Brooks Catamount 2 Review: Best Trail Running Shoes For 2023

By mattv


Each year, I test the best lightweight hiking shoes and the most robust and durable trail running shoes.

I aim to find the best shoes that deliver excellent foot support, stability over uneven terrain, and underfoot protection. They should also be flexible, lightweight, and not clunky. And, of course, the shoes can’t be ugly, weird-looking, or outdated in style.

Finding a top-quality pair of trail running shoes that hold up nicely after 100 miles of hiking or running has been challenging. Support and cushion consistently deflated in my previous trail runners (Hoka Speedgoats) earlier than desired. This was a disappointing result.

In 2023, I explored all the newest options. I ordered and tested five new trail running shoes. The Brooks Catamounts were the winner for me, with a close runner-up that was a surprise.

The Brooks Catamount 2s are perfect for moving quickly across different terrain and conditions. The uppers are super light and breathable. The midsoles are supportive and springy. The outsoles and treads are grippier and more durable than I expected. I am excited to have found a better alternative to the very popular Hoka Speedgoats.

Brooks Catamount 2s with Skyvault and tough water-resistant mesh uppers

Manufacturer – Brooks

Trail running shoe type – Designed for long runs or hikes over rugged terrain.

Weight – 9.3oz / 263.7g (Catamounts) | 9.7oz / 275.0g (Catamount 2s)

Midsole drop – 6mm

The fit – These shoes offer a classic fit. Snug in the front from top to bottom, which keeps your foot from moving forward or slipping. A generous D width. I have wider feet, and they work for me. Not a narrow fit.

Key benefits – Lightweight feel, stable, supportive cushion, and solid protection against rocks.

Where to buy – Check the retailers below for the best price or color schemes.

Brooks Catamount 2s men’s:

Brooks Catamount 2s women’s:

Price – The current price of the Catamount 2 trail running shoes is $170. The Catamounts were $160, but they are now on sale for $119.99. Amazing value!

Who should get these trail running shoes? – Hikers and runners that want underfoot protection against roots and rocks and like to move fast on the trails.

How these shoes feel – Light and nimble-footed, stable (far less rolling towards inside or outside edge vs. the Speedgoats), snug sock-like wraparound fit, grippy on wet or dry surfaces, comfy firm support with just enough cushion, and total protection against rocks and roots.

Why trust this review? I have done 200+ miles of hiking and running on the shoes in the review and have an accurate feel for them. All I need to confirm is the long-term durability of the Brooks Catamount 2.

Why I love the Brooks Catamount 2 trail runners

The Brooks Catamounts are excellent trail running shoes for many reasons.

The Catamounts provide excellent underfoot protection. These trail running shoes have a rock plate that protects my feet. I feel zero sensation of rocks pressing up into the bottoms of my feet when hiking and running. Protection against rocks was a short-lived experience with my three pairs of Hoka Speedgoats.

I love how the new Brooks shoes look. I prefer a more traditional-looking running shoe. The puffy wide heels on Hokas are somewhat ridiculous. And the wide forefoot did not add stability, in my opinion. I was rolling my ankle often on uneven terrain. This, in particular, encouraged me to look for new shoes.

Although the lugs on the Catamounts are not super deep, they have great traction uphill or downhill and across dry or wet trail conditions. These shoes feel very stable on uneven terrain. No sudden rolling of ankles.

The uppers have a very secure wraparound feel and fit. My foot does not slip or slide on descents as it did inside some of the other trail runners I tested. The uppers are lightweight and as breathable as it gets. In the front, there is enough toe protection.

I am most impressed with the uplifting foot support that the midsoles give my feet. I never knew such firm support could feel so good.


  • Cool, sleek-looking shoe (not funny looking like Hoka Speedgoats)
  • Lightweight yet sturdy
  • Supportive cushioning that is ultra-light
  • Protective (Brooks Ballistic rock shield) yet flexible
  • The rock plate is super effective (best of all shoes tested)
  • Grippy on a variety of terrain and wet or dry surfaces
  • All-terrain stability (way better than the Hoka Speedgoats)
  • Superb ventilation and breathability


  • The color schemes of the two new Catamount 2s are not great

Bottom line

The Brooks Catamount 2 trail running shoes are versatile. These shoes are great for any hike or trail run.

So far, I have tested them on dirt roads, forest paths, smooth buttery soft single-track trails, dry sandy trails, and persistently rocky terrain.

They have performed extremely well and are making me very happy.

I needed a replacement for my previous trail running shoes that were not providing adequate underfoot protection, and the Catamounts won. If the foot protection and support show longevity, I will wear these shoes in most outdoor adventure scenarios that I find myself in here in Colorado.

If you want a pair of protective, lightweight, breathable trail running shoes with a supportive midsole, then these shoes are a great choice.

Brooks Catamounts vs. Brooks Catamount 2s vs. Brooks Cascadia 16s

The Brooks Catamount 2 trail running shoes were introduced in early 2023. I have been testing them out this Spring. There are some notable updates. However, I like the previous edition as much as the newest version.

