TAYLOR: This generation’s fitness boom has seen the running population grow exponentially, as if somebody in the ‘80s fed a bunch of runners after midnight and threw water on them. That boom hasn’t been relegated to road running. Over the last 10 years, from a percentage standpoint, trail has grown even more.
While the Brooks Cascadia line is an OG of the trail scene, Brooks is now looking to offer a less-intimidating option for those looking to take their adventures off-road. And so we have the Brooks Divide, a brand-spankin’-new shoe for 2020 that targets this crew of runners.
For better or for worse, I would call this a slimmed-down version of the Cascadia. Personally, the Cascadia was far from a favorite, but I believe the Divide takes its top qualities and hits the ground running.
ERIN: The Divide is a new trail offering from Brooks, one that is meant as an entry-level trail shoe. One of my favorite trail shoes of 2019– the Topo MT3 – was also marketed as an entry-level trail shoe, so I was cautiously optimistic about the Divide.
TAYLOR: The idea behind the Divide is one of the best parts of this shoe. It’s a transition shoe meant to please both the roadie and trail wanderer at the same time. What you get is a pretty comfortable, generally smooth, and well-protected shoe.
Kind of related is that the price is really accommodating for those who maybe haven’t or don’t want to completely commit on finding a trail shoe. For one Benjamin you get a pretty good deal here.
On the component side, the Divide has a very nice fit. The mesh upper is light, soft, and all-around comfortable. I had zero issues, even out of the box, with the comfort of the upper. For me, this is one of the standout aspects of this shoe.
Another thing that is simple, but I appreciate a lot, is that Brooks did not seem to reserve all of its best technologies for their most expensive shoes. The outsole on the Divide is a good example of that. Brooks’ Trailtac rubber is one of the better outsole compounds in the business that can give some good grip on a variety of conditions.
Even though many of the pieces of the Divide are similar to the Brooks Cascadia 14, the ride is much more streamlined and smooth. This is where the traditional road runner would appreciate this shoe. Also, if you’ve liked the Cascadia in the past, this shoe has a similar feel underfoot, but with much less drag from the stability components (which is a big thumbs up for me).
ERIN: Look, I don’t want to be a fan of Brooks trail shoes. Yes, I know that’s stupid, but it’s the truth. But man. The Divide is a really, really great shoe, entry level or no. Like most Brooks, the step-in comfort is unparalleled, and the mesh upper is pretty perfect: snug but not constrictive, and decently breathable (mind you, I’m testing these in winter temps so I’m not sure whether they’ll get hot like the Cascadia tends to do). The upper also has a gray and black pattern that I dig.
I think the Divide, rather than being an entry-level trail shoe (though it’s great for that, too) is really the type of shoe you want for any sort of training run or race where you have trail and road, or a lot of dirt and/or gravel surface. The amount of cushioning is solid, and the rock plate is great at minimizing fatigue from running on rocky surfaces or crushed gravel.
Also, I mean, this shoe retails for $100, which is pretty much unheard of nowadays, and, like the Cascadia, this is one that you’ll get a lot of miles out of. You’re not going to blow out the upper or have the midsole deaden on you after only 150 miles.Shop Brooks Divide
TAYLOR: If there’s any beef that I have with the Brooks Divide is that there is a weird contrast between the upper and midsole. Unbalanced is the only way I can think to describe it.
This is my attempt at an equation to explain the feeling: very soft and light upper + thick, heavy, stiff midsole = unbalanced shoe.
Perhaps an analogy would help. Picture this: You grab the salt to add a little bit of well-intended flavor to your food and the cap of the shaker falls off. With it comes a whole lot more salt than you needed. I don’t know if that works, but don’t do that to a really nice steak dinner.
Brooks seems to have gone overboard with the midsole and light rock plate, in an attempt to free trail newbies from feeling too much of the ground. They used the same BioMoGo DNA midsole that you’ll find in the Cascadia 14. I found it to be overly firm and a bit heavy in both shoes but here it seems to be even more overdone. It did soften a little after 15 or so miles, but it was still stiff.
ERIN: While these are decent on semi-technical trails, I wouldn’t wear them for anything more than a 2 out of 5 on the technical scale, and they also aren’t great in the mud. I know that’s not really the point of the Divide, but it is worth mentioning, so don’t say I didn’t warn you.
These are also decently heavy, at 9.2 ounces, and I’m sure the rock plate contributes to that. But really, I never noticed the weight. They’re not super fast or anything, but again, not the point.Shop Brooks Divide
TAYLOR: The Brooks Divide is kind of a hard card to score. It has a lot of great qualities (e.g. incredibly comfortable upper, smooth ride, and good grip). On the other hand, the wonky feeling while running was hard to shake. Keep in mind that it did even out a little as more miles were put into the shoes. Overall, the Brooks Divide does provide a well-protected running experience for those new to the trails. I would actually grab these over the Cascadia any day. Bonus feature: the Divide would be a really good lightweight hiker for less-technical terrain too!
ERIN: If you’re looking for a really comfortable, workhorse of a trail shoe that can handle (mostly non-technical) trails, and almost any other surface you want to run on, I don’t think you can go wrong with the Divide. Especially for a hundred bucks.
You can pick up the Brooks Divide for $100 using the shop link below.Shop Brooks Divide