Brooks Cascadia 15
The Cascadia 15 has been discontinued. It was replaced by the Brooks Cascadia 16.
Excellent shoe for backpacking, both on and off trail.
- Lightweight for a trail, rough trail, and off-trail backpacking shoe, and steady enough when carrying loads upwards of 45 lbs.
- Durable. Upper wears, but doesn't shred while hiking through extensive talus fields.
- Protective. Has a rock plate for underfoot, toe guards, and welded appliques at the ball and outside foot joints.
- For off-trail hiking these shoes are a "one and done". You'll return home missing lugs, and at least a hole or two in the uppers.
- Cost. The cost of a single pair is not a deal breaker, but when you factor their lifecycle vs. a pair of leather boots the Cascadia will cost you more.
Brooks Cascadias are widely panned for trail running...too heavy, too stiff, no spring, too narrow, etc., but are routinely praised for stability, protection, durability, and traction. The negative attributes may be problematic for trail runners, especially at ultra distances, but they, with the positives, match up pretty well with the needs of long distance hikers. And in my case they provide the support and stability needed when my packs weighs 45 lbs AND the stability, tactile feel, protection, and durability I need hiking off-trail for multiple days through the Sierra Nevada.
Some key features:
- An engineered mesh upper for breathability and quick drying, with strategically located reinforcements that both protect and prevent blowouts.
- A narrower-ish forefoot. Not tight or constricting in any way, but no slop for sure-footed performance on Class 3 terrain.
- A solid heel counter, padded cuff, and well-fitted mid-foot. These shoes "lock on" to your feet. No excessive movement, but more importantly you get the security without pressure points.
- Their "Ballistic Rock Shield" or more simply a mid and forefoot rock plate that protects feet against pointy things and provides stability and support to handle heavy pack loads.
- Low stack height. With the rock plate there is no need to protect the foot with a massive billowy midsole. The result is better tactile feel; so better balance and the shoe concavely conforms providing near 100% contact and excellent traction through talus.
- Their "Trail Tack" outsole. Basically sticky rubber that provides excellent traction on just about every surface.
For one- or two-week backpacking trips in the Sierra Nevada, on-trail or off-trail, these shoe perform well. On an 8-day off-trail Sierra backpacking trip in 2020 the shoes saw me through >60 miles of challenging Class 2 and Class 3 terrain. I lost a few lugs, and had three holes in the uppers. I'd call this pair, with that hike "one and done."
On my two-week 2021 John Muir Trail thru-hike they performed supremely well with little wear on the sole and no holes (though there were a couple thin spots) on the upper. I've had this pair since on several less intense hikes.
My only complaint is the total cost of ownership of these vs. a full grain leather boot. Of the Cascadia I'll buy one, maybe two pair in a season. At $120 a pair (the Cascadia 16's are $130) I'll spend almost $2000 on hiking shoes in any 10-year period.
My last pair of boots, Scarpa Rios, I paid $230 and hiked in them for 6 years, and I still use them here in the Northeast when it snows. Sure, they would cost more now, but directionally speaking the Cascadia trail runners (or any trail runner for that matter) mile for mile cost a good bit more than boots.
I switched from boots to trail runners in 2007 after a few years of alternating between the two and figuring out what worked for me. The key element: a rock plate for stability and protection. I started with Montrails until their quality suffered with their purchase by Columbia, flirted with ASICs, and then for a better fit switched to the Brook Cascadia, 7's at the time, back in 2013. I've hiked in every version since, except the 12's, and this summer (2021) thru-hiked the John Muir Trail in the Cascadia 15's.
Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $120
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