bright dual-color combinations. The women's combination of “Diva pink/anthracite/bluefish” is a vibrant cross between red and fluorescent pink, with vibrant blue accents and sole. The men's version “Nightlife/Black/ High-Risk Red” is a cross between lime green and neon yellow, which also turns heads. Another option for men is the attractive and less bold “Electric Blue/Navy/Lime Punch” which has limited availability.
While not necessarily designed for extreme mileage runs, many users agree that these shoes hold up surprisingly well. Reviewers agree that the supportive structure and laces hold their tension well over time, even with higher mileage. The biggest complaint is some wear-down of the lugs and outsole with time. I noticed no visible wear-down after one month of regular use, but my trail selection included low-moderately technical terrain without much pounding over rocks.
The forefoot propulsion plate assists in energy transmission but is also a key component for protecting the foot from sharp rocks underfoot. While the upper mesh is light, the rubber toe covering adds sufficient protection on the front aspect of the shoe for a variety of terrain. I expected I would feel every rock and bit of shale hitting my foot, but was pleasantly surprised by the degree of protection this shoe offers without the use of gaiters
The Mazama shines brightly in the area of quick responsiveness to forward and lateral movements. I noted natural feeling strides with a quick spring after the initial contact with the ground. The shoe has combined materials for flexibility and cushioning, enabling it to respond well to the amount of force and demands placed upon it for a quick, light tempo no matter the terrain type, incline or decline.
One of my favorite aspects of this shoe is how it promotes an environment for speedy lightweight agility without sacrificing comfort, stability or kinesthetic awareness. While considered “neutral,” by feel, the Mazama has a moderate amount of cushioning and medium-high arch support without being overly intrusive or corrective. The heel cup is rated by some as minimalistic, so it may not be ideal for extreme terrain requiring more advanced support, though this also depends on many runner-specific factors including strength and training level.
The Mazama was designed for technical trails and mud, and it performs well with both. It has superior traction on uneven surfaces, tree roots, and rocks. I tested it extensively in the Pacific Northwest’s rainy conditions and found no problems navigating the usually-slippery bridge, log, or wooden steps I encountered on the trails. The smaller lugs aren’t the best for running uphill on icy packed snow (but then, the shoe was not designed for that!) One interesting note is that the Mazama did well with external ice traction devices like Kahtoola’s and Yaktrax, which normally slide off on my other shoes with higher speeds. I suspect that this is due to the slightly longer toe section which makes for a snugger fit with winter traction accessories
The shoe typically runs around the mid to upper price range for trail shoes, which is considered expensive by some. (However, I agree with the motto that “you get what you pay for” when it comes to running shoes). Given the technology that went into this shoe, though lightweight and technically less material than some of its opponents, I think that the Mazama is worth every penny. If you’re looking for a pair of shoes to log tons of miles at slower speeds, this may not be the best bang for your buck. If you’re looking for a responsive trail shoe for your tempo runs and trail races, you should be pleasantly surprised with the return on this investment.
I am used to larger lugs on the shoe outsole in most of my trail shoes, so I expected there to be a decline in traction control, but I was happy to find no difference in trail traction. Confidently navigate over slippery rocks and wooden surfaces, light-moderate mud, rooty terrain, soft and uneven dirt, sandy trails, and boulders with the Mazama. Some reviewers have also been pleasantly surprised by this shoe’s performance on the transition between roads and trails. The only decline in traction was noted in deep mud and icy sections, which I suspect would have been difficult with any shoe.
From eye-balling the Mazama’s weight and external upper mesh system, you may expect the base to be flimsy or extra flexible, which is not the case. The shoe has a nicely balanced flexible uncoupled fit between the forefoot, midfoot and hindfoot which lend to its stellar racing and speed performance. The adaptive material technology enables the shoe to dynamically change between feeling firmer at higher tempos and softer at slower speeds. The shoe feels more flexible than my road and other trail shoes out of the box but still delivers optimal firmness as needed when on my foot.
The Mazama is considered a neutral shoe, so it does not have a lot of motion control to prevent over-pronation, but does correct mild forms of overpronation. The shoe promotes a forefoot and mid-foot strike with less jarring heel strikes. The shoe insert is easily removed to accommodate a more supportive insert for those who desire to do so. I had no problem using my Superfeet Berry insoles
inside the Mazama.
The stack heights (23mm heel, 17mm forefoot) and 6mm heel-toe drop are ideal for fast paces and high foot turnover, without feeling unnaturally low. The benefits to a 6mm drop include a greater range of motion and engagement of lower leg and foot stabilizer muscles, which may lead to greater running stability and better overall form with less of the impact and rotational forces that often lead to overuse injuries. It’s a nice stepdown from the traditional 10mm shoe, without sacrificing your trail running form on uneven terrain.
Many describe this shoe as sitting in the sweet spot between Brooks’ other trail options, the Cascadia and Pure Grit. The Mazama offers more protection for rocky and rugged terrain when compared to the Pure Grit
, and is more agile and less bulky than the Cascadia
. The lugs are smaller and the material is less waterproof than some Salomon trail shoes, like the Salomon Speedcross 4.
• Lightweight design ideal for racing speeds
• Adaptable material adds spring to your step and firmness/support when needed
• Excellent breathability and comfortable mesh system
• Adequate toe box for most runners
• 6mm heel-to-toe drop in the “happy zone”
• Bright, attractive design and colors
• Advanced handling of multiple terrain types
The Bottom Line
The Mazama simply inspires boldness, agility, confidence, and speed in one lightweight package. Whether the shoe was named after Mount Mazama, the impressive 12,000+ foot peak in Oregon that holds famous Crater Lake, or perhaps the stunning Mazama Lakes trail near Mount Baker in Washington, one thing is certain: the trail experience does not disappoint. Outside Online magazine has rated the Mazama in the top 3 for trail shoes in 2017 and applauds the shoe for its “motoring” and “ninja” capabilities on technical terrain. Brooks has delivered a new model that shines with speed and comfort in the trail racing and tempo runs arena. I give the Brooks Mazama several thumbs (and toes!) up for this innovative and well-engineered addition to their line of trail shoes.