Thursday, June 08, 2023

Brooks Cascadia 16 : Unboxing and Quick Run

A good pair of trail shoe doesn't only perform in the trail, but also off the trail. When I first started adventure races (trail, mountain biking, skyrunning) what seems like eternity (read: 20 years), I could only afford one shoe to be used for all sports. Fast forward to today, i am now spoilt by the choices I have now even for my daily training. For the record, my last pair of Brooks Trail shoe was Cascadia 5. Between then and now, I had other brands trail shoes which given me a lot of different experience and joy, but nothing could had replaced the feel of Cascadia 5.

A month ago, I was given a pair of Cascadia 16 from my sponsor Sports Paragon (Authorized Distributor of Brooks Running in Malaysia) in conjunction with the Prime Trail Run that will take place on July 22. If you have not heard of it, it is a 10km or 18km trail race at Sungai Batangsi. Pretty solid trail experience based on the popularity of trail races that has taken place here in the past months. If you are interested to join, apply my code PTR23EEVAN5 to get 5% off the package deal or general entry fee at check out. Link in the photo below.

Register here :
Unboxing the Cascadia16

Cascadia 16
Cascadia is known as one of the best trail running shoes around. It's reputation precedes it's name. I have worn Cascadia3, 4 and 5, and each iteration just get better. The folks in Brooks Running did what they do best with Cascadia - they kept what really work that made them top notch, and they continue to improve as foam technology improves over the year. Some reviewers of Cascadia 14 and 15 has mixed review of the last two iteration, with most complaining of less responsive midsole and that the run felt flat and unlively. 
Nice colorway and profile
But things changed by the same reviewers with Cascadia16, and it is easy to know why when you read previous reviews, and hold the new iteration in your hand. I admit that when I held this in my hand, i wanted to put it on and go for a (trail) run; wife forbid me from doing so as it was already close to midnight when I got home from the Sports Paragon Spring 2024 Preview. Bonus is that I have been asked to present myself at the location of the upcoming Prime Trail Run to test the shoe out, apart from being one of the three ambassador to pose for the camera.
DNA Loft Version 2
To start with, Cascadia16 promised to be 5% softer and 20% lighter even with a 29mm and 21mm stack height which gives it a 8mm drop. It is 2mm taller than last version. It is not as bulky as it looked as putting it into perspective of running super shoes, the Cascadia16 looked normal. 

What this will mean in laymen term is you get a plusher, lighter and potentially responsive shoe when compared to the previous version (Cascadia15). This new 16 comes with DNA LoftV2, which in Brooks' language simply meant "lightweight responsive cushioning". The blend of EVA foam, rubber, air and nitrogen in the right proportion gave this 16 a breathe of freshness. You can say that 16 is literally rebuilt from bottom up while keeping up with the Cascadia never fail delivery.
Boxy and big toe area. Feet gonna be happy. That darker brown area is Gore-Tex!
The upper is engineered mesh and majority of the upper is covered with TPU-film which simply meant it will continue to protect the feet no matter what you come in contact with. Adding to that, the toe protection on the upper is very visible with the area has been increased and that carries over to both sides and continue to the heel section. This is important as this shoe will come into contact with sharp stones, gravels, loose rocks, branches, mud and anything else you will encounter in a trail environment. Bonus, the upper toe box light brown as you see in the photo is actually lightweight Gore-Tex material - which meant it will keep the upper-side dry as you run through ankle high grassy area.

Loving how they ensure you know it's a serious trail shoe - all terrain and all weather

Note the side protection on the upper (instep). Gore-Tex is the darker brown material

"taller" toe rubber front with visible deep lug gives you the confidence of grip

One thing that separate a good trail shoe vs a mediocre vs a wannabe particularly in Malaysian trail condition is the outsole lug. Many shoe manufacturer design their shoes to suit their location trail type - which meant the outsole may have a tighter/closer lug design, shallow lug depth, lugs that are easily chipped off and lug design that looked more aggressive in store than in outdoor. The key to grip is how quickly or easily these lugs can be cleared off mucks and mud that gather under the sole. In Malaysian trail, it can get very tricky and technical particularly when your shoe lugs get covered with mixture of mud and silt, and never clear itself when you cross a river.
The Outsole
You can see how open, deep and well constructed the outsole is. In case you wonder about the Ballistic Rock Shield, the Cascadia has been having this "plate" inserted in the midsole to provide excellent protection while not compromising cushioning and grip. In a way, you can say that 16 (or Cascadia generally) is "plated", just not for speed (carbon or any other material designed for speed). Spot them in the outsole - they are colored orange/red and yellow in this 16.

