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Trail • January 12, 2023

Brooks Catamount 2 Review: The Paramount Catamount

brooks catamount 2 cover

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What You Need To Know

Weight

Weighs 9.7 oz. (275 g.) for a US M9 / 8.6 oz. (243 g.) for a US W8.5

Look

It’s almost like a brand-new shoe

Technology

The Skyvault plate adds more protection than pop

Look

Farewell, icy upper, we hardly knew ye

Price

Available on February 1, 2023, for $170

Intro

TAYLOR: After the Caldera 6 update, I wasn’t sure what to expect for the Brooks Catamount 2. To tell it straight, Brooks seems to have slacked its way through the COVID era while many other teams buckled down.

It’s an unfortunate mindset because the original Catamount was one of those shoes that nailed the wow factor. It was only two years ago, but Brooks was one of the first adopters of nitrogen-infused foams on the trail side. I’ll never forget its blazing white and sky blue colorway, either. It didn’t stay white for long, but that’s why it was great. The OG Catamount sang on the right kind of trail.

Since then, we’ve been waiting for its successor to correct some shortcomings. It was a shoe limited to the smoother ends of the trail where you could let ‘er rip. The Brooks Catamount 2 does a lot to address key issues and take a big step in the right direction performance-wise. Overall, it feels and looks like a brand-new shoe. However, it keeps a few traits like the lightweight profile (10.1 oz. for a US M10.5), nitro-infused midsole, and 6mm drop. Otherwise, the upper construction and addition of the Skyvault plate are totally new.

I’m an optimist. My hopes were high as this shoe came to my door. I learned a lot about the shoe the moment I slipped it on, and getting a long run out of the box told the rest.

ALEX: This is my first taste of the Brooks Catamount line. Luckily, they’re only on version two, and it sounds like I arrived at the party right on time. My previous Brooks trail running experience was in the Cascadia, the first trail shoe I ever bought. The brand will always have a special place in my heart, so I’m glad they’re expanding their reach in the wilderness.

SAM: I’m looking at Brooks’ trail offerings as a mystery to be solved by running as many miles with as much variation as possible. Between this shoe and the Divide 3, which I reviewed not too long ago, it’s clear that Brooks can produce high-quality, comfortable trail shoes. However, these shoes aren’t always marketed to their strengths.

The Divide 3 was pretty awful as a road-to-trail hybrid, which is what it’s sold as, but it was an incredible and durable low-stack technical trail runner for the price. We wouldn’t have found that without taking it outside its intended use. The Brooks Catamount 2 looks to have some similar areas of disconnect, where its greatest strengths are not necessarily the areas it is marketed for. You’ll find out more about that below.

It does seem like Brooks did all the right things with this update, and it’s good to see a shoe that improves in all areas.

brooks catamount 2 heel

The Good

TAYLOR: Major updates like this are hard — we never know where to start!

My biggest issue with the original had to do with the upper. Sloppy to sleek is the new headline. Security has been tough to come by in almost all Brooks’ trail shoes over the last five years, but this one has a lot of it. An engineered mesh outer with a thin band of adhered overlays paves the way for providing just enough structure for the shoe. A softer inner liner, plus moderate padding through the back half and a gusseted tongue, create an inner cradle for the foot.

The overall foot shape simply works too. A cushioned heel collar, slimmer/elongated midfoot, and slightly broader forefoot are classic recipes. All of these components in the upper are a knockout combo that produces one of the better fits I’ve experienced in a trail shoe. Most people will be delighted with this fit for any dirt-oriented situation.

What’s best about the adjusted fit is that it makes the shoe much more versatile. Before, the Catamount was limited to gravel road tempos or light trails. I feel that the new upper allows for going much deeper into the woods now. Moderately technical downhill is a proving ground for trail shoes, and the Catamount can now roll with those punches nicely. Even if the adapted upper was the only change to the Brooks Catamount 2, it would be a worthy buy, but there’s more.

Nitro, baby! The new formulation of DNA Flash is fairly similar in its durometer. It feels softer than the original version, if not for the slightly firmer heel in the Catamount 2. The durometer has to be close to the Altra Mont Blanc’s midsole (one of my personal favorites), the Brooks Caldera 6, or the Salomon Pulsar Trail Pro. So, it does fall in the medium-ish range and is rather responsive. The new Skyvault plate helps to firm things up, too. Underfoot, every foot strike comes with a seamless transition.

I’m not sure of the exact widths, but the outsole of the Catamount 2 feels (and looks) slightly wider in the forefoot as compared to the first version. It gives off a hint of natural stability that I came to appreciate in a few different scenarios. Both longer runs and more technical terrain were much easier to approach simply because of the added natural stability.

The outsole is improved too. The rubber feels similarly tacky and has an adjusted lug pattern. It is no longer full-coverage, allowing the shoe’s weight to stay very close to what it was, but that did not affect durability or grip. Multiple lug shapes are in play and are more strategically placed to give a solid hold on various surfaces. Zero issues arose as I ran on surfaces from slushy paved roads to mountain singletrack.

