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Brooks Cascadia 16 Review

A classic shoe with a stiff platform that is firmly rooted in long-distance trail running
brooks cascadia 16 trail running shoes review
Credit: Brooks
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Price:  $130 List | $130.00 at REI
Pros:  Ultra-stable platform, stiff and supportive, deep lugs
Cons:  Lack of ground feel, relatively heavy
Manufacturer:   Brooks
By Aaron Rice ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  May 11, 2022
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74
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#5 of 19
  • Foot Protection - 25% 9.0
  • Traction - 20% 9.0
  • Sensitivity - 15% 4.0
  • Stability - 15% 8.0
  • Comfort - 15% 7.0
  • Weight - 10% 5.0

Our Verdict

After a few years lost to the fad of favoring comfort over performance, we're happy to see the Brooks Cascadia 16 has been restored to its glory and original purpose as one of the most powerful trail running shoes on the market. This ultra-protective shoe is designed for the rigors of long trail runs, with a powerful rock plate and a more responsive midsole. Where this shoe falls short in terms of sensitivity and overall weight, it makes up for it in terms of stability and all-day comfort. Even though the Cascadia 16 didn't earn any awards, it is one of the highest-scoring shoes in our best Trail Running Shoes lineup and is certainly a fan-favorite among our testers.

Editor's Note: We added this review for the Brooks Cascadia 16 to our lineup on May 11, 2022, and included an unbiased assessment of value as well as suggestions for directly comparable products.

Compare to Similar Products

 
brooks cascadia 16 trail running shoes review
This Product
Brooks Cascadia 16
Awards  Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award Top Pick Award Best Buy Award 
Price $130 List
$130.00 at REI
$180 List
$134.96 at Backcountry
$125 List
$100.93 at REI
$89.96 at Backcountry
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$71.23 at Amazon
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Pros Ultra-stable platform, stiff and supportive, deep lugsUnbeatable fit, fantastic underfoot protection, doesn’t absorb much water, very stableUltralight, supportive, uncharacteristically agileWell cushioned, comfortable fit, sticky rubber grips rock very well, decent priceAffordable, comfortable ride, versatile crossover option
Cons Lack of ground feel, relatively heavyExpensive, hard to get on foot, must wear above the ankle height socks, hard to stuff laces into garageLoose-fitting heel pocket, lack of trail feelingHigh heel counter, not the lightestSoft upper is unstable, lacks energy, inconsistent traction
Bottom Line A classic shoe with a stiff platform that is firmly rooted in long-distance trail runningThe cream of the crop for trail running shoes delivers fine-tuned long run performanceAn ultra-supportive trail runner with an agile feel that is unlike any other HOKA shoe we've ever testedA very well cushioned shoe that is optimal for heel strikers and makes for a great option for everyday training as well as ultra distancesA comfortable, consistent, and approachable shoe for those looking to crossover from roads to trail running
Rating Categories Brooks Cascadia 16 Salomon S/Lab Ultra 3 HOKA Torrent 2 Salomon Sense Ride 4 Brooks Divide 2
Foot Protection (25%)
9.0
9.0
8.0
7.0
7.0
Traction (20%)
9.0
7.0
7.0
7.0
6.0
Sensitivity (15%)
4.0
6.0
5.0
8.0
6.0
Stability (15%)
8.0
9.0
7.0
7.0
8.0
Comfort (15%)
7.0
9.0
9.0
8.0
9.0
Weight (10%)
5.0
6.0
9.0
7.0
6.0
Specs Brooks Cascadia 16 Salomon S/Lab Ultra 3 HOKA Torrent 2 Salomon Sense Ride 4 Brooks Divide 2
Measured Weight (per pair) 22.5 oz (size 9.5) 21.5 oz (size 9.5) 18.3 oz (size 9.5) 20.7 oz (size 9.5) 21.5 oz (size 9.5)
Stack Height (Heel, Forefoot) 29 mm, 21 mm 26 mm, 18 mm 23 mm, 18 mm 27 mm, 19 mm 25 mm, 17 mm
Heel-to-Toe Drop 8 mm 8 mm 5 mm 8 mm 8 mm
Lug Depth 5 mm 4 mm 5 mm 3 mm 3 mm
Upper Engineered mesh Anti-Debris mesh with sockliner Unifi REPREVE recycled mesh, TPU Synthetic mesh Mesh, TPU
Midsole 2mm Brooks DNA LOFT v2 foam, Ballistic Rock Shield Energy Save PU foam with Profeel Film rock protection HOKA ProFly: dual-density foam Salomon Optivibe Brooks BioMoGo EVA foam
Outsole Brooks TrailTack rubber Salomon Contagrip MA Rubber Salomon Contagrip MA Brooks TrailTack
Rock Plate? Yes Yes No No Yes
Lacing Style Traditional Quicklace with garage Traditional Quicklace with garage Traditional
Wide Version Available? Yes No No No No
Sizes Available 7 - 15 US 4 - 13 US 7 - 15 US 7 - 14 US 7 - 15 US