Open, deep, solid lugs. Take note of the red and yellow lining - those are the Ballistic Rock Shield
The Rock Shield is array of flexible plate inserted that moves freely with the shoe outsole. This way, it offer superb flexibility on the already cushioned outsole. You get a very forgiving ride no matter what terrain and assured grip whenever your feet land thanks to the flexibility.

TrailTack  - sticky rubber compound for excellent tractions uphill, downhill and across streams. Yellow lines show presence of ballistic rock shield
Guiding the grip is the Brooks TrailTack, which is sticky rubber compound lending excellent grip and traction all around. The lugs felt solid and in array of forward and backward chevron. Definitely will compliment the TrailTack!
US 12 comes in at 370grams. Take note of additional Heel Lock holes at the bottom of where the laces is at. Great flexibility for customised fitting

The 16 isn't actually light by today's shoe standard. I wear an US12 (i go one up for my shoe to prevent black toenails) and this came in at 370grams. Not so much of an issue as it is roughtly about 120grams heavier than my lightest shoe i have (Brooks Hyperion Elite 2 comes in at 250grams). Pretty alright for the intend and purpose of this shoe with super deep lugs
What is that red thing?
The shoelace is stretchable weave flat lace which works superbly. Lacing is easy and stay in place. Once you get to the tension needed, it pretty much stays there. Because it is stretchable, it really help in allowing micro movement very much needed in trail condition as the feet get swelled up due to wet feet or socks. It is a very nice touch and I wish more manufacturer will do this on their shoes.
There is also a neat trick on the lace tongue - that red loop you see in the photo above is meant to tuck your laces down securely. just hold the loop, pull it up, tuck the lace in, and you are done.
Insole is removeable and with perforation to ease water dispersal

Another thoughtful design - this Velcro section allow you to secure your gaiter down
The heel collar is well padded and very comfortable. The tongue is padded and gusseted as well, which help to minimize the amount of soil/sand that could enter the shoe from the top. 
Gusseted tongue, padded heel cup perforated insole

Take note how the tongue curve from top view, instead of having a straight line which may cut into your ankle
If you see the photos above, you will notice that the tongue is cut in a curved angle where it sort of wrap around the top of your feet or ankle. Instead of having a straight cut which meant there will be part constantly in contact with your skin causing abrasion or hot spot, Brooks made a small change that has a big impact on overall user experience.

First Run - First Feel
Aptly, the first run on this shoe was testing it out in the trail of Sg Batangsi. The trail is fairly technical with steep climbs and fast descent, sharp turns on the downhill and mix of gravel, silt and sand. River or stream crossing which is about ankle deep with expected slippery rock surface and rough small and large sand particles on exit. I was very confidence that Cascadia16 will take on these element and re-affirm my long lost experience of a really good trail shoes.
One with the soil, again. Eh look! 20sen!
The fitting of the Cascadia 16 was superb. Heel lock was good, lacing tension was easy, toes has so much room to splay out, tongue padding felt just right, upper felt flexible but at the same time "restrictive" of extreme movement. Most impressive is additional holes for runner's lock or heel lock. Superb customisation for fitting or for gaiters attachment. This Cascadia16 is built to every trail runner's need.
the two extra hole near the top of the lace
The stack height did not bother me at 29mm-21mm. Because it is at 8mm drop, your feet is in a pretty neutral position and you do not feel like you are tipping forward. Ankle felt neutral as my other Brooks shoe. When you wear the Cascadia16 BEFORE you enter the trail, you will think that the cushioning is well, at best average; the story change when you hit the trail. The DNA Loft V2, the Ballistic plate, the lugs, the everything Cascadia 16 just come alive. No rocks, gravels, branches, soft, hard surfaces you step on felt like it will trouble the Cascadia. Hiking up steep hill on the Trailtack was no issue, running up the same steep hill in a spirited pace felt sure and the power transfer is just there. No slip on the traction felt. Needless to say, once you gained the confidence that the Cascadia outsole can literally keep you planted on the ground, your zest to run down a steep decline kicks in. Jumping over ruts and landing surely? checked. 

