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Brooks Cascadia 16 Multiple Tester Review
By David Salas, PT, DPT, CSCS & Matthew Klein, PT, DPT, OCS, FAAOMPT


The Brooks Cascadia has been a top trail running option for many runners for quite some time now. The Cascadia 16 continues upon this lineage and provides an all around balanced feel that does well in a large variety of trails. Some things that contribute to that balanced feel is a comfortable fit and upper, a well integrated rock plate, and a geometry that works well for smooth transitions in a variety of terrains. 

Brooks Cascadia 16
$129.95 at Running Warehouse

Weight: 11.1 oz / 315 g (men's size 9) 9.5 oz / 269 g (women's size 8)
Stack Height: 32mm heel / 24mm heel
Drop: 8mm
Classification: Trail Running Shoe


RUNNING SHOE SUMMARY


Matt: The Brooks Cascadia 16 is a tough and stiff trail shoe that can handle a variety of terrain. From shorter road to long rocky trails, the Cascadia has the grip and protection to handle anything that comes its weigh. A stable heel provides some natural rearfoot stability, while a stiff and firmer ride from the rock plate provide protection from sharp rocks. The upper is heavily reinforced, holding the foot down securely for any quick motions necessary. A tough shoe that runs on the heavier side and needs some time to break in, the Brooks Cascadia 16 will be able to handle any long distance running terrain you throw at it. 

David: The Brooks Cascadia 16 is a trail running shoe that will work at a large variety of distances and terrains. The shoe does utilize a rock plate and can traverse technical terrain without issue as well as light fire road without feeling overly firm or rigid. The shoe has plenty of protection to handle long hours on feet and the weight is still within a reasonable (though on the heavier end) range for trail runs under 25k as well. The upper is also reinforced throughout and locks the foot decently well to handle the necessary components of steep inclines/declines, turns, and torsional forces. This is one of your "do it all" trail running shoes but may lean more as a training shoe for those that race shorter distances.  




FIT


Matt: The Brooks Cascadia 16 fits me normal to slightly short in my normal men's US size 10 / UK size 9.5. A thick toe guard up front shortens and narrows the fit for me, but did provide adequate protection when I accidentally kicked a rock. The toe guard narrows and shortens the forefoot a little, but it reopens in the midfoot. The midfoot fits fairly normal in width but has a higher volume. This is easily adjusted with the laces and the reinforced upper was secure particularly in the midfoot with turns and uneven terrain. The heel fit slightly wider and I was concerned about heel slippage, but locking down the laces in the midfoot solved this issue. There is a heel counter that does extend into the upper on both sides of the foot. It is rigid and I did notice it initially, but the padding from the heel collar helped a little. A thick pair of socks was helpful and those sensitive to heel counters should approach cautiously. The tongue is gusseted, stayed in place well and had a fairly average thickness. The extensive overlays on the sides add quite a bit of security. Despite the feeling of a shorter fit, I had no additional pressure on my toes and my feet stayed secured no matter what terrain I used them on. The upper was surprisingly breathable and my feet actually got a little cold during a longer mountain run in the 30s, so thicker socks may be helpful in colder temperatures. However, the Cascadia does have drainage ports that do work well as I intentionally ran through a stream and had no additional water stay in the shoe. Overall the Brooks Cascadia 16 has a secure and protective upper with little more volume in the midfoot and while with a slightly tapered forefoot thanks to a protective toe guard.

David: The Brooks Cascadia 16 fits true to size in my normal Men's 9.5. The fit is very balanced throughout and has normal width through the heel, midfoot, with a slightly wide toe box in the forefoot. The upper is constructed of a synthetic mesh that does not have much stretch to it, though has enough volume in the shoe to accommodate a multitude of foot types. There is a toe guard up front that is integrated very well and did provide any irritation or unnecessary contact when running downhill. The same material that is used as an external toe guard is also used as an overlay through the midfoot and as an extended heel counter as well. Overall the feel is nice and secure throughout without feeling overly rigid. There is a lightly padded heel counter present that also helps hold the structure of the shoe in this region. The heel probably could be a tad more narrow, for I would get some chips and small pebbles that would slip their way into the shoe when running through loose footing. There are some really small sidewalls through the shoe on the medial and lateral aspect of the shoe that seem to do their job okay. 




