Brooks Cascadia 15 review

My initial impression of the Brooks Cascadia 15 was very positive, and I was a bit surprised. I had never considered a Brooks trail shoe and had always seen them as a road shoe company.

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Like most Brooks shoes, the Cascadia 15s were very comfortable right out of the box. I did not feel that any break-in period was necessary. The engineered mesh upper is soft and flexible while hugging the foot and the lacing system allows for good lockdown on the midfoot.

I did not experience any heel slippage, and foot felt very secure within the shoe. The heel counter and tongue have enough padding but are not overly plush. Rock shield and Pivot Post system provide protection and a stable ride on rocks and roots.

Overall, I was very impressed with my first experience with Brooks trail shoes.

Tester profile

Greg Pirtle (Male / 6' 0" / 180lbs / 38 years old) road and trail runner who has run everything from 5K to 100K races. Runs 70-90 training miles a week with about 20-30 of those miles being on the trail. Typically run 80-90% of my road miles easy/low HR (less than 145bpm) @ 9:00 to 9:30/mi. 

The famed Brooks upper

The upper is an engineered mesh with some welded overlays to provide some extra stability and structure. The mesh is soft and flexible, which allows the shoe to hug the midfoot very well. The toe box is wide enough to be comfortable, but it isn't so wide that it's sloppy.

The overlay on the tip of the toe box does not feature any drainage holes. There are slits on the sides and near the heel, but if you are a forefoot striker, the water can stay accumulated in the toe box.

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The lacing system features some eyelets supported by welded overlays and others by nylon loops. It allows for cinching down of the laces over a very comfortable but not overly plush tongue. The area over the midfoot also features a strap to tuck in excess laces as well as an attachment point for gaiters. 

The inside of the upper is very soft on the skin and features a very comfortable, removable insole.  The entire heel counter is well padded but not overly plush or bulky. On the back of the heel counter is a rugged nylon pull tab with Velcro gaiter attachment point underneath.

Overall the upper is comfortable and very functional. It protects the top of the foot and locks down nicely to keep it stable and secure. It feels like it is made of quality materials that will be durable and hold up very well to the rough conditions on the trail.

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Cushioned ride of the Cascadia

I really liked the upper in the Cascadia 15s, but the best features are in the midsole of this shoe. The durable midsole features an 8mm drop and provides good protection underfoot.

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I went with good and not great because the "ballistic rock shield" is only in the forefoot and does not run the length of the shoe. Despite the limited rock plate coverage, I found the midsole to provide ample protection and experienced minimal issues with jagged rocks and roots.

The midsole is two different colors. In the colourway I have, there are some red triangular sections above the main section of gray midsole material.

These exposed red sections are the Pivot Post system, which provides excellent stability on uneven trails with rocks and rocks. I did not experience any issues with control or ankle rolls.

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As for the cushioning, I think it falls more into the firmer category, but it does not make for an uncomfortable experience. I am disappointed with the amount of pop and energy return from the midsole, but the comfort more than makes up for this inconvenience.

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I took the Cascadia 15s out on some very technical trails and always came back feeling good without any leg or foot issues.

Outsole could be better

I was not overly impressed with the outsole. It is very durable and protective with full coverage of blown rubber, but I experienced a lot of slippage.

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During one of my test runs, I had to finish out the last 3 miles in the rain. I found the mud and wet rocks to be a big issue. I am not sure if it is an issue with the lug pattern, lug depth, or the texture of the rubber.

There are plenty of very pronounced lugs in a multidirectional pattern, but this did not translate to the same grip as experienced in my preferred trail shoe option.

Firm but no bounce

I have hit on this experience in some of the previous topics, but the ride wasn't what I was expecting. The Cascadia 15s are durable and well-cushioned, but the cushioning is firm bordering on stiff.

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Typically, I like a firmer trail shoe that has some rigidity, but these did not have any rebound or energy return. It felt like a very flat ride without any spring to the toe-off.

If I am going to give up some of that plush cushioning, I would like to get something in return for it. I did not experience that with this shoe.

Style of the Brooks Cascadia 15

I am a big fan of bold, bright colorways on shoes that have really cool names like Citron Mutant. The Brooks Cascadia 15s don't have a lot going on in the style department.

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Aside from the fluorescent yellow laces and a touch of red highlights, they are mostly dull and unassuming unless you really like black and gray.

Conclusions

I tested the Cascadia 15s on several different surface types. I ran on technical trails, buffed out single track, greenway to trail, gravel fire road, and even did a quick 4-mile road run.

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They tested very well in durability and protection while also finding them to be very comfortable in the upper and midsole. It isn't a great shoe, but it is a solid "good".

Aside from the outsole slippage and lack of energy return, there aren't many dislikes about my experience with the shoe. This experience has definitely changed my view of Brooks and would definitely give their trail shoes another try in the future.

Facts / Specs

Terrain: Trail
Weight: Men 312g / Women 261g
Drop: 8mm
Arch support: Neutral
Update: Brooks Cascadia 16
Forefoot height: 18mm
Heel height: 26mm

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Author
Greg Pirtle
Greg Pirtle

Hello, I'm Greg Pirtle. I started running recreationally in 2018 to lose weight and get more fit. I ran five 5K races and a half marathon in my first year in two pairs of shoes. My 2nd year, I ran over 2500 miles in 10+ pairs. In 2019, I completed my first marathon, trail ultra, and sub-3:30 marathon. So far, in 2020, I have racked up 440 miles and completed my first 24-hour race—completed 12 loops for a total of 62.4 miles and 16,800ft of vert.