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Brooks Cascadia 11 (Spring 2016)
The below is a consumer report. To read official Gear Institute Trail Running Shoe reviews, head to
The Brooks Cascadia 7 was the first real trail shoe I had, and I enjoyed running in them so much I went through a couple pair before moving on. So when the 11 arrived I was pretty happy. My happiness was short-lived. Seems what was once a top trail shoe has been cut-up, redesigned, totally changed, and modified to cut a few corners.
The Cascadia 11 has gone the opposite direction of many of the shoes I tested for Spring 2016; it is a narrow shoe. Disclaimer: I do not have a wide foot, either. The toe box is not roomy, and the midfoot is very tight. It took more than 5 or 6 wears in the shoe to get it to stretch a bit and feel a little more comfortable on the foot. Even with the Darn Tough coolmax socks there wasn't much wiggle room in these shoes, and normally those socks give me just a hair more space when my feet are swelling or its hot out. The heel cup in these shoes isn't very deep either, and I noticed a bit of lifting when running up hill. This is likely due to the 10mm drop that these tout, mixed with a shallower heel. I did appreciate the extra eyelet which allowed me to remedy the heel slippage. I was really disappointed at how these fit, but think that someone with a narrow foot may appreciate them more.
In the era of max cushion, the Cascadia falls into bell shaped curve of cushion. It is a bit firmer than other shoes tested (Ortega, Go Ultra), and it offers the protection that comes with a firmer cushioning sole, but it stops short of being a max cushioned shoe in my opinion. The lacing system on this shoe is different with the first rows being traditional lacing systems, where the third comes across the top of the foot at a diagonal. I didn't like this as it made it difficult to get a comfortable and consistent tightness in lacing the shoe. The shoe is very tight in the upper and I just wasn't comfortable in the shoe.
I am not a fan of this shoe. It falls short in comfort, design, width, and basic trail shoe concepts. For example, the tongue isn't gusseted!! That is a basic design point that should be included in all trail shoes, and the fact that Brooks decided to not gusset its tongue was a red flag to me, it also resulted in quite a bit of sand in the shoes during three of my runs. The shoe is narrow and isn't comfortable to wear, even in the office. I actually found myself taking the shoe off at my desk to give my foot some space (gave new meaning to casual Friday in my office). The sole hasn't changed drastically from previous models either. In short, the Cascadia 11 isn't anything special, and I won't be running in the Cascadia until they make some major improvements.
Not much changes with the Cascadia each year -- which is a good thing. It’s still the firm, secure-fitting, top-shelf performance shoe I’ve come to know and love. The feel is firm, responsive, protective and agile. It’s also a bit heavy and slow on the turnover, and a bit harsh on fast downhills, hard-pack and heel-strikers. Same as ever. It fits on the narrower side.
With a thick tongue and perfectly shaped last (for my narrower foot, at least), the Cascadia’s upper is very comfortable. The midsole is a bit firm, especially in the heel, which puts some sting into hard landings and heel-striking -- this will slow you down on downhills. Note to brooks: Soften the heel without destabilizing the shoe.
The close fit, firm and modestly stacked midsole, and snug midfoot wrap combine to give the Cascadia an impressively precise and confidence inspiring feel in tricky terrain.
Security of Fit 9/10
This is one of the Cascadia’s best points. The fit is very well locked in. There’s only the faintest hint of foot shifting in the heel and basically none in the midfoot.
I agree with Desert Runner. This was not one of my favorites (again!). I, too, loved the earlier models of the Cascadia and feel like Brooks has strayed from those roots too far for my liking. Similar to Justin, I found the Cascadia 11 to be very secure in its fit. However, that translated to discomfort in my mid foot due to the pressure on my metatarsals. I'm not even talking about toe splay here. It was just too narrow and low profile in the forefoot even with the thinner Darn Tough sock. As with the Cascadia 10, this generation is equally built up, slightly rotund, and firm under foot. In my opinion, it could stand to shed a few pounds (ounces, really) and widen the forefoot without losing the secure fit. In the past, I've really enjoyed the Cascadia as a nice long distance shoe for the mountains and for everyday training. I think this is still the case; however, the fit of this model just didn't work for me. Otherwise, the midsole is decently cushioned and firm for a nice balance of energy return and protection. I never feel particularly fast or agile in my turn over in these shoes, but I'm guessing this is due mostly to the weight. I didn't notice much change to the outsole or traction that is worth noting. It's less of an issue since I'm not worried about going fast on anything technical or steep in these.
Security of fit: 8
Overall: The Cascadia is a staple in the Brooks trail running line. It's not the lightest or fastest shoe, but it's tough and can hold its own in the mountains under most conditions. Sadly, The last couple models of the Cascadia have gone too narrow for my foot. Regardless, I think it could still be a good training shoe that will take almost anything you can dish out.
Off the bat I’ll say that I’m a fan of Brooks running shoes. Having worn them all through my collegiate running career I find the stiffer foam and solid feel appealing.
The Cascadia 11 doesn’t deviate too far from the previous generations, which for the most part I like. Good traction and a secure and solid fit. Comfort could be a bit improved and my main concern is around durability given the massive issues the previous editions had with the upper mesh. Overall, still a top pick for me.