The Brooks Catamount is a lightweight and springy new addition to Brooks’ trail running shoe line. It steps into an unfilled niche by focusing more on the trail runners that want something speedy. You know the type, the ones that zoom by as they ascend mountain trails and are practically jumping from boulder to boulder as they descend. If that sounds like your jam, this shoe is for you. You should also know that the Brooks Catamount made our list of the best running shoes for hiking and our list of the best Brooks running shoes.
The outsole is sticky and doesn’t collect rocks. It’s made of TrailTack, a very grippy rubber that hangs on to the ground as roots and rocks make paths uneven. It even works on mildew-covered pavement. The outsole handles transitions from wet trails to roads or pavement without issue.
The lugs are sufficiently deep to dig into packed dirt and hardly show any wear after 50+ miles. The outsole won’t have durability issues. You’ll likely destroy the upper and midsole before the traction wears away.
The Brooks Catamount is basically the Brooks Hyperion Tempo with a rock plate. Excuse me, “Ballistic Rock Shield.” That does sound cooler. Marketing for the win!
The nitrogen infused DNA Flash foam in the Hyperion Tempo was one of Jodi and I’s favorite new cushions of the year. While the “Ballistic Rock Shield” does make it slightly stiffer than the Hyperion Tempo’s midsole, it’s still got a nice responsive bounce. It’s a versatile combination of ground feel and comfort. I used it for trail-based long runs and speed days. I also wore them as a casual shoe before my trail runs completely destroyed the bright white upper. And even used them on a soggy Disc Golf course to trudge through lake-sized puddles and goopy mud.
Will some trail runners wish it was softer? Yes. That’s something Brooks can tweak for version 2.0. As it is now, the ground feel is fantastic and your feet avoid getting thrashed by rocks or roots. You usually don’t get both of those things in a trail running shoe. The midsole is awesome and might just be the bounciest of current trail shoes. I’m finding it hard to complain about much in the cushioning department.
The Catamount includes traditional support features like your heel sitting inside the midsole and a large, rigid internal heel counter. Those additions keep your heel firmly in place. For the midfoot and ball of the foot, there’s reinforcing synthetic suede strips stretching internally from the midsole to the lace loops. Those “fingers” of suede keep your foot on top of the midsole and help prevent rollovers.
At the front of the shoe, the TPU mudguard fused to the mesh upper keeps your toes from sliding over the edge. To top off the Catamount’s solid support, Brooks keeps the drop conservative at 6mm. It’s a good move for a fast trail shoe as it keeps you flatter to the ground than a traditional 8-12mm drop.
A thick durable mesh dominates the Catamount’s upper. It’s a mesh built for trails. Though my mesh is discolored by mud, the tree branches, rocks, and roots haven’t managed to snag it. The mesh’s weave still looks good as new.
The upper does pack in a bunch of little extras for the trail going crowd. There’s a velcro gaiter anchor point at the heel, a stretchy lace garage/gaiter anchor point on the tongue, and a gusseted tongue. All nice touches.
The tongue is a super comfy tri-layered gem. The bottom layer, closest to the foot, is mesh. The outer layer by the laces is a quick drying polyester material. And inside the tongue is a honeycomb-patterned open cell foam that reminds me of what Nike used on the Kobe 5. That open cell foam relieves pressure without adding bulk. Brook ends up with a slim tongue that feels awesome.
The final, “thanks for that” material feature is the drainage holes in the fused TPU mudguard. They work well. It’s rainy season in Florida and I got to test them A LOT. As you emerge from giant puddles and streams, the shoe forces the water out of those holes over the next several steps. Though they’re not as significant as some trail shoe’s wire midsole holes, the system works well and keeps my foot dryer than I expected.
The Catamount fits true to size. They’re wide footer friendly and provide ample room for toe splay. They also still feel good when you cinch them up in anticipation of switchback-filled trails. And those that like to double sock on the trails shouldn’t have any issues.
I’ve hiked and run in a lot of trail shoes over the years doing trails in deserts, swamps, and mountains. I’ve used a lot of really good trail shoes. But the Brooks Catamount is my favorite trail shoe so far.
The snappy midsole, grippy traction, comfortable upper, and durable build quality make it well-rounded. It does everything well. And it justifies the $160 price tag. Yes, that’s expensive for a trail shoe. But you’ll rarely, if ever, find one that does so many things so well.
The Brooks Catamount will release on August 1, 2020 at Dick’s Sporting Goods and Brooks.
Thanks to Brooks for sending pairs to test. Brooks was not given any editorial control of the review. This review is based on our weartesters’ experiences using the shoes for speed workouts, trail runs, treadmill training, long runs, casual wear, and more.