PERFORMANCE

Matt: The Brooks Cascadia 16 has a stiff and protective ride. The shoe feels lighter than the listed weight, but it is still a hefty shoe. For that reason, the Cascadia 16 works best as a daily training shoe and potentially as an ultra distance race. It feels best at easy/longer effort paces and struggles a bit with faster efforts. The midsole feels firm from heel to toe, although the heel started to soften slightly after 10-15 miles. The forefoot is firmer, partly because of the forefoot rock plate that works well. Despite that though there is a solid amount of flexibility for a shoe with this stack height. There is some late toe spring up front that also adds to a smooth overall toe off. The midfoot has a decent transition while the heel is a little stiffer. The heel has a small centered heel beveled, which made heel transitions clunky. The midsole does soften with some mileage at the rearfoot, but is still on the firmer side. The bevel is very slightly lateral, but not enough to create a smoother ride. The outsole is incredibly durable, with no signs of wear to it or the lugs. The lugs are solid, but still allows the Cascadia to feel fine on roads.  This is a great multi-surface and door-to-trail shoe that can handle a mixture of terrain, including a bit more technical stuff. While the Cascadia 16 can handle a variety of terrain, it does feel clunky initially until you get to the trails. It is far better than other more aggressive trail shoes and that clunkiness improves as the shoe breaks in. Overall the Brooks Cascadia 16 has a smooth front, clunky rear and a ride that works best for longer efforts on a variety of terrain. 

David: The Brooks Cascadia 16 has performed pretty well for me in most situations. For me the shoe works best as a daily trail running shoe for moderate to technical terrain or long efforts of time on feet. For shorter efforts the weight can be a little on the heavy side. The midsole runs a little on the firmer side but does not provide any problems with dirt, grass, or rocky terrain. The geometry of the shoe feels a little bit different from what I remember (though I haven't been in the Cascadia for several models). The shoe has a centrally focused heel bevel and a slight toe spring up front. There is a rock plate present that does add some rigidity as well. The shoe does have a bit of a rocker sensation to it with its transition, though not major. The lugs are pretty deep but the geometry makes the transitions feel smoother and less "grabby" in the forefoot that I get in some trail models. Overall the shoe has a much more balanced feel through it. The midsole and rock plate do have a sensation of responsiveness to it but the weight gets a little in the way when pushing sections on the trail. This is why it works best for daily efforts or longer efforts for me. Overall traction and rock protection has also done a really good job of maintaining that balanced feel when traversing over unstable terrain. 



STABILITY

Matt: The Brooks Cascadia has always been a stable neutral shoe. Version 16 continues with a wide, straight lasted platform that provides an excellent amount of contact with the ground. The filled in midfoot provides a smooth transition and natural stability. The rock plate is surprisingly flexible, allowing a forward transition while resisting frontal plane motion. There are tongs of medial and lateral overlays which lock the foot onto the platform well. The small sidewalls in the rearfoot provide gentle guidance for rearfoot strikers in both directions. This is offset though by a more centered heel bevel and for those that land posterior-lateral like most at the heel, you may feel pitched inward during initial contact until the shoe breaks in. So while the Brooks Cascadia 16 is a neutral shoe, there are elements in the forefoot and midfoot that add natural stability, while some of the elements clash in the heel to be a bit more neutral in the back. 

David: The Brooks Cascadia 16 runs pretty stable for me compared to most other trail options. The platform underfoot is very wide and provides great traction throughout. The rock plate seems to be a tiny bit more flexible than some other rock plates but still provides plenty of protection when crushing rocks underneath you. The upper is well done and the overlays are strategically placed to help with keeping any excessive translation when running through unstable terrain. There are some sidewalls which may not have a large impact on the stability, but do seem to do their job well enough. The geometry of the heel bevel and the forefoot provide for a very balanced feel underfoot as well. Overall I am really happy with the stability in the Cascadia 16. 




THOUGHTS AS A DPT / FOOTWEAR SCIENCE

Today I want to take a look at the rock plate in the Brooks Cascadia 16. Often times companies will utilize a Pebax, Nylon, or Carbon plate to create some rigidity through the forefoot and decrease forefoot pressure from rocks underfoot. I do not have confirmation on the composition of the plate, but the ballistic rock shield in the Brooks Cascadia 16 does appear to have a little bit more flexibility and less density than some of the other rock shields I have run with. It may be marketing but the rock shield does appear to work best dynamically and the flexibility to the plate also seems to help with toe off transitioning. Synthetic materials are definitely fun to play around with when it comes to shoes and I am happy to see so many companies looking at how they can change the internal composition of the footwear. For me I like the way this rock plate feels for it maintains a little bit of forefoot flexibility but still protects my foot from rocks underneath. Outside of the difference I noted in the rock plate, a lot of this shoe is consistent with many other competitors on the market. This is mainly why I wanted to acknowledge this and also use it as a point for those looking into footwear to pay attention to the trends that work for them. Some people may like a much more rigid and sharper angled rock plate in their trail shoes, or no rock plate at all.