Our Analysis and Test Results

If you couldn't tell by the number attached to this shoe, the Brooks Cascadia 16 is just the newest version in a long line of trail runners. The highlighter yellow is a fun throwback to the first Cascada 1, created by Brooks with Scott Jurek in 2004 to be the "ultimate trail running shoe." The Cascadia 16 receives upgrades that focus on cushion and ride. The rock plate and outsole have cutouts designed to help the shoe mold and adapt to technical terrain, and Brooks claims their new proprietary DNA LOFT v2 midsole is "5% softer and 20% lighter than the Cascadia 15."

Performance Comparison


brooks cascadia 16 trail running shoes review - if you are looking for a powerful shoe with tank-like durability...
If you are looking for a powerful shoe with tank-like durability that can stand up to hundreds of miles of technical trail running, the Cascadia 16 is the shoe for you.
Credit: Jill Rice

Foot Protection


We could easily argue that the Brooks Cascadia 16 is one of, if not the most protective shoe in our testing lineup. As soon as you step into a pair, you recognize that this is a specialty shoe designed specifically for the rigors of trail running. That is one of the many reasons why it has remained such a popular option in this field for so long. But its protective shell ultimately comes at the cost of comfort and weight.

brooks cascadia 16 trail running shoes review - off-trail travel is no issue for the cascadia 16 thanks to its tacky...
Off-trail travel is no issue for the Cascadia 16 thanks to its tacky outsole and burly upper.
Credit: Jill Rice

The beastly Cascadia 16 sports a thick, 29mm heel that tapers to only 21mm in the forefoot. For some context, a 21mm stack height in the toes is thicker than the stack height in heels of more than a few shoes included in this review. This supportive platform is reinforced and stiffened by Brooks' proprietary Ballistic Rock plate. Although the upper is listed as an engineered mesh, most of the shoe is covered in a durable TPU film. With this shoe on your feet, feel free to tackle the sharpest rock fields without fear.

brooks cascadia 16 trail running shoes review - the outsole of the cascadia 16 is designed with protection as the...
The outsole of the Cascadia 16 is designed with protection as the first criteria. The cut-outs of the outsole help improve flexibility (somewhat) for this otherwise super stiff platform.
Credit: Jill Rice

Traction


The grip afforded by the Cascadia 16 only supports the confidence inspired by its overall protection and durability. We weren't kidding about tackling technical terrain like scree fields and rock gardens without fear. The proprietary TrailTack rubber is simultaneously soft, responsive, and tacky, allowing you to bound up slopes at full speed. Even though this shoe is incredibly stiff compared to others we tested, the vertical cutouts of the outsole allow the shoe's base to mold around roots and rocks for added stability in uneven terrain. On hardpack, the reactive outsole is lively and fun. In soft loam, the platform is stiff enough to allow the deep 5mm lugs to dig in and do their job.

brooks cascadia 16 trail running shoes review - the combination of deeply set, 5mm lugs and a rigid rubber compound...
The combination of deeply set, 5mm lugs and a rigid rubber compound make the Cascadia 16 a capable climber regardless of the terrain underfoot.
Credit: Jill Rice

