I’ve done three trail half marathons and I’m a member of a trail running club, but I still consider myself an aspirational trail runner, a wannabe, rather than the genuine article. Trail runners eschew crowds, finisher medals, and race T-shirts in favor of more camaraderie, better scenery, the sounds of nature, and more dynamic terrain. They can roll with the punches: if their race course is marked too long or too short, they don’t whine about it. Their competitive events are marked by good times, good friends, and good food, rather than throbbing music, interminable bag check lines, and corporate sponsors. Trail racing is a low-key good time, and plain old trail running even more so.
Unfortunately for me, I don’t live within running distance of any major trails and I can’t seem to condition myself to drive somewhere in order to run unless I’m racing. I’m too used to lacing up, grabbing a key, and just heading out the door. I also like to run much earlier in the morning than most parks in this area open.
Not only am I unwilling to mess with my routine to make trail running more of a part of my life, but I’m a little bit of a chicken about running alone on trails. My sense of direction is lousy and I can see getting myself into some trouble if I’m not careful. Having that worry is probably enough to ensure that I won’t get myself into trouble, but it still holds me back.
All of this is to say that I’m not some badass jackrabbit trail running beast. So take the following with a big grain of salt:
I really like the Brooks Cascadia 7. I bought this shoe in 2013 when it was already an old model, but the Cascadia is such an enduring classic that you can surely still find it somewhere for a nice discount.
My first run in the Cascadia 7 started out on pavement, like all of my runs do. And I wasn’t overly impressed: it felt solid and reassuringly firm, but the moderately aggressive tread made it feel as if I were running in cleats or golf spikes.
But then as if attracted by a magnet, my feet started pointing me to the only trail I knew of near my house, just a little bit of woods near a nature center, a place I knew of, but had never run in before.
Everything made sense after that first step on soft earth. The lugs dug into the dirt, and the firm midsole, combined with the natural cushion of the ground made the ride feel perfect: firm enough to be fast and nimble (despite its weight), but soft enough to be comfortable.
Three trail half marathons and a recent 21-mile trail and road run later and I still haven’t looked back. This is a sturdy, grippy shoe that’s a strong performer on moderately technical trails. It’s a bit heavy for short distance or speed work and the lugs are perhaps not aggressive enough for certain terrain, but since I’m a mere dabbler in trail running, it’s adequate for me. I’m not in love with its pavement feel or the attendant hard rubber on pavement noise, but it’s not built for pavement. The Cascadia 7 is built to run trails and run them for as long as you can handle.
-The upper: sheds mud and dirt like a champ.
-Fit around the ankle: largely keeps out rocks and other trail detritus without gaiters. Also comfortable without being overbuilt or plush. No blisters, no bloody bites taken out of the skin covering my Achilles.
-Tread: moderately aggressive, plenty of grip for soft dirt, maybe too much for frozen dirt.
None really. If pressed, I might say the weight since it is practically boot-like compared to some of the road trainers I wear, but I mostly find the weight to be reassuring rather than a hindrance. I don’t have more items in the Likes section because this shoe is a workhorse and kind of unremarkable when deconstructed to its component parts, but good in sum.
Overall rating: 8/10