Runners focused on midweek speed work on easy-to-moderate trails or sub-ultra races will find the Catamounts a good workout partner. The shoe could work for a trail marathon race but it would have to be a flat, fast course.
Runners who spend most of their time traversing challenging trails would be better off with a pair of shoes that can handle such technical terrain. And when it comes to race day, those who are going longer than a marathon should bypass these shoes for another choice.
The Brooks Catamount 2 ($170) is the company’s first plated trail running shoe with responsive cushioning.
A light and nimble trail shoe built for speed on easy and moderate trails, the Catamount weighs a tad more than its predecessor, 9.7 ounces for men and 8.6 for women.
With a stack height of 30 mm at the heel and 24 mm at the toe, the Catamount provides an airy, yet secure feeling and an upper with a good amount of cushioning.
I was quite impressed with the multi-layer upper’s design featuring a hydrophobic outer layer that provides structure while repelling moisture, and an inner layer that is recycled polyester. A TPU toecap provides protection against rocks and other trail hazards.
Brooks uses their DNA Flash midsole foam in the Catamount 2. The cushioning resembles that of other popular Brooks models, like the Ghosts that many road runners wear.
The TrailTack rubber outsole features 2mm lugs, which work well for non-technical trails. I would recommend the Catamounts for easy to moderate trails but for more challenging terrain there are better options.
Many who tried out the original Catamounts weren’t satisfied with the upper. Brooks spent a couple of years redesigning and refining the upper. It is still light and breathable, which is a good sign. Perhaps even better, Brooks added a more dense mesh material and a well-protected toe bumper, which provides security and solid protection.
In my rest runs, the new upper did its job when I came in contact with roots, rocks and other trail hazards of the moderate variety. And the toe bumper protected my feet from clanging off hidden rocks and other obstacles.
Additionally, the revised upper provides an overall secure fit, especially in the heel and midfoot. At times, I thought the Catamount 1 missed the mark on the forefoot fit. The new Catamount 2 offers a much more secure fit that inspires confidence over mild to moderate terrain.
When reviewing the original Catamount, after 50 miles, I felt the durability to be average. The majority of my miles were on cross-country courses featuring grassy sections, single-track dirt trail and some crushed gravel sections. The second edition performed better, setting aside those concerns about durability, at least at this stage of the shoes’ life.
Brooks added a Skyvault plate to the Catamounts. The brings protection, durability and subtle stability. The new Skyvault plate is a bridged trident shape and stretches from the midfoot through the toebox.
However, it is worth noting that Brooks claims’ that the plate adds propulsion are tough to justify. While there is zip in these shoes, I don’t sense a discernible difference between the original and this new model.
Speaking of zippiness, the new Catamounts are just as responsive, if not more so, than the original. I like them best for cross-country course running. Runners will enjoy the responsiveness around corners or bends in the trail that allow them to keep moving forward without losing speed.
Credit Brooks for its nitrogen-infused DNA Flash midsole, which keys the responsiveness. A foamy heel wedge takes the pressure off downhill running and gives a slight boost going forward. Overall, the midsole offers a good amount of cushioning, stability and enough responsiveness to give you the necessary boost.
Overall, the Brooks Catamount 2 is a comfortable shoe that fits like it should. In the first iteration, I really liked the mesh in this shoe and Brooks continues its expertise in that area.
Brooks kept that positive trait and improved upon the overall fit in the second version. The secure heel, midfoot and toe box work together well to allow the runner to focus on the trails and not an awkward feeling shoe.
One thing to note for runners (like me) who like to tie their shoes tight. If you lace the shoes too tight, the gusseted tongue may exert pressure on the top of your foot. Not something that would affect performance in runs or races up to an hour. But longer than that, and the constant pressure and pounding may create an issue.
Speaking of the laces, they have also been improved over the original version. Gone are the soft stretchy cloth ones, replaced with higher quality woven laces. The laces also play a role in the security and fit of the upper.
As noted previously, I ran most of the miles in these Catamounts on a local cross-country course. The course is about a mile from my house on roads and sidewalks. This is about all the pounding my feet can take on roads with these shoes. When considering a long run or race in these, keep in mind how many miles or how much time you plan to spend on asphalt or similar surfaces. The less, the better, for these shoes.
The Brooks Catamount 2 is an above average trail shoe but it knows its limitations. It will provide an outstanding and fast ride for shorter trail runs and races. It grounds itself inn springiness, responsiveness and comfort. If you are focused on running fast on easy to moderate terrain, consider the Catamount 2.
If you are a Brooks fan, this would round out your collection nicely, giving you a great option for midweek speed work on trails, or a performance shoe for a fast run, race or FKT attempt up to roughly a half marathon distance.