Cascadia 12 trail shoe as a rugged, cushioned, and protective shoe. Brooks has definitely checked those three boxes. The Cascadia is rugged, cushioned, and protective. Despite being as advertised, this shoe is by no means perfect.
As you continue to read, you will come across 3 sections: Why?, Why Not?, and Conclusion. My review will focus on the reasons the shoe could work for you (Why?), what may not work for you (Why Not?), and some final thoughts (Conclusion).
The Brooks Cascadia 12
1. The shoes work as designed.
It is always great when a shoe company delivers on its promise. Brooks website markets the Cascadia 12 as "Rugged utility for protection over any trail, with the cushion runners crave when running off-road."
I have run and hiked about 200 miles in the Cascadia 12 over the past few months and have found this to be true. The shoes performed well from the muddy, root filled trails, the Appalachian Mountains of Tennessee to the rock-strewn mountains of Colorado.
2. Rugged grippy outsole.
The outsole provided grip on a variety of terrain. I put this shoes through its paces on mud, packed dirt, boulder fields, and even some pavement. I found the Cascadia provided tons of grip on almost all terrain. The exception being wet slick rocks, for whatever reason the rubber just didn't grab on the wet rocks. This caused me to run needlessly slow especially on hilly, wet, rocky trails.
In all other conditions, the outsole was superb. Additionally, I really enjoyed the backward facing lugs. These lugs are positioned in a way to provide traction on the downhills
3. Protective rock plate.
Generally, I am not a big fan of shoes with rock plates. They add weight, reduced flexibility, and are not necessary on my local trails. However, these shoes were great to have in my recent travels to Colorado. They inspired confidence on rocky terrain, there was no need to avoid sharp rocks or question foot placement with this level of protection.
Rugged outsole with the rock plate
I found the cushioning to be more than adequate for trail runs of 2+ hours and all day hikes. Brooks markets their foam as "DNA" which can adapt dynamically to your stride.
I'm not too sure about all that, but the cushioning worked for me. It was comfortable all day long. I am not an ultra runner, but I do believe this shoe provides plenty of cushioning for those who are.
Usually, I don't really care about the looks for running shoes. They all kind of look the same to me. There is usually lots of mesh, sometimes crazy colors, and they are hard to match with my work clothes.
The Cascadia, on the other hand, is one of my favorite looking running shoes. The black and blue look awesome together. The aggressive looks match the ruggedness.
These shoes fit true to size. I wear an 11.5 and the Cascadia hit the mark out of the box. There was no need to wear thick or thin socks for a perfect fit. No need to constantly adjust the lacing. True fitting shoes are always a bonus.
Brooks has recently released the newest version of the Cascadia, the Cascadia 13. If you are not picky about color or having the last version you can pick up the Cascadia 12 for well below list price.
1. Upper Materials.
Hot. I found these shoes to be unbearably hot. Living the Southern U.S. having a breathable shoe is a must during the summer months. For me, the mesh is too thick. These shoes will spend the summer months in the closet until cooler weather returns.
In general, I enjoy a lighter more nimble shoes. My Cascadia 12's came in at 408g or 14.4 oz. Because of this added weight, I used the Cascadia for mostly slower runs on rougher terrain and hiking.
The extra weight due to the thick mesh upper and cushioned midsole made the shoes difficult to turnover. This is especially true at high cadences on less technical trails and/or faster paces. My favorite distance to race is 25k and I don't see these as a race day shoe for me due to their heavy nature.
Size 11.5 tipping the scale at 408g
Having a rock plate can be great as stated in my "Whys?" section. However, the rock plate does comprise the flexibility of the shoe, and thus performance at quicker paces.
If you live in an area were a rock plate is a necessity to run the trails, this may be the shoe for you. For me, it's an unnecessary cost to performance. I found this especially true on short road stints to and from the trails. The added protection of the rock plate hurts the versatility of the shoe.
At maximum flexibility
The reason I purchased the Cascadia 12 was due to multiple reviews I read which sang praises of its durability. I found this to be true of the outsole and midsole but not the upper.
After about 200 miles, the outsole is like new and the midsole still provides plenty of cushioning. The upper is not holding up as well. There is fraying on the medial side of the toe box and a strange tear near the top eyelet.
