Sunday, June 7, 2009

RJ Review: Brooks Cascadia 4

Marketing folks are not known for measured statements. Still, one wonders if the merry band of workers at Brooks actually gave any thought to the expectations placed on a shoe whose insole is adorned with both a stylized map of the Western States 100 course as well as Scott Jurek’s 2004 course record of 15:36:27. In my book, this sets the bar very high, and I have to say that I think said shoe -- the Cascadia 4 (retail $100.00) – falls short of the mark.

While many an ultrarunner views the Cascadia line as a new gold standard for trail shoes, I just don’t agree. Though, they certainly look great and feel pretty good on, they just don’t perform as well as many other shoes when it comes to the rough and tumble of long, long runs on varied terrain. When it comes to descending steep and technical singletrack, their light weight gives them a good level of responsiveness, but they lack the solid, quick, descending-on-rails feeling that a shoe like the Inov-8 320 delivers. On rocky trail, the shoe’s midsole Ballistic Rock Shield offers only modest protection from sharp rocks, which turns long sections of craggy trail initially tedious and eventually painful. Asics’ Gel-Trail Sensor and any number of Inov-8s perform better on such terrain.

Even when it comes to comfort and feel, the Cascadias just do OK. They’re certainly not uncomfortable, but for the frailties in other performance points, I’d at least want them to feel as good if not better than other shoes in their class, but even here, I’d say Asics’ Gel-Trail Attacks feel better on the trail in true-test conditions.

There are any number of runners out there who will contest this review. I know. I’ve spoken to a number of you. But, among the quiver of shoes I’ve used and tested, the Cascadias have been one of the biggest disappointments. Yes, they’re good on a number of points, but a standout on none, which isn’t what I’d expect from the imprint: 15:36:27.

More shoe reviews on Run Junkie (shoe reviews).

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I am not impressed with these shoes either. They lack the support I have come to expect from my Vasque Blurs, which I know are heavier, but I would trade a little weight for comfort and support. I can't run in the Cascadias for more than an hour before my arches start to hurt from lack of support. They seem too light and flexible to be considered a rugged trail shoe.