Brooks Cascadia 7 Review

It’s been a long, hard year for me. I received the Brooks Cascadia 6 last autumn, logged many a late winter and spring trail mile in them, but couldn’t favorably review them. Why not, if I managed to run so many miles in them? Because they didn’t live up to the trail shoe perfection I’d previously found in the Cascadia 4. How relieved was I went it only took one run in the Brooks Cascadia 7 for me to know that the Cascadia was back and better than ever

Seriously, it’d be a crime to call this a hybrid shoe. It’s all all-purpose running shoe. I logged my first run in the Cascadia 7s in the toughest circumstance I could – I hadn’t had a descent run in over two weeks. I threw these on and easily climbed the snow-covered trail behind my house. A minute later I was cruising the half mile of pavement to singletrack and loving it. When you run in any Cascadia, you know you’re running in a shoe made by a company that’s sold tens of millions of running shoes. The roll and feel of the Cascadia 7 is best tested on pavement and these masterpieces roll more beautifully than a 16 pound ball in a Big Lebowski dream sequence.

Brooks Cascadia 7

On the trails, the Cascadia 7 are even more in their element. These are the kind of shoes for the 99%… of trail runners (or at least those trail runners who still like substantial shoes). I remember running the Leadville 100 in 2009 in the Cascadia 4 and never having to worry about the finer points of foot placement. Heading out in the Cascadia 7, I felt the very same way. These are shoes you can put on and forget about as well as forget about the trail at the same time. Let’s get to the how.

Midsole
First off, there’s plenty of protection here. While not bombproof like the Montrail Hardrocks of yore, you can run moderately rocky trails not having to worry a bit about rocks other than avoiding tripping. Maybe you’d want a more significant rockplate for a day of running the rock gardens of the Massanutten 100, but these will do the trick for nearly everything else.

The same applies when bringing  the Cascadia 7 onto smooth-faced hard surfaces such as slickrock… as well as pavement and concrete. The cushioning in the form of BioMoGo EVA is plush, but never too much. It’s the bowl of porridge you want to eat seconds of because it’s just right. I don’t know or care what exactly BioMoGo is so long as it’s comfy on both road and trail, which it is.

Outsole
The outsole is a generalist outsole that’s plenty smooth on the roads and offers sufficient traction for a non-mud-specific trail shoe. In my own testing, it gave plenty of traction on mud alongside recent snow melt as well as on packed sugary snow up to a couple inches deep. It didn’t provide much traction in the occasional mountain bike wallows with inch deep mud. In my mind that’s acceptable, as no shoe outside the realm of specialists shoes like the Salomon Speedcross, La Sportiva Crosslite, or Inov-8’s grippier models would have done any better.

Brooks Cascadia 7 - outsole

This result is an improvement. There were two major design changes that had negative repercussions going from the Cascadia 5 to the 6. The first was the change from the shoe’s traditional triangular-lugged outsoles to a circular saw lugs in the central forefoot and heel-strike areas. Aside from reduced traction, others complained of reduced useful lifespan of these lugs. Well, Brooks has reversed course and returned triangular lugs to the core of its outsole.

Upper
I mentioned that, in my opinion, Brooks made two backward steps between the Cascadia 5 and 6, the second of which was creating what some described as a “sloppy” or “loosey goosey” upper. I felt that issue immediately, but it took me a few runs to figure out the cause – the second and third uppermost medial (instep-side) eyelets were “floating,” meaning that they were attached to the rest of the upper with an elastic band. This was a well-intended change meant to reduce discomfort atop the foot during runs with a ton of descent. It did that, but at the cost of feeling insecure when making steep or technical descents. The upper on the Cascadia 6 was great otherwise, which is why I ran in it a ton.

Brooks Cascadia 7 - lateral upper

Brooks Cascadia 7 - lacesOnward to the Cascadia 7 and the glorious removal of the floating eyelets! Seriously, I see many dozens of trail shoes a year and there’s never been such a small year-over-year modification to a trail model that’s made me happier. We are back to a secure, breathable, and all-around wonderful Cascadia upper.

While the Brooks design team was at it, they made a few improvements… and they’re actually improvements this time. To begin, they doubled the extent of the mid-foot overlay, moving it back to the middle of the ankle and forward to nearly the ball of the foot. This further enhances the Cascadia 7’s improved midfoot lockdown.

There’s also a nice asymmetric lacing (right) that should help reduce the top-of-foot pain the previous model’s floating eyelets were supposed to address.

Next, it seems to me that the microfiber overlay material is slightly thinner and, therefore, slightly less rigid in the 7 as opposed to the 6, which should slightly reduce the possibility of localized irritation at the edge of those overlays

Finally, Brooks has moved the superfluous heel pull. Does anyone every use those and, if not, can trail shoemakers keep sending them the way of the dinosaur?

