Brooks Catamount Trail Runner Review

When I first rolled up to the trailhead in my spotless, snow-white Brooks Catamount trail runners, I felt compelled to hold a backcountry dirt baptism for them in the closest puddle of mud. The pressure of waiting for those inevitable first scuffs felt unbearable, and I just wanted to get it over with.  I managed to exercise a level of restraint normally reserved for not eating that last Snickers bar two days out from resupply and hit the trail sans-dirt.

As I hiked, I couldn’t help but dance around mud slicks, hop over downed logs, and tiptoe over dirt mounds in a pointless effort to keep them clean. In my (admittedly untrained) eye for fashion, these sleek white and crisp glacier blue trail runners could easily be found on a sneakerhead’s Instagram feed.

Fresh out of the box, and likely their final pristine moment.

They’re downright cool straight out of the box. There’s no beating around the bush on that one.

But beyond the aesthetics, the Brooks Catamount is a thoughtfully-engineered and highly technical trail runner. Boasting features like the new DNA FLASH Midsole, an EVA rock shield, and grippy Trailtack outsoles, they offer high-caliber performance for trail runners who want to go faster and farther on varied terrain.

Brooks Catamount At-a-Glance

MSRP: $160
Weight: 9.6 ounces (men’s size 9.5)
Style: Speed
Heel-Toe Drop: 6mm

They didn’t stay clean for long.

Circumstance of Review

I tested the Brooks Catamount on hiking trails in New England under both wet and dry conditions. I initially decided to break the shoes in on a trial-by-fire (or in this case, mud) section hike on the Appalachian Trail in Vermont. Something felt right about taking the Catamounts back to the rocky and rooty land where their big cat namesake once roamed.

After this trip, I ended up wearing these shoes for day hikes of various lengths and for any trail and road-to-trail running that I did, which is more authentic to the intended use of the shoe.

“Designed and built for 100 miles of run happy.”

The Big Features

DNA FLASH Midsole

The Catamount is the first shoe to showcase Brooks’ new DNA FLASH Midsole technology. Nitrogen is pumped into the base of their proprietary foam, forcing millions of microscopic bubbles to emerge and creating structured support that naturally returns energy without adding extra weight. There’s a noticeable softness to the midsole with just the right amount of give. Think lightweight, but resilient. It’s delightfully rejuvenating toward the end of a long run.

The Brooks Catamount after about 100 miles of use.

Ballistic Rock Shield

Brooks incorporates their flexible, yet hardy, ballistic rock shield in the Catamount runner. The thermoplastic EVA sheath between the outsole and midsole protects the forefoot by spreading out point loads from sharp objects. Are you a fan of the Brooks Hyperion? Imagine that runner, but with an added rock shield for more rugged terrain.

The TrailTack rubber outsole helps provide traction on the go.

TrailTack Outsole

Brooks carried over their TrailTack tech from the Caldera 3 and 4. On the bottom of the Catamount is a sticky, rubber outsole that is studded with multidirectional, clover-shaped 4mm lugs. These broad lugs are low-profile, but help provide grippy traction in wet and dry conditions.

Gaiter compatible.

Brooks Catamount on the Trail

Fit

The fit of the Brooks Catamount is similar to recent models of my preferred trail runner, the Brooks Cascadia, and a bit wider in the toe box than the Brooks Caldera 4s. There’s plenty of room for my toes to spread out and grip the insole without compromising the overall fit. The mesh upper and gusseted tongue my foot snugly, providing just the right amount of support without becoming restrictive.

As someone with big feet who cherishes a wide toebox, I found the Catamount to be comfortably roomy without compromising performance.

A closeup of the mesh upper and TPU mudguard.

Comfort

With the sleek white exterior, lightweight build, and cushy foam sole, one could say wearing them is akin to running on clouds. The Brooks Catamounts are, without a doubt, a comfortable trail runner.

This is largely in part due to the new DNA FLASH Midsole, which provides an ample amount of springy cushion. While initially stiff, the midsole breaks in quickly and provides enough bounce back to help to ward off fatigue on big-mile days. Rocks and roots pose minimal threat underfoot due to the Ballistic™ Rock Shield, which helps prevent those stride-breaking missteps.

On top, a padded collar supports the ankle while the soft air-mesh upper allows for breathability. Drainage slits in the mudguard increase airflow and keep water from pooling in the shoe on wet days.

Even in its twilight miles, the Brooks Catamount provided a comfortable outing on the trails.

Durability

After my initial 45-mile backpacking trip, I didn’t notice much wear and tear. This impressed me, especially given that I was carrying a full pack on a pair of shoes intended for more lightweight, speed-focused trail running.

The heel stack wrinkled and collapsed slightly with use and the once-brilliant uppers quickly became a mud-stained mess.

I put 60-plus miles on these shoes more gradually on local trail runs. The tread did begin to wear down in my high-impact points (balls of the feet, most notably) as I expected. I waited for the mesh to blow out at the widest point of my feet, but the TPU mudguard has helped to keep them intact so far.

Broad, clover-shaped lugs help make quick pivots on loose terrain easy.

Traction

The TrailTack sticky rubber outsole really shines on the Catamount. With this stellar grip in both wet and dry conditions, I felt confident traversing anything from rain-slick rock faces to washed out sections of trail without needing to break stride. The lugs could use a touch more depth for increased performance in steeper terrain, but do have an overall high surface area that helps minimize slippage. These shoes kept me firmly planted while staying reactive to my stride.

A personal touch.

Aesthetics

When it comes to trail runners, a glance around the footwear department at your local gear purveyor reveals that your color options are typically either muted earth tones or showy rainbow hues.

The Brooks Catamount offers a unique alternative: a blank canvas for you to paint upon with every speck of dirt, mud, and dust you run through. Within the first few miles of use, I had created my very own Pollock-esque mud splatter design.

Another unique visual feature unique to the Catamount is located on the inner heel. There are three lines where you can write the name of your support crew members. I’m by no means an athlete who requires a crew, so I spent many miles mulling over who (or what) I would write for my own personal support system. I decided on chili lime ramen, Guthook, and sheer luck.

Carrying the muddy trails of New England with me.

Pros and Cons

Brooks Catamount Pros

  • This is a technical shoe that doesn’t compromise on comfort.
  • Lightweight, grippy, and high-performing, the Brooks Catamount showcases the exciting developments happening in trail runner technology.
  • The new DNA FLASH Midsole is truly a standout in minimizing foot fatigue.

Brooks Catamount Cons

  • My immediate gripe with this shoe is superficial: it’s a white trail runner.
  • While the shoe is gaiter compatible, the Velcro on the heel anchor gaiter trap wasn’t sticky enough.

Still pretty sharp looking.

Overall Thoughts

I was very impressed with the comfort and performance of the Brooks Catamount trail runner. I would reach for this pair of shoes first on my way out the door for any sort of trail run, day hike, or road-to-trail race.

Shop the Brooks Catamount

Similar Trail Runners

Hoka One One Torrent 2
MSRP: $120
Weight: 9.3 ounces
Style: Speed
Heel-Toe Drop: 5mm

Brooks Hyperion
MSRP: $150
Weight: 7.3 ounces
Style: Speed
Heel-Toe Drop: 8mm

This item was donated for purpose of review.

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