There was a stream in the route and I went all in to test how well the shoe perform wet. It was an opportunity to see how well the shoe disperse or drain out water. A wet trail shoe is not a nice shoe to wear more so if you got them all soaked up earlier in the run/hike/race. Happy to report that the water disposal was good. Infact to say good is an understatement as you can see from the video below, it just drain out from the ballistic rock shield and it got me thinking if there is actually dispersal channel inside the insole apart from the perforated sock liner.
The Cascadia16 dries pretty fast as well. The Engineered mesh upper work as it should to keep the shoe light and as dry as it could manage - only limited by the socks I am wearing as that too, holds water that slow down the drying. Nevertheless, It dries out faster than I expected it to be - like within 30mins after leaving the stream. Impressive.
On The Road with A Trail Shoe
I said this in the start of today's write up - A good pair of trail shoe doesn't only perform in the trail, but also off the trail. After the trail run (and yes, the shoe dried up), i took it for a short run to test. While the shoe on the road definitely lacks the energy return, the cushioning and the stable ride reminds me of my Ghost14. The higher stack height on the road doesn't bother me much as I have been spoilt by the like of Hyperion series. In terms of responsiveness and "road feel", i would put it between Launch8 and Ghost14. It doesn't (really) felt heavy as a trainer if you choose to use Cascadia16 more for road than for trail.
I ran with it sockless and had no issue. No hot spots or discomfort around the feet. A good trail shoe indeed need to provide you the same performance (of comfort) because not all trails races are 100% in the trail with some portion on road or gravel where a "normal" running shoe comes into play. You can take a trail shoe onto road, but you can never take a road shoe into the trail. Cascadia16 is a good example of the shoe that does all - and this is important if you are starting to find your running niche, but limited by your budget to get a road shoe and a trail shoe, so why not have both in one package?

The Brooks Cascadia 16 is your (almost) perfect answer.

  • Protective, stable, reliable, won't fail you in the trail
  • You feel grounded, yet you know the shoe will provide very good cushioning with the DNA Loft V2
  • While plated (Ballistic Rock Shield), it did not hamper movement
  • Stable with upper that help reduce lateral movement
  • Great fit and lockdown, secure heel. 
  • No noticeable hot spot, including heel bite
  • Grip. Loads of it. No indication of slippage under faster pace.
  • Heavier due to construct as a trail shoe (150grams more than Elite2)
  • While not a con fully, suitable for easier pace run aka not a racing shoe on road
The Cascadia16 is available in all Sports Paragon and Brooks store in Malaysia. It retail for RM550. However, you can own it by buying it online at and use my code EEVANOFF25 for 25% off. Or you can use PTR23EEVAN5 for 5% off WITH free trail race entry. 

More Discount??? You Want Cheap?
As part of my sponsorship with Paragon Vests under the Team Sports Paragon, I have a few discount codes you can use to purchase your next Brooks shoes if you want. Older models at higher discount is available in website. Sizing can be a challenge, which explained the better discount. If you want newer and better sizing, head over to and score a few newer models.

I have the full discount codes and brands that support me in 2023. But if you are lazy to click, here they are...

Promo Code: SPEV02
Footwear: 55%
Apparels: 50%
Sandals: 40%
Accessories: 50%

Promo Code: EEVANOFF25
25% OFF of all items ( exclude sale items )

Promo Code: ZOOTEEVAN20
20% OFF Zoot website Non promo items
10% OFF Zoot website Promotion items

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