It’s been a few years since I’ve run in any shoes from Brooks. The introduction of the Mazama has brought me back. This is a shoe that bridges the gap between the Pure Grit and the Cascadia, both of which are great shoes in their area of specialization. While I loved the Pure Grit, I didn’t find that they gave me enough protection on the rockier, longer trails, but the Cascadia was the next step up and they’re just too bulky of a shoe for my preference. Mazama to the rescue! Will they be the perfect shoe? Probably not, the holy grail is still out there, but so far I’m enjoying them. The rolling review below will be updated every hundred miles or so. Enjoy!
Mazama Specs at a Glance
- Type: Trail
- Stack: 23/17mm
- Drop: 6mm
- Weight: 315g (11.1 oz/each) Size 12 US
- Appearance: Be conservative in blue, or haute in neon
- MSRP: $140
The Mazama is a neutral shoe with a moderate (read: not too much, not too little) amount of cushion. They offer more protection than the Pure series of shoes without the added bulk of the Cascadia. The outer is a fairly typical trail outer; not overly aggressive but they offer an adequate amount of traction. The toebox is roomier than it appears. This is due to a somewhat elongated toe that gives the appearance of the shoes being longer and narrower than they actually are.
- Compared to the Saucony Peregrine 5/6: The Mazama are slightly lighter. The outers on the Peregrine’s are noticeably more aggressive. The fit of the Mazama is very good and arguably more comfortable right out of the box. There is none of the break in period associated with the stiff heel of the Peregrine. Comparing stiffness, the Mazama may be slightly stiffer overall. The Mazama feels lighter, more nimble, and more responsive. Proprioception is better in the Mazama, though the Peregrine offers a bit more in terms of protection from rocks.
- Compared to the Salomon X-Series / Sonic Pro: The Mazama are the heavier shoe. They’re a nimble shoe, but they’re not quite at the same level as the X-Series and Sonic. The X-Series feels like it rides a little lower despite the stack height being the same (the heel stack of the X-Series/Sonic is actually 2mm thicker). This could be read as saying the Mazama doesn’t quite have the same groundfeel, but it’s still very good. The Mazama is not quite as stiff as the X-Series, and noticably less stiff than the Sonics. The upper on the Mazama is a less flexible and stretchy. Both shoes offer similar protection from rocks, though the X-Series does feel a little smoother on the roads. To be fair, the X-Series and Sonic are not really trail shoes, none the less they see a lot of use as such.
Here’s a photo comparison to backup some of the above observations…
Outsole Profiles – Click any thumbnail to compare.
Side Profiles – Click any thumbnail to compare.
Brooks Mazama Rolling Review
I paid $140 for them locally, near the time of their introduction. They’re retailing in that range still as of this post. I feel like this is on the steep side of the price spectrum, but it is what it is. Shop for them on discount, it’ll happen sooner or later.
Out of the Box
Ok, the first thing I noticed is the shoes look “long”. I immediately thought “witch shoes”! Cackle cackle cackle. I’m getting used to it. The fit though was great! The guesseted tongue helps with that glove-like feel (think Salomon Sensi-Fit). I also noticed a lace garage on the tongue – both of these features will be familiar to anyone who runs in Salomon shoes. In fact I would describe the entire experience as “familiar” – for me that’s a good thing.
Well, that didn’t take long. A testament to how comfortable these shoes are right out of the box! Coming from running in my X-Series, this was a seamless transition. Not hot spots as of yet, nothing uncomfortable at all in fact. The shoes offer decent traction; I’d say similar to the Saucony Peregrines, but I’m a little less confident with these – especially on wet stuff. It will take some sussing out, but I’m just not sure if the material of the out sole is really cut out for wet, slippery surfaces. If you’ve ever bombed down the Matt Davis trail, or whatever your local trail is where every other step is on either a wet rock or wet tree root, then you’ll know where I’m coming from. We’re just getting into the rainy months so I’m sure I’ll have more to add.
I’m up to about 120 miles now. Longest run has been about 15 miles. These shoes have been pretty awesome! They’re not as light as my X-Series, but they have decent traction on dry trails, and even in a some mud (read: not too deep). I feel like they may fall a little behind on wet smooth surfaces, like rocks and roots, but that’s a tall order for most shoes anyway. Zero problems with fit, my feet really like these. For comparison, the Salomon X-Series is a stiffer shoe, with a more flexible forefoot. The Mazama is less stiff overall, and the shoe flexes more evenly. I really like the feeling of it. Torsionally they’re close. So far so good, 200 miles is the next goal.
After about 215 miles I’m sold on this shoe. Not only do they feel great on trails, they feel great on roads too. The flex of the sole puts a little spring into my step and the stack height and drop is just right on these. They have pretty good ground feel and offer good stability. The only caveat with the Mazama’s is the way they handle wet stuff… the outer just doesn’t have very good grip. Do I wish they were a little lighter? Yeah, but I can deal… I’m not trying to shave a second or two off my 5k pace, so the slight weight penalty is an ok price to pay. I just wish Brooks would come up with a better material for their outers that would improve grip in wet conditions.
I’m just about at 300 miles with these shoes. I don’t think I have a whole lot more to say at this point. I like them a lot. The outers are showing a little wear. The key observations I have with the Mazama are that they’re fairly light, moderately stiff (which I like), not great on wet surfaces, and run maybe a quarter size long… not quite enough to downsize half a size, and not really enough to matter either. If I was running on buffed trails very often, I would keep a pair of these close by.
Ok, just passed 400 miles in them. Durability is now becoming an issue. The uppers on both shoes are developing some holes, though the inner mesh is still intact. The outers have worn substantially, to the point that the shoes offer very little traction. I recently wore them for the first half of a 100k trail race, and I was slipping all over the place in areas of tight switchbacks and loose trail surface. I really like these shoes, but they need some major durability improvements to the outsoles and/or they need to come way down in price. I’m retiring my current pair, and if I catch some on clearance may pick them up.
Verdict Thus Far
- Comfort: Very good. Salomon-like to draw a comparison.
- Durability: Uppers fair, outsole short lived.
- Drain & Dry: Good. They don’t hold much water and dry out fairly fast.
- Stability: Very good
- Grip On Roads/Solid Rock: Very good
- Grip On Loose Rock/Gravel: Very good
- Grip On Wet Surfaces: Average at best
- Grip In Mud: Just ok. They’re not heavily lugged, so they perform like other shoes in this class.
- For training use? Maybe. If the price isn’t prohibitive and if a moderately stiff platform doesn’t bother you, then yes.
- For use as hikers? Not so much. These shoes are probably best kept in the garage with low miles and taken out for races.
About the Author’s Running Style/Locale
I’m typically a front of the mid-pack runner. I run fire roads and single track in the Marin County area, including Mt. Tam, the Marin Headlands, and all the under-respected hills north of there. Long runs on this hard-packed stuff can leave the feet fairly beat up. The surface consists of loose crushed rock, jagged bedrock, and hardpacked dirt. A typical run for me is 9-15 miles with anywhere from 1500-3000 ft of climbing. My “long” runs are in the 20-30 mile range, usually with 4000-7000 ft of climbing. I occasionally do trail runs/races in the 50 mile to 100k range. When I find a shoe I like, I tend to stick with it for as long as possible. I prefer shoes with 4-6mm of drop; I haven’t really adapted to zero-drop footwear. I also like a shoe right in the middle as far as cushion goes; I need to feel the trail under me. Essentially my shoe quest has been to find shoes that feel nimble and responsive, yet keep my feet from getting beat up by the rocks and distance. Hike It. Like It.