Brooks Cascadia 4 Review and Cascadia 5 Preview

[Check out the most recent Cascadia in our review of the Brooks Cascasdia 15 and Cascadia 15 GTX.]

The Brooks Cascadia 4 are the sole reason I’ve not reviewed a pair of single pair of shoes on iRunFar since reviewing END Footwear’s WOW on April 24. (END has since gone belly up.) I started writing this review of the Cascadia 4 way back on April 10. Ever since, I’ve kept telling myself, “Just one more run and I’ll write the Cascadia review,” but I just couldn’t put the Cascadia 4 in the closet. I liked them too much. Here’s what I had to say a full six months ago:

“Man, I sure am glad that I hadn’t run more than 2 miles in the fourth iteration of Brook’s Cascadia before I ran the Marathon des Sables, because I sure would have had a difficult decision to make. Out of the box, the Cascadia 4 feel lightweight, breathable, stable, and cushy.”

“During an initial test on pavement, the Cascadia were one of, if not the best, cushioned trail shoes I’ve ever tried. Even more impressive is the Cascadia’s “feel” on pavement. The roll and subsequent gait feel exactly like that of the road shoes many of us are used to wearing. While this may not be all that surprising from what is traditionally a road shoe company, it caught me off guard (in a good way) in what is a from-the-ground-up trail shoe design put together with the help of 7-time Western States 100 winner Scott Jurek. As someone who gets lots of trail shoes, but very few road shoes to test, I could very easily make these my road shoes. Now onto the trail.”


Well, as the last six months of testing show, it turns out that the 12.5 ounce (men’s 9) Cascadia are also great trail shoes for non-technical to moderately technical trails. Its easily transfers the same great ride it has on the roads to the trails. The rockplate and small toe bumper are more than enough protection unless you’re going up against particularly gnarly trail obstacles. I know that I’ve never felt like the Cascadia wasn’t enough shoe when I’ve worn it on the trail. Then again, I quickly defer to a slightly beefier shoes like the Montrail Mountain Masochist (iRunFar review) when I know I’ve got a day of rock kickin’ fun in store.

Brooks Cascadia 4 menWhat my Brooks Cascadia 4s looked like about 500 miles ago

However, I’ve got one major warning regarding the Cascadia, it sucks on slick trails. It can hold just fine on a wet dirt road, but throw in some wet rocks or wood or some slick mud and you’re toast. Seriously, the first real trail run I went on in the Cascadia it was a big disappointment. I went out on a tough run on the Allegheny Trail with a man tough enough to be known simply as “Mongold.” It was pouring and Mongold squealed with delight as I skated my way down the trail. I can’t blame him. It was as if I were wearing banana peels on my feet in a comedy routine.

Additional Features Some Might Like

  • Asymmetrical lacing that supposedly makes it a good fit for both wide and narrow forefeet. [Anyone want to comment on that?]
  • A BioMoGo midsole that biodegrades faster than other midsoles, but well after the shoe’s useful lifespan.
  • Recycled laces.
  • An sockliner (i.e., insole) featuring the Western States 100 course. It’s a neat tribute to the course and Scott Jurek, but I have to admit I chuckled when I first saw it. It was partially a laugh at myself, because who else would notice that the sockliner features the current WS100 course, while touting Scott’s impressive time on the easier fire re-routed course.
Brooks Cascadia 4 womenThe colorful version of the women’s Cascadia 4


There is no greater praise that a trail running shoe reviewer can give a shoe than to wear it out. For the past half a year, the Brooks Cascadia 4 has seen the bulk of my trail miles and a decent number of my road miles. It was the shoe I chose to wear for the Leadville 100. Today, I logged another 10.5 miles in it over a mix of paved and dirt roads in stormy conditions. Sadly, my pair will soon have to be retired…. long after that retirement was due!

Call for Feedback on the Cascadia 4
If you’ve hit the trails in the Cascadia 4, please leave a comment to let us know what you think!

[Disclosure: Brooks provided a free sample pair of the Cascadia 4.]

Brooks Cascadia 4 Leadville 100 Bryon PowellMe tidying up my Brooks Cascadia 4 during the Leadville 100

Brooks Cascadia 5 Preview
Why mess with a good thing? That’s apparently Brooks’s attitude with the current Cascadia design as the Cascadia 5, likely out in February 2010, will see only some minor changes to the upper. For one, the mesh will be more open to make the shoe more breathable and drain water more easily. (Should be a welcome improvement, so long as the mesh doesn’t let in too much dust or debris.) Second, Brooks has supposedly improved the laces. (I’m happy to report that I haven’t seen any problems with the laces in the Cascadia 4.) Brooks also worked at better locking down the foot in the midfoot area. (Again, I’ve not had any problems there.) Finally, Brooks updated the shoe colors. The men look to have choice between a black model with light blue highlights and a yellow and black model that’s a bit more subdued than the Cascadia 4. The women will have a Cascadia 5 with a nice gray upper with light blue detailing.

