Sunday, February 04, 2024

Brooks Catamount 3 Multi Tester Review: 11 Comparisons

Article by Jana Herzgova, Renee Krusemark, Jeff Valliere, & Mike Postaski

Brooks Catamount 3 ($170)


Jeff V:  The Catamount 3 retains the tried and true midsole and outsole design that worked so well for the Catamount 2 (RTR Review), yet made some changes to the upper to include a thinner, more flexible/breathable mesh,  and new laces that have a “crinkle cut” design to hold a bit better.  Brooks has also removed the gaiter tab that was positioned at the front of the laces (which is fine, as I think the Cat 2’s was too small to be useful anyways), as well as the velcro gaiter retention strap on the back.  These subtle changes have resulted in a .25 oz or 10 gram weight drop to the Catamount 3.


Nimble and lightweight: Renee/Jana/Jeff VMike P

Secure and comfortable upper: Renee/Jana/Jeff VMike P

Fun, fast ride: Renee/Jana/Jeff VMike P

Responsive: Jeff VMike P

Stable and agile: Jeff VMike P

Nice, wide & comfortable toebox Mike P


A bit firm under the forefoot: Renee/Jeff

Toe box fit is not for wide wide feet: Jana

More colors, please - Jana

V3 no longer has gaiter attachments: Mike P


Approx. Weight: men's 9 oz  / 255g (US9)  /  women's 7.83oz / 222g (US8)

  Samples: men’s      9.5oz / 268g US 10 
                  women’s 7.83oz / 222g (US8)
Stack Height: 30mm heel / 24mm forefoot ( 6mm drop spec) 
Platform Width: 90mm heel / 73mm midfoot / 120mm forefoot
$170  Available now including at our partners at the end of the article

First Impressions, Fit and Upper

Renee: During The Running Event, the Brooks Catamount 3 and new Catamount Agil were two of the most exciting trail shoes on my list. The Catamount 3 does not disappoint my expectations. I’ve never ran in the previous versions, and it’s been on my list of shoes to try, especially since Mike P. raves about v2 as one of his favorites. The shoe is a great choice for runners who like lightweight, simple, basically do-it-all trail shoes. The upper is simple. 

Essentially, the upper has the ease and comfort of a road shoe with extra overlays along the toebox/forefoot sides to help with security and offer protection. The laces do not loosen once tightened. The heel cup is very secure, even for my somewhat narrow heel. The toebox is roomy without being overly wide. The fit should work for narrow/low volume and average feet. Maybe wide-foot runners might find the midfoot narrow, but not more so than any other non-wide shoe. The shoe is true-to-size. 

Jana: The Catamount 2 has been my go to shoe for all-terrain adventures, hence, I was hoping Brooks won’t change it much. Besides some very minor superficial changes (like design/colors, shoe laces tuck in system), I am glad that Brooks kept it all the same. 

The upper is light, very breathable, and seamless. It holds the front foot shape well, and it seems to me that the height of the toe box is slightly larger than its predecessor, providing a more comfortable feel without making me feel like I am flip flopping around in them. It also dries out fast and stays light when wet.

Since there are very minor changes in between version of Catamount 2 and this new version 3, the heel remains well locked in, with an overall comfortable and secured foothold. The tongue is lightly padded, together with the heel collar - just enough to make it comfortable without making it feel bulky, aiding in the good stability of the shoe. Sizing remains true to fit as well.

One thing that is new in this version is the “lace tuck in system.” In  the picture below, it is the yellow piece of stretchy rubber attached to the tongue. 

After you finish lacing up your shoes, simply take your laces and secure them under this stretchy rubber - that's it. I love this system - super fast, and the laces stay securely in all the time. Also, the velcro attachment on the heel is gone (Catamount 2 has it).

Jeff V:  Jana and Renee have given a nice overview of the upper.  The upper is the only change over the 2nd version and is a nice upgrade in my opinion, as it drops some weight from an already lightweight shoe, while retaining very good security and even gives a bit more room in the forefoot for those with wider feet or preferring a bit more wiggle room for swell and splay.  

