Brooks Cascadia 16 Review

The Brooks Cascadia 16 is very different to the previous models. The purpose of the shoe is still the same it is designed to be an all-round trail shoe. However, the fit and shape of the shoe has changed.

The base of the Cascadia is now broader through the midfoot. This is a very similar shape to the neutral Brooks road shoe the Dyad. The shape brings a very stable feel to the ride. The toe box is less pointed than most Brooks shoes. Again, very similar in shape to the Brooks Dyad. So, even while descending I didn’t feel like my toes where being pushing into a point as I do with most other shoes without a more rounded toe box. However, the cushioning is much softer than the Dyad so the similarity ends at this point.

Brooks have spent a lot of time getting that ‘out of the box comfort’ nailed. The inside of the heel cup is smooth, soft and padded, the same as all their road shoes, which will appeal to Brooks fans. The Cascadia 16 was not designed as a hardcore trail shoe able withstand extreme mud, grit and everything that the UK trails can throw at it. Rather a comfortable, cushioned all-rounder great for firmer everyday conditions. Although the upper has the addition of drainage holes, the nice & padded heel cup and tongue do hold a bit of water. If you’re splashing through streams, then the Cascadia 16 will hold a bit more water than some of its more hardcore competitors. This isn’t a criticism, just an observation. I can’t overstate the comfort that you get from the Cascadia 16 and I was pleasantly surprised as an Altra & Topo fan. They are like a comfortable armchair that you just sink into!
Although the Cascadia 16 has more room in the toe box it still fits as well as all other Brooks shoes. If Brooks have fitted your feet in the past then there is no reason to think that the Cascadia 16 wouldn’t offer the same fit and comfort.

What has allowed Brooks to opt for a broader base to the shoe through the midfoot is the new midsole and outsole. These are softer and much more elastic than the materials previously used. So, the shoes mould to the terrain you are running on. This is the same concept as a Mountain Bike Tyre which compresses as you ride over the rocks to give a more cushioned ride than you would get from a road bike tyre which is much harder and narrower.

The ballistic rock shield is also designed to adapt to the terrain while protecting your feet from sharp stones and thorns.

The Cascadia 16 upper is made from a very tight woven mesh. This is designed to stop grit and sand from getting into the shoes through the mesh. It will let water in and out. The toe bumper is quite stiff providing ample toe protection. There is a Velcro gaiter tab at the back of the shoes and an elastic lace keeper on the tongue. So, you can poke your laces under it to stop them coming untied when you are fighting through the bracken.

The Cascadia 16 is far more flexible at the toe box too. Which makes it easy to get up onto your toes on steep climbs without feeling like you are fighting the shoes. I found the previous Cascadia’s difficult to run in. The stiffness through the midfoot made the shoes feel like they were pulling me back onto my heels. The more pliable and flexible midsole of the Cascadia 16 makes them easy to run in. Although the 8mm off set is designed more with the heel striker in mind I would that I could easily land on my midfoot and was only really aware of the heel when descending.

The heel to forefoot drop is still 8mm. Stack height is 26/18 including insole and outsole (midsole is 20/12). The pivot points that where in the Cascadia from day one have now been dropped. They were designed to increase stability and reduce the chance of twisting your ankle. Now the base of the Cascadia is broader and the midsole/outsole absorbs the lumps and bumps on the trail there is no need for this mechanism anymore.

The outsole is made from Brooks Trailtack. This is a rubber designed to grip on wet and dry surfaces. The pliability of the midsole helps with the traction too by making sure that the maximum surface area is in contact at any one time. Outsoles are always a trade off. Super soft and sticky rubber outsoles grip the best on wet surfaces but, wear down really quickly. Trailtack won’t be as durable as a carbon road shoe. Having said that I have seen no signs of wear on the outsole and I have been using the Cascadia 16 for over a hundred miles of mixed running. A of it on gritty disused railway lines and rough back lanes. There is no sign of wear. The rubber grips well on a variety of wet surfaces.

The lugging on the outsole is 5mm in length. This is long enough to give some traction on wet single track but, not too long to be reducing traction on firmer track and trails.

The Cascadia 16 weight in at just under 300 grams for a UK 8. It feels solid, cushioned and protective on your feet and not heavy in anyway.

The softer cushioning is supplied by a DNA Loft v2 midsole. The midsole has a good level of rebound and is very stable. It’s not as soft as DNA Loft V1 which is used in the Brooks Glycerin and Ghost. This gives the Cascadia far better underfoot protection from the trail and a much more stable ride on rougher trails.

Despite the high level of cushioning you are not completely divorced from what’s underfoot like you are with a stiffer shoe with a rocker and a similar stack height. This makes the Cascadia 16 more versatile than the heavily cushioned rocker shoes. Although it doesn’t roll a long on smooth trails quite as effortlessly as shoes with a rocker it is far better on the rougher more broken trails or skipping over boulders or tree roots.

In my personal view this is a far better shoe than the previous Cascadia 15 and will tick the boxes for those wanting a comfortable cushioned trail shoe.

Charlie @ Northern Runner Newcastle

Other Considerations
VJ Ultra: A little bit former ride makes you less aware of the cushioning. You have a bit more feel for the trail. The stickiness of the outsole is one of the best. Here is our review:
https://www.northernrunner.com/blog/vj-sport-ultra-review/

La Sportiva Karacal: Not as quite well cushioned but, more nimble with more feel for the trail. These have less room in the toe box than the Cascadia and the VJ Ultra. Here is our review:
https://www.northernrunner.com/blog/la-sportiva-karacal-review/
Topo MTN Racer 2: A broader more rounded toe box. A lower drop. Not as much of a solid feeling shoe but, still offers a lot of cushioning. Here is our review:
https://www.northernrunner.com/blog/topo-athletic-mtn-racer-2-review/
Altra Timp 3: Softer cushioning rounded toe box and zero drop. The cushioning is softer with less rebound. Similar grip:
https://www.northernrunner.com/search/timp-3

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