Brooks Cascadia 17 Introduction
My first ever dedicated trail shoes were the Brooks Cascadia 12.
There were two things I remember distinctly about those shoes:
- They were bulletproof
- and never quite as comfortable as I wished they could be.
Fast forward to 2023 and the Brooks Cascadia 17 is here. They’re still bulletproof and lightyears more comfortable than the previous version I owned.
The Brooks Cascadia 17 is a top-of-the-line trail running shoe priced at a very reasonable $140. Weighing in at 11oz, they are a moderately cushioned shoe that offers neutral support.
New in the 17s is TrailTack Green Rubber outsoles which are made of 25% recycled materials.
Alternatives to the Cascadia 17s are Brooks Caldera 6 and Brooks Catamount 2. The Caldera 6 is a max cushion, long distance trail running shoe while the Catamount 2 is light and built for speed.
Brooks Cascadia 17 Impressions
The first thing I noticed with shoes are typically the colors. Great color combos make the shoes that much better and Brooks offers some solid choices in the Cascadia 17.
I bought the Blue/Navy/Firecracker colorway that has an obvious reference to the 4th of July. If you’re curious about the other options, check out Brook’s website.
For my first run, I went to a local trail system that offers various terrain features and elevation changes. The initial section was a low lying single track composed of mud and leaves. As I expected, they navigated this section with ease.
There are a few notable differences between the lug patterns in the previous and most recent Cascadias. First, the lugs are spread out across the entire outsole in the 17s, whereas previously, they were absent across the arch and midfoot of the shoe. In addition, the lugs on the 17s are tapered and not as pronounced as the 16s. This design helps to shed the mud quicker and prevents it from getting trapped and causing you to lose traction.
The trail quickly transitioned to medium and large rocks as I ascended to the summit. I felt a secure heel lockdown with no wiggle room or slippage in the heel counter which is one less thing to worry about during inclines. Another benefit that adds stability to this shoe is the outsole pods. You’ll notice six distinct sections which flex on uneven ground to keep your feet stable and secure on uneven ground.
Lastly, to note was a long steady downhill section littered with rocks, downed trees, branches and collections of leaves. Descents can be punishing to your feet and toes in particular if you don’t have the right shoe. The toebox in the Cascadia 17 was a nice surprise. They’re wider than they look and do not restrict my feet whatsoever.
I really liked this shoe for distances of 5 miles up to 20 miles at steady paces. They aren’t light and nimble enough to run at fast paces but they handle slow to moderate speeds very well.
For runners that like to “feel” the trails beneath them, you won’t get that in the Cascadia 17s. They are built for stability and protection so there’s less connection to the running surface.
These are definitely not the most comfortable shoes that I’ve ever worn. Having said that, the durability is so good that I would give up a small amount of comfort knowing they’ll be around for many many miles.
Brooks Cascadia 17 Protection
Starting from the ground up, there is a built in rock plate which is ideal for runners in rocky areas. I noticed this immediately on trails that I frequently run. There was very little feel of rocks and debris and the rock plate was a big reason why.
Impact was adequately dispersed across the shoe instead of concentrating around the area of impact. Wrapped around the rock plate is a beefy layer of DNA LOFT v2 cushioning.
The upper mesh did a solid job filtering out smaller debris, dirt and sand. The material was thicker and multi-layered and I did not notice anything making it through to reach my foot.
Finally, there are strategically placed rubberized overlays protecting the toebox, forefoot and heel cup. Most trail shoes today have some type of protection around the toe box but not many actually project the foot. This shoe is different. The heavy duty sections area actually tough to indent by pushing your finger against it. Think “steel toe” type protection.
Obviously it’s not that protective, but I really liked the added volume in this area to protect my foot in sections that were more technical, rocky or presented a chance of my feet coming in contact with a hard object.
Brooks Cascadia 17 Durability
I’ve mentioned it a few times already, but the durability of this shoe is top notch.
Outside of the lighter colors showing dirt, and some scuffs on the overlays, the shoe looks and still feels new. The structure of the shoe is still intact and could handle much more abuse.
From a durability standpoint, I could see this shoe being utilized on any and all terrains. It could easily be used on technical terrain and definitely for beginner or casual trail runners.
The shoe would easily hold up to the riggers of a longer trail race, maybe even an ultra marathon. Although, would not be my first choice to wear for longer races due to the firmness of the midsole.
Brooks Cascadia 17 Responsiveness & speed
There’s a lot of great things about the Cascadia 17s but they could use some work in regards to the responsiveness.
Brooks describes the midsole technology as “super soft, but never too squishy”. I couldn’t disagree more, actually. There is nothing soft about this midsole material, compared to other moderate cushion trail shoes I’ve worn.
I noticed very little, if any “give” to the midsole as I took strides. It was very firm and not forgiving which might cause some added pain and fatigue on longer runs. This in combination with the heavier setup, makes the shoes feel kind of awkward when you try to pick up the pace.
Increasing speed is not a problem, but maintaining it was the difficult part. I felt that my gait became forced and took a fair amount of effort. This shoe wasn’t built for speed so it’s not a knock against them but just something to be aware of.
For runners looking for an all around great trail shoe for running or hiking, there’s not a better option.
The lugs are not as aggressive as the 16s were but I don’t think there’s a significant loss in traction. I felt confident on all types of terrain, from gravel, to dirt, rocks and even wet conditions.
The TrailTack Green rubber outsole kept my feet grounded and added to the overall stability of the shoe.
Brooks Cascadia 17 Comfort and fit
As stated before, there was a definite break in period for the Cascadia 17s. Due to the reinforcement and protection, it took a few runs until those areas softened up and I could run without noticing a real restriction. Part of this is also by design. One of the key features of this shoe is its all terrain stability.
You’ll notice that there are rubber reinforced areas around the toe box, along the forefoot and on either side of the heel. While these provide necessary protection, they do restrict movement and take some getting used too if you’ve used less protective shoes in the past.
The overall fit of the shoe was spot on and the shoes were true to size. I was surprised by the roomy toe box which I was not expecting in a shoe like this.
There was enough space for my foot to adjust to obstacles as I ran. Lastly, there was adequate width.
Not too narrow or too wide. I’ve never had fit issues with Brooks and this shoe was no different.
Brooks Cascadia 17 Conclusions
Brooks redesigned the Cascadia 17s and continue to make improvements to an already outstanding trail shoe.
While these are not the most comfortable shoes I’ve ever worn, the other benefits more than makeup for the area of comfort.
This shoe will serve you well for distances up to and including marathons.
They are rugged, durable and versatile and it would be hard for me to name a better option for under $150.