While not a wide shoe, I find it pleasantly accommodating without compromising foothold when running in technical terrain.  I also find that the thinner upper provides some added comfort and flexibility (not that the previous version was at all uncomfortable or stiff) and also I think it will be cooler and better ventilated in warmer temperatures.  Fit is very much true to size in my usual size 10.  

I also appreciate the new laces with the crinkle cut design, which helps hold them in place better as you tighten (but again, the previous laces were excellent too).  

Removing the gaiter attachments I think was a good move because A) I though the previous from loop was too small to be useful and you can use the front lace anyways and B) I never use the velcro retention strap on the heel anyways, but perhaps I don’t have the right kind of gaiters.  Either way, frequent gaiter wearers who are particular about this may be disappointed, but I think it will be of no consequence to most, even if you do wear gaiters.  Also, despite the slimming down of the upper, I have not really noticed a degradation in performance.

Midsole & Platform

Renee: The midsole is nitrogen-infused DNA Flash with a SkyVault Trail Plate to provide responsiveness, no change from the Catamount 2. The shoe is lightweight and nimble with enough flex underfoot to be comfortable instead of harsh. The SkyVault plate helps to create a fast take-off on uneven terrain. 

The midsole is a bit on the firm side, which is an asset for fast paces. For long runs, I’d like a touch more give/softness under the forefoot especially for undulating or rolling sections. That said, the shoe is comfortable at slow paces for mid distances (for me 2-3 hours). 

Jana: The stiffness and support offered by a SkyVault Trail plate offers extra protection on more technical terrain. I like how it makes me feel more stable on steeper and technical climbs (although due to the winter season I could not test it on my usual technical route). 

The plate in combo with nitrogen-infused DNA Flash foam feels responsive, energetic, and fun to run. 

Jeff V:  The midsole has gone unchanged, which is great news for fans of the Catamount 2.  As I described for the Cat 2 (RTR Review), the Cat 3 is well cushioned, soft and compliant enough to provide a nice, well cushioned landing, though simultaneously firm enough, with an energetic response for fast, high performance running.  The Catamount 3 is fast uphill and I notice an advantage with welcome flexibility, adding not just performance, but also is quite stable, precise and agile.  That said, after spending more time in the Cat 2 last year and now the 3, I think the sweet spot for the Cat 2 or 3 is for faster running over longer distances, where if I am running longer distances, speed will be less and I will want softer, more plush cushioning.


Renee: The outsole is Brooks’ TrailTack Green rubber, made with 25% recycled content. The grip and traction are good for 3.5mm lugs. All of my miles in the shoes were in snow, slush, or mud. For really soft terrain, larger lugs work better, but I have no complaints about the outsole overall.

Large and aggressive lugs don’t work well on many firmer  surfaces, and given the light and nimble ride of the Catamount, it still works well enough in sloppy conditions. 

Jana: I agree with everything Renee mentioned above - hence, Catamount has been my go to shoe for many adventures in various conditions.

Jeff V:  I do not have much to add to the above description, or performance of what I described previously about the Cat 2, as the outsole has remained unchanged.  I have run on dry trails, wet trails, wet slabby rock, off trail, snow, mud, ice, slush, wet and dry roads, dirt roads, etc…. I always feel confident in my footing.  For dedicated steep, loose, off trail or more snowy runs, I would prefer a shoe with deeper, sharper lugs, but for most people and for most running, most of the time, the Catamount 3 outsole delivers very good overall performance. 

Door to trail performance is also very good, with the lugs being refined enough to go essentially unnoticed on road.

Ride, Conclusions and Recommendations

Renee: Brooks states the Catamount is fast, nimble, and lightweight. And they are correct. 

The shoe is no-nonsense and a solid choice for runners who gravitate toward lightweight trail shoes with good ground feel. 

