I’ve never run in any of the previous versions of the Cascadia. I can tell you from talking to numerous ultrarunners as well as seeing these on the feet of more ultrarunners then I can count that these shoes are a staple in the trail running community. I have seen these shoes on small 100 lb girls all the way up to men that break 200 lbs on a scale.
I’ve got about 200 miles in my pair in a variety of terrain. Some road, lots of single track, mud, creeks, gravel, water, massive inclines and declines, sand… anything you’d see in a trail. Initial impression is that I really like these shoes. I’ve got a few cons, but they are outweighed by the pros.
Brooks DNA, 4 way Pivot Posting, Ballistic Rock Shield, Adjustable lacing
These shoes are built on a universal outsole meaning it works for all gait types. They do this by using their patented technology Brooks DNA. Under the heel and midfoot built in the midsole is a layer of non-Newtonian polymer (think corn starch and water). This allows the shoe to firm up and cushion harder strikes or heavier runners and then be softer and more nimble for lighter runners. To me the shoe felt more like a stripped down stability shoe. My opinion is that’s because the outsole is still fairly thick through the arch, what you see in stability shoes. It was fairly responsive on the trails, however if you want light fast and nimble with minimal support, look else where.
The 4 way Pivot Posting again is patented from Brooks. This basically breaks up the outsole into a few different areas. That way if you have poor footing under one section of your foot the instability isn’t propagated through the rest of the shoe. This enables you to keep better contact with the ground over all. I never felt this action specifically, which is a good thing, but I always felt in good contact with the ground. The footing was excellent through rocks and roots no matter how technical the terrain. These are the red plastic inserts in the outsole just in front of the heel and under the forefoot.
There is a caterpillar crash pad in the heel which spreads out the force of a heel strike. I normally don’t heel strike, but these felt pretty cushioning when I did. Because of the shape of the outsole this shoe forces me into heel striking more then I normally do and had me running more to the back of my foot then the midfoot. I’m happy that crash pad is there. This is the segmented section under the heel.
The Ballistic Rock Shield is built into the outsole and is a layer of thermoplastic used to protect your forefoot from point loads – sharp rocks or any focalized impacts on the trail. I’m going to assume this works cause I never had problems with bruising or pain in my forefoot due to this, which I have had running trails in road shoes. This is fairly standard in a trail shoe, each manufacturer has their own way of dealing with it. This is the bits of yellow you can see on the bottom under the midfoot.
The outsole is equipped with bi-directional lugs ( fairly standard for a trail shoe) to enable traction both up and down hills. Along the arch the lugs face in the normal direction and they are reversed on the outer edge of the shoe. Down the center run omnidirectional nubs that offer traction in all directions. The shoes do offer wonderful traction in both directions.
The lacing on this shoe is odd and really my only beef with the shoe. It has an “adjustable” section to help get a comfort fit for each runner no matter your arch type. I say “adjustable” because along the eye row on the inboard of the shoe are two eyelets that are attached to the last with elastic. It stretches to conform to your foot. I didn’t see any advantage to this myself. The other thing is the eye rows are slightly asymmetric from each other, which I found awkward to get a proper fit. Other runners didn’t complain about this when I asked, so it may just be me unable to properly operate the laces.
These shoes come in a super bright green, a super bright hooker red and a gray with bright blue accents. You can see them coming from a mile away. If you don’t like flashy shoes it’ll probably be a turn off. I hate to admit it but I like flashy colors on my shoes so I’m a fan. If you are going to be as slow as I am, you’d better look good doing it.
Overall I do love these as a distance shoe. I do plan on buying another pair when these wear out. I would not use them as a short distance trail racer or for any speed work on the trails. However on a day where I’m out to log some serious training miles or in an ultra I’ll be bringing these along. If you like a more supportive shoe, this is a great buy and worth the list price if you are willing.