- David Salas, PT, DPT, CSCS

RECOMMENDATIONS

Matt: My major recommendations for the Brooks Cascadia 16 is with the toe guard/forefoot shape, the heel bevel and rearfoot security. The toe guard is intense and while it does its job, narrows the forefoot more than it needs. I did have some blistering on my toes after long runs, so it may be better to keep an external toe guard and wide the fit a bit more up front to accommodate swelling. The Cacadia 16 has always been an ultramarathon shoe to me, so swelling needs to be accommodated throughout the length of the shoe, not just the heel and midfoot. The small centered heel bevel should be moved laterally. Most people do not land at their central heel, instead landing at the posterior lateral aspect. Whether they pronate or supinate at that point depends, so the rearfoot side walls are excellent. This does not need to be an extreme lateral heel bevel, but at least shifting what they have laterally may reduce the clunkiness I am experiencing at the back. Finally, while the higher volume in the rearfoot will be good for longer efforts, I was concerned about security. Adding a bit more cushioning to the heel collar may help with this, or as David suggested below modifying the eyelets to be a bit more posterior. Lace locking the shoe may also be a better option for the user, so it will depend on the person. I did appreciate the additional volume on longer efforts, but shorter efforts felt like my heel might end up moving more than I would like. 

David: My main recommendation for the Brooks Cascadia 16 lies within weight and a tiny bit in heel security. The heel security is not bad by any means, but the width seems to be a just enough to get some kick back from chips and small rocks. Perhaps if the eyelets are adjusted just a little more posterior or a tad wider maybe that would close the space down a little better. The shoe does run on the heavier end especially for shorter efforts, but overall elsewhere balanced. Perhaps the upper material differences could do it.

WHO THIS SHOE IS FOR

Matt: The Brooks Cascadia 16 is a tough long distance trail running shoe for those who want a firmer, neutrally stable ride that can handle technical terrain and road. The wide platform creates inherent stability while the lugs provide great traction. The firmer midsole adds to that stability while still providing underfoot protection. The forefoot rock plate provides plenty of protection while still allowing a smooth toe off and forefoot flexibility. The heel is a little clunky, but does break in with time. The thick upper provides more volume in the heel and midfoot while it tapers in the forefoot due to a protective toe guard. The Brooks Cascadia 16 is best for those who want a protective, varied surface trail shoe with more volume in the rearfoot, protection up front, a flexible rock plate and a smooth forward transition. 

David: The Brooks Cascadia 16 is a trail running shoe for those looking to have a protective yet firm riding shoe that can definitely take a punch. There is a little bit of weight to the shoe but if you don't mind that the shoe runs great over a large variety of terrain. The rock plate certainly does its job and I have not had any problems traversing technical terrain. The platform underneath is also wide throughout and the structure of the shoe is pretty stable throughout. The heel bevel and toe spring are mild to moderate but work well with providing that balanced feel that I mentioned earlier. This is definitely a shoe worth looking at if you run a large variety of distances out in the trail and need something that can go long if you really need it to as well. 


GRADING

Matt
Fit: (Good volume in heel/midfoot for an ultra trail shoe. Toebox tapers and is too stiff due to toe guard. Upper requires additional lockdown from laces for security, but will benefit those whose feet swell in the rear.)
Performance: 
B (Clunky rearfoot with smooth forefoot. Can handle a variety of terrain including road. Lugs dig plenty on both solid and loose ground. Shoe is heavier, making it better for daily training and limiting its ability to pick up the pace.)
Stability: A- (Stable neutral shoe. Good natural stability in the forefoot and midfoot. Heel has sidewalls, but centered heel bevel creates a stiff and quick pitch inward of the ankle at heel strike. )
DPT/Footwear Science: B+ (Kudos for using a rock plate that maintains flexibility and creates a smooth toe off without the use of excessive toe spring. However, heel should be beveled a bit more laterally as the more centrally beveled heel creates a bit of a medial pitch upon heel contact for those who land farther out). 
Personal:  B- (Consistent, protective shoe. However, the tapered forefoot and the clunky heel prevents the Cascadia from getting onto the top of my trusted trail shoe roster.)
Overall: B (A protective consistent trail shoe that can handle almost any surface. A higher volume fit except the forefoot accommodates swelling. The front half of the shoe has a great transition, while the rear half is clunky. The toebox tapers, so will work best for those with narrow forefeet)

