Brooks Cascadia 13 Trail Runners are a favorite backpacking and hiking shoe because they’re roomy, stable, fast drying and well ventilated. They have a built-in gaiter attachment point to secure your gaiters to keep out trail debris, with an innovative lacing system that eliminates any uncomfortable pressure on the top of your feet. A gusseted tongue provides slipper-like comfort, while a rock shield in the forefoot provides extra protection. Traction is great on dry and rocky terrain, while the extra cushioning provides a comfortable ride. The Cascadia 13 is also available in wide sizes, which is a must-have for many hikers.
Durability is a concern though. During testing, the stitching in my shoes began to unravel at the junction between the heel cup and the sides of the inner sock. I ended up returning them to the manufacturer for a refund. I can’t say this is a universal problem, although I have seen a review on REI where someone experienced the same issue. Your mileage may vary.
Specs at a Glance
- Weight: 12.3 oz/ shoe (men’s 10.5 US)
- Gender: Men’s, also available in Women’s sizes
- Wide Sizes: Yes
- Support: Neutral
- Arch: Medium
- Midsole drop: 10 mm
- Gaiter attachment: Yes
- Lace pocket: Yes
The first thing you notice when you put on a pair of Brooks Cascadia 13 Trail Runners is how comfortable they are. The shoe’s uppers are quite soft, but they’re anchored to an exceptionally stable, well-cushioned sole that defies ankle rolling. They really feel like you’re wearing a pair of slippers, even when the shoe is laced up and ready for action. But despite their cushy feel, the Cascadia’s are really quite multi-faceted, resulting in an integrated design that will knock your socks off!
The shoe’s heel cup and tongue are lined with a moisture wicking and hydrophobic mesh that helps move sweat away from your feet, helping to prevent hot spots and blister formation. From the arch forward, the shoe is lined with a seamless softshell fabric to prevent interior friction against the shoe’s sidewalls. It’s like having a separate inner sock to help prevent interior friction, while maintaining air flow.
The lacing system is decoupled from the inner sock and prevents the laces from pressuring down uncomfortably on the top of the foot. While the laces are conventional, they’re routed through three yellow loops attached to the exterior walls of the shoe, pulling the sidewalls around the inner sock so you get a secure fit without any uncomfortable pressure points. There’s also a lace pocket on the top of the tongue, so you can stuff the loops and knot inside to get them out-of-the-way, keep them “cleaner”, and help prevent your lacing from untying.
The Cascadia’s toe-box is quite wide, providing plenty of space for your toes to splay out naturally, even though the shoe has a more traditional, pointed running-shoe shape. The front of the toe box is protected by a rigid toe-kick that’s fully integrated with the sole, so there’s no lip to catch on an obstruction and trip you up. The exterior of the shoe is covered with porous, highly breathable mesh, that dries very quickly when it gets wet. Additional protection has been “printed” into the mesh in high-wear, high-abrasion areas to deflect trail debris, while keeping the shoe as lightweight as possible.
The Cascadia 13 has a low profile sole, without a heel arch so you can’t use it with a old-school strapped gaiter. The shoe does have a velcro-style hook and loop gaiter trap behind the heel though, to keep a trail running gaiter from riding up over the heel cup.
The sole is surprising rigid with surprisingly shallow lugs. While these provide excellent traction on gravel and rock, they are somewhat slippery in mud and on wet ledge. The sole flairs out slightly around the toe box, but it tapers back toward the heel, giving the shoe more traditional look and feel that’s quite natural to walk or run with.
This sole’s rigidness is offset by a layer of foam covering the top, under the manufacturer-supplied insole, that is soft and quite shock absorbing. Unfortunately the foam insoles that come with the shoe are shockingly unremarkable and do little to counter arch flex, pronation, or supination. However when removed, they provide ample room for a replacement sole like Superfeet Carbon, which I would highly recommend using as a preventative measure if you suffer from plantar fasciitis.
Brooks Cascadia 13 Trail Runners are a great upgrade over the previous model, with more cushioning and a new gaiter trap. While the Cascadia’s are extremely comfortable hiking shoes that dry quickly, they’re best suited for drier climates where their lower profile lugs and highly breathable exterior excel. While I wish I could recommend them unconditionally, durability is a concern on this new model, with interior stitching failures on both of the shoes I reviewed. Hopefully this is a temporary manufacturing defect and not more widespread phenomenon.
Disclosure: The author purchased this product.
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