Sensitivity


There are two sides to every coin, and all of this praise also has to carry some consequence. In the name of trail protection, the Cascadia 16 sacrifices nearly all of its sensitivity and ground feel. While the cutout pattern of the outsole and rock plate is designed to mold to the terrain, this translates to a feeling of increased stability, not increased sensitivity. There were many moments during our test runs when we felt practically severed from the trail. This lack of sensitivity will likely bother some runners — particularly those coming from a minimalist or track background — but is beneficial when you start to stack up miles.

brooks cascadia 16 trail running shoes review - although the profile is a bit wider than other mountain runners...
Although the profile is a bit wider than other mountain runners, which allows for a bit more contact area with the trail, don't expect to receive much information through the bottoms of your feet.
Credit: Jill Rice

Stability


From the stiff midsole and adaptive outsole to the wide toe box and neutral arch support, the design of this specialty trail runner all comes back to stability. This is perhaps the first thing you will notice trying on the Cascadia 16 for the first time: the platform's support and stability are unlike other shoes on the market. So please don't be fooled by the exaggerated 8mm heel-to-toe drop of this shoe — in no way does it feel like you're running in heels. The upper around the heel cup is stiff in a way that compliments the rest of the shoe but padded enough that it doesn't hamper your ability to run quickly cross-hill or through uneven terrain.

brooks cascadia 16 trail running shoes review - the symbols on the heel pocket of the cascadia 16 seem to indicate...
The symbols on the heel pocket of the Cascadia 16 seem to indicate that this shoe is ready to tackle trails in any type of weather, and we couldn't agree more. Stable and well-protected, this shoe is sure to perform no matter the trail conditions.
Credit: Jill Rice

Comfort


The stiffness of the Cascadia 16 right out of the box may irritate many runners, especially those used to plush, modern trail shoes. We completely agree and ask you to give this shoe some time to break in before tackling a major outing. Although it's hard to tell if this shoe is 5% more cushioned than its predecessor, as Brooks claims, it provides a comfortable glide over even the most technical trails once broken in it. The lace pattern includes four holes at the top, a thoughtful design point that allows those with lower insteps to lock this shoe in place better. While the upper includes four mesh ports along the side to improve drainage, most of the mesh upper is covered by a TPU film to improve durability. As a result, these shoes can sometimes be stiflingly hot to run in.

brooks cascadia 16 trail running shoes review - it took quite a few runs to break in the stiff cascadia 16. but that...
It took quite a few runs to break in the stiff Cascadia 16. But that conditioning period is well worth the effort, considering the mileage you're sure to rack up in these shoes.
Credit: Jill Rice

Weight


The Cascadia 16 is, without a doubt, a tank of a shoe. Tipping the scales at 22.5 ounces per pair for a men's 9.5 US, this trail runner falls easily within the 90th percentile when it comes to weight. The thick, stiff midsole and hearty upper don't do it any favors on the trail. Although these shoes are far from lead weights, they certainly do not feel as lightweight and airy as other models we tested.

brooks cascadia 16 trail running shoes review - hearty and heavy, the cascadia 16 favors protection and stability...
Hearty and heavy, the Cascadia 16 favors protection and stability over weight savings.
Credit: Jill Rice

Should You Buy the Brooks Cascadia 16?


The Cascadia 16 is something of a hardcore trail running shoe, designed for a core group of runners who like to push long distances over rough terrain. The stiff rock guard and thick midsole allow this tank of a shoe to take on challenging trails and demanding races, all while offering the support, comfort, and stability necessary for endurance feats. If this doesn't sound like you, that's okay, and don't worry — there are plenty of other compatible options on the market.

What Other Trail Running Shoes Should You Consider?


For a shoe that is as technically savvy as the Brooks Cascadia 16 but that is a bit more forgiving, we suggest checking out the La Sportiva Karacal for those with higher volume feet or the La Sportiva Bushido II if you prefer a lower volume shoe. Although not designed quite like the alpine runners above, the HOKA Torrent 2 is an uber-comfortable option that offers a similar level of performance without the added weight or stiffness.

Aaron Rice
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