After my first few runs in the Cascadia 8 I had to resist the urge to immediately stock up with several more pairs of the Cascadia 7 before it goes extinct. Several runs later I had warmed up to it enough to write the following positive review. Although a far cry from the romance novel-esque notions floating through my head about the 7 after a passionate Sierra backcountry 50 mile first date adventure, the 50 total miles I have logged over the course of multiple runs in the 8 have convinced me that, for most faithful fans of the Cascadia lineage, their feet will not be disappointed.
Truth is, my less-than-raving initial response to the Cascadia 8 could simply be due to the fact that the sizing is running big and I have yet to get my hands (or, feet, if you will...) on a pair ½ size smaller to know for sure. Once in the midst of a long run I can nearly convince myself that the size I’ve always worn is still the right size, as my heel feels secure, and my foot doesn’t slide forward or feel shifty from side-to-side, but nevertheless, it just feels big in general and that feeling never quite fully disappears. So be forewarned: I recommend trying on both the size you are accustomed to wearing and the next ½ size down before making your choice. You may or may not decide to adjust downward.
So, aside from color options, what has changed from the 7 to the 8? As far as the underfoot feel of the ride goes, not much, at least to my perceptions and that is a good thing. The same great combination of cushioning and protection from what lies beneath, combined with a smooth heel(or mid-foot)-to-toe transition, makes for a shoe that can flow from groomed dirt roads to smooth trails to technical single-track to talus fields on a cross country mission and back again without ever leaving you feeling desperate to change your footwear. If you’re unlucky enough to find yourself needing to throw in some paved miles to get to or from any of the above-mentioned surfaces, well, the Cascadia is up to the task and won’t leave you feeling as though you just slapped your feet senseless in a pair of stiff trail tanks.
On the other hand, if you find yourself lucky enough to be ascending some 3rd class rock on a classic Sierra peak run’n’bag outing the grippiness of the outsole rubber will give you confidence in your footholds. While technical trails are the Cascadia’s sweet spot, the bottom line is that there are very few shoes out there that can lay claim to handling this range of terrain as well as the Cascadia does.
One significant change from the 7 to the 8 is the upper, which now features overlays that are welded to the mesh, as opposed to being sewn on, which is the traditional construction method. This has the twin benefits of reducing both weight (albeit slightly) and potential irritation points on the top and sides of the foot. Another change is an upper with a tighter mesh weave which should help minimize the amount of fine grit that can work its way inside to the sock.
With the obvious caveat that, at this point, I’ve got significantly more miles of sensory experience in the 7s than I do in the 8s, and therefore have a somewhat biased opinion right now, I have to acknowledge a slight nod of the head in the direction of the 7s. But, one thing is for sure: if you happen to cross paths with me 20 miles from the nearest trailhead somewhere in the Sierra high country next summer, you can bet that I will have a pair of Cascadias on my feet. And, sooner or later, it will be the 8th edition.