Cascade of Dreams
Trail shoe review of the Brooks Cascadia 9
Can anyone think of a movie sequel beyond say version two that outstrips its original (porn flicks non admissible)? If anyone says Police Academy 3, 4, 5, 6 or 7, I’ll kill you (tangential note: there’s a new sequel being produced in 2014). The message being that rarely are franchise films any good and equally, it’s hard to truly update a shoe more than a few times and still make any significant gains, unless you create an entirely new shoe, with little genealogy, in which case, call it something else. I mean, how many times can you have plastic surgery before everything just falls off?
Well, there’s always a rule breaker and the latest Cascadia 9s are it. I’ve run a most of the iterations of this model. Rarely have I been disappointed, mind you, like I was with Police Academy: Back In Training. The Cascadia 3s were actually my first trail shoe, and I loved them straight out of the box after they saw me through my first ever bush marathon. Subsequent versions have performed well, too, although I wasn’t a fan of them putting on the beef with each subsequent edition.
But with the 9s, they’ve got me as excited as a movie buff that has heard the director of Breaking Bad is making the next instalment of The Godfather.
True story: when I got these shoes, and felt them in my hand, there was something about them that had me whacking them on there and then, mid conversation (sorry wife), out my front door and running on my back door trails. I was still in jeans. I just needed to try them out. They had a power over me like the Ring had over Gollum. And I seriously let out a holler as I ran in them on a rainy day. I just knew they were good. Better than their earlier iterations. Can you imagine the surprise you’d be in if Police Academy 8 was better than 1? Or even 3? That was me.
They are still pretty bulldozer-like in appearance (but they deliver on that visual promise) and bolder than ever – their bright orange and yellow dress sense shrieks at you louder than Zed’s wail (Bobcat Goldthwaite in PA2).
Their grip is as aggressive as ever, but lower profile than you’d imagine given what they deliver in earth cling. That is, whereas many shoes seeking grip rely on longer lugs to bite in, which then becomes annoying and cumbersome when the trail smooths out (not to mention detracts from trail feel), the Cascadia’s lugs are low but there are many of them. The secret is in an alternating forward/back facing ‘V’ design to give grip in both directions, as well as laterally. Also, they tend not to hold mud and clog, shedding it quickly. I rate these perhaps the best grip on market.
The mesh and felt upper wicks well – even the more padded tongue and heel couch dry out quickly after a drenching. The upper construction of a felt cage exo-skeleton gives excellent upper support, holding the foot perfectly in place, with a reinforced heel cup keeping things firm up back.
The 10mm offset change from heel to toe may deter some who err on minimalism, as I do. However, I still found the higher platform did not detract from the running experience. With a decent cushioning, these shoes offer excellent protection underfoot, but lose a smidge of trail feel, although the balance between the two factors has been struck well.
I have heard it said that the 9s are merely a fashionable update, nevertheless whatever changes have been made, they work for me, as I prefer these to the 8s. In fact I probably prefer them to my beloved 3s.
They are the perfect hardcore trail runner, to be used where grip and protection is needed, the trade off a slightly bulkier shoe on the foot if you are used to minimal racers. But they remain lightweight, meaning you still feel fast in them, and the upside of feeling as though you can step anywhere means you invariably have more confidence on the trail. This does two things: allows you to concentrate on improving your landing skill and technique more, and over time it increases your speed as you learn to tap dance more furiously, unafraid of the terrain tripping, poking or prodding you to fall.
A Cascade of dreams indeed.
Great for: anything. Seriously, anything.
Not-so-great for: uber minimalists and those looking for low heel-toe drop.
Test Conditions: mostly technical single track with some beefy in-the-wet sessions
Tester: Chris Ord, editor, Trail Run Mag
Tester Mechanics: mid-foot striker whose form diminishes in proportion to time on trail, slight pronator.
VITALS: AU$239.95. Website: www.brooksrunning.com.au