In many ways, hiking shoe.
If you are in the market for a tough shoe for tough terrain, the Cascadia will work for you. If you like running fast on more tame trails, I would pass on the Cascadia.
Good to know
- The Brooks Cascadia 12 is a trail running shoe that’s meant for runners who desire precise and agreeable performances on the unpredictable terrains. Its trail-optimized construction provides durability and aggressive protection against rocks, harsh surfaces and other debris on the great outdoors. This product comes in different colorways that make it look more appealing despite its off-road purpose.
- Breathable mesh is used for the upper unit of this running shoe. It wraps around the foot securely. It even provides moisture-management, which maintains a dry and comfortable interior environment for the foot of the wearer. Some stitched sections are present, but most of this shoe feature overlays that have been fused directly to the upper material.
- The mid-sole makes use of the BioMoGo DNA cushioning system which is a proprietary foam compound that provides responsive and adaptive cushioning to the foot of the runner. It even follows the shape and movement of the foot, ensuring comfort when it’s needed. A Pivot Post System adds structure to the sole unit, basically ensuring balance and security when traversing uneven and unpredictable surfaces.
- The outsole unit of the Brooks Cascadia 12 has the HPR Green unit, which is made from environmentally friendly materials. This durable external unit provides skid-resistant traction and protection against the harsh surfaces of the trails. Aggressive gripping lugs ensure quality grip on all surfaces, particularly on slopes and tricky paths.
The Brooks Cascadia 12 is ½ size smaller than the standard running shoe lengths. It is advisable to go half-a-size up in order to receive a comfortable fit. The available width for both the men and women’s versions is medium, so it is able to welcome those with medium sized feet. It has a semi-curved shape, which means that it follows the natural shape of the human foot.
HPR Green which is also used in the latest Cascadia 13 is a high-quality outsole component. It’s made from environmentally friendly materials, yet it’s durable and efficient. It is responsible for delivering skid-resistant traction in all types of surface conditions, even wet ones.
Multidirectional gripping lugs enhance traction, especially when it comes to upward and downward traversals.
The 3D Hex Lug Pattern further increases the traction capability of the outsole, effectively securing the runner on the chosen foothold.
The Ballistic Rock Shield is made up of a thermoplastic EVA shield that’s layered between the outsole and the mid-sole. Its job is to protect the foot from getting hurt by stones, aggressive surfaces, and other debris on the trails.
The mid-sole unit of the Brooks Cascadia 12 features the BioMoGo DNA. It is a cushioning system that offers a responsive & adaptive experience that’s tuned to the needs of the wearer. It’s soft and it adapts to the shape and movement of the foot during activity. It’s made from environment-friendly materials.
The S-257 Cushsole is a mid-sole compound that further enhances the cushioning experience of the runner. It’s flexible, so it won’t limit the natural movement of the foot.
The Pivot Post System is a helpful set of points in the platform that balances the foot when tackling uneven and unpredictable terrain. There are two sets of pivot points in the medial and lateral sections of both the front and rear of the platform, and they act as pillars that keep the foot stable on harsher ground. A 5th point is placed in the first metatarsal area to further enhance balance, while also coaxing effective toe-offs.
The Caterpillar Crash Pad makes up the design of the sole unit. Segmented sections in the entire platform allow it to move in accordance with the natural motion of the foot, ensuring more responsiveness with each step.
A sock liner made with BioMoGo foam delivers contoured support to the underside of the foot.
The primary fabric used for the upper unit of the Brooks Cascadia 12 is the Element Mesh. It is a breathable material that is also capable of staving off moisture, ensuring a cool and dry running experience for the wearer.
This shoe features a Conformable Saddle Construction. It basically allows the midfoot section of the upper to wrap more securely around the foot for a precise and adequately snug coverage.
A mix of thin Microfiber Overlays and Synthetic Overlays gives more structure to the upper unit of the Brooks Cascadia 12. Connected directly to the lacing system, they also accommodate the tightening or loosening of the fabrics, which is helpful in delivering a customizable fit.
Underneath the main upper fabric is a layer of moisture-managing fabric called the Element Lining. It keeps the foot cool and dry at all times.
The Hydrophobic Foam Package doesn’t retain water or moisture easily, thus contributing to the moisture-wicking capability of the upper.