Lucky Eights: The fact that the Cascadia is into its eighth model outing shows that Brooks is comfortable with the ‘when you’re onto a good thing…stick with it’ strategy. Many may recall that the Brooks shoe boffins lost their way around the 6’s (at least according to the commentator crowd – I actually found them okay) but regained a strong footing with the 7s. Here, in the next iteration, Brooks has simply reinforced the design positives of a shoe that takes the traditional (ie. non-minimalist) approach: a whacking great buffer of a sole with a decent cushioned heel, serious traction underfoot, and a super comfy upper to coddle the feet in.
The first difference noted by Cascadia aficionados (they exist) will be their lightweight nature, surprising given the beefy look of the outer. Discarded is the two-part midsole (separate DNA inserts) and in their place a singlepiece ‘BioMoGo’ (basically a more environmentally friendly compound that breaks down 50 times more quickly than traditional EVA) and DNA cushioned midsole, shedding some grams in the process. DNA has been a well-received centrepiece Brooks technology for a while now, consisting of a high viscosity liquid cell pad structure that disperses force more evenly and differently according to the foot structure of each individual, while also providing some rebound. In the 8s, the two technologies have been combined into a singular unit. The all-in-one midsole still supplies plenty of lateral movement, fairly independent between front and back, allowing more zoned-in response to the terrain.
Pick them up and despite their bulky(ish) visage (comparative to many trail offerings these days), you’ll be impressed with how light these shoes are. Given grams count on the long run, this sets the latest Cascadas up as a good long distance trail option designed to reduce foot fatigue: plenty of padding, lightweight and durable. The rock protector on the forefoot keeps sharp stuff at bay and the grip is up there with the best.
The upper has been refreshed with a tight mesh that keeps the grit out but sheds water very well upon a dunking. The fit is snug but comfortable, well suited to the average foot but perhaps not to those with bigger slabs of meat.
While not the big clogs that the Brooks Ghost or Adrenaline trail models are, the Cascadias still remain a protectionist bulldozer in that they roll over anything you can throw at them – rough and tumble technical, mud, rocks, roots. On test (limited to 50km due to timing) they simply glided over any singletrack I threw them along. If you want something with less mass, you may opt for the Brooks Puregrit model (untested as yet by Trail Run Mag). And while the shoe doesn’t match TRM edition 7’s Vivo barefoot stance – the trail feel is somewhat dull – it does measure up in the ‘love the earth stakes’: that is, it’s vegan-friendly (thank you Mr Jurek).
Great for: traditional trail runners; technical, rocky, rooty trails
Not so great for: trail feel, fat feet
Test conditions: mostly singletrail, soft to firm, some graded track, technical, rocky, 50km+
Tester: Chris Ord
Tester mechanics: Nearly completed transition to mid-foot strike. Slight pronator. Very average feet that seem to have grown a half size – must be the move to ultras.