Every once in a while a bit of outdoor kit comes onto the market and after a month or so the reviews trickle in. Some are poor, sending stuff to an early grave. Others are middle of the road, some good points and some bad. Then there is the good stuff, great reviews, perhaps the odd tweak needed to make it perfect but overall it’s worth buying.
The Brooks Cascadia 7’s are none of the above. They occupy an upper section, a file kept for those rare products that come along and blow everything else away. The Brooks Cascadia 7’s, for those hikers whose chosen footwear is trail running shoes did just that last year.
Last post on the Three Shoe Review – The Brooks Cascadia 7’s rightfully taking centre stage
I run on and off and for the last 10 years have run in nothing else but various models of Brooks. I tried other brands many years ago; Adidas, Nike and the like but the first time I tried a pair of Brooks on they sold themselves on the fit. Brooks are generously wide at the front which suits my wider feet. However, until the Appalachian Trail last year, surprisingly, I never thought of hiking in them. I wore a pair of the Addictions model through Pennsylvania. They gave out on me just after 200 miles which is admittedly pretty pathetic but they were dedicated street running shoes not designed for off road or hiking use.
With about 400 miles to go, my New Balance 810’s were not going to make it much further so I needed something to get me through the last stage. I was in town with a couple of other hikers and there was nowhere to buy footwear. Phill ‘Lazagne’ Colelli has received a pair of Cascadia 7’s in the mail but they didn’t fit him well. He asked if I would be interested, and despite being a tad too big, after a 10 minute walk up the street I was sold immediately.
The selling point was the fit. They were amazingly comfortable; nothing rubbed, there was space around my feet, they flexed with my walking so I didn’t feel as though I was battling them. Even the fact they were a little too large didn’t matter, my feet were still held in place with no slipping. Even though Lazagne couldn’t be knocked down on price, I paid him what he had bought them for.
A little wear to the back outside heel is all the Cascadia’s have suffered from after around 500 miles
Once on trail they were even better. The last section of the Appalachian Trail through Maine can be rocky and I was concerned, having not worn them off road, that I would be able to feel too much of the ground. What Brooks call a ‘ballistic rock plate, is sandwiched between the outsole and midsole and acts as barrier so sharp stones, rocks and other trail detritus are felt, but not to an extreme where they cause discomfort or concern. Brooks have managed, somehow, to offer excellent trail protection with an element of cushioning that I haven’t felt in a shoe before. I was never in a rush to get into my camp shoes after a day’s hiking. They also breathe well; the upper mesh ventilates the feet so they never feel sweaty.
Claimed weight is 338 gr / 11.93 oz although mine come in at 383 / 13.51 oz (UK 10 / USA 11 / EUR 44.5). It’s under my preferred weight for trail shoes of 400 gr / 14.11 oz.
Good toe rand protects the toes and also it’s stitched through, not just glued. This ensures it stays put
Grip was also good, especially the outer perimeter which is ‘toothy’. They had to contend with mud and extremely slippery, sloped rock. Maine has some particularly steep rock slabs, criss-crossed with tree roots and to really take the piss, most of the time they were wet. It’s that tipping point when you are gingerly edging down a rock face, pack weight also pressing down, and fear that any moment your feet are going to slip, be whipped up to eye level whilst your body reaches horizontal and falls back. Well, they didn’t. Confidence gained after a few days and my fear of edging down those rocks was banished, they just stuck to the ground.
They also fared well, I put around 300 miles on them including Maine and I still have them a year later. I’m been walking in the UK and running in them. I even considered taking them to EL Camino but I like them so much I’ve started to wear them less because I don’t want to wear them out. At present they probably have around 500 miles on the clock and there is no sign of wear. The sole is still grippy.
The tongue has 2 lace loops to keep it in place
There is a low toe rand, stretching part way around the front sides. It’s made of a tough plastic and is stitched through the shoe which is a rarity to see. It’s held in place and offers good protection for the toes. The sole, also, has not started to peel away anywhere either. I would expect to be able to get at least 600 to 700 miles from the Cascadia’s which for a trail runner is excellent. The tongue is held in place by two lace loops and never slipped over to either side.
After posting a review of the New Balance 810’s last week, I received a comment on the post saying that Brooks have a clause on their website:
Please note: The Cascadia is intended as a trail running shoe. It is not pack-rated and may not hold up to the extra weight and demands of long pack hikes. We’re your go-to option for trail runs, but a sturdy hiking boot would be better suited for the Pacific Crest Trail, Appalachian Trail, or other long pack trips.
It seems interesting that Brooks felt the need to post this clause. I can only imagine the reason is that the Cascadia 7’s are proving so popular with hikers that they wanted to cover their backs. It’s a shame; I think they should be milking it for all it’s worth. After reading their disclaimer all I can say is bollocks.
I saw a few other hikers on the AT wearing the 7’s and made a point of asking them what they thought. Even before the spoke, a wry smile crept over their chops as if they knew something everyone else didn’t. They didn’t need to say anything really.
Note the sole is not peeling – a common sign of wear on other shoes
Because the Cascadia 8’s are on the market now, the 7’s have also dropped in price and some outlets are selling them at reduced prices, so low in fact that they are an absolute bargain. I’ve seen them as low as £39.99 in the UK which for once, seems lower than our American friends can get hold of them for. At that price it’s a complete no brainer and I’d even pay up to £80.00 happily.
The Cascadia’s are the best shoes I’ve ever hiked in and are certainly what I want to be doing the Continental Divide Trail in come next year. Try them on and I’m sure you’ll be sold before you even take a step.
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