Last year we did a monster Shoe Review… now, it’s time to do it again. 5 of our Veteran Writers picked TEN Top Brands and we’re reviewing our top picks; find out which of our choice pairs fits you best.
Brooks Sports was founded in Philadelphia in 1914, a city that is quickly gaining a reputation for running. Originally a producer of bathing shoes, the company expanded into cleats for baseball and football gaining endorsement from world champion sports teams and celebrity athletes, then in recent decades began sweeping in some of the highest awards in shoe design. Success behind Brooks lies in a simple strategy; tap runners to inspire performance products that address their running lifestyle needs, a strategy that has now grown the company to over 60 countries worldwide.
Behold the Brooks Mazama, designed for speed on trails with a sleek and vibrant style. These shoes are made with performance materials for minimum fatigue and maximum breathability, aggressive on the sole with multi-directional traction, responsive to keep your foot and ankles traveling safe on uneven footing, and provide protection where it matters without unnecessary bulk. The heel-toe offset of 6mm almost propels you forward and the thin midsole brings you closer to the ground for aggressive acceleration. Plus, check out those colors.
The upper immediately stood out on the Mazama as a preview of exactly what to expect. The material is a multi-directional weave of stretchy mesh that wraps around your foot like a comfortable sock. This mesh is surprisingly thin for how strong it feels and visibly allows plenty of air to pass through for maximum ventilation. On the rear of the shoe is a much sturdier heel cup that securely holds the foot in place and provides stability on impact. The laces are designed to match the neon green and black combination of colors on the shoe and also have a bit of stretch to them, but good luck finding a replacement. The tongue even has a lace garage to tuck those away. Finally, the front of the shoe includes a rubber toe-bumper to protect the toes from trail debris.
The midsole is the sport chassis of the shoe. The front is thinner than average with a very sporty 6mm offset meaning the front of the sole is 6mm lower than the heel. The material is foam with a BioMoGo DNA midsole that is a proprietary material which allows the cushioning to adapt to pressure for unique foot profiles. Underneath are propulsion plates that is designed to create a stable platform for powerful and aligned toe-offs, plus protect the sole from strikes on sharp rocks, sticks, or other objects. The shape of the shoe appears long and narrow, but this is because of the tension from the upper and the shoe opens up when placed on the foot.
The outsole is impressive and demonstrates the research and development that went into this shoe. It is made of sticky rubber with bi-directional lugs that have several millimeters of depth to make them grip any surface, but are low enough to use on the road too. The vibrant red design shows off the decoupled midfoot, meaning the front of the foot moves independently from the heel to enable performance on uneven ground. Basically, if you step on a stone and your heel is crooked, your forefoot won’t have trouble rotating down and placing with much more surface area; resulting in a sure and confident stride and powerful lift offs.
I tested these shoes running on the hills and trails in Italy, around Central Park and off the path in the Catskills, as well as on the amazing Tow Path in Princeton, NJ.
Spoiler alert, I think these are the best trail shoes I have ever owned.
Last year I reviewed the Cascadia 10s and literally wore holes through the top material. This shoe is just something different. Right out of the box I noticed the thin top material, then felt how firmly and comfortably it wrapped around my foot for a secure fit. The shoe is not the lightest I’ve worn, but standing up in it gives you a noticeable bounce and energy. The heel-toe differential, combined with the springy material and flexible upper just made this shoe feel like you want to run. It is incredibly comfortable and the stretchy laces add to the feeling. Flexing the sole of the shoe showed off the decoupled outsole and I felt like I could easily do plenty of lunges comfortably; meaning the shoe didn’t bend weird or stay too stiff.
With regard to the Mazama’s performance, this is now my go-to shoe. I was testing six different pairs and actually looked forward to the days I was running with the Mazama. It doesn’t hurt that the shoe looks great, but it makes you feel like running faster. The mesh upper never felt hot and I didn’t have to adjust the tightness of the laces even once. The footbed was comfortable and felt like it relaxed to my foot profile over a couple days, but the cushioning never let up, making this shoe comfortable on road, rock, and trail as the miles piled up. Running in the rain or on dusty rocks didn’t slow it down either; they mean it when they say sticky rubber. The lugs gripped pretty much everything and gave a sense of confidence that resulted in better times than average. Finally, this is obviously not a technical terrain shoe and not meant to be worn with any weight on your back, but my sole was happy after running over rocks and roots nonetheless even after multiple days.
This is my favorite running shoe; I might just submit a comment below for the contest in hopes that I can get a second pair when I wear through this one. Whether you run in the city or on the trails, this has been the most fun shoe that responds well, wears comfortably for a long time, and gives you a spring in your step that just inspires you to go another mile at the last turn home.
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