The Brooks Mazama 2 is built for running fast. Every feature of the shoe, from the highly responsive midsole to the low profile outsole lugs, screams speed. So much so, that it’s not well suited for longer distances or for rough trails.
The Brooks Mazama 2 is definitely a speed orientated shoe. You can tell that just by looking at the Mazama 2, with its low profile midsole, shallow lugs, and thin sock like upper. Brooks has managed to find the sweet spot between speed and comfort, even though this is not a long distance shoe by any means. Running easy or with a heavier heel strike, the Mazama 2 begins to feel harsh pretty quickly, you can tell it likes to go fast. This is one of the most well rounded shoes tested that is fast is comfortable.
The major drawback of the Mazama 2 is its versatility. This is not necessarily a flaw of the shoe so much as a consequence of the design choices: it is meant for running fast, not long and slow. As such the shoe definitely begins to feel harsh beyond 10km to half marathon distances, as well as at slower speeds. The Mazama also is not well suited for highly rugged or technical terrain due to its limited protection and traction. The shallow lugs do fine on hard packed trail but when it comes to wet/muddy/snowy conditions they struggle.
The Brooks Mazama 2 is an outstanding choice for competitive runners who want a short distance racing and speedwork shoe, but do not want the minimalist protection of something like a cross-country flat. Brooks brand loyalists will likely find the Mazama to be an excellent complement to the company’s more comfort and distance oriented options like the Pure Grit and Cascadia
The Mazama 2 is clearly not a comfort shoe due to the focus on speed and responsiveness. The stiff ride becomes increasingly harsh with distance and fatigue. There were some big improvements made from the previous model of the Mazama which doubled its score in the comfort category. This is attributed to the complete overhaul of the upper since the midsole and outsole stayed relatively unchanged. The upper on the Mazama 2 is more flexible and breathable. The laces have been improved, with more padding being added to the tongue as well as a lace garage. With the new upper it is now more accommodating to a wider variety of foot types. The midsole is not uncomfortable when used for its intended purpose. When you want to go hard, this shoe is ready and surprisingly comfortable, but for easy recovery days, you should look elsewhere.
Although the turnover of the Mazama is quite good, it nonetheless did not quite seem to match the level of the responsiveness of the shoe. The 6mm heel-to-toe drop and 17mm forefoot height do provide a moderately aggressive feel to the shoe without sacrificing agility, both uphill and down. When not going fast, the shoe is harsh, and can feel clunky. The Mazama 2 keeps the propulsion plate that the original had which gives the shoe its speed. There is a noticeable pop and spring like motion. This is the only shoe this season that had something like the propulsion plate.
Security of Fit
With the overhauled upper, the Mazama 2 kept its fairly high level of security. The upper is very flexible, but with its minimal overlays and good lacing system it holds your foot very securely. There is very little lateral movement even on steep descents or sharp switchbacks. The heel and ankle are a low cut, which doesn’t affect the fit of the shoe but doesn’t feel really secure. The Mazama 2 has a narrow fit, but an accommodating upper that helps it fit a variety of foot types. The shoe runs true to size, but can be a little long in the toes.
Although the Mazama is not necessarily designed for technical agility, it definitely holds its own. The 6mm heel-to-toe drop is moderate enough to keep the heel out of the way, the somewhat narrow lateral profile of the shoe helps with foot placement, and the overall rigidity lends stability on uneven surfaces. Where the shoe struggles a bit is with surety of foot placement, which is a consequence of the low-profile outsole lugs. Because of the lack of cushioning, foot placement is key, and there is just not a lot of confidence there. Soft, wet, or sloppy terrain is another weak point. The outsole is great for hard pack or even moderately technical trails but when the going gets rough the Mazama 2 is out of its element.
The responsiveness of the Brooks Mazama is clearly its strongest characteristic. The energy return is simply phenomenal, and the shoe sings at speed, particularly on slight downhill grades. The performance on runnable climbs is not quite at the same level, but still among the best in this weight class. The only minor issue here is that at slower speeds the stiffness of the shoe can make it feel awkward and even a little clunky. This is primarily a concern on very steep climbs where the effort is high but the pace is slow.
The stiffness of the midsole material provides a fair amount of push through protection. The propulsion plate effectively acts as a rock plate and further enhances protection in the forefoot area. The protection up top and in front is fairly minimal however due to the lightweight upper material and almost non-existent toe bumper. While this is not atypical for a speed-oriented shoe, it is atypical for a shoe in the 9-10oz weight class. The upper provides little to no protection from a rock catching you on the side of your foot.
*Your purchase helps to support the work of Gear Institute.
HOW WE TESTED
Out testing spans the course of several months. Our testers spend a few weeks running at least 50 miles (typically much more) in each shoe. They live all over the country so each shoe can be put through our testing protocol in a variety of terrains and conditions. Each tester is encouraged—to the best of their ability—to test the shoes in as many different terrain environments as possible: in the mountains, on dirt roads, buffed single track, technical terrain, etc. In addition to varying terrain, our testers have to test each shoe at different efforts including a long run, easy running and fast running. As mentioned above we test for six different criteria: comfort, speed, security of fit, agility, responsiveness and protection.