While I think the midsole is a bit firm under the forefoot, this does allow for a quick and stable take off during fast/shorter runs or on inclines. 

My longest run was 3 hours, and on a varied terrain, the shoe is comfortable for that and more. I’m not sure I’d run an ultra distance in the shoes unless the terrain was varied wherein I wasn’t landing fast and hard on the forefoot. The shoe is fun at a variety of paces, especially for strides. Regrettably, I had the shoe during winter conditions and haven’t had dry terrain on single track (or roads).

Renee’s Score: 9.4/10 (-.30 a bit firm under the forefoot, -.30 cost for use)


Jana: Versatility is the reason why I come back to this shoe time and time again. It is a very solid do-it-all trail ground feel  and is comfortable for hours. Not for super long races/runs, but somewhere around 50k-100k it should suffice. It is a pleasant, comfortable, and secure ride with plenty of cushioning for a ground feel shoe. This is a trail shoe that I have not found any issues with yet (same with the previous model as well) - I hope Brooks will keep this trail shoe gem coming for some time.

Although I like the design, more color options would be nice to have - the really only negative thing I can have to say.

Jana’s Score: 9.8/10 (-.20 for not having more color options)

Mike P: I absolutely loved the Catamount 2 - it’s one of my favorite trail shoes of all time. I ran a fast 50K in them as well as a 24 hour race (123+ miles covered). The Catamount 3 is even better - with slight variations in the upper leading to a 0.3 oz (10g) weight reduction in my US 10.0.  Jana nails it- such a versatile shoe.  Could be an everyday shoe for most , short distance speedster for some, and long-distance ultra shoe for others. 

Mike P’s Score:  9.78 / 10

Mostly the same scores as V2, I bumped up the Value slightly, as I’ve gotten 250+ miles in my V2 pair and they still feel great.
Ride: 10 - Love it - quick, balanced, and agile… & lightweight!
Fit: 10 - No change from V2, great roomy and forefoot, secure all around
Value: 9.5 - Highly versatile for both training and racing . High durability confirmed
Style: 10 - Love the yellow colorway, looks like a good template for some racy designs
Traction: 9.5 - Excellent in most trail conditions you’d expect to run these in
Rock Protection: 9 - Good, but with the firmness you may feel something here or there
Smiles 😊😊😊😊😊

Please check out my in-depth full video review on RoadTrailRun’s YouTube channel!

Jeff V:  The ride is quick, smooth, energetic and spirited, an excellent choice for up tempo training or racing, with much improved flexibility over the first version. The Catamount 3 is also well balanced, stable, predictable and well cushioned enough for me for hours with great comfort.  As with  the Cat 2, I think the Cat 3 is a great choice for fast running, racing or training on all but the most steep, technical terrain and would be adequate for up to marathon distance on softer terrain.  The new upper adds a nice bit of comfort for those (like Mike) who find the midsole to be adequate for longer distances, or just all around comfort for those who prefer a bit more room.
Jeff V’s Score:  9.6 / 10
Ride: 9.75 - The ride is fast, fun and energetic
Fit: 9.75 - the wider, lighter, more flexible upper is an improvement
Value: 9 - $170 is getting up there in price, but performance, durability and versatility are all great
Style: 10 - Brooks has mastered aesthetics.
Traction: 9.5 - excellent for intended purpose, versatile and great for all but the most extreme terrain.
Rock Protection: 9.5 - very good
Smiles 😊😊😊😊😊

11 Comparisons

Index to all RTR reviews: HERE Roadtrailrun 

Brooks Catamount 2 (RTR Review)

Jana: As I mentioned above, there are a few minor superficial differences between Catamount 2 and this new version 3 - no change in ride, nor comfy feel. No complaints with either model for me, they both are well designed all-terrain shoes.