Conclusion

This is great all-around shoe for trail runners. It is not a minimalist shoe nor does it try to be one. My US men’s 9 weighed in a hair under 12 ounces (11.93 oz/338 g) just like the Cascadia 6 (11.97 oz/339 g) and there’s a standard heel-to-drop. You know what, that suits me just fine! Sure, I’d prefer the Cascadia to weigh in at 10 or 11 ounces, but this is a shoe that does everything I want it to do right out of the box. It’s shoe that I could wear for every single run until they meet their end the better part of a 1,000 miles down the trail (and/or road). You can head out in your own pair of Brooks Cascadia 7 ($110) starting February 1, 2012.

Ps. The only change I’d like to see in the Cascadia at this point is a slightly wider toebox. With Drymax Max Pro socks (my socks of choice), it’s a bit snug.

Call for Comments

  • Are you a Cascadia fan and, if so, which was your first version of the Cascadia?
  • Anyone else excited about a shoe that can meet so many runnerly needs?
  • Any features that you’re psyched to see in the Cascadia 7?

There are 26 comments

  1. Simon

    I got a pair of these yesterday…and went out in them today :) Just under 20 miles, very varied terrain, from overgrown paths knee high in weeds, muddy river banks, sand, dirt roads, tarmac…

    I'm seriously impressed. Feet are slightly sore – but then it was the first run, and I probably shouldn't have gone quite so far! Grip is great, padding is perfect, feel fine on roads, feel fine off road… very, very impressed! Only niggle I have is the laces are very slippy, so you do have to double knot them.

    Oh, and if you buy the alternate grey and orange colour scheme it's not QUITE as bright as the green and yellow in the picture!

  2. John Goddard

    I ordered a pair of Cascadia 7's in mid-April,intending to train and then race the Pocatello 50 in them. Initially,the level of cushioning and support were perfect for me, I thought my search for the perfect shoe was over. Fast forward about five weeks and a handful of training runs, rotated with Montrail Rogue Racers and Mountain Masochist, and the Cascadia's developed a dead-spot in the forefoot where the shoe flexes under the ball of my foot just below the big toe. It felt like the cushioning had just worn through or compressed at that particular point. Long story short, I sent them back and had to run the 50 in my Masochists, which definitely did not provide me with enough support or cushioning. I had to pull the plug at the 50k mark due to extreme pain on the outsides of both knees. Has anyone else experienced this problem with the Cascadias or did I maybe get a bad pair and give them another try?

  3. Alex Suchey

    I like the Brooks Pure Cadence. Going to try the pure grit and the cascadia 7 based on comments in here. Presently I've chalked up the last three months of running between Hoka Mafate 2 and the Bondi B. in the American river 50 I used the Bondi B, I was sure footed and fresh legged for the entire run. I've like the 4mm drop presented in both those models and have set several recent PR's even on dual endurance event weekends in these.

    The Bondi B I didn't notice even in the more technical trail areas any sense of roll issues at all. The Mafate 2 however is setup still with the 4mm drop, but you sit higher up on the sole so you're more on top of the shoe making younfar less stable. That shoe has caused me to stumble tons and yesterday I could have sprained ankles in as many as 20+ instances if my reflexes didn't save me everytime. Love them in road marathons though!

    Ok. The main problem I have with the Hoka's are their upper's trim around the toe box. It's shape and cut of exterior support mechanism around the front of the shoe has simply torn up my toes. And it's not the shoe size. There's plenty of room over a thumb width from longest toe to the front of inside of the box. Simply I'd have to go a full size even larger to get away from the leather structure framing the box who's edge has cost me 7.5 toe nails in three months.

    Talk about being addicted. I can run as far and as often as I wish in these, just so long as I don't care about blisters and keeping my toenails. I've been willing to sacrifice the little things for the miles. Just my feet ended up in extra blister heaven during a 50k yesterday that I'm finally realizing my addiction problem and on to find another shoe.

    So I'm looking to go back to my brooks. I once ran in the early cascadias, but honestly I was a low volume trail runner at the time and the shoes were way to big. So I'll give these 7's a shot, particularly since someone mentioned how they were into the 4mm drop which I love as well, and they adapted to the cascadia nicely.

    I do like my pure cadence's for shorter runs, even on the trail. I ran a road marathon once in them, and though I love the mid foot strike stay off your heal-theory, I just couldn't hold this form for the last 10k. It was concrete path for much of that section and my heal, now striking the ground from fatigue, just took a beating and I could feel the shock noticeably through to my hip. Though I did a great time, it was not a great experience and I shied away from longer distances in those shoes ever since favoring the trance or adrenaline on the road.

