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Brooks Cascadia 16 - Women's Review

This old-time favorite continues to boast excellent protection with updates that amp up stability and overall performance
Brooks Cascadia 16 - Women's
Photo: Brooks
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Price:  $130 List | Check Price at Backcountry
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Protective, stable design, quick drying upper, comfortable, wide toe box
Cons:  Fit isn't precise, toe bump on the downhill, heavier design
Manufacturer:   Brooks
By Amber King ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Nov 9, 2021
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72
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#8 of 17
  • Foot Protection - 25% 8
  • Traction - 20% 8
  • Sensitivity - 15% 5
  • Stability - 15% 8
  • Comfort and Fit - 15% 7
  • Weight - 10% 6

Our Verdict

A queen of comfort, the Brooks Cascadia 16 is renowned for its durable design, comfortable ride, and stable performance across uneven terrain. It's really built for all-day comfort, and the newest iteration sees several updates that make the shoe more flexible and stable with fantastic traction on steep, rocky terrain. We tested it for 60 miles in the mountains of the San Juans and the deserts of Utah. The new design also comes with an updated fit that offers a wider forefoot and a less specific fit through the heel. Look no further if you're looking for a stable and comfortable ride built for heel strikers.

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Star Rating
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Pros Protective, stable design, quick drying upper, comfortable, wide toe boxSuperior comfort, light on foot, protective cushioning, stable architecture, breathable upperLight, very protective, excellent mud shed, superior traction, surprisingly stableProtective, comfortable, wider toe box, excellent beefy traction for soft surfaces, huge valueSticky traction, protective, rainbow design is fun, great value, all surface capabilities
Cons Fit isn't precise, toe bump on the downhill, heavier designLace pocket is difficult to use, tight collar can bite into the ankleNarrow fit, runs small, rigid construction takes time to break-inNot ideal for roads, huge sizingLess stable than most, harder midsole is less comfortable, narrower fit
Bottom Line This old-time favorite continues to boast excellent protection with updates that amp up stability and overall performanceOur favorite shoe offers a well-balanced ride with one of the stickiest and most confidence-inspiring outsoles we've ever seenStable and deliciously sticky, this contender is just a crusher all the way around, built for training runs and long distances alikeA great all-around trail shoe with high value that's superb traction on soft surfacesThis rainbow contender has the ability to tackle all kinds of trail with excellent protection and sticky traction
Rating Categories Brooks Cascadia 16... Salomon S/Lab Ultra 3 Dynafit Feline SL -... Salomon Supercross... Merrell Antora 2
Foot Protection (25%)
8.0
8.0
8.0
8.0
7.0
Traction (20%)
8.0
8.0
9.0
8.0
7.0
Sensitivity (15%)
5.0
9.0
9.0
7.0
7.0
Stability (15%)
8.0
9.0
8.0
8.0
7.0
Comfort And Fit (15%)
7.0
9.0
6.0
5.0
6.0
Weight (10%)
6.0
6.0
6.0
5.0
6.0
Specs Brooks Cascadia 16... Salomon S/Lab Ultra 3 Dynafit Feline SL -... Salomon Supercross... Merrell Antora 2
Measured Weight (per shoe, size 9) 9.9 oz 9.8 oz 9.8 oz 10.5 oz 9.6 oz
Heel-to-Toe Drop 8 mm 8.6 mm 8 mm 10 mm 8.5 mm
Stack Height (Heel, Forefoot) Not disclosed 26.8 mm, 18.2 mm Not disclosed 29.3 mm, 19.3 mm 28.5 mm, 20 mm
Upper Synthetic mesh Textile/synthetic Mesh, continuous nylon Continuous ripstop nylon Mesh and TPU
Midsole EVA Energy Cell, polyurethane foam Feline SL midsole EVA Foam EVA
Outsole TrailTack rubber Rubber Sticky Pomoco Outer Contragrip TD Vibram TC5+ rubber sole
Rock Plate? Yes Not disclosed Not disclosed N/A Yes
Wide Version Available? Yes No No No Yes
Sizes Available 5 - 12 4 - 13 5 - 11 5 - 12 5 - 11

Our Analysis and Test Results

What’s new with the Brooks Cascadia 16?


We've scoped out the new model of the Cascadia and noted a few changes:
  • Lighter construction
  • More flexible forefoot
  • Updated ballistic rock plate
  • New chevron lugs for better traction across soft surfaces
  • Roomier fit through the forefoot and heel

A look at the new (left) versus the old (right) model of the Brooks...
A look at the new (left) versus the old (right) model of the Brooks Cascadia. A slight difference in fit and changes in the upper are the most notable differences, with better stability than ever before.
Photo: Amber King

The Cascadia 16 is a queen of comfort with burly cushioning, a flexible design, and trail-biting traction for any trail adventure. It offers more cushioning in the heel, which provides a comfortable ride straight out of the box. It's a great option for any runner — whether you are just learning or well on your way to running your nth 50K race.

Performance Comparison


The Brooks Cascadia 16 is a tough and durable shoe ready to take on...
The Brooks Cascadia 16 is a tough and durable shoe ready to take on all sorts of terrain, including mud puddles, steep singletrack, and hard-packed trails throughout the seasons.
Photo: Amber King

Foot Protection


Earning a high score for protection, this burly contender is loaded with thick yet soft cushioning throughout the midsole — from heel to toe. The updated ballistic rock plate seems to be more flexible and adaptable than it's been in the past, flexing well underfoot while protecting from sharp stones, sticks, and unsuspecting hazards.