Mike P (10.0): Compared in detail in my YouTube review - midsole/outsole is unchanged, with an updated upper, shaving a little bit of weight. The great ride is exactly the same. The new upper seems like it will be more durable, although I’ve had no issues with my V2 pair, and still use them. V2 is currently on sale $60 less than V3 on Brooks website - I’d go for the discount unless you absolutely need the minor weight improvement.

Saucony Peregrine 13 (RTR Review)

Renee: The Peregrine 13 has a bit more midsole underfoot that offers a bit more softness. At its $140 price vs.$170, the Peregrine 13 is a better buy.. The upper of the Catamount is more secure for me, although the Peregrine offers a touch more width and height (if needed). For shorter, faster efforts, the advantage is to the Catamount. For longer efforts and daily miles, I’d pick the Peregrine, given the price. Sizing is comparable. 

Mike P (9.5): Agree with Renee about the softness - Peregrine gives the “soft” feeling for sure, while the Catamount leans “somewhat firm” in comparison. While not a slow shoe overall, in comparison to the Catamount, the Peregrine has a slower, mushy feel in an A/B test. The Catamount also wins on stability with a more reliable, wider base. The call between these two depends on your running preferences. I prefer the firmer, faster ride of the Catamount, and it doesn’t bother me over longer distances. So it kind of makes the Peregrine irrelevant for me.

Saucony Endorphin Edge (RTR Review)

Renee: The Edge has more underfoot and works much better for longer distances. The upper is not nearly as secure as the Catamount’s. The carbon plate in the Catamount helps with stability and speed for inclines and short efforts. The carbon plate of the Edge is more comparable to a plated road shoe, which works great for even/smoother terrain. On wet rock, muddy rock, or technical terrain, the Edge can be very unstable. Both are great shoes with different advantages depending on terrain and runner preference. Sizing is comparable.

Mike P (9.5): The Edge is an all-out fast speedster. PB foam plus a very dynamic carbon plate makes it explosive on the run, yet sometimes a bit out of control. The Catamount gives a more stable and restrained, yet fast ride. I have trouble with the Edge in moderate/technical terrain as I find there’s just too much action underfoot. The Catamount is a much more versatile shoe for training and racing, while the Edge is a racer for very specific scenarios.

Salomon S/Lab Genesis and Genesis (RTR Review)

Jeff V:  The Genesis and S/Lab Genesis are close in weight, but not as responsive or as propulsive as the Catamount, as they have no plate and more conventional non supercritical foam.  The Genesis/S/Lab however offers a softer, more compliant ride for longer distances and for rockier, hard surfaces and technical terrain.  Superior traction, especially with the new 2024 Genesis adds to their superiority in rugged terrain.  For shorter, faster races or running on less technical terrain, then Catamount, but for longer days, more technical terrain or when you require a softer more compliant cushion, the Genesis is my choice.

Mike P (9.5): S/LAB version is another of my all-time FAVs. Jeff V nails the comparison. Catamount definitely feels quicker, but the cushion + flexible feel gives the S/LAB the edge in longer, technical situations. I ran the S/LAB Genesis in a very rugged 70+ mile race in the Austrian alps and they were the perfect choice.

Salomon Sense Ride 5 (RTR Review)

Jeff V: The Cat 3 is lighter, more responsive and more stable feeling, where the SR5 is a bit softer cushioned for longer days and more casual use.  Traction is comparable.  SR5 for longer, more casual runs or everyday use, where the Cat 3 is a speedster for racing and uptempo training.

Mike P (10.0): I had a lot of trouble with the fit of the Sense Ride 5, so I’ll defer to Jeff V’s take on this one. The toebox of the SR5 tapers too sharply for my foot, and I just found them too uncomfortable to run after testing.

