If you’re looking for a reliable all-day off-road trail shoe, the Brooks Cascadia 17 GTX looks like a good choice. Steve Wright got to grips with a pair over flooded paths and muddy hills…

At first glance the Brooks Cascadia 17 GTX appears to have a good balance of cushioning and tread; a solid pair of shoes with an upper designed to keep water out in all but the worst of conditions. Compared to the best running shoes I would normally wear, they were a little on the heavy side (11.7oz / 331.7g) and that was noticeable just holding them.

Men’s Fitness verdict

It’s a robust, waterproof shoe with good, responsive grip that’s suitable for long adventure runs and hikes. It wouldn’t be our choice for off-road racing or over long, hard courses though.
  • Solid shoe with comfortable fit
  • Effective tread copes well in tough conditions
  • Good longer distance multi-terrain shoe
  • One of the heavier options
  • Not suitable as a fast racing shoe

How we test the best running shoes

Our testers put each shoe through their paces over a mixture of distances and paces to see where they excel, and clocked up significant distances in each one to examine how they wear over time. Each reviewer focused on speed, stability and comfort during test runs, while also assessing the effectiveness of any high-tech features on offer. Their detailed reviews are sure to help you choose the right running shoe for you.

Brooks Cascadia 3

Even before I put the Brooks Cascadia 17 GTX on, I could feel the insides were well padded, so I expected a comfortable fit. I’m a size 9 ½ and they fit perfectly and true to size. For my first test I decided on a 5km run along my local river and up through some fields. In the month or so before we’d barely had a day without rain. So the river was flooding its banks every week, leaving sludge over already muddy footpaths.

Even with the laces done up nice and tight (I didn’t want the shoes coming off in deep, sticky mud) the Brooks Cascadia were still very comfortable with the padding around the tongue give good protection. I had plenty of room in the toe box too.

Brooks Cascadia GTX 17 performance

At the start, along country lanes, the shoes felt quite flat and hard, with no noticeable bounce. But that’s often the feeling with trail shoes if you are used to a well-cushioned pair of road shoes. On hitting the river path I immediately encountered mud, puddles and boggy grass. This was all on the flat and the shoes offered good traction here. It look some time before my feet started feeling wet. So on less boggy trails these Brooks should keeping your feet reliably dry.

Man running through muddy puddles

I found I could cope with everything the British spring could throw at me. The Brooks Cascadia felt a little slippery in places, but thanks to the well-designed tread, which gripped well without picking up mud, I had the confidence to run at a good pace. Although primarily made for multi-terrain trail running, they coped well on road segments too. As long as you don’t expect them to perform like a road shoe you won’t be disappointed.

On a longer run with hard, rocky terrain, I could feel some of the stones under my feet. However, the thickness of the sole and the rock plate offered plenty of protection, so I felt no real discomfort. Although the uppers are waterproof (the GTX stands for Gore-Tex), that doesn’t stop water making its way in around the ankle. So after I took a diversion into a stream, most the water sloshing around in the shoes took a while to find its way out. While my feet were probably wetter for the rest of the run than they would have been in a mesh upper shoe, I didn’t find this a problem.

Brooks Cascadia 17 GTX in the wet

One thing I noticed was that the Brooks Cascadia 17 GTX  took much longer to dry out when wet than any of my lighter-weight shoes. To help deal with this, I look the insoles out and stuffed old torn-up towels inside the shoes for a few hours before then taking them out and letting the shoes air dry. I wouldn’t recommend drying your shoes on direct heat.

Generally, the more I used the Cascadias, the further I wanted to run in them. My longest runs were around 16km over soft ground, with plenty of mud and deep water. They coped admirably and I felt I could easily have taken them further.

As a multi-terrain shoe the Brooks Cascadia 17 GTX deals well with pretty much anything. For longer runs over consistently hard terrain, though, I’d probably want to replace the insole with something a little more cushioned. Otherwise I’d look to shoes with more built-in cushioning, like the Hoka Speed Goat. For soft or changing terrain, on runs of most distances, I’d happily slip on a pair of Cascadia 17 GTX shoes.

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