SHOE REVIEW: Brooks Cascadia of dreams

TRM reviews the tenth iteration of Brooks‘ persistent, consistent performer, the Cascadia. This review appears along with more shoe and gear guides (and plenty more trail porn) in the current edition of Trail Run Mag (17) available for FREE DOWNLOAD, here.

 In Nigeria, a tenth birthday is considered an extremely special event. It warrants a huge party and a feast of an entire roasted cow or goat.

Well, bring out the goat! For here’s a tenth birthday worth a herd of them, that of the Brooks Cascadia 10.

Throughout its junior iterations, the Cascadia has always been a solid child of the trail, maturing well with each year. As Brooks found its feet in the trail running world, the Cacadia became stronger, lighter, faster, and grippier but retained the DNA of a consistently high end and, importantly, all-round performer.

It is perhaps also the only trail shoe that has had the confidence to remain true to itself buy hanging on through ten rounds (we know of no other trail shoe that is at iteration number ten!). As noted in past reviews, sometimes that means a shoe that has become mutton dressed up as lamb. Not in this case. Brooks has done the sensible thing and never really waded in with big scale changes, rather it has tinkered, tailored and finessed along the way, meaning the tenth edition is, I believe, the best edition of all to date.brooks-cascadia-10-110187-1d413

The changes this time around are rooted in a retooling of the outsole and the upper.

Down low, the lugs have been reduced for an ever so refined experience delivering more versatility on different terrains and a more responsive ride.

The Cascadia remains a bit of a bulldozer ride in that it floats over anything you throw at it, with a hefty undercarriage – a 10mm heel-toe drop and thick midsole means it’s no adherent to the minimalist movement. Regardless, the ride is actually quite nimble on the foot, placing this shoe very much in that sweet spot midrange of shoes suitable for most trail runners, from back of pack to the pointy end. I also place this shoe squarely in the zone for ‘adventure runners’ – those who like to run in wild places for the hell of it where the terrain is unknown and you best be prepared for anything and everything.

In general I prefer a 4-6mm drop, yet I still find this shoe an excellent option when I know the terrain is going to get knarly, the run is going to be longer, and I’m feeling like a bit more protection underfoot.

The upper now features an ever-so slightly asymmetrical design in order to lock down the foot better, continuing with the move to a more self-assured ride. The general fit on the inside if comfortable, with an average size toe box that will accommodate all but the heftiest of widths. The arch has more support for those that prefer it. I did suffer a slight hot spot on the front ball, but it quickly disappeared with repeated outings.

For me, the Cascadia is all about delivering a ride superior to most, and the 4-point pivot posts in the outer design is the equivalent of a SUV’s independent suspension system. It is based around a decoupled outsole around the four pivots, maximising impact function and adaptability as your foot strikes on uneven terrain. The result is a more stable landing and assured rebound.  heroImage_cascadia

The Cascadias have always been excellent on the protection front, a Ballistic Rock Shield protecting from sharp and nasties, while the Brooks BioMoGo DNA cushioning midsole giving some plushness without getting sloppy.

If one had to pick and niggle at the Cascadia, its only downfall is a slightly heavier and bulkier mass on the foot, which numbs the agility a smidge for the short, go-fast style of running. This is nothing beyond the pale, however, and only noted in the context of the current crop of super-lightweight, super-fast models on market these days, mostly aimed at the elite runners, not the Average Joe dirt raker.

In the long and more brutal mountain runs, the Cascadia’s beef and support will actually assist you.

The grip has been toned down some, but seems to have lost none of its bite, rather just extended the shoe’s range of suitable terrains to pretty much anything.

Essentially this is one of the most versatile trail shoes on the market, able to run smoothly over mild trails and dirt paths but also hold its own over super gnarly terrain. Even extending to landscapes a (mountain) goat would love. On that note, maybe we leave off roasting the poor goat to celebrate this tenth edition, and instead just go for a run with it in the mountains in Nigeria (yes, it has some)? Ten is after all, a special number there and traditions must be upheld in some fashion or other.