As with all Brooks trail shoes, a gaiter trap and lace strap are provided. Those additions are always a positive in my book.

brooks catamount 2 skyvault

ALEX: The best thing about the Catamount 2 is the secure fit through the mid and forefoot. If you are reading this, you already know what makes this possible, thanks to Taylor’s detailed assessment of the “sloppy to sleek” upper. If you skipped that section, please refer to the “sloppy to sleek” details above. I will not relist all of the technical details, but I will say that the security and lockdown immediately make this shoe a contender for technical trails. How far I would take this one is debatable, but it’s earned its place in the lineup.

The other things I look for in an upper are an unobtrusive tongue and an ankle collar. The Brooks Catamount 2 passes both of these tests with flying colors. It has just the right amount of padding and is well-designed to aid in the secure fit without being bulky or getting in the way.

The midsole material (see Taylor’s “Nitro, baby!” section above) was responsive while maintaining a good amount of ground feel. If that’s what you’re into… I’m not sure I am, but it seems people like it when shoes strike this balance.

The outsole is noticeably grippy, and the lug depth and placement are ideal for technical terrain. Combined with that upper, this one is well-equipped for moving quickly over varied terrain.

Finally, I was super impressed with how light this shoe felt while running. This shoe packs a lot of punch in a lightweight package.

Oh, and I speak for my Achilles tendon when I say that the 6mm heel-to-toe drop is a welcome part of the design.

SAM: This version of the Catamount has a durable, comfortable upper available in some dynamic colorways. It fits true to size but is on the narrow side through the toebox. The two-tone blue colorway our review pair came in has red accents and a gum-colored sole – Brooks calls it peacoat/ atomic blue/ rooibos, which, as a particularly flashy color name, is about the only indulgence this shoe spares.

The outside layer of the upper fabric is hydrophobic, and the material has an almost glittery shimmer. The inside is 100% recycled polyester. It wraps the foot securely and provides some fantastic lockdown through the midfoot, although it took me
a couple of runs to nail the lacing to make it secure and comfortable.

It’s this lockdown that enables the Catamount 2 to really shine on twisty, technical trails. Taylor and Alex have already covered this plenty, but it’s worth reinforcing just how good this shoe is at tearing down rocky, gnarled switchbacks. This is good because the Catamount 2 is a fast shoe. It weighs in at 9.9oz for my US M10, and the nitrogen-infused DNA Flash midsole is snappy and quick. There is a heel wedge of a different durometer of foam to help suck up some downhill pounding, but the way I midfoot strike doesn’t subject that wedge to much force. It looks cool, a bit like a slice of midnight sky wrapping your heel. The rest of the midsole is firm but feels responsive and stable with adequate cushioning.

The Skyvault plate inside provides protection from rocks and some stability. I felt like the plate aided some in propulsion, but this is mainly because the shoe feels so fast and fun, not because I felt much tactile response.

Michael and I already raved about the Trail Tack rubber formulation in our review of the Brooks Divide 3, but the lug spacing and depth are better here in the Catamount 2, even on roads or hardpack. Trail Tack is grippy on almost everything — including wet, rocky, and rooted east coast technical trails and scree-covered hills. It’s also durable — I only have little edges of visible wear after my test miles, which included plenty of road miles going to and from trailheads.

Shop Brooks Trail Shoes – Men Shop Brooks Trail Shoes – Women brooks catamount 2 side

The Bad

TAYLOR: I’m not going to call out Brooks for misleading advertising, but I’d call it a hopeful marketing strategy. They claim the Skyvault plate is there for propulsion. Is it protective? Yes. Stabilizing? Yes. Propulsive? That’s a stretch. For one, the midsole geometry doesn’t support a plate or shape being used in a propulsive manner.

It can certainly add some rigidity to the shoe to keep it from flexing too far and thus assist your footstrike in providing energy. As for throwing you forward, not this one. If that’s the feel you truly want, check into something like the Saucony Endorphin Edge, Hoka Tecton X, or The North Face Summit Vectiv Pro. I think the package is better for having the Skyvault plate, but it’s not because of its propulsive tendencies.

Light, airy, nitro-infused foams, as much as I love them, pose a few issues that came up during my miles in the Catamount 2. A minor one was a surprising, albeit short (5-ish miles), break-in period to where the foams settled in. Then, once some cold weather hit, I felt the foam turn more rigid again. Changing temperatures have a noticeable effect on the underfoot feel of this shoe.

ALEX: This one is a bit narrow for me to consider it a contender for longer efforts of over 20 miles.

The Skyvault propulsion is somewhat lost on me. I wasn’t feelin’ it. Not that it was bad, I did not feel it. Perhaps it’s because I am distracted by the North Face Summit Vectiv Pro propulsion, one of the best and most energetic midsoles I have run in.

SAM: The Catamount 2 is such a fun shoe that I hesitate to fill out this section, but here we are.

As snappy as the DNA Flash midsole is, it’s firm, and the foam loses some responsiveness over longer efforts. On a 12-mile run on varied terrain, the last two road miles were downright painful from the pounding in the balls of my feet. There’s also some slight compression in the foam after my test miles, which I’d hope doesn’t develop more.