Brooks Cascadia 5The Brooks Cascadia 5 (men’s up high, women’s below)

There are 45 comments

  1. James H

    While I haven't yet had the opportunity to run in the 4s, I bought my first pair of trail shoes this year (Cascadia 3s) based on the praise other readers have commented about them in your other trail shoe blog posts. After having been through 4 pairs of road shoes I now run solely in my Cascadias, both on the trail and on the road. They fit my feet and my running form perfect. I have about 300 miles on my current pair and just completed my first 50k this past Saturday with no problems what so ever, no blisters, nothing. FWIW, I remove the insert without replacing it with anything. I feel this gets me closer to the trail and is more responsive. The Cascadias are truly and amazing shoe.

  2. KMAX

    Glad to see your review here as I've been eyeing these for a while but haven't seen them in my local shop yet to try on and haven't made the effort to go find a pair.I really like the Montrail Hardrocks I've been using, though as you've said in your review they are fairly minimalist and don't offer a lot of forefoot protection. They seem to me to do pretty well though on all surfaces aside from wet and slimey wood/logs where I've gotten some slippage. Sounds like the Cascadias might be a good shoe for me after I find something more substantial then the hardrocks with some more technical capabilities…

  3. ultrastevep

    Bryon….Just your comment on sliding down the trail would be enough to keep me from trying these shoes here in the Northeast (wet always), but maybe I'll give them a try when I get back to dry NM.My latest happy shoe is the LaSportiva Wildcat…I also throw out the insert and running in these shoes is beginning to clear up some patella tendinitis I've had since the early 80's from fast road racing. You ought to get a pair and consider reviewing them. They are the Fireblades with a bit more cushion and more aggressive sole…and they also have the sticky sole to stay put on wet rocks.Thanks for the review, I think I may like this part the best of your blog.Steve

  4. Paige

    I run only in Brooks shoes, and on the trail it is only in the Cascadias :) I currently have two pair of the 4s and love them. My first ever pair of trail shoes was a pair of the 3s and I plan on sticking with the Cascadias as long as I can :) I'm so excited about the 5s now!! The Cascadias have served me well on all my runs, though I encountered some blistering issues when I put my custom orthotics in them, even when going up in size, so I don't think they're really made for 'foreign' inserts. That said, I also have no arch pain or issues in that area when I'm wearing the Cascadias. They fit snug and are supportive enough to not warrant the need for the orthotics. I do fall a lot, but I don't credit the Cascadias with that…I owe that to my natural clumsiness as the hours wear on in a long race :) Super comfy, and they stood up to the beating that was issued at McNaughton, the harder surfaces during VT100, and through a rain soaked Land Between the Lakes 60k. The only thing I like more about the 3s vs. 4s were the color choices (the 3s colors were better).I heart Cascadia :)

  5. Hank Dart

    Nice review. A great feature on iRF. Keep 'em coming.I reviewed the shoe (a bit less thoroughly)on my blog as well, concluding:"There are any number of runners out there who will contest this review. I know. I’ve spoken to a number of you. But, among the quiver of shoes I’ve used and tested, the Cascadias have been one of the biggest disappointments. Yes, they’re good on a number of points, but a standout on none, which isn’t what I’d expect from the imprint: 15:36:27."Just thought I'd add my two cents to the discussion. Cheers.

  6. Bryon Powell

    James H, thanks for sharing that the Cascadia 4 works well for you without the insert.Kmax, you might be in store for a hard search if the Hardrocks aren't enough for you on technical stuff…unless you've got the current Hardrocks. If you like Montrail, I'd say try the Mountain Masochist. It's no where near as beefy as the original Hardrock, but its extra nimbleness makes it easier to navigate over and around obstacles.Steve, I can't say that the Cascadias would be my first choice up in Long Green Tunnel country. As for the Wildcats, I've tried 'em. Surely a competent shoe.Paige, thanks for letting us know that aftermarket or custom inserts might not be a good fit for the Cascadia. Glad they work out so well for you otherwise.Hank, happy to provide more gear reviews. I've got at least two more shoe reviews that I'm dieing to put out. Thanks for the counterpoint re the Cascadia. I guess I like them because of their generalist tendencies. I've got plenty of shoes that can tackle very specific environments very well, but no others that can handle so many of my trail miles as well as the Cascadia.

  7. Caren

    Everything you've said about the Cascadia's I completely agree with. They are comfortable right out of the box and I hardly even notice they're trail shoes, very road-worthy. I have not had opportunity to wear them on slick trails and will now avoid that based on your review. Thanks Bryon!