    Following this road marathon I ran a trail marathon with very steep climbs and descents. Smooth terrain, only a few rocks the entire way. What I noticed was in the steep areas I couldn't hold my mid foot style any longer at all. Can't tip toe down a cliff, right? Well, the pure cadence, on road or trail, simply is tough to run downhill in. It has too little cushion to be comfortable with the varying angle. I have to wonder what the pure grit would behave like in this scenario. Trails have steep ups and downs. No way anyone's going to be able to fully stick to mid foot striking on descents that are runnable yet steel.

    Is there a reason a 4mm drop shoe has to be a giant Hoka marshmallow or in trade only have barely anything on the heal where you can't either take a rest from one form or prrotect yourself in the steeper descents? Would it be so bad to make a version of the grit that took the 4mm but gave it just a little more cusion across the entire sole? Or am i missing a basica fundamnetal?

    So. My eventual questions here…

    Is the pure grit setup with more forgiveness than say the cadence in comparison?

    Is There a 4mm drop shoe that's more cushion than brooks but less than Hoka?

    If the grit is a neutral classified shoe, but has the trail application and the lower has split points to flex and provides for a good mid foot design, does it matter so much if I'm a mild probation to dabble in this shoe?

    If I go with the Cascadia, can someone clarify the heel to toe drop in the 7's design? One reviewer here says it works well with his midfield strike, but running with too much drop from my experience striking mid-foot works but if it's not the shoes intended design will pack out the sole or prematurely over wear that area and create more problems eventually.

  4. Julie

    I just have to throw in my 2 cents – I loved the 6's! Just took them on a 21k run last weekend that was pretty much mainly mud, and they were fantastic as always. I've done a couple of 60k events over various terrain and they've been great on everything…except wet rocks around the beach!

    I had the 5's previously and loved them.

    I need new shoes so I'm trying to decide whether to see if I can still get another pair of 6's or just get the 7's. It all sounds really positive for the 7's, though I'm hoping they haven't changed too much from the 6's as they suited me.

    One question – have they put in longer shoe laces yet?? That's the one thing that drives me crazy. I always have to replace the shoe laces as they're too short and keep coming undone!

  5. Rich

    I just got the Cascadia 7's. Never run in a trail shoe before. I've always worn the Brooks Adrenalines. I still needed a stability shoe but wanted something to transistion from road to trail without feeling like I was still wearing my military boots. This shoe so far is amazing. I can definitely feel the rock plate, but why wouldn't I??? It's meant to give that added protection compared to a straight road shoe. I'm anxious to put some miles on these shoes. Thanks for your review.

  6. Shiba

    Just ran the Finger Lakes 50 mile race in these guys. Can't say enough how much I loved them. The rock plate definitely helped me with the gravelly bits on the trails. The generous toe helped me, as my foot tends to expand a lot, and there was plenty of protection. Snagged a lot of roots along the way, and never really felt anything that made me break my stride.

    The asymmetrical lace is really comfortable and helps cinch them down to prevent motion!

    Definitely recommend them.

  7. Morgan Williams

    Bryon

    I am a complete newcomer to the Cascadia story. You and I had an email exchange about the shoe in the aftermath of me suffering some blistering between miles 60 and 70 of the Ultra Trail Serra de Tramuntana in Mallorca in late April. The Cascadia sounded worth a try from my perspective, based on what you told me and what I heard elsewhere; comfy and durable.

    I have not been disappointed by your suggestion. The shoe is, aside of the Pure Grit which I tried on at the same time (but which I didn't think would cope nearly as well with the type of ground I have been training on), the most comfortable trail shoe I have ever worn.

    The extra room over my long-loved S Lab 3s is something of a revelation, and my feet have coped with this better then I ever thought possible. My first run in them was a 26 miler over the classic Yorkshire 3 Peaks course and not a blister in sight, nor even a sign of poor fit or friction.

    In terms of comfort, they have ironed out all the bumps in all the running I have done in them so far. And in terms of downhill running, they are just fantastic. Big toe pain has become a distant memory for me in the Cascadia.

    The lacing system holds the foot as well as I would want. I often start a run a little slack and then tighten up as the potential for wear on the foot increases. Whilst they aren't great contouring (I guess they weren't designed for too much of that type of abuse) they coped last weekend with 35 miles of everything the English Lake District could chuck at them. Still no sign of foot damage.

    Best of all for me is their staggering durability. In Chamonix I logged 117 miles in 5 days with 30,000' of vertical over an 8 day break on some classic gnarly Alpine terrain with plenty of late season snow thrown in and finishing with a 2 day run from Cham to Courmayeur over the UTMB route. Hardly a mark on them. I was amazed. Even after 400 plus miles in my green pair, they still look almost new; no frayed stictching, little wear to the sole, just a few minor cuts in the midsole, little if any diminution in comfort levels. I know what a pair of S Labs would look like after that type of mileage in similar terrain.