While I love the Trail Tack outsole, the lugs here are too shallow to perform well on a muddy trail. There are also several cutouts in the main layer of outsole material to help with flex. The improved flex is appreciated, but the clumps of mud those cutouts pick up on a sloppy trail are not.

The lockdown is excellent and leagues better than the first version, from what Taylor has said above, but it took me a while to figure it out without some slight lateral heel slippage, which I think is due more to my heels not loving Brooks’ heel cups. With runners loops laced in and everything cinched down, the edges of the upper above the top eyelets dug into my ankles when I took turns at speed.

And then there’s the plate. The new Skyvault plate, which is a bridged trident shape and stretches from the midfoot through the toebox, is a major selling point of this shoe, and it, unfortunately, doesn’t add much in the way of propulsion, as Taylor and Alex have noted above. There’s nothing specifically bad about the plate — I definitely don’t mind it and appreciate the protection it offers without being too stiff. It just doesn’t work as advertised.

Shop Brooks Trail Shoes – Men Shop Brooks Trail Shoes – Women brooks catamount 2 outsole

Brooks Catamount 2 Conclusion

TAYLOR: Brooks has improved every aspect for its second crack at the Catamount. Runners loved the nitro-infused foam with its responsive ride, and the Skyvault plate brings protection, durability, and subtle stability. When you factor in the greatly improved fit, this shoe just might become your best friend.

The Brooks Catamount 2 gives you what you want with a light, moderately springy ride that’s easy to run in. Pick a speed. Pick just about any terrain. It’s a great all-around trail runner that will do you good.

ALEX: The Catamount 2 sits nicely in the middle of the Brooks trail lineup — this is a perfect shoe for mid-distance training and racing. The updated upper and resulting secure fit are what make this one shine.

SAM: The Brooks Catamount 2 is a quick, grippy, very fun shoe that shines on shorter technical trails. I keep reaching for it for runs because I enjoy the solid lockdown and snappy midsole so much. Perhaps it isn’t exactly the plated distance racer that Brooks is selling it as, but it’s a really quite great all-use trail shoe that never holds back on speed or fun.

Like Alex, I think the width of the shoe and the firmness of the midsole/plate combination make this a shoe for shorter distances. But, like Taylor, I think this feels so fast and performs so well that it can possibly be a race day option for those shorter technical races. Buy this if you like fast, medium-firm shoes with lockdown to spare.

You can pick up the Brooks Catamount 2 on February 1 at Running Warehouse (featuring free 2-day shipping and 90-day returns) by using the shop link below.

Shop Brooks Trail Shoes – Men Shop Brooks Trail Shoes – Women

 

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Authors

taylor
Taylor Bodin
Lead Trail Reviewer
  • Strava
  • Instagram

Taylor Bodin is a trail and ultra runner living in Estes Park, Colo., with his wife and daughters. Trail running is pretty much the only hobby he can manage right now and loves it. Every so often, he will pop off a race or FKT attempt because competition is pure and the original motivator for him getting into running anyways. When not running, Taylor is a 1st grade teacher, running coach (track & field, Cross Country, and Trail/Ultra athletes), and volunteers at his church.

All-time favorite shoes: Hoka Tecton X, Speedland SL:PDX, Merrell MTL Long Sky 2.

More from Taylor
Shoe Size

10.5

Fav. Distance

100K

PRs
  • 27:03

    100M
  • 13:40

    100K
  • 7:42

    50M
  • 4:34

    50K
ALEX TRACKSMITH
Alex Elizabeth
Lead Trail Reviewer
  • Instagram

Alex is a trail and ultra runner from the upper midwest who loves Minnesota’s long winters and logging miles on the rooty, rocky, steep trails of Lake Superior’s North Shore. She was the first female to set a supported FKT on the 310 mile Superior Hiking Trail (SHT) and enjoys multi-day events and races, especially if they involve snow and -20 degree temps. 

All-time favorite shoes: Hoka Speedgoat Evo, Hoka Tecton X, Altra Timp.

More from Alex
Shoe Size

8.5

Fav. Distance

100M

PRs
  • 94:35

    200 Mile
  • 29:45 

    100 Mile
  • 15:10

    100K
  • 13:42

    50 Mile
grit hat
Sam Edgin
Mid-Atlantic Trail Reviewer
  • Instagram
  • Strava

Sam lives in Baltimore with his wife and two kids and spends his days fixing espresso machines for Ceremony Coffee Roasters. He runs with the Faster Bastards when he can, races ultras, and has been working on completing the AT section by section. He thinks the best days are made of long miles on nasty trails, but that a good surf session, a really stunning book, or a day of board games are pretty all right too.

All-time favorite shoes: Saucony Xodus Ultra, Topo Athletic Ultraventure 3, Altra Lone Peak

More from Sam
Shoe Size

10

Fav. Distance

50K

PRs
  • 6:15

    50K
  • 1:40:39

    Half Marathon
  • 21:30

    5K
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