The Cascadia has been a stalwart of Brooks’ line for a while now, in spite of the appearance of new models. Let’s see if it has been worth keeping around for so long.
Running shoes? Yeah, I know, this is a cycling website. But a lot of us are at a bit of a loss for what to do through the winter. I’ve always been the kind of rider who will plant themselves on the turbo from September to March, usually on my time trial bike. After a few years of that, I’ve decided it’s time for a change, and have had much more fun by mixing in some cross-training.
The Cascadia 12s are trail running shoes, which means they’re made for running off-road. When I’m running on paved surfaces, I normally wear a pair of Brooks Ravenna 8s. I’ll be basing a lot of my comparisons on these, as these are my first trail shoes.
The Ravenna 8s are support shoes – after having issues with other running shoes, as well as joint pains, I was really wary of trail shoes, which are almost all ‘neutral’ and generally seem much less supportive and cushioned. However, having had some runs on grass in my road shoes, I found the softer surfaces were much easier on the joints… and a lot more slippy!
So, enter the Cascadias. The first thing to notice is they’re pretty light on gimmicks – nowhere to hide the laces, no funky designs, and they’re certainly not ultralight. Brooks themselves use the words ‘rugged utility’ to describe them. However, in spite of this, they still manage to look good. They may not be show-stoppers like the On Cloudventure, but they do look exceptionally well put together and have a design that, to me at least, is pretty pleasing.
I’ll leave you to decide what you think of the appearance. It’s time for a run!
Construction and grip
I’m going to try and avoid using any of the special trademarked terms that running shoes create to try and explain the technologies they use, because I don’t really think they’re helpful in understanding what’s going on. However, it’s safe to say that the Cascadias, like most other running shoes, have lots of bits with special names that they say will make you better at running.
The sole might not look mega-aggressive, but they grip well on most things short of really slippy mud, and the hard plastic inside the sole, combined with the cushioning of the shoe, help keep your foot from being poked by sharp rocks or gnarly roots if you accidentally land on one. There’s also some hefty protection around the toe area.
I’m fortunate in that I don’t have to cover any tarmac to get onto the trails, but there are a couple of short sections in the middle of my normal route. As you’d probably expect, the Cascadias don’t grip all too well on wet tarmac. It would be fine if you only have to cover a short distance, but you certainly wouldn’t be able to get by with them as your only shoes if you’re after a ‘hybrid’.
If (when) you do happen to hit some muddy puddles, you’ll appreciate that the bottom areas of the shoe look as if they’ve been given a waterproof coating – almost as if they were dipped in plastic or rubber. I’m yet to notice any nastiness creeping in underfoot from that area, so it must be working!
Now obviously, your feet aren’t the same as mine, so take this with a pinch of salt. I found the fit of the Cascadias to be comfortable – a little looser than my Ravennas, which are super-secure, but close enough to keep you from moving around. I read a couple of complaints that the heel cup was too low. While it is a bit lower than some others, when it came to running it’s been perfectly fine.
I haven’t noticed anything structure-wise that could cause issues inside the shoes – I’d be pretty disappointed if I did! However, it’s nice to know that there are no strange straps or anything on the outside that translate to blisters inside.
While there is a Gore-Tex version available, I went for the regular Cascadia in the hope that they’d drain and dry more quickly if they did get wet.
All in all, I’m really pleased with the Cascadia 12s. I’ve really quickly started putting more miles on these than my other shoes, and so far they’ve stood up well to regular scrubbing with a bucket and brush and still look (reasonably) fresh. They’re comfortable and grippy on most off-road surfaces, and give a good amount of protection from things like roots and rocks without feeling like walking boots. Best of all, I’m pretty sure they aren’t going to fall apart any time soon – the construction is excellent.