Brooks Cascadia 13 GTX: Review

The Brooks Cascadia 13 trail running shoe is the latest rendition of the Cascadia model. With a 3D printed rugged outsole and added cushioning compared to the previous model, you’ll be able to tackle the gnarliest of trails without beating up your feet. The outsole molding is carried up to sides and toe of the shoe to protect from errant sticks that want to stab your foot or inadvertent rock kicks. The added weight and stiffness for this protection however, are noticeable. After a couple of training runs and a 50k race, I finally have my full review for the Brooks Cascadia 13.

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FIT, LOOK, & FEEL
I had to go half a size down compared to what I normally run in due to the insecure fit in the heel. No matter what lace configuration I used I still felt loose in the heel. I always use the heel lock to strengthen my ankle since I am prone to rolling it, but I never could get that secure fit I was looking for. Luckily the narrowness of the shoe made them wearable. The toe box, while smaller than my Altras, still felt roomy and I had no issues there. There is an 11mm drop in this shoe. For the past year I have been exclusively running in Altra Torins for road, and Altra Lone Peaks for trail which both have a 0mm drop so this was a change I had to get used to, but wasn’t a big deal. While the regular Cascadia model comes in a couple different color schemes, the GTX only comes in a two-tone matte red and black.

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UPPER
I am not normally a Brooks runner, but I received the shoes for free as a reward for being the captain of our GAP Ultra Relay team. When I first slipped them on the first thing I noticed was how comfortable they are. The upper provides ample cushioning and protection. While more narrow than my normal Altra Lone Peaks, as is typical for Brooks shoes, they don’t constrict my foot at all. Brooks also added additional cushioning for the 13 compared to last year’s 12, adding weight to the shoe (11.7 ounces!) but making it even more comfortable. The laces stayed tied even in muddy and wet conditions, which I sometimes have issues with in other trail shoes. The extra protective layer extending up over the toes from the outsole shields aids in preventing painful toe stubs. The heel also has a hook for gators, which is a nice feature.

MIDSOLE
These shoes feel like body armor for your feet! Several times during my 50k race I remember thinking “Wow, in my other shoes my feet would be wrecked!” Even the sharpest of rocks feel like mere pebbles when landing full-force on them. It boosts confidence and eases your mind knowing you don’t have to be as careful watching your step. The midsole has good cushion too, so I can see myself logging a lot of miles over time in this shoe.

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OUTSOLE
This version boasts a new 3D printed mud guard which offers superior protection. Sharp rocks and sticks are no match for these tough shoes. The lugs are large and aggressive, allowing for quick ascents up steep inclines and offering increased confidence in footing; as long as the trail is dry. My second biggest complaint with these shoes is that when the trail is wet or covered by damp leaves cover the trail, all traction is lost.

 

While very protective, the shoe is super stiff, and is my biggest complaint. The shoes lack responsiveness and hinder my ability to quickly traverse technical sections. I would have gladly sacrificed some of the protection for some quicker turnover in some areas. After sufficiently breaking them in, the stiffness has decreased slightly but is still cumbersome.

DURABILITY
The ruggedness of the outsole definitely lends towards longevity, and the extra cushioning of the midsole seems to have held up really well after 100 miles or so. I do have reservations about the upper though. ‘The welding of the protective layer is already coming loose and is focally torn. My 50k was on difficult terrain and the trail was covered by a lot of leaves, hiding rocks and sticks. The cold stream crossings obscured large boulders. Even so, after 100 miles I would not expect this type of wear…the shoes still feel new!

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CONCLUSION
The Brooks Cascadia 13 is an aggressive and comfortable trail shoe best used on dry technical trails. The shoe has great protection and cushioning but the benefits are offset by the added weight. The stiff midsole takes a long time to break in and never really gets much better. The rugged outsole limits the versatility of this shoe, as wet or slippy conditions create big confidence issues. The Brooks Cascadia 13’s will set you back $130, which is on par with similar tier shoes, but durability is questionable. If your local running store has a Brooks demo day I highly recommend giving them a test run before purchasing.

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