    As an English fell runner, low drop shoes are nothing new to me. Walshes have been built that way for the whole of my running career, but like many others, I want more comfort for anything north of 40 miles. I have been able to switch between the different designs with relative impunity over the years, so the traditional drop isn't an issue.

    The S Lab has been my ultra shoe of choice these last 2 years or so. The only areas where they beat the Cascadia for me is grip (where the "hardground" grip that looks so inocuous is frankly incredible) and the overall weight of the shoe. Having said that, at least the Cascadia dries well after a soaking which the Salomon doesn't.

    So UTMB-wise, unless the race starts in bad weather (in which case the S Labs will take me from Cham to Courmayeur), it looks like the Cascadia all the way for me.

    Thanks for the advice!

    Morgan

  8. art

    I now have a bit over 500 miles on my two pair of Cascadia 7.

    They are a great all around shoe for long slow distance.

    I'm totally happy except for one thing.

    When running on wet rock they are about the most slippery trail shoe I've ever run with. Good thing I don't do wet rock too often.

    1. Rich

      You aren't kidding about slippery. When I run over wet asphault on the road (coming from sprinklers on side of road) I've almost slipped and fell three or four times.

  9. Joe

    I normally would buy the previous years model of shoe because I don't think it makes much difference and I save a few bucks. After I read this review I decided to not go my normal route and went with the 7's. I have to totally disagree with your analysis of the upper on this shoe. My feet are all over the place. Running downhill my feet drive right into the front. On rocks my feet slide to the side and roll at the ankles occasionally. This never happened with the 5's. Maybe because you are comparing this to a the 6's they seem ok I don't know but for me this shoe is really bad and I've been wearing Cascadias for 4 or 5 year now. It seems that the upper still floats which might be great for comfort on flat groomed trails but forget on the technical stuff. I tried returning my shoes in exchange for a 1/2 size smaller (thank you running warehouse) but it didn't help much. I'm sorry to say that I've had several not so great experiences with products that you have given double thumbs up. Guess you and I just don't have expectations that match up.

    1. Bryon Powell

      Might not be a difference in expectations, but in feet shape, running conditions, or who knows what else. We're all different and that's probably what make the dozens if not 100s of trail shoe options out there. What works for me might not work for you and vice versa. :-)

  10. Ally Flowers

    Great review here! I've been looking for a pair of shoes to train in as I have recently picked up an injury after racing and training almost a year in New Balance MT110s on trail and road.

    I've decided to race in minimal/flats and to finally adhere to general wisdom when it comes to training – I'm going to need some cushioning and protection to get the best out of it and to avoid injury!

    I read in Toby Tanser's book "More Fire" that elite African marathon runners actually prefer to train in heavier/cushioned shoes as the difference is so noticeable when they switch to flats/minimals on race day.

    Thanks again for such a heartfelt and passionate review – I'm off to find my nearest Brooks stockist so that I can try them on for size!

  11. Ryan

    Ran Cradle Mountain to Lake St Clair 82k on the weekend in Cascadia 7s… I like these shoes a lot. No problem on various terrain – rock, roots, mud etc. Comfortable fit with a good amount of room for toes without excess movement. My mate had beat up toes in his Speedcross's.

    Have previously ran lots of k's in 5's but have not tried the 6's so nothing to offer on the difference with them.

    Have run in Pure Grit too – no worries up to about 40k or more on reasonable trails – but not bullet-proof like the Cascadias….will buy the 8's when they come out.

  12. Linda

    I tried out the Cascadia 7's based on Bryon's recommendations and I am so happy with them! I used them on some very technical terrain out at Harper's Ferry and they were all that I was looking for in a trail shoe! Comfort and protection. Actually they are my most comfortable pair of shoes. I am going to look into Brooks running shoes next as my Saucony's got redesigned and I am no longer a fan. I think Scott Jurek helped design these Brooks and I think they did an excellent job. LOTS of my trail running friends have had the same results and love their Cascadia's. Now I am ready for the NF EC at Bear Mountain next month! Thanks for a great write up! (I also enjoyed Relentless Forward Progress!)

  13. Dennis

    Not sure about the 7s but 8s wear out so fast (130 miles) that I can't recommend them. I even tried a second pair and they are wearing just as fast if not faster.

  14. Fergus Johnston

    I have a bit of a dilemma for shoe choice for the CCC next month. I am considering the Cascadia 7. I haven't tried it on as nowhere nearby seems to have it in stock near me in Edinburgh, Scotland. I am considering purchasing it online. I am usually a US13 in most shoes – Inov8 Roclite 315, Asics Fuji Trainer and Nike Pegasus. I am even considering wearing the Pegasus for the CCC as i find it very comfortable with a small amount of grip. Does anyone have any advce as to whether a US 13/ UK12 is likley to fit me in the Cascadia 7?

    Thanks

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