Saucony Xodus Ultra 1 or 2 (RTR Review)

Mike P (9.5): Both Xodus versions are by far softer and more cushioned underfoot. They also have a flexible plate, but it provides more stability to the midsole foam rather than propulsion. The Catamount plate is more active in terms of giving you a little “oomph”. The width in the forefoot of Xodus V1 was comparable to the Catamount, but I found V2 narrowed the toebox a bit. The Catamount feels lower to the ground and way more stable than either of the Xodus models. I think heavier runners may gravitate towards the Xodus and it’s cushion, especially over longer distances, but lighter runners may prefer the quicker Catamount.

New Balance SC Trail (RTR Review)

Jeff V: Close in weight, both shoes are very fast, agile and responsive.  I find the Cat 3 to have a bit more snap and responsive propulsion (despite the carbon plate in the SC), but I prefer the softer underfoot feel of the SC for most runs, especially on harder, more rocky terrain and longer outings, where the Cat 3 can feel a bit firm.  The Cat 3 however has a wider, more compliant fit in the forefoot which will be a plus for many on longer outings or depending on fit preference.

Merrell Long Sky 2 Matryx  (RTR Review

Mike P (9.5): A top contender for shoe of the year so far in 2024 - yet the Catamount pretty much provides everything the Long Sky does. Cushion is similar between the two, but I’d say the LS has more general flexibility, while the Catamount flexes more forward towards the ball of the foot. I think that makes the Cat a faster shoe, but the LS is also quick, mainly due to its very light weight. The only notable difference is in the heel - the LS heel cup is a bit firm and could be a potential issue over longer durations. The ankle collar padding also has space between the foot, so it does let some small debris in. The Catamount heel is perfect. I overall prefer the Catamount, but the LS is a great, no fuss, lightweight trail shoe.

Merrell Skyfire 2 Matryx (RTR Review)

Jeff V:  Both are very fast shoes, but the Skyfire 2 is significantly lighter and more stripped down, with better traction.  I would pick the Skyfire 2 for my fastest efforts on shorter, up/down the mountain runs, more technical, whereas the Cat 3 might be a better choice on less technical terrain, longer distances and when you need a bit more substance/protection.

NNormal Kjerag (RTR Review)

Mike P (9.5): They are very different shoes, despite having the same listed stack height. Kjerag feels much more minimal underfoot - it has a plate, but it must be very thin as it's not really a protective shoe. It favors an agile running style. Fit wise, both have equal security, but the Kjerag feels less structured and more foot wrapping, while the Catamount feels more traditional in fit. Kjerag is a little bit more spacious in the toebox. Speedwise the Catamount's plate is more propulsive and its flex seems to assist more - the Kjerag is just plain light.. but you have to provide the speed. Very different platforms underfoot - Catamount has a nice, moderately wide base which will be more stable for the majority of runners. Kjerag is super narrow - again favoring the lighter and more agile runner and running style.

Tester Profiles

Jana Herzgova took up running in 2016, after a back injury. Prior to that she was a speed skater, but due to back pain and doctor's recommendation, she transitioned into running. Since then, starting with shorter ultra distance races she quickly evolved into an avid long distance and unsupported mountain runner. She also loves to take on challenges/races in arctic and subarctic climates, mainly in unsupported and semi-self supported style. She currently lives in Utah/Wyoming.

Renee is a former U.S. Marine journalist, which is when her enjoyment of running and writing started. She isn’t that awesome of a runner, but she tries really hard. Most of her weekly 50-60 miles take place on rural country roads in Nebraska, meaning mud, gravel, dirt, hills, and the occasional field. She has PR’s of 1:30:59 for the half marathon and 3:26:45 for the marathon .

Jeff Valliere loves to run and explore the mountains of Colorado, the steeper and more technical the better. He has summited all of the 14ers in the state and can be found on mountain trails daily, no matter the weather, season, conditions or whether there is daylight or not.  On the side he loves to ski (all forms) bike and hike, often with his family, as he introduces his 12 year old daughters to the outdoors. Jeff was born and raised in New Hampshire, but has called Colorado home for over 25 years. He is 5’9” and 145 lbs.

