Brooks Cascadia 4 Review and Cascadia 5 Preview

[Check out the most recent Cascadia in our review of the Brooks Cascasdia 16 and Cascadia 16 GTX.]

More Trail Running Shoe Options

To find more options for trail running shoes, check out our Best Trail Running Shoes article and our full collection of trail running shoe reviews.

Brooks Cascadia 4 Review and Cascadia 5 Preview

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.”

Pavement
“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.”

Trails

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

Overall

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)