Reviews You Can Rely On

Brooks Cascadia 17 - Women's Review

This protective workhorse of a shoe runs hot and can skew uncomfortable, but if it fits you, it is equipped to tackle incredibly rugged trails
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Brooks Cascadia 17 - Women's Review (The beefy outsole of the Cascadia provides great grip and security on loose terrain.)
The beefy outsole of the Cascadia provides great grip and security on loose terrain.
Credit: Ally Arcuri
Price:  $140 List
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Manufacturer:   Brooks
By Ally Arcuri ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Sep 21, 2023

Our Verdict

The updated Brooks Cascadia 17 is a hefty shoe built for tackling mountain trails. With a grippy outsole, plenty of protection, and a wide heel cup, it can get you through incredibly rugged terrain, but only if it fits you comfortably. This newest in the Cascadia line runs narrow through the forefoot but hosts a spacious heel cup. These elements combine to make a technical, alpine-ready shoe that won't suit all runners. If you have a narrow fit, are not prone to heel and ankle blisters, and are looking for a rugged shoe, the Cascadia is worth checking out. If comfort guides your choices, this is not a shoe we recommend.
Built for rugged trails
Fit isn't precise
Lacks breathability

Our Analysis and Test Results

With a rock plate, a tough toe cap, and plenty of Brooks' patented DNA loft cushion, the Cascadia 17 has all of the elements of a great shoe — but it misses the mark on comfort. This 9mm drop shoe had us reaching for Band-Aids to shield hotspots mere moments into our testing runs.

Performance Comparison

brooks cascadia 17 for women - this protective shoe didn't score as high as others overall, but if...
This protective shoe didn't score as high as others overall, but if protection is your first priority, it might be a good choice for you.
Credit: Ally Arcuri

Foot Protection

The Cascadia 17 shines in this metric. Its beefy outsole is ultra-protective and includes an embedded rock plate. The outsole beneath the heel has extra width, which provides protection and additional traction. The toe bumper is laminated, but the outsole extends up toward the toe, creating a solid amount of physical protection. The water-resistant casing of the toe cap extends toward the midfoot, providing adequate protection from splashes and flying sand. The heel cup includes a gaiter trap with extra-strong velcro, so you have the option to add even more protection. The upper mesh is tightly woven and somewhat water-resistant near the toe box, and the added protection surrounding the heel is a nice touch. The cushioning through the midsole is ample, but the rock plate and intense lugs can ride really firm when taken onto roads.

brooks cascadia 17 for women - the cascadia feels like it was built for exceptionally rugged...
The Cascadia feels like it was built for exceptionally rugged conditions, making its protection quite significant.
Credit: Ally Arcuri


The TrailTack rubber of the Cascadia 17 provides excellent traction on slippery and loose surfaces. Not only is the outsole grippy, but the 4mm lugs do an excellent job of biting into the terrain beneath you. The width of the outsole near the heel provides a bit of extra traction, and while it doesn't exactly make you feel nimble as you bomb down trails, it gives a significant amount of confidence and additional traction. The arrow-shaped lugs are configured in two directions, with the points facing forward through the forefoot and backward in the rear. Many manufacturers employ this very common lug pattern for mountain-equipped trail shoes. The lugs are firm and showed slight signs of wear after our first two testing runs, further cementing this shoe's standing as one we do not advise for road excursions.

brooks cascadia 17 for women - the pointy lugs on the cascadia combine with its slightly wide...
The pointy lugs on the Cascadia combine with its slightly wide outsole for fantastic traction.
Credit: Ally Arcuri


As tends to be the trend with highly-protective trail shoes, the super-protective Cascadia doesn't wow us with its sensitivity. It has a pretty sizable stack height (we measured 32mm in the heel and 23mm in the forefoot), and the rock plate and thick lugs further dampen ground feel. If you want to feel the nuances of the trail beneath you, better options exist. But if you want adequate protection from sharp rocks and a noticeable rock plate, the Cascadia is worth checking out.

brooks cascadia 17 for women - the cascadia will fit the bill for those that prefer not to feel as...
The Cascadia will fit the bill for those that prefer not to feel as much from the trail beneath them.
Credit: Ally Arcuri


