Brooks has updated their venerable Cascadia model to version 14 with a brand new upper and outsole. The burly pivot-system midsole remains, making for a nice trail running option or a dedicated light hiker.
The Brooks Cascadia used to be the most popular shoe on the Pacific Crest Trail, and was an icon in the hiking world. The heyday of the Cascadia was with versions five through nine. With versions ten through thirteen, the popularity of the Cascadia seemed to evaporate. A lot of that had to do with the emergence of Altra and Hoka trail shoes, but the fitment and durability issues of the Cascadia v10-v13 can’t be overlooked. Despite the lost market share, Brooks appears to be committed to the Cascadia lineup, as can be seen with the revamped upper and outsole of the Cascadia 14. I’ve been testing the Cascadia 14 over the past few months, and will share my thoughts in this review.
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Sizing and Weight
My size 11.5 Cascadia 14s fit true to size, which is a welcome surprise for me. In a few previous versions of the Cascadia, I’ve had to size up due to the narrow last and tight toebox. The new upper and improved last shape allow for a true-to-size fit here. My size 11.5 Cascadias weigh in at a respectable 12.37oz (351g), which is a reasonable weight given the robust underfoot protection.
Fit and Build
The new upper on the Brooks Cascadia 14 is constructed using a a breathable open mesh base with a full cordura rand wrap for durability and protection. This upper is very breathable, drains well despite the rand, and dries quickly when wet.
The midfoot fits very nicely, and allows for comfortable expansion when my foot swells on long or hot days. The negative of the midfoot fit is that my foot feels like it’s floating on off kilter terrain or with a heavy pack. As you can see with the lacing on the upper, there is no upper support through the midfoot like Salomon’s sensiFit or Nike’s flywire. No matter how tight I tie the front laces, my forefoot feels like it’s sliding around. This is fine for tame trails or easy days, but that is not what these shoes are built for.
The heel of of the Cascadia is very well padded and fits comfortably snug. I had a little heel slip when I first started wearing these, but that was more to do with the thick and inflexible midsole that doesn’t flex much at toe off. The heel has a rigid half counter that goes up to the seam tape on the back of the shoe. This counter provides solid stability and great lateral support.
The tongue on the Cascadia 14 is a massive improvement over previous models and has taken a lot of inspiration from Salomon. The new tongue wraps the midfoot like Salomon’s endoFit and makes for a much improved feel on my foot. There is also a lace garage to store the tied laces. The only negative here is that the tongue is not fully gusseted and has holes on both sides at the base of the toebox. This isn’t a major issue though, as I haven’t found that much dirt is getting in.
The tongue on the Cascadia 14 is breathable, but well padded. The lacing eyelets lay flat on the top of my foot, and don’t create any pressure points, even when tied tight.
The toebox of the Cascadia is one of the major improvements over previous models. It’s not a wide toebox, but it is wide enough that I no longer need to size up. It rides wider than it feels, as the entire front of the shoe is a panel of mesh without support from the midfoot. As I mentioned above, this makes the shoe feel sloppy. I have also read a few reviews on REI and other sites from hikers experiencing blowouts in this area. I have yet to experience any durability issues.
The midsole of the Cascadia 14 is a carryover from the tried and true midsole of previous models. Built on an 8mm drop, the Cascadia midsole has 26mm of cushion in the heel and 18mm in the forefoot. Brooks uses their BioMoGo compound here with the familiar four pivot posts for stability. The pivot posts are slightly smaller for the Cascadia 14, but the shoe feels just as stable.
For those that have never worn a Brooks Cascadia shoe, this is a firm midsole that offers a lot of protection. This firm ride is the reason the Cascadia is regarded much more as a hiking shoe and is almost nowhere to be seen in the trail running world. The midsole is stiff at toeoff and is torsionally rigid, making for a very secure ride with a heavy pack, but a little harsh for a quick run. The Cascadia is a shoe that I’ll use with a heavy pack or when I want my feet protected.
In the forefoot of the Cascadia 14, Brooks uses their Ballistic Rock Shield for additional protection. The firm midsole combined with a rock plate insure that you’ll feel very little of the trail you’re hiking on.
For the outsole on the Cascadia 14, Brooks uses a TrailTak compound with a trapezoid lug pattern (another similarity to Salomon). The TrailTak is firm and has proven to be very durable. It’s a little too firm on smooth and wet surfaces though, where it lags on traction when compared to Salomon’s Premium Wet Traction Contragrip. On dry and rocky surfaces, the outsole is amazing. The deep lugs are solid and work well for talus, sand, hardpack, and dry dirt.
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The Brooks Cascadia has always felt like riding an off-roader, with the ability to run over all obstacles with reckless abandon. The Cascadia 14 has made strides into the future with a better fitting last, a more comfortable upper, and a very functional new outsole. The firm, stable, and very protective midsole remains, which will please longtime Cascadia fans. From my experience, the Cascadia is having a bit of an identity complex. The sleek new upper feels great and is very comfortable, but does not pair well with the firm and rigid midsole. Brooks needs to decide what they want this shoe to be, and keep the features consistent from top to bottom.