The Brooks Cascadia series of shoes, the brand’s flagship trail runners, have been eating up miles in the dirt for almost 8 years now. In trail running circles everywhere, this shoe is touted as one of the shoes for anything off road. I aspired to own a pair for a long time but just couldn’t convince myself to drop the dough. For a while I ran trails in the Adidas Kanadia–a lightweight trail runner with great traction, a mud shedding outsole and light cushioning all around. I enjoyed the Kanadia for it’s agility and traction on muddy or snowy runs. The shoe has grunt. But when it came to running longer distances it seemed to lack grit (or, my knees did, rather). I found that the low amount of cushioning started to hurt on long gravel road descents or on longer, flatter, less technical runs. Enter the Brooks Cascadia.
Last year I decided it was time to get “serious” about trail running and invest in a better shoe that could go the distance. I stopped by Off’n Running and tried on a few pairs. It turns out that the shoe I had once coveted fit perfectly. The cushioning was great, the shoe rolled well when I tested it out on the in-store treadmill and the width of the shoe fit my narrow feet perfectly. Right out of the box, the Cascadia 6 fit like a dream. Fast forward 400 miles and I’m on my second pair, the Cascadia 7. What makes this shoe so great? Let’s break it down.
These shoes are in their element on the trail but also work well on the road. Inevitably, if you are an urban trail runner you will at some point need to hop on a greenway or a sidewalk to connect a loop of trails. The midsole of the Cascadia has plush cushioning with the new Brooks DNA BioMoGo. I’m not really sure what BioMoGo is or how Brooks DNA works but the shoes provide a ride that is soft and springy on the pavement and firm and supportive on the trail. Kind of the perfect mix between squishy cushioning gel and firmer EVA foam.
With this great cushioning you feel like you’re running on the foam of a perfectly poured pint of Guinness. I don’t know how else to describe it other than soft and creamy. With the description above, one might think that the midsole is big and clunky. They are definitely not that. The cushioning technology packed into the midsole helps keep the shoe nimble. They have the feeling of the old Nike Air Max but the agility of the Adidas Kanadia.
When picking up the shoe for the first time one of the first things I noticed was how light it is. The second thing I noticed after flipping it over in my hand was the tread pattern. It’s not a typical trail shoe with knobs and grooves everywhere. The tread has a jack-of-all-trades set of small knobs and a washboard pattern in the mid-foot that work together to maintain great traction and shed mud efficiently. The rockplate in the forefoot seems sufficient enough for most conditions and the hardened toe protector is a nice touch for dicey terrain. The outsole is burly enough to take them on 99% of the trails of the planet and flexible and svelte enough to take them on sidewalks and greenways.
The Cascadia line has never been shy when it comes to color. My Cascadia 6s were an obnoxious shade of acid green and my Cascadia 7s are a mix of fluorescent orange and charcoal gray. If you ever got lost in the woods, you could probably rely on these shoes to flag down a helicopter to bring you home safely. Aesthetics aside, the upper is designed to lock your foot in place. The web of durable stretchy fabric that wraps over the mid-foot keeps the fit snug without being restrictive.
The Cascadia 7 has an asymmetrical anatomically curved lace pattern that securely wraps the foot. This was an interesting design change from the Cascadia 6 to the 7. The fit of the 7 is definitely more ergonomic and in tune with how the shoe flexes on the foot when running or walking.
Some shoes are hot. This shoe is not. The upper is very breathable and seems to manage moisture very well. I used to get blisters in my Kanadias. Most of this problem should be attributed to the fit of the shoe but some of it can be attributed to the fact that my feet stayed wet from sweat in the Kanadias. The Cascadias breathe enough to keep my feet ventilated on longer runs. I haven’t had a blister in 900 miles of sweaty summer running in the southeastern USA.
If you skimmed this entire review and are just reading this last paragraph, I would tell you that this shoe is just a great all-around trail shoe and that if you are looking at the Cascadia thinking that you don’t want to make the $110 purchase, seriously reconsider your hesitation. Run out and buy’em! Your feet will thank you for the investment. Coming from someone who has been trail running for 9 years, this is by far the best trail shoe I have worn. It has the perfect mix of cushioning, agility and versatility for almost any trail or greenway you throw (or kick) at it. I am on my second pair and as long as Brooks keeps up the awesome design I plan to stick with this series.
About Scott Cooper
Graphic designer, photographer, trail runner, cyclist, gear junkie and mountaineer. Coffee is my life blood and pixels are my ammunition. When I’m not designing t-shirts for #Anywhere5k I’m at my MacPro whipping up sweet webby goodness, out running trails, nerding out over the latest outdoor gadget or not watching television.