Scott Jurek is one of the most dominant and prolific trail runners to ever take up the sport. Here’s how his relationship with Brooks helped create the Cascadia trail shoe more than 20 years ago.
As the winner of the Western States 100 Mile (160 km) Endurance Run seven years in a row from 1999 to 2005, Scott Jurek is a legend in the sport of trail running. With mind-boggling speed, he won some of the most challenging races in the world, including the Badwater Ultramarathon, The Spartathlon, and many more. In 2015, he set a record for completing the Appalachian Trail, running 3540 kilometers in 46 days.
Scott was instrumental in the development of the Cascadia trail shoe — he was the original guinea pig during the shoe’s creation. The new Cascadia 17 is the culmination of a long partnership between Scott and, the result of more than 20 years of expertise and experience.
In his words: Scott Jurek tells the story of the Cascadia trail shoe
At the Transgrancanaria Race 2023, Scott took runners behind the scenes of his partnership with Brooks and the origins of the Cascadia trail shoe. Below is an excerpt from that speaking engagement.
Editor’s note: the talk below has been edited for clarity and length.
“I used to just hate running by the way. Never enjoyed it. It was only the thing I did to get ready for the sport I loved, which was cross-country skiing. It wasn’t until I met trail running that I was like ‘maybe now I can enjoy running in general.’ I thought ‘Okay this trail running thing is close to hunting in the woods, fishing, and spending all this time in nature. And now I can combine it with something that I truly hated.’ A buddy of mine on a whim ran his first fifty miler at twenty years old. And I thought this is just crazy. Who runs 80 kilometers? I had a friend who was another inspiration — he would run races in blue jeans. They were just these real characters and odd balls in running.
It really inspired me to think outside of the box. So, the next year, at twenty years old, I ran my first marathon. Forty-two kilometers. Then I went out one month later and ran my first 80K race.
And I said, ‘Never again.’
How many of you have done a 10K, marathon, half-marathon and then said never again?
If you’re not raising your hand — there’s something wrong. We have all said, ‘never again.’
But my phrase now is ‘Never say never.’
This is one huge lesson I learned in starting ultra.
I was still a little resistant to running. It took me a few years to say okay, ‘Now I’m going to do a 100-miler.’ As has been mentioned, I won the Western States 100 miler seven consecutive times. It was my race that I used as a test of my training, all the experiences I was learning out in the trails, the woods, the mountains. Each year I would go back to Western States and see if I could do just a little bit better. It was around this time that I met this character – Jim Weber. The CEO of Brooks Sports. He’s been with the company longer than me. There are just a few people that have been there longer.
Jim came into a running store that I was working at called the Seattle Running Company, in Seattle. I had already run five Western States 100 at this point. It was 2003 or 2004. Jim came in the store, and I didn’t even know who he was. He comes in the store with his people, his entourage of Brooks people, they come in and ask, ‘We want to learn what you do at the store.’
I was doing a stride analysis — or running form analysis, gait analysis — I was looking at runners’ form, looking at feet, looking at biomechanics, looking at how we can improve it. Jim said ‘I want to do whatever you do. Lace me up in the shoes. Connect me to the sensors. Let’s see what you have.’
Then I found out who he was. I was like great, now I’ve got the CEO of Brooks here. Then we hit it off. He’s from Minnesota, he loves hockey. That one visit became a couple more.
He sent more people from Brooks. Brooks was sending people to figure out how to build a better trail shoe. The first model Brooks built was the Brooks Trespass, circa 2002, 2003.
The shoe had a dual-density midsole support system. It was very common in trail shoes at the time. The midsole was denser. They put it in every trail shoe because that’s what they did in road shoes. Jim came in and said, ‘we want to build the best trail shoe, what can we do?’
The first thing I said is ‘You’ve got to get rid of the dual-density midsole piece. It’s causing a lot of ankle sprains.’
It was a foreign idea but Jim and his team and the crew at Brooks have always been open to ideas and listening. That’s one thing that made me interested in starting to work with Brooks.
Here’s a team that’s hungry, young, and wanted to improve itself.
I was inspired to work with Brooks starting in 2004. In the Western States 100, I ran with a prototype that had the Cascadia upper on a Racer ST midsole and outsole. It was a classic. One of my favorites to wear. I won my sixth consecutive Western States race in this.
It was a fun project because we had to make something work until the Cascadia came out later that year. That year in 2004, I set the course record. Which was something I’d been trying for years. Finishing that course in daylight was one of my goals and only one other runner that done it before and I broke his record.
That was the start of my relationship with Brooks.”
The innovation continues
For runners who want to explore any trail and feel confident across any terrain, the Cascadia 17’s new Trail Adapt System provides adaptable stability thanks to its integrated midsole, rock plate, and outsole system that dynamically adjust to provide control and grip on the trails. Apparel in the High Point collection offers features like waterproof protection from DriLayer® Seal fabric, ultra-packability, and more.
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Both the High Point Collection and the Cascadia 17 are head-to-toe solutions for trail runners born from a 20-plus year relationship between Scott Jurek and Brooks.