You can get the Brooks Catamount 2s at REI or the Brooks website. They are available for men and women.

Let’s examine the main differences between the Brooks Catamount and the Brooks Catamount 2s.

Brooks Catamount (left) vs. Brooks Catamount 2s (right) tops
Brooks Catamount (right) vs. Brooks Catamount 2s (left) bottoms

Brooks Catamount (previous version) mini-review

The Brooks Catamounts have a firm, supportive midsole that feels protective underneath my feet. I wear these shoes on longer hikes and runs. If I know the trail will be on the rocky side, I will wear my Catamounts. They are lightweight, weighing 9.3 ounces or 236.7 grams. They feel fast yet stable. An excellent shoe. I own two pairs. Get these shoes (before they are gone) if you want to save money (vs. the Catamount 2s). 9/10 rating so far.

Brooks Catamounts (previous version): REI | Amazon

Where to get the Brooks Catamounts

Brooks Catamount 2 (newest version) mini-review

The most notable change when comparing the Brooks Catamount 2 to the previous version of the Brooks Catamount trail running shoe is how the support feels. The Brooks Catamount 2 has a slightly softer and squishier midsole. I found the previous version to have a more supportive and firm cushion feel to the midsole.

The newest version added the “SkyVault propulsion plate” in the forefoot. This feature is designed to help with uphill hiking or running segments. The propulsion plate gets you moving forward onto your toes more quickly.

You can also see in the photo above that the lacing system and laces are different. The Brooks Catamount 2 has a V-shaped lacing pattern in the front that is meant to secure the foot more with a wrap-around feel.

The Brooks Catamount 2s have a large cut-out in the rubber treads to reduce or redistribute the overall tread weight. They also have drainage slits to help the shoe dry more quickly. This could mean less durability since the foam midsole is exposed. I will verify this further in my tests around the 100-mile mark.

The depth and size of the lugs are slightly bigger in the Brooks Catamount 2s, which could be a positive outcome for tread durability.

The upper material in the Catamount 2s is more water-resistant than the previous version.

9/10 rating so far.

More details to come as I put on more miles.

Where to get the Brooks Catamount 2s

Brooks Cascadia 16 (an alternative option) mini-review

The Brooks Cascadia 16s surprised me. They might be my favorite shoe for hiking and running heading into Spring 2023.

Since I loved the Catamounts, I decided to test the Brooks Cascadias. They are also excellent shoes! The midsole cushioning of the Cascadias feels just slightly less firm. Yet they are still supportive and more protective compared to the Catamounts. The Cascadias are available in a waterproof Gore-Tex version. These are a winning pick if you are more of a hiker than a trail runner. 9.5/10 rating so far.

Get the Cascadia 16s at REI for men and women. The Cascadia 16s are also available in Gore-Tex for men and women.

Where to get the Cascadia 16s

Where to get the Cascadia 16 Gore-Tex

Conclusion: Catamounts vs. Cascadia 16s

The midsole of the previous Catamounts feels like it gently presses up into my feet. The midsole of the Cascadias is supportive but squishes down a bit, just slightly, perhaps 3-5mm. Both shoes have the Brooks Ballistic rock shield and protect your feet against rocks. The Catamount 2 midsoles have a similar feel to the Cascadia 16s. All of these shoes will fit a wider foot. The Cascadias are a touch roomier in the front half of the shoe and toe box. The Catamounts are about an ounce lighter in weight. The Cascadia 16s are available with Gore-Tex if you require a waterproof shoe.

Notes on my testing for this review

I tested the Brooks Catamount and Catamount 2s against several popular trail running shoes.

Below, they are listed in order of what I like the most. I kept a pair of the Brooks Cascadia 16s because I thought they were a close runner-up to the Catamounts. They are slightly more protective, not as lightweight (but pretty close!), and more cushiony.

All but the Hoka Speedgoat 5s have a rock plate to protect the bottoms of your feet. However, of all five trail runners tested, only the Brooks Catamounts (both versions) and Brooks Cascadia 16s pass the rocky terrain test.

Despite the La Sportiva Ultra Raptor IIs being categorized by REI as a trail runner. They are closer to being lightweight hiking shoes. I don’t think I would run in them. A solid shoe, though. Very protective. A great hiking shoe for people that have narrow feet.

I have had three pairs of the Hoka Speedgoats. Gradually, they disappointed me. My last pair were destroyed within 200 miles (or less) of use. The Brooks Cascadia 16s are a much better alternative to the Speedgoats due to the rock plate protection.

The Saucony Peregrines were okay. They feel similar to the Cascadias but lighter feeling and more flexible.

The Altra Lone Peaks had a flimsy feel to them. They seem very light on stability or support.

We will present all the details in our guide to the best trail running shoes for 2023. Stay tuned, and happy hiking!

For more information about trail running shoes, read the guide below.

Trail running shoes vs. hiking shoes

We use affiliate links in our content and may receive a small commission on your purchases. Read more about us and our disclosure