Brooks Cascadia 9 ReviewMarch 8, 2014
- A best in class cushioned trail runner
- Lots of upper padding
- Reasonably efficient given the amount of cushioning
- Great overall comfort
- Not a minimalist or speed shoe
- May be too high off the ground for some runners
- Foot security is below average
The Cascadia is the ideal general purpose trail shoe. Yes, it weighs 12oz and has a large heel-to-toe drop, but if for some reason I could only have one trail shoe, this would probably be it. There’s little if anything it can’t do.
The Brooks Cascadia 9 is Brooks' best selling trail runner—an all-purpose shoe with a moderately thick midsole (20-mm/10-mm), a moderately prominent heel (10-mm drop), and thickly padded tonque.
Most companies can make a cushioned trail shoe with protection and decent traction. What most companies can’t do is make a shoe with those characteristics and a smooth ride and excellent handling. Yet that is what Brooks continues to do with the Cascadia. Obviously it can’t compete with a trail flat in the speed department but as far as heavier shoes go, the comfort, protection, runnability, and handling are best in class.
And it’s not just the individual aspects that shine but the combination of them. For example, you can flat out bomb rocky technical downhill in this shoe. Several things — cushioning, protection, traction, handling — have to come together to get that right and the Cascadia nails it. The Cascadia is also extremely well balanced, so it can handle faster turnover when necessary. This versatility makes the Cascadia an outstanding racing shoe for long courses with varied terrain, e.g. flatter runnable sections combined with long mountain climbs and descents.
Dedicated minimalists are probably the only runners who would not find the Cascadia appealing for at least some of their runs. Otherwise, runners looking for a general purpose trail shoe and/or an ultramarathon shoe should seriously consider the Cascadia.
Comfort & Protection
The Cascadia is right in the sweet spot of not too firm and not too soft. The upper materials are fairly thick but the padding feels comfortable on the feet with no pressure points. Some might consider the amount of protection to be overkill, but on the other hand the Cascadia basically just laughs off terrain that would turn your feet and lower legs into hamburger if you were wearing flats. One minor drawback is that the thickness of the upper material inhibits breathability and takes longer to dry out when wet.
This is probably the weak point of the shoe – which means it is basically average here. The overlays and lacing provide adequate foot lockdown without excessive lace tightness. On the other hand, the interior footbed required some break-in time before it really cradled my foot well. This is not a long term issue but something to be mindful of when trying on the shoe in a store. There is also a slight amount of rotation of the foot during aggressive cornering. This is really just a consequence of the stack height.
Speed & Energy Efficiency
In comparison to other shoes in this category the Cascadia has a very smooth ride and decent turnover. Obviously it feels a little heavy but accounting for that, it responds well to shorter periods of faster running and the bulkiness doesn’t seem to get in the way.
The cushioning strikes a perfect balance between absorbing impact and providing some energy return, which really helps contribute to the all-around performance of the shoe. The midsole material seems to liven up a bit during faster running without feeling harsh at slower speeds. Similarly when things go vertical the midsole is stiff enough to mitigate energy loss on steep climbs but forgiving enough to lessen impact on tough descents.
The Cascadia typically retails for around $120, which is about an average price for a cushioned trail runner. Runners routinely report logging upwards of 500 miles in a pair of Cascadias. Add in the fact that the Cascadia will also outperform nearly all its competitors, and it is indeed an excellent value.