  8. Bryon Powell

    Caren,Despite what I've said, you may still want to test them on a short mud run… might just be my stride. :-) Also, they are fine in merely wet conditions. They gave me no problem yesterday on red clay roads after 2 or 3 inches of rain in less than 12 hours.

  9. Anonymous

    I wore the 4s at Massanutten this year because I wanted a shoe to shed water – they did and I had no blister issues. I like the shoes but have learned to slow way down if the it's wet & rocky – great for something like JFK where you have an easy trail section followed by a cinder track on the C&ODave Y

  10. Notleh

    I have been running in the Cascadia 4's for a few months now and have to agree with most of what you said here. They are very comfortable right out of the box and even though I only got them 1/2 size large I had no problems on a 3 hour run. I usually have to go much bigger with shoes since I have bunions, but the toebox is wide enough to give me the room I need with having a snug fit on the heel.Although I really like these shoes, this year I have been transitioning to a more active forefoot/midfoot run and the new NB MT100's are a dream for this.So, I would say the Cascadias are a fantastic all-around trail shoe and very comfortable for heel to midfoot strikers.

  11. Justus

    I own a pair of the cascadia 3s. Out of the box they did not work for me mainly because of a foot condition I have. I also found that wearing custom orthotic with them cause blistering on the arches of my feet. I love brooks shoes and really wish they worked for me. I currently wear the Brooks ASR5s or the Montrail Hardrock 09s. I have been wearing the DK Sole inserts with the hardrocks and am going to try the cascadias this weekend with the inserts.

  12. Dan

    Byron, I agree the Cascadia is a great shoe. Good cushioning even on pavement, drains quickly, very comfortable and durable. Like you, my only complaint is they STINK under wet, muddy conditions, zero traction. Now, I only wear them when it's dry on the trail.

  13. worm

    hello. i own a well worn pair of 4's and a yet to be worn pair of 5's. i have not encountered the problems others have with grip on wet trails. i live in anchorage and use the cascadias for any runs that don't take me on mountainous off-trail routes (i use the la sportiva crosslites for that). i've never had slipping because of the shoes on any surface including wet roots and rocks, and slick streamside trals. guess it may depend on individual running mechanics…

  14. Meredith

    love the cascadia's! i have even run two 50 milers on pavement in them :) they are so versatile and great for training runs that combine trail and pavement.

  15. KMAX

    With the hardrocks I'm very satisfied in just about every way except forefoot protection. Seems pretty soft for some of the sharper rocks and roots I run over, though maybe I'm just in need of a little toughening up!I'll find out soon enough at the PHT race in November!

  16. KMAX

    Scratch that… I didn't mean hardrocks, I've got the Highlanders. I love them big time, just could probably use something a little more substantial, most notably in the forefoot then what they provide.

  17. Bryon Powell

    James H and Worm,I'm glad you guys haven't had any traction problems with the Cascadias. It could be a simple matter of biomechanics… though it seems as you might have the lucky biomechanics that work. I felt like I was going to die running downhill on wet rocks back east.

  18. KOS MOS

    I'm leaning towards this as a trail-running shoe but I live in downtown Toronto–there are a lot of great trails but a lot of pavement along the way. I was warned at the "Running Free" store I frequent that these shoes are NOT to be used for roads or I'll ruin them. I also happen to be a moderate suppinator–I wonder if that has anything to do with it. It's too bad–because trying them on they felt SO comfortable and unlike most other shoes my heel stayed in place.Anyway, do you really think this shoe is OK for the road some of the time?

  19. Bryon Powell

    KOS MOS,I'm not sure where the running store is coming with that advice. The Cascadia performs well and holds up decently on pavement. In fact, this afternoon I'll head out for 18-20 miles on a mix dirt and paved roads… primarily paved. Now that I'm done testing them, the Cascadia are my road shoes.

  20. Jeremy Elwell

    Hey 3's and 4's have been great! I look foward to giving the 5's a go. I run the 4's strictly on trails, but both of my brothers run everywhere in 3's. They were prone to severe blisters, even in 50 mile races, until they tried Cascadia 3's. Now they won't run in anything else. Road, Trail, hell they think they can run on water…lol…

  21. Running Brad

    I'm looking forward to more trail miles on my Cascadia 4's. So far I've only logged one run in them, but they feel way better than my ASICS Trabuco's ever did.My Podiatrist put me in a pair of SuperFeet and suggested a more neutral shoe, I went from the Adrenalins to the Dyads (both Brooks road shoes.) The Dyads feel great and have helped me with my Planters Fasciitis. The Cascadias feel almost identical to the Dyads.I'll make sure I'm careful on slick trails with them until I find out if I have slipping issues!