David
Fit: A- (Balanced fit throughout, normal width in heel and midfoot, slightly wide toe box, upper materials are supportive yet still comfortable)
Performance: 
B+ (A very balanced shoe that can do quite a bit across many different terrains. The weight does seem to get in the way a little bit, but overall good. The could also improve a little bit with responsiveness when pushing trail sections, but overall good and balanced.)
Stability: A (I am really happy with the stability in the Cascadia 16. The shoe works pretty well for my mechanics and the wide platform, supportive upper, good traction, and firm ride give a good amount of stability and ground feel underneath)
DPT/Footwear Science: B+ (Brooks uses what they call a ballistic rock shield in this model. The rock plate does appear to be a little bit more flexible and less dense than some of the other rock plates out there but the increased flexibility does seem to help with some forefoot flexibility and a balanced transition through the forefoot)
Personal: B (This is my favorite Cascadia to date so far. The feel is very balanced throughout. The weight however does make me struggle a little when running longer miles or navigating steeper climbs. I would like it to be a little lighter.)
Overall: B+/A- (A well balanced trail shoe that can do a little bit of everything. Great for technical terrain and can handle longer mileage. The weight and responsiveness could be a little better for performance but this will work for a lot of people)

  
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TESTER PROFILES:


Matthew Klein, PT DPT OCS FAAOMPT
Doctor of Physical Therapy
Board Certified Orthopedic Clinical Specialist
Fellow of the American Academy of Orthopedic Manual Physical Therapists

Dr. Matthew Klein is a 150 lb male with notable PRs of 14:45 for 5k and 2:32:44 for the full marathon.  He typically runs 70-100 miles per week and trains at a variety of paces from 8min per mile recovery runs to 4:40 per mile 1k repeats.  He prefers firmer and responsive shoes with snug heels and medium to wide toe boxes.  The stability guy of the group, he also prefers a little stability in his footwear. However, as a researcher, clinician and running shoe aficionado, he will run in anything.

David Salas PT DPT CSCS
Doctor of Physical Therapy
Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist

Dr. David Salas is a 135 lb male with notable PRs ranging from 3:54 in the 1500m to 1:08:36 for half marathon. He typically runs 60 to 70 miles per week and trains from about 7:30 recovery runs to fast shorter efforts at 4:30 pace. He normally prefers neutral shoes with a firmer ride, but is completely open to other types of shoes.  He is a footwear enthusiast at heart and will always appreciate a high quality shoe when it comes around. For updates on training or testing,

Editor's Note: As always, the views presented on this website belong to myself or the selected few who contribute to these posts. This website should not and does not serve as a replacement for seeking medical care. If you are currently injured or concerned about an injury, please see your
local running physical therapist. If you are in the Los Angeles area, I am currently taking clients for running evaluations.

***Disclaimer: These shoes were provided free of charge in exchange for a review.  We thank the  people at Running Warehouse and Brooks for sending us a pair.  This in no way affected the honesty of this review. We systematically put each type of shoe through certain runs prior to review. For trainers and performance trainers, we take them on daily runs, workouts, recovery runs and a long run prior to review (often accumulating anywhere from 20-50 miles in the process). For racing flats we ensure that we have completed intervals, a tempo or steady state run run as well as a warm up and cool down in each pair prior to review. This systematic process is to ensure that we have experience with each shoe in a large variety of conditions to provide expansive and thorough reviews for the public and for companies. Our views are based on our extensive history in the footwear industry and years testing and developing footwear. If you are a footwear rep looking for footwear reviews or consultations on development, we are currently looking to partner with companies to assist, discuss and promote footwear models. Partnership will not affect the honesty of our reviews.

Please feel free to reach out, comment and ask questions!
Contact us at doctorsofrunning@gmail.com

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November Round-Up at Doctors of Running

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