Brooks Cascadia 11 Trail Running Shoes

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They Say - Like an SUV for your feet, these supportive men’s trail shoes deliver a cushioned, balanced, ride—the best all-around, versatile shoe for adventures out and about. Feet stay comfortable and secure with trail-specific technologies that add a layer of protection, including a four-pivot system that acts like a personalized suspension system on tricky terrain, a ballistic rock shield to protect feet from hazards, and a rugged outsole that provides great traction on wet surfaces. New to this edition of trail shoes for men is a redesigned forefoot for improved durability.

Please note: The Cascadia is designed as a trail running shoe. While a lot of people love it as a fastpacking and thru-hiking shoe while carrying ultralight gear, the Cascadia is not pack-rated and may not hold up to the extra weight and demands of long pack hikes. We’re your go-to option for trail runs, but a sturdy hiking boot may be better suited for heavy packs.

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We Say – These shoes arrived in the mail the day before my biggest trail race of the season, the North Face 50 mile Endurance Challenge. It was reputed to be a tough course in the Blue Mountains, a couple of hours west of Toronto. Several friends had run it last year and had big warnings for me; don’t take this race lightly, it’s got some wicked elevation and tricky terrain and you’re going to need some top class trail shoes to cope with it!

So I had a choice to make. Did I go with my year old trail shoes that were well beaten up and offering me very little in the way of support or grip, or did I take a chance on these new Brooks and wear them straight out of the box.

I’ve been wearing Brooks road shoes for a while now, I know how good they are so I thought, ok, I’m going to wear these Cascadia trail shoes around the house for a couple of hours and if they feel ok, I’ll take a chance and wear them for the North Face Challenge.

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I’m not that technical a guy when it comes to running kit/shoes. I understand that there’s such a thing as ‘drop’ and all the other selling points that we can read about on websites but really, I just go by feel. I’ve worn just about every brand out there over the past 5 years and find that since I’m not a specialist in distance/terrain, I don’t have any specialised needs. 4mm drop, 8mm drop, 12 mm drop, it’s all very different yet at the same time, very much the same to me.

So I pulled the shoes on, walked around the house and the shoes felt good. A little small though, so definately order a size bigger than you would usually wear. And if your race is longer than 100 miles or so, consider getting a pair 2 sizes larger than you usually would, as your feet will swell during that time and believe me, these shoes are small for their stated size.

But that’s true of all Brooks shoes I’ve tried out, road or trail. Their website says they run small and they advise to order a half size larger than you usually would but I’d go further and say a full size larger at least, for sure.

So these Cascadia 11 were small for me, but I weighed up what they were giving me in grip and overall comfort, against a slight feeling of the overall toe width being small, and decided to wear them. It was only 50 miles, I reasoned, I could handle a snug fit for that length of time.

The race started in darkness and for the first half hour we climbed upwards on a forested path riddled with roots and rocks. Then we were on tarmac for a short while before wet grassy meadow, more forest and so on. There were hardly any flat sections and the shoes really had their work cut out, gripping slippery surfaces (especially at the 26 mile stage where we had to descend a 400 metre, grassy ski slope before ascending through the forest again for a second lap), especially as the race wore on and I got tired. I ran it as hard as I could and after 40 miles fatigue started to creep up on me, which meant my desicion making became slightly off and I began to kick obstructions frequently. No broken toes occured though – the toe box on these shoes is great – and I managed to keep on my feet when many others were going down often.

I finished in 13th position overall, 3rd in my age group, in 8.5 hours. I was very happy with that!

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Most importantly, as far as the shoes are concerned;

1/ I got no blisters or foot issues at all – which is pretty incredibly considering they were fresh out of the box.

2/ I didn’t fall once during the race thanks to their effective grip.

3/ The laces never came undone once. This sounds like a small thing but it’s very moral sapping if your laces come undone often during a longer event. With some shoes even if I double or triple knot the laces, they still come undone, and then you have to do them back up with fingers that are often puffy, tired and cold/rigid. But with these Brooks Cascadia 11 that didn’t happen.

4/ I only had to take them off twice to empty out debris, and I was able to concentrate on just doing my very best rather than worry about my footwear, which was great.

Obviously that was only my first experience with the shoes, I’ve worn them often in the months since. There’s nothing bad to report at all, I think the Cascadia 11 are superb. Not too heavy, very protective and super comfy. I recommend them, just bear in mind the sizing issue and order a half or full size up from what you usually use.

To discover more about the Brooks Cascadia 11 shoe please see http://www.brooksrunning.com/en_ca/mens-cascadia-11-trail-running-shoes/110213.html

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