  22. Jason D

    I've got about 300 miles on my Cascadia 4s and have loved them. I run on pavement, fire roads and single track and have had no problems. They've got a great feel for the trail and a nice amount of cushion. The only complaint I have is that you can't find any right now! I will need another pair soon but I guess I will just have to wait for the 5s to come out. Glad to hear they aren't messing with a good design. :)

  23. Mark Berry

    When I moved from road to trail running this past summer, I set aside my Brooks Beasts and switched right into a pair of Cascadia 4. Fit like a glove and liberated me from the bonds of othotics! Haven't tried them on the road or treadmill, but have been amazed at the beating they've taken in my trail runs and still look – and feel – great.

  24. Chris

    Nice to see the praise for this shoe. I moved to Texas from Virginia and kept having problems on the rocky trails with my old shoes. I went for the Brooks Cascadia on a hunch because I love the company. Wow, I thought as I cruised down 'Panty Trail' which is one of the gnarliest sections of trail in the area. They are hands down the best shoe ever. I do agree with the traction in wet areas, as I've moved to Portland and have had some issues sliding in Forest Park. I look forward to the 5!

    1. Bryon Powell

      Abe, somehow it works for Brooks. In fact, I don't think the Cascadia would be as successful as it has been but for the stand out hideousness of some models. Those bad colors ways literally got people to notice what's a great shoe.

  25. David

    I've been considering getting the Cascadia 5 or 3 model. My question is; do those of you running the trails go with your true size or a size larger? I wear an 11.5 but am thinking of getting a 12. Any insight would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

    1. Bryon Powell

      I've neither run in the Cascadia 3 or 5, but the Cascadia 4 fits true to size. I was comfortable and confident in a size 9, which is my standard size for both dress shoes and running shoes.

      1. David

        Bryon, thanks for sharing. I think I'm going to go with my standard size on the Cascadia 5. I'm going to place an order for them today, hopefully they'll arrive soon. Thanks again!

          1. David

            Bryon, thanks for the hint, but I don't see a link for the Cascadia 5, just the 4. Maybe I'm blind, but I did look up Amazon and the 5 is going for about $99. However, the Running Warehouse has them listed at $89 with free shipping, but won't be in stock until the 21st. Nonetheless I'm willing to support your site anyway I can.

          2. Bryon Powell

            David, Since you can find them cheaper elsewhere, go for it. I'd never ask a reader to pay more for an item in order to support the sight. Really. Regardless, Amazon would give me waaaaay less that $10! :-)

  26. Kevin Venema

    Just purchased the Cascadia 5 today and will be testing on a South Florida trail run tomorrow, April 10, 2010. I will post some initial reviews soon.

  27. Steve Harvey

    The adage don't screw with a good thing is exemplified by the Cascadia 5. Contrary to popular advertising, the shoe is substantially 'different' and in my opinion inferior to it's predecessor. The arch in the 5 is NOT identical to the 4. It breaks at least a 1/4" further forward (as measured by a side by side comparison) and the breathable upper mesh folds (diagonally) in a manner that applies pressure across the top of the large toe. The upper fabric on my pair began unraveling in less than 100 miles.

    I am notoriously tough on trail shoes but my Cascadia 4's never failed me… I guess I'll just have to keep wearing them until the soles fall off.

  28. Jamie

    Nice review Bryon. I just bought the 4 to prepare for a 50K trail ultra and am very impressed with it. I've not worn Brooks since the Axiom 2 and Glycerin 3 and I can say that I like how the MoGo midsole feels. Can't wait to take them out and get them dirty. I went a half size larger and plan to use lace to adjust as my feet expands over long runs.

    Was that compression socks you wore in the Leadville photo above?

    1. Bryon Powell

      Thanks, Jamie. I loved the 4 enough to run them into the ground. I'm looking forward to running in the 5 one of these days. So many shoes, not enough miles.

      As for the compression gear at Leadville, those are the Salomon Exo Calf II. I love them… and wish I hadn't lost one during my trip to pace Kilian Jornet around the Tahoe Rim Trail!

  29. Brett

    Hey Byron – how do the Cascadia's work for those of us with mild pronation issues? I've heard several say that the Cascadia's are completely neutral while others claim (that because it's a trail shoe) it offers mild pronation support naturally. Any thoughts?

  30. Alex M

    I planned a 1 mile hike after rain to "test" the Cascadia 5's – the mud clumped terribly because the trail was clay/mud and just ugly. Needless to say I wanted to get back to the car since it started raining, i got sidetracked onto a single track, the Cascadias dominated, then I ended up on the wrong end of the trail. Ended up running approx 7 miles on pavement in the rain. I just shortened the stride and they shoes responded better than i could ever imagine.

    my 2 cents

  31. Paul

    Great review! I've just picked up a pair of 5's today after ASR adrenaline's on my feet for two years. I'm super stoked and can't wait to get out and give them a real hammering tomorrow!

    More here on my blog! [broken link removed]

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