July 31, 2013

Brooks Cascadia 8 review (spoiler: they rock!)

Ever since my bad luck with trail shoes at Rockin' Choccolocco 50K, I decided that I had to try something new. So this pair of Brooks Cascadia 8 ($119.95) from OnlineShoes.com could not have come fast enough. I was originally going to go with the Brooks Pure Grit 2, but based on my new obsession with these Cascadias, I'm feeling super happy that I made the last-minute switch to Cascadias. 

So here's what I loved about them right out of the box:

1. The actual box. Brooks running shoes have this whole let's-make-people-happy vibe going on that I really love. 



Oh, you don't care about the box at all? Well, I do because it's now storing my running snacks, and since marathon training has started, that means I'll be seeing it every five minutes. 

2. Room for my toes. On my very first run date with them, my toenails were in horrible shape. Half of them were still throbbing from the previous weekend's ultra race, so I was really expecting to cringe with every step. But I didn't. The shoes left plenty of room for my toes to stretch out and get comfortable. I think it was the extra toe box height as much as it was the width that helped my toes.


3. Felt soft immediately. These didn't feel like they needed a break-in phase. I just took them out and started running, and the shoe felt flexible and comfortable from the start. Basically it felt like I had already broken them in, and we were friends.


4. The lacing. Interestingly, with these shoes, I didn't have to adjust the laces from what they had going on in the box. I just threw them on, tugged the laces slightly to tighten up any looseness (really not any at all), and they were good to go. Usually I have to mess around with laces to get them adjusted like I like them. These Brooks use a combination of traditional punched eyelets and floating eyelets that worked really well for me from the onset.


Here's where I insert a few shoe stats for my fellow nerds.

Category: Trail/Neutral

Weight: 9.8 oz. for women's, 11.9 oz. for men's 

Drop: 10mm 

And now for some info straight from the creators at Brooks: 
The Cascadia 8 was designed from the gritty, wet, and uneven ground up. Engineered to adapt to the surface and your foot, this versatile piece of equipment runs an ultramarathon and then asks for more. We swapped out the midsole for BioMoGo DNA to create a super cohesive transition and deluxe-ified the Caterpillar Crash Pad on the lateral side to smooth that heel-to-toe even more. The suede geometric pattern on the upper is a shout-out to past Cascadia designs but also serves the function of wrapping the foot for a close fit. Don’t just take our word for it: Runner’s World® named the Cascadia 8 its "Editor's Choice" in the Trail Shoe Guide in the April 2013 issue and wrote, "The Cascadia has that rare combination of road-shoe comfort and trail-shoe ruggedness." In short, the Cascadia 8 offers "A well-cushioned and smooth ride on any surface." 


So I put these to the test, taking them from dry 4-mile runs all the way up to my 27-mile excursion this weekend, which included a couple of splashes through Peavine Falls. 


After some wear, here's what else I like about them: 

1. Great drainage. If you take a dip in these shoes, you will be able to keep running without feeling like you are running on sponges. I noticed no drainage issues at all this weekend, and unfortunately, I spent more time in water than I was planning. Plus the weave on the upper is tight enough to keep out debris but dries out quickly after taking an unintentional bath along the trails. 


2. They feel light. When I read that they weigh 9.8 oz., I expect them to make me feel sluggish on the trails, but they don't at all. Maybe it's how they balance the weight on the shoe, but as I'm running, these shoes don't add dead weight to my legs. 

3. The extra heel height helps my Achilles. I've been running consistently on 4mm drop trail shoes, and my Achilles was giving me some troubles for a few months. After my longer distance in these this weekend, my Achilles felt better than it has in a long time after a 20+-mile trail run. I'm looking forward to testing these more on long trail runs, but for now I feel optimistic about how the 10mm drop in these will cooperate with my Achilles. 


4. They stand up to rocks. The cushioning on these is superb for the rocky patches that I often hit on our local trails. The rock plate in the forefoot of the shoe obviously helps with that, plus I love the rock guard at the front of the shoe. While I didn't feel pain going over rocks, the traction underfoot also allowed me to navigate through rock gardens without any slippage. Going up and down gravely and muddy hills, these gripped solidly as well. The only spot that I had trouble with slippage at all was on some slimy rocks. 


Overall: These shoes are great for you if you are looking for a little more cushion underfoot to protect you on rocky trails. They are light enough to easily navigate through technical terrain but tough enough to protect your toes and feet from any sticks or sharp rocks that are in your path. The drainage after water crossings is excellent, and the uppers offer a great balance of keeping out debris and providing air flow for your feet and toes. Plus they feel soft and comfortable from the first lace-up. Personally, I'm straight up in love with these shoes.

You can find the whole line of Women's Brooks at OnlineShoes.com, where they offer free shipping, free exchanges, and 110% price guarantee (they give you back the difference plus 10% if you find a lower price within 10 days of purchase). 


OnlineShoes.com provided the shoes for this review, and I was not otherwise compensated for this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.