The upper is nice and breathable, drying quickly when wet while keeping out small particulates. When running in the desert for 10 miles, we came away with just a dusting of sand inside the shoe, which is all you can hope for without a raised collar. Additionally, the toe cap is hard, which helps to protect from unsuspecting stubs. If you seek a protective shoe, this is one of the best, short of being completely waterproof. It earns one of the highest scores in this category.

A hard-toe cap, tightly knit upper, and thick underfoot cushioning...
A hard-toe cap, tightly knit upper, and thick underfoot cushioning all make for a very protective ride. Add in a flexible rock plate, and you'll be trucking on the trail for miles.
Photo: Amber King

Traction


The updated outsole on the Cascadia 16 features nicely shaped chevron-shaped lugs that easily shed mud and stick to slick surfaces. On dry, rocky trails where slippage is bound to happen, we were happy with the grabby performance, feeling confident on both the ascent and descent. Overall, we liked the traction, and you should be able to trust this shoe across technical, soft, and smooth terrain. It earns a higher score than most in this category.

Durable and widely spaced lugs shed mud well and offer excellent...
Durable and widely spaced lugs shed mud well and offer excellent traction while running up and down steeper terrain.
Photo: Amber King

Sensitivity


Earning lower points for sensitivity, this ultra-protective trail shoe isn't for those seeking the most intimate experience on the trail. While the new softer foam does a good job translating what's underfoot, don't expect to feel the smallest of undulations. For those that like extra protection where sensitivity isn't required, this is a great choice.

Even over this leaf-littered trail (with concealed rocks underfoot)...
Even over this leaf-littered trail (with concealed rocks underfoot) the ride feels even and consistent. This shoe isn't very sensitive, but it offers enough clues as to what's to underfoot to know what you're running over.
Photo: Amber King

Stability


With softer materials throughout the midsole and a wider platform width, we feel this update offers a stable ride, especially over technical terrain. It is more flexible and wraps itself more effectively around hazards, as opposed to tipping and rolling. Overall, we think the stability is sufficient for super rocky and rooted trails, offering a flat landing and a balanced ride across most trails.

The wider toe box offers a more stable ride than ever before. It has...
The wider toe box offers a more stable ride than ever before. It has a flexible outsole and upper, making for comfort mile after mile.
Photo: Amber King

Comfort and Fit


While this shoe is incredibly comfortable for most, the newest update has completely transformed the fit. The upper is light and more flexible, the midsole is soft but supportive, and the forefoot now feels wide (even for the regular fit). The size is true to fit as well. For those that like a wider platform with all the above on the menu, this might be your cup of tea.

A queen of comfort, we appreciate the thicker midsole that'll have...
A queen of comfort, we appreciate the thicker midsole that'll have you running any distance you'd like. While this doesn't have the widest toe box we've ever seen, it does offer a little extra room at the widest part of the shoe. This offers a versatile fit. Additionally, the extra cushion in the heel makes it a good choice for heel strikers.
Photo: Amber King

However, if you're used to the old Cascadia fit, you will be in for a surprise. The heel cup and collar seem to be more rigid, with a more narrow pinch at the back, which some testers complained of causing Achilles pain and blisters. While this issue is specific to the type of foot you have, just know the cup of the shoe completely cradles the heel, where it used to be a bit shorter in the past. The lesson? Be sure to try this shoe on before committing to it, especially if you're expecting the same sizing and fit as previous models.

There is a wider size option available if that suits your fancy.

Weight


Weighing in at 9.9 ounces for a size 9, this shoe falls in the middle of the road for weight. For the Cascadia models, this is one of the lightest that we've seen in a long time, with the manufacturer omitting the heavier upper and midsole materials. When running, it feels lighter than ever before, making it easy to wear it all day.

Lightweight enough to feel great on the uphill and the down. It has...
Lightweight enough to feel great on the uphill and the down. It has no clunky elements or extra beef where's its not needed.
Photo: Amber King

Value


The Brooks Cascadia models have been notorious for their durability over the last few years. After our 60-miles of testing over rocky and sandy terrain in the mountains, the shoe still looks new, without any significant wear or tear. The outsole still looks untouched, and there are just a few scuffs along the side. The only thing we worry about with the new model is the use of softer materials in the midsole. After these miles, we could feel the midsole packing out, which is unusual for this model. That said, it's still more durable than other shoes we've tested. If you seek a more durable traditional trail runner that's built for comfort, the value is there.

Conclusion


The Brooks Cascadia 16 is a tough trail runner that's built for rails through rugged terrain. It's a traditional model that offers extra comfort for heel and forefoot strikers alike. The newest iteration sees a new fit that some like and others don't, but for stability, excellent traction, and options for a wider fit, you shouldn't pass on this one — it might be your next favorite.

Amber, our main tester, enjoys the Brooks Cascadia 16 while running...
Amber, our main tester, enjoys the Brooks Cascadia 16 while running sweeping singletrack and county roads. It's a great choice for short or long distances for those that prefer a more protected ride with a traditional and heel cushioned design.
Photo: Amber King

Amber King

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