The Cascadia 17 is super stable in some ways but a little squirrely in others. Its wider-than-average outsole of 4.14 inches provides stability when taking tight corners on loose terrain, but its heel cup is a bit too wide to provide a snug fit, at least in our testers' experience. During our testing runs, we felt distracted by the heel collar's loose fit, so much so that we found ourselves nearly- constantly bending down to tighten our laces. This floppiness led to general feelings of instability, especially on downhills. Otherwise, the Cascadia is seemingly built with stability in mind. It is a neutral and “average-feeling” shoe with plenty of structure to keep you in line as you hurdle down your favorite trails.

brooks cascadia 17 for women - the cascadia's stability depends on whether it feels locked down on...
The Cascadia's stability depends on whether it feels locked down on your unique anatomy.
Credit: Ally Arcuri

Comfort and Fit

This is where the Cascadia lost us this time around. What this trail shoe has in nearly every other metric, it lacks when it comes to comfort and fit. The midfoot is relatively narrow, though a wide option is available. The toe box isn't particularly spacious, but it provides enough space for some toe wiggling. The heel collar is wider than what would match the midfoot, which created some serious discomfort for our testers. With an already tight midfoot, tamping down the laces to prevent slippage in the heel left us with numb toes and, ultimately, heel blisters.

We take an in-depth look at each characteristic of the shoes we test so our advice is backed by science.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

Additionally, the water resistance and protection of the Cascadia 17 make it run hot, further decreasing comfort even on only moderately warm days. As we've mentioned, this shoe has plenty of great qualities. If the profile fits you, this might be your perfect running shoe. Our testers found that after a lengthy break-in period and quite a few Band-Aids, blisters stopped forming, and running in the Cascadia became fun, though it was never a first choice. We recommend trying on all trail shoes before purchasing them, but especially in this case. If the Cascadia fits your feet and ankles, you'll love the bitey, grippy traction, the burly rock plate, and the ample cushion.

brooks cascadia 17 for women - the upper of the cascadia deflects water and sand well but runs...
The upper of the Cascadia deflects water and sand well but runs incredibly hot on warm days. Looking closely, you can see a slight gap between the heel cup and our tester's heel. Even when using the additional eyelet, the heel collar is still quite wide.
Credit: Ally Arcuri


Like many other chunky, protective shoes, the Cascadia is relatively hefty. It certainly isn't the heaviest shoe we've ever tested, but at 8.99 ounces per women's size 6.5 shoe, it doesn't fall into the lightweight category. If you are looking for the level of protection and traction that the Cascadia provides, the weight is worth it. But shedding a few ounces might be preferable if you don't often run trails that need such robust protection.

brooks cascadia 17 for women - the cascadia is a great trail running shoe for those it fits. for...
The Cascadia is a great trail running shoe for those it fits. For those it doesn't, it is likely to feel clunky and heavy.
Credit: Ally Arcuri

Should You Buy the Brooks Cascadia 17?

In some ways, we recommend the Cascadia, but in others, we don't. We appreciate aspects of its rugged features, especially from Brooks, who excels at making exceptional light-to-moderate trail shoes. Ultimately, the comfort and fit of the Cascadia just didn't feel right for us, preventing it from being a shoe that we wholeheartedly recommend. If it fits you, the Cascadia will keep you pushing across spikey, rocky terrain. But if it doesn't, you'll probably find it to be as lackluster as we did.

brooks cascadia 17 for women - even though we never found harmony in the cascadia, it has some...
Even though we never found harmony in the Cascadia, it has some great attributes that will serve other trail runners really well.
Credit: Ally Arcuri

What Other Trail Running Shoes Should You Consider?

If the rock-scrambling prowess of the Cascadia appeals to you, check out the well-tractioned Salomon Speedcross 6 or the Inov-8 Trailfly Ultra G 300 Max. The former has serious lugs and a very water-resistant upper. The latter has a wider, more forgiving profile but comes equipped with some of the most rugged protection available on the market today. Finally, the updated Brooks Catamount 2 is as ready to take on sharp switchbacks but offers a significantly more comfortable fit right out of the box.

Ally Arcuri