TAKEOUTS: Brooks Cascadia 10
Great for: all variety of trails, especially serious mountain and long runs, grip, comfort
Not-so-great for: minimalists, lightweight freaks and short, sharp, speedy runs
Test Conditions: Technical and non technical single track with a smattering of fire road, 94km
Tester: Chris Ord, Trail Run Mag editor
Tester Mechanics: mid foot striker, tends to more technical style running routes, mostly 15-30km range outings.
RRP: AUD $239.95


Mt Buller

Shoe Review: Brooks Cascadia 9

Cascade of Dreams
Trail shoe review of the Brooks Cascadia 9

Screenshot 2014-02-13 16.45.58Can 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.

Screenshot 2014-02-13 16.46.08True 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.

Brooks Cascadia 9

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:  

Screenshot 2014-02-13 16.57.15


If I was awarding points simply for looks I reckon the Cascadias would win. They look like something Spiderman would wear. Slick, low to the ground, racing-red, textured mesh, black webbing reinforcing and a gold flash. They look fast. I have always wanted to run in them but the earlier models were too narrow in the forefoot so I never got out the store door. But given the chance to put the latest version to the test, I simply couldn’t resist.

Pull them on and they even feel fast. While clearly not in the realm of the latest ultra lightweight brigade, they are still light and low to the ground. But amazingly they still feel cushioned and protective all in one. There is a protective plate beneath the outsole that does a good job of protecting against sharp stones. The tread pattern is a good mix: down the middle are geometric shapes that look like they will drill into any surface; around the perimeter are flat, straight lugs; and under the arch a band of tight deep fins. These fins are a great addition in an area usually left devoid of tread and often where you strike a root or rock. The combination is awesome on nearly every surface I tried. I was rock hopping on a narrow rock-ledge from the get-go with confidence. Steep scree and loose dirt: no problem. Slippery mud: as good as any of my other trailies. Possibly the ultimate test: a narrow fresh duck-poo covered treated pine plank with no trouble. There is great feel for the trail. I almost felt cat-like, no matter which way I ‘fell’ I always landed on my feet. I guess that must be the Spiderman influence.

The #6 model is definitely a little wider than its predecessors but I can still feel the sidewall pressing on my little toe. There is a scalloping of the upper over the little toe, which reduces the space. But as a plus all this combines to make for a snug fit, which eliminates any movement of the foot within the shoe. Less movement means less friction and less blisters. It does mean less room for foot swelling in ultras though and those that like a bit of freedom for their toes won’t like the trapped feeling.

The flat laces pull the uppers in snug. The tongue is webbed to stop debris sneaking in. An extra tiny loop-hole on the tongue helps stop any tongue slippage. The uppers are plush and very comfortable. They drain and dry well after creek crossings. As an added bonus Brooks claim all sorts of eco-friendly techniques and materials are used in the production of the Cascadias.

My favourite measuring stick for judging a trail shoe: would I run a 100 miler (160km) in them? Initially, the narrowness of the toe box convinced me that this was unlikely. But I still liked them so much that I actually wondered if I could get my little toes surgically removed to fit better. That’s how good I think these shoes are. After putting more miles in them my toes feel surprisingly good. I fear for me, though, the toe box is still too narrow for 100km+ where there will be foot swelling. But I’m getting tempted to try.


You know a shoe designed with input from Scott Jurek is going to be good. And theses babies don’t disappoint. If I sound overly enthusiastic it’s for good reason. Forget all the gimmicks and trends: these are a born-and-bred fantastic trail shoe.




Great for: you name it, any sort of trail, technical, rocky, soft, loose, hard.

Not so great for: runners with wide forefeet.

Test conditions: mix of trail including loose sand and dirt, hard compacted firetrail, loose gravel and stones, hard rock (wet and dry), creeks, technical singletrack, mud, puddles. Total test distance: 70km.

Tester: Andy Hewat – ultrarunner with 15 x 100 milers including 3 x Hardrock, 1 x Western States, 5 x Great North Walk and 5 x Glasshouse. Race Director for Great Ocean Walk100s ( and Bogong to Hotham (

Tester mechanics: Mild over pronator with fairly wide forefoot and low arches. Major arthritis in big toe joints of both feet so appreciate protection.