Brooks Cascadia 12, Trail Shoe Review.

Let me give you some background.

Last year, I ran my first ultra marathon. To prepare for such an event, I thought it wise to join the ‘trail shoe gang’ and buy a pair of lugged miracle makers. 

Being a complete running gear newbie, I went for what seemed to be the popular choice and bought myself some Salomon Speedcross 4 GTX.

At this point, the most ‘trail’ I came across was a mile or so across a farmers field, which is muddy probably all of 30 days in the year (but seriously it gets super muddy) and then another few miles or so if I run out towards Reculver towers past my friends farm. That’s literally my local trail.

Anyone with half a brain would know not to buy a full trail shoe for that terrain. But they were pretty, and obviously, as I said, I had NO IDEA what I was doing!

Taking the Speedcross out, I knew immediately they were the wrong choice. They were heavy and stiff, with deep lugs for soft, wet and muddy terrain. I tried them out probably 4 or 5 times, before selling them on to my friend, who DOES frequent that sort of terrain on the South Downs!

So I was back to square one. Luckily I’d read up quite a bit of what people were suggesting as appropriate shoes for the Race to the Stones terrain. Mainly hard packed chalk, gravel paths, some road sections with a few fields and farm tracks. If the weather is good it shouldn’t be too bad underfoot, and the elevation is pretty gentle (but constant!).

There were lots of votes for road shoes, so I decided instead of spending £100 odd on an emergency pair of hybrid trail shoes with a couple of weeks until race day, I would stick with what I knew, and that was my Nike Pegasus. 

Let me just say that we were dealt a plethora of weather conditions for Day 1 of Race to the Stones, but my trusty Nike road shoes served me so well.

Anyway this is a review of BROOKS CASCADIA 12!

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Brooks kindly sent me a pair of Cascadia 12, as we find ourselves staring into the face of ultras once more, with still no actual progress on a trail shoe. Whilst I am still to sample other trail shoe delights, I have been rather pleased with the Cascadia so far.

Within the first week, I ran almost 30 miles in them. The first outing was a 25 mile country road ultra-training run, literally out of the box. The second, around the farmers field on an undulating muddy path, with plenty of technical stepping to avoid ankle destruction.

The first thing you notice about the Cascadia 12’s are the quite lively colour options. Ive noticed a few of the more ‘serious’ ultra runners have called for more subtle colour ways, but I mean, they’re gonna get trashed and covered in mud anyway, maybe just buy the least lairy option (there are some nice blues and purples if you don’t fancy the bright pinks and blues). Anyway I quite like the bright colours.

Putting them on for the first time, I was hopeful for a fit that was more like my road shoes than a trail shoe. I wasn’t disappointed. They felt comfortable and padded, with a chunky collar at the heel and cushioning along the insole. These shoes are neutral, and didn’t pinch or pull up on the side of my feet anywhere. 

In normal shoes I’m a 5, and I have been wearing 5.5 in running shoes until these. I decided it was time to go up a whole size instead (Do you know it’s literally only millimetres’s difference between shoe sizes?!)

I had some Brooks Levitates a few months before in a size 5.5, with a normal width. Whilst these pinched my right foot to begin with (which is slightly wider than my left) they loosened off and are very comfy now. However with this in mind, and knowing there wasn’t a width option in the Cascadia, I decided to go for a size 6 to allow appropriate swelling room.

It was the perfect decision. The Cascadia 12 is wider in general, with plenty of room in the toe box. I wear injinji toe socks for any long distances and the toe box more than accommodated the toe splay.

The grip on the soles is perfect for loose terrain. When I tested them around the farmers field, they handled really well, and I felt I had enough traction to boost me over the tire tracks and freshly ploughed dirt. They also felt really stable when I was running miles on  countryside back roads and handles just as well over the tarmac as they did the grass and the woodland paths. I found if stones were getting stuck I could easily kick them out without having to stop and pull them out.

The weather has been dry recently so I can’t comment at the moment on using them in wet/soft muddy conditions, but i’ll be sure to update the review once I have.

In terms of cushioning, I found them decent. Unless you go full Hoka, I think you pretty much know how much cushioning you’ll get in a trail shoe. These are reasonably cushioned, but after 25 miles, I think any footbed is going to feel a little sore. I didn’t feel sore for long though, as I can do after a long distance in a more forefoot striking shoe like the On Cloudflows, which is a good indication of their level of comfort.

I liked the fact that I could feel connection with the road, and although it’s clear you’re wearing a trail shoe and not a road shoe, there was enough movement and response from the shoe to keep me comfortable.

It didn’t feel too heavy, but just the right weight to remind me I should be running marathon/Ultra pace in these, and not 10k pace.

 

My conclusion of the Brooks Cascadia 12’s;

Style: 8/10

Comfort: 8/10

Handling: 7/10

 

Hope you found this helpful!

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(I was sent the Brooks Cascadia 12’s as a gift, and the views in this review are my own.)

 

 

 

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