During our GR10 walk in July this year, Mick’s shoes fell apart. That led to something highly unusual: he put fingers to key board and wrote a blog post; a gear blog post, no less. He wrote it as soon as we got home at the beginning of August, the same day as he put the failed shoes back in the post to Sportsshoes.com. I decided to hold off posting until I could provide an update as to what happened next. It didn’t anticipate that the resolution would take the best part of two months! So, here (belatedly) is Mick’s view of Brooks Cascadias:
I’m not often the one to put pen to paper and produce some words on the blog; however, I feel that I must place something on record if for no other reason but to get something off my chest.
In 2012, Gayle and I were preparing to fly over to the USA to hike a 500-mile section of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) and I was having issues with which footwear to use. The hike would be, initially, through part of the Mojave Desert and then on into the high Sierra Nevada. The PCT is not a technically difficult hike as the trail is well-maintained and way-marked; however, underfoot conditions are harsh mainly due to the high temperatures and, on our section, the sandy ground.
While I was in a local running shop, the owner recommended to me a pair of Brooks Cascadia trail shoes. I tried them on and instantly loved them: comfortable; supportive; well-cushioned; lightweight; good grip (apparently); not to mention quite a snazzy design (is the word ‘snazzy’ allowed these days?). I bought a pair (lime green they were) and used them on our warm-up walks (the Cambrian Way and other local walks) and they did indeed prove very suitable.
We flew out to California in June 2012 and I bought a pair of the same Cascadia trail shoes (orange these were) in Las Vegas for use on the PCT. How surprised was I to find that the great majority of PCT hikers we met on the trail were also wearing the same footwear – I had obviously made a good choice. They proved to be an excellent trail shoe. Together with other walking, these have covered some 800 miles – I still have them, too (see below).
In the glorious summer of 2013, I was expelled from the house by Gayle (who was working at the time) and sent back-packing: I opted to walk the Pennine Way (which Gayle also walked with me, mostly vicariously). Once again I used my lime-green Cascadias and loved them. Then in 2014, I used the same pair for the TGO Challenge (TGOC) where, by the end, they had finally holed on the uppers and I had to dispose of them. They had covered some 700+ miles.
Also in 2014 I bought a new pair (a rather more subdued grey/orange colour) which I used to walk most of the Home to Edinburgh (a warm-up to the TGOC). These I now use as my ‘going-out-for-a-stroll’ pair. These are going strong and are still in almost daily use with at least 600 miles on them.
This year, we decided to spread our wings (or should that be feet?) into Europe and walk the GR10, for which I went to my ‘go-to’ trail shoes and bought the latest iteration of the Cascadia. They now look more like running shoes (on the upper) than the original trail shoes, but the comfort is similar to the original design and the grippy sole design is the same. After around 180 miles of the GR10 I noticed that the upper mesh material was wearing through (so much so that I could see through it) on the both sides of each shoe. After another 65 miles of walking, the upper is completely separated on both sides at the crease point above the toes. The picture below shows the holes (I have put my fingers up through the holes to show the extent of the separation).
Upon our return, I have compared the designs of the 3 pairs that I still have (the PCT pair, the day-to-day pair and the GR10 pair) with the following conclusions:
Sole: The sole is similar cross each of the three models of the Cascadia with lugs under the ball and heel of the shoe with distinctive ‘ribs’ under the arch of the foot.
Upper: the initial (PCT) pair has an offset lacing system with a soft mesh material upper (which sometimes let in sand during the PCT); the day-to-day pair has a more robust material in the upper (which keeps out debris) but has retained the off-set lacing; the GR10 pair has a more standard, in-line lacing and a very soft material. Critically, the upper support design has changed in the GR10 pair and the reinforcing material now runs across the shoe instead of along the shoe on the top of the toe-box. In my opinion, this places a stress line across the crease line above the toes, which, together with the less robust material results in the material failure.
I have recommended Brooks Cascadias to many people over the last couple of years; however, this was based on my experiences with my first three pairs of shoes. The changes to the design and to the material of the latest iteration have completely changed my view on this: STAY CLEAR OF THEM until Brooks return to a more sensible, robust design of this well-liked and respected trail shoe.
(What happened next: As soon as we got back home the offending shoes were cleaned and posted back to Sportsshoes.com. Four days later they offered a replacement and I wasn’t really moved to argue for a refund as there was no question that we could make use of another pair of shoes, albeit not Cascadias. By the time the replacement was offered, we were travelling and not in a position to be browsing the Sportsshoes website choosing new shoes, so that task waited until we got home. On 1 September, I sent off an email specifying what we wanted in exchange; it took 8 days for Sportsshoes to respond requesting clarification. I replied immediately asking what information more did they need, beyond the URL to the product page on their website, and the screenshot of the product, that I had provided in my original email. I didn’t receive a response, but 12 days later (i.e. 21 days after I very clearly specified which shoes were wanted) I did get a note to say that the order was being processed. ‘Gaaaarrrrggghhh!’ I thought, as we were away at the time, and I had visions of the parcel being returned and having to start over with the painful replacement process. Happily, the delivery driver chucked the parcel over the back gate and there it waited patiently for us. The end result: I now have new shoes in place of Mick’s broken ones; Mick’s new shoes will wait until he’s seen the next version of the Cascadia. I’m not very impressed with the service given by Sportsshoes.com, and can’t help but think that everything would have been much more efficient if they’d just refunded and I’d placed a new order … but we got there in the end.)