Brooks Cascadia 8's are great dedicated running shoes for for this non-dedicated runner. Here in the Eastern Sierra we indeed have accomplished and focused runners. There are also locals that direct all energy to hard rock climbing, or chasing powder around the world. However, the vast majority of us are terminal generalists. We will go to our graves not really good at anything. In the meantime we'll see awesome country and wear lots of hats. And even more shoes! What athlete doesn't take some twisted pride in his or her collection of footwear? That being said, we all have much to learn about selecting mountain footwear.
Years ago now I walked in to Sage to Summit finally ready for my first pair of dedicated running shoes. Karen set me up with a pair of Brooks Cascadias. These must have been the 3rd or 4th generation of this model. I didn't know the difference, nor did I know then the reputation that this model series would come to have. Karen, understanding climbers, footwear, and mountain fitness, set me up with this pair of shoes. I ended up in Cascadias primarily because of fit and running/walking style (as it should always be…) but also because of Karen's experience with their capability in mildly technical terrain. At that time, I came from approach shoes, rock slippers, mountain boots and ski kicks. In all of these shoes, one's foot is snugly cradled in order to maximize the shoe's performance. Maximize the performance, that is, in everything but running or walking. While running or walking, I have since learned, room to wiggle is good for feet. Folks coming from approach shoes to dedicated running shoes should know to "size up" for comfort and performance.
Now, who should give up approach shoes for dedicated running footwear? I would say that every climber deserves the sophisticated feel of well-designed go-fast sneakers. For covering ground in the mountains, even onto mildly technical terrain, running shoes will keep a climber moving lighter, faster, and with more energy. Running shoes just make one's feet feel fast. I spend a great deal of time in approach shoes, don't get me wrong. My professional relationship with Evolv Sports and Designs gives me an opportunity to work with what is perhaps the most dynamic and rapidly improving line of approach and scrambling footwear available. Again, however, for scrambling well within one's abilities, running shoes will be far preferable to the inherent compromises that come with climber's approach shoes.
The climber or peak-bagger looking to augment his or her footwear collection with some running shoes will do well with the Cascadia 8s. Once determining that "the shoe fits", both with regard to foot shape and gait, those used to clunky hiking boots or tapered approach shoes will immediately notice that the Cascadias are designed for striding. You may never run a step (in fact, the dirty secret of trail running, especially at altitude in the ultra-distances, is that practitioners spend a great deal of time walking...) but the technology under foot on these red (or a more subtle blue/gray combo) rockets is optimized for support, cushion, and protection from rocks. The uppers offer just enough to hold that techy sole to the bottom of your foot. The outsole offers small and stiff grippy lugs. I've put these soles through the works on snow-packed trails, steep DG, ball-bearings-on-slab, and rocky scrambling. Keep it to terrain you'll never see in Alpinist Magazine, and these Cascadia's will keep you moving!
Jed Porter is a fulltime mountain guide based out of Bishop, CA. He is a shoe tester for Evolv Sports and has the ultimate quiver of mountain footwear. Check out his review of the Evolv Maximus at Sage to Summit, and view his video discussing the Brooks Cascadia 8 below