Trail Running Shoe Review – Brooks Cascadia 12

The Brooks Cascadia is one of trail runnings’ beloved trail running shoes.  In its 12th iteration, the designers of the Brooks Cascadia have made some subtle and not so subtle changes over the years.  The Brooks Cascadia 12 trail running shoe is one of the best versions the designers have come up with, in my humble opinion.  This shoe tends to fit a wide variety of feet and just as important, the shoe performs like a rock star on a variety of trails and terrain.

We had a men’s and women’s tester putting the Brooks Cascadia 12 through all it’s paces on a variety of trails including dry rocky west coast technical trails, soft rooted east coast trails, fire roads and lots of snow and ice laden trails.  The Brooks Cascadia is often that one quiver shoe that can handle pretty much anything you throw at it and the 12 is no different.  This shoe has been tested on most types of trail terrain and in every scenario the shoe had no issues.

Brooks Cascadia 12 Upper

While the outsole is usually the most distinct feature on a trail running shoe, having an upper that can keep your foot from moving around too much on technical terrain can save you from anything from a small ankle sprain or a trip to the ER.  The upper of the Brooks Cascadia 12 hugs your foot in all the right places, giving you the comfort we’ve come to expect from Brooks and the security we want in a trail running shoe.

Toe Box – The toe box of the Brooks Cascadia 12 trail running shoe has a little more room than its predecessor, the Brooks Cascadia 11 which is a nice improvement.  While a little narrower toe box in the Cascadia 11 was tolerable for many, it wasn’t ideal. The Brooks Cascadia 12 toe box has plenty of room allowing your feet to splay, providing maximum foot stability and comfort on your run.  While this shoe offers a good amount of room in the toe box, I would not consider this a wide toe box.

Breathability – The Brooks Cascadia 12 is plenty breathable that helps your feet from overheating on hot days or long journeys. The shoe upper is made primarily of mesh, but has a number of synthetic overlays to give you the stability that you expect from a trail running shoe.

Water & Mud Protection – In the event you run through a puddle or a shallow mud bog, there is a waterproof layer around the bottom of the upper that prevents water and mud from getting into the shoe.

Trail Running Shoe Mud Guard

Stability and Security – The Cascadia 12 does a nice job at keeping your foot in place whether you’re running side to side on a windy and technical trail if you’re running straight forward for a long slog.  The overlays on this shoe are heat molded to the fabric which Brooks has been doing for the past few years.  The one exception in the Cascadia 12 is the overlay around the toe bumper. The heat molded process used to be claimed as a big benefit in reducing weight, but I honestly don’t see much of a difference in weight.  I find that both stitch and heat molding works well.

Outsole and Midsole Details


Brooks Cascadia 12 Outsole

The outsole of the Brooks Cascadia 12 uses a lug pattern that maximizes traction for both uphill and downhill travel. Compared to the Cascadia 11, the lugs are thicker and larger which should do better at holding up over extended use.  To keep sharp rocks and roots from poking through the outsole and midsole, there is hard plastic rock plate that will keep your precious feet from getting bruised.  This especially comes in handy if you plan on doing long technical trail runs.


Heel to Toe Drop – 10mm

Brooks Cascadia 12 Midsole

The midsole of the Brooks Cascadia 12 is comprised of Brooks DNA, which is their own version of a blown EVA.  This EVA does a good job at holding up over 500 miles for the average sized runner, but is not super springy.  I find this EVA to feel a little flat at times which is okay on technical trails, but for longer runs, it’s sometime nice to feel a little more spring.  The pivot point in the heel area is a little larger than the 11, which gives you a larger area for flex.  There is a also a pivot point underneath the forefoot, which allows the material to hold up better at the point where you usually land and spring off on during a technical trail run.

Final Thoughts

The Brooks Cascadia 12 is truly one of the top trail running shoes on the market for runners that want a trail running shoe that can do it all. After a couple years of wavering performance in the Cascadia, it is good to see the Cascadia 12 has truly put the Cascadia back in the upper echelon of top trail running shoes.  For more information, visit

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