Saturday, March 10, 2012

Brooks Cascadia 7 Review

Brooks Cascadia 7

Cascadia 7 statistics:

Weight: 11.93 oz (US Men’s 9)
Heel-Toe Drop: 10.0 mm (improved from Cascadia 6’s 11.3mm drop)
Heel Height: 28.0 mm
Forefoot Height: 18.0 mm
Before reviewing the Cascadia 7 I need to mention that I gave the Cascadia 6 a score of 21/25 in my previous review, and even though I reviewed the 6's after running 90 miles, it may have been premature considering several issues popped up later in the life of the shoe. More realistically the Cascadia 6 score was an 18/25. That said, my Cascadia 6’s ended up lasting for 1,600 miles before I had to retire them, and that includes over 600 of those miles on roads. The good news is that the Cascadia 7 addressed these issues that cropped up later with the 6’s and I am extremely excited about the updated 7. I will address these issues with the 6 and how the 7 has addressed the issues in this review.
The Cascadia 7’s outsole lug design has been redesigned from the 6. The biggest change was the elimination of the round lugs in the core of the outsole of the 6 and returning back to a more triangular lug design in the core of the 7. This change was important because the round lugs in the 6 were not angular enough to grip crevices in rocks and seemed unable to cut through deep mud due to their large surface area. The round lugs also wore quicker and as they wore the traction decreased significantly.
Here is how this new outsole performed on the trails and roads and improved the shoe from the Cascadia 6.
Roads - The lugs handle the roads reasonably well for a trail shoe that is primarily designed for gripping rocks and mud. The lack of surface area in contact with the road on a luggy trail shoe does cause some slippage particularly on wet asphalt. The amazing thing about the Cascadia 7 is that the tread design is smooth enough on the road that you can actually run many miles on the road and have no problems. This shoe is no replacement for a nice road runner but it is as close as it gets. For a runner who has to navigate roads to get to the trails or run trails that have sections of road, this is definitely the shoe for you. I rated the outsole 3/5 for performance on the road
Trails - This is where the outsole and lug design of this shoe excels. The amazing thing about the Cascadia 7 is the fact that this outsole can handle muddy, rocky and root strewn trails nearly as well as specialist trail shoes designed primarily for nasty trails, and yet the Cascadia 7 can run roads making them a more diverse shoe without losing much performance compared to a specialty shoe. They grip mud extremely well. In the Pacific Northwest where I train, muddy trails are a constant, so it is key that the shoe doesn’t slip and the mud doesn’t stick to the sole. The Cascadia 7 nails this combination and can handle the soup and then releases the mud between strides. As for wet rocks they did as good a job as you can expect any versatile shoe. There always seems to be some slipping on wet rocks but the more triangular lug on the 7 seems to find better purchase in small imperfections in the rocks better than the Cascadia 6 so there is improvement there, but there is still slipping on wet slimy rocks. They handle dry rocks extremely well and the ballistic rock shield eliminates the shock from sharp roots and rocks and can handle long distances on rocky trails. Total score for outsole on the trails is 4.5/5.
Cushioning/pivot points/caterpillar crash pad
The Brooks Cascadia 7 incorporates the Brooks DNA cushioning system into the mid sole. This non-newtonian substance is supposed to give each runner a new tailored ride. They have kept the pivot points which are meant to prevent an ankle roll when stepping onto the side of your foot on a rock or root. There was little change in the cushioning from the 6 to the 7 because they really have the cushioning figured out.
Roads – Once again Brooks has found a way to cushion their shoe in a way that is virtually invisible. The shock of the road is adsorbed particularly for heel strikers due to the roll of the shoe and also from the collapse of the caterpillar crash pad in the heel area. Mid to forefoot strikers will find the shoe extremely comfortable on the roads even for long distances. As far as trail shoes are concerned this is the Cadillac of trail shoes on the road. I give the cushioning a 5/5on the roads.
Trails - Everything said previously about the cushioning on the roads applies to the trails but even improves more since the added softness from the trails makes the impact even less noticeable whether you are midfoot striking or heel striking from packed dirt to rocks and mud. The Cascadia 7 deforms around obstacles due in part to its pivot posts. The shoe definitely gets the full 5/5 for cushioning because of the pivots, the DNA, and Caterpillar Crash Pad that all work together to give you a custom, stable, and a shock free ride.
The upper has changed once again. The previous Cascadia 6 had an adjustable piece in the eye row, which I found to relieve pain in the bridge of the foot during toe-off, but over time I felt the elasticity allowed my foot to slide forward on steep downhill trails and my foot would begin to slide into the toe box. I was quite happy to see this feature go even though in my previous review I praised the elastic eye row as a smart innovation. To address this issue brooks has offset the entire lacing system to lock down the foot and take pressure off the bridge of the foot.
Roads/Trails - The new adjustments have definitely changed how the shoe fits. At first I thought the size 10 felt too wide, but as I worked on the laces it locked down across the bridge and finally tightened up in the toe box and seemed to feel closer to the previous size 10’s fit. The offset laces work really well and not only lock down the shoe in the arch area but release the pressure points across the bridge of the foot, improving the shoe from previous lace designs. The shoe goes from completely water logged from stepping in a stream or puddle to damp in about 20 steps so the shoe really expels water once it gets in there and even seems to draw water out of the wet sock and move it to the outside of the shoe. This is key for any long runs that have high probability for getting your feet wet. I had issues with the Cascadia 6 laces staying tied and thought the floating eye row may have allowed the laces to loosen up over time. The Cascadia 7’s seem to stay tied better than the 6’s but I feel there is still some room for improvement in the lace so that it doesn’t come untied or loose. The shoes upper receives a 4.5/5.
Overall I gave this shoe a total 22/25 scoring higher than my previous Cascadia 6 review and if you consider I feel the Cascadia 6 was actually lower, you can say the Cascadia 7 is clearly a major improvement. Most of this improvement comes from the lug design and the offset lace design. Once again I would recommend this shoe for a versatile runner who encounters the full spectrum of running surfaces from trail to track in any given day. There is still some wiggle room for improvement but Brooks has really developed a great shoe that any runner can take and excel in whether training or racing. This shoe is the Swiss army knife of trail shoes!

Here is a video of a run on Mount Work in Victoria, BC wearing the second pair of Cascadia 7's I have owned!