Mike Postaski currently focuses on long mountainous ultras - anywhere from 50K up to his favorite - 100M. 5'10", 138 lbs, midfoot/forefoot striker - he typically averages 70 mpw (mostly on trails), ramping up to 100+ mpw during race buildups. A recent 2:39 road marathoner, his easy running pace ranges from 7:30 - 9:00/mi. From 2022-23 Mike has won the Standhope 100M, IMTUF 100M, and Scout Mountain 100M trail ultras. He also set a CR of 123.74M at the Pulse Endurance Runs 24H and completed the Boise Trails Challenge on foot in 3 days 13 hours, besting the previous record by 7 hours. Mike's shoe preferences lean towards firmer, dense cushioning, and shoes with narrower profiles. He prefers extra forefoot space, especially for long ultras, and he strongly dislikes pointy toe boxes.

The Brooks Catamount 3 is available at our partners below.

Samples were provided at no charge for review purposes. RoadTrail Run has affiliate partnerships and may earn commission on products purchased via shopping links in this article. These partnerships do not influence our editorial content. The opinions herein are entirely the authors'.

Comments and Questions Welcome Below! Please let us know mileage, paces, race distances, and current preferred shoes

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Will said...

This will sound weird, but even though the Cat 2 ultimately didn't work for me, I am glad they retained its character because it really works as a well-held, firmer but not crazily so up-tempo shorter ultra shoe. One thing I wanted for the 2 was a more breathable upper that didn't try to resist the wet and sounds as though this was the case.

That said, for those who do have a somewhat wider midfoot, this was the only shoe I didn't already know wouldn't work for me - the real tight super technical shoes will never work for me - as I thought it might. I got so much pain on the outside of my midfoot I really shouldn't have gone as far as I should. I even tried sizing up. So while I'm glad this worked for reviewers I felt I should add that. For reference the Salomon SLAB Ultra 3 was one of my favorite shoes and it wasn't exactly wide, but I think more give/less firm construction on the side.

I'd also be interested to hear if anyone has had the experience in the 2 or 3 with the supercritical midsole firming up a LOT more in the cold. This is pretty standard for that sort of foam I think. Not that I minded, just throwing it out there that it may be a bit more forgiving in the forefoot in warmer weather.

Scott R said...

Will, I haven't tried version 2 or 3, but the OG Catamount is like a brick in cold temps. Since I live in Canada, that's about half the year that I don't consider using it.

Mike P said...

I haven't noticed that, but it doesn't mean it isn't true. I posted some pics in my YT review from a 50K I ran in V2- it was 9F at the start of that race, but a lot of running was on snow. The 24H race I ran in them was also very cold overnight, and I made it through. But again, I'm around 138 lbs.

Overall I don't notice a pronounced difference- at least no difference relative to all the other shoes that I'm running in throughout the winter. (maybe with the exception of VJ Ace - that one noticeably retains it's softness). The Catamount is not an overly cushioned shoe anyway, so perhaps I just don't notice it.

Btw, I'm not even considering V1 - that's a totally different shoe which I didn't like at all.

Anonymous said...

I’m very psyched that they only made minor changes to this shoe. It’s more firm than some of the stuff out there, but I actually feel less beaten up after wearing them, I think because of their extremely stable platform. I PR’ed at 50k with these, and for me I think that’s the sweet spot for them. At 170 lbs and mediocre athleticism I’d likely swap them out for the back end of a 100k or 100 miler when I’d be walking or running more slowly. The shoes don’t FEEL like a bouncy, springy supershoe but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been cruising along in them, looked down at my watch, and been surprised that my pace is 20 seconds a mile faster than it felt like. Incredibly well performing, durable trail shoe, and thanks to Mike P for hyping V2 so hard!

Gera said...

How about in comparison with Nnormal Kjerag in terms of rock protection - speed - fit locking - comfy after 5-6 runs in rocky areas?
Its about same geometry shoes..

Mike P said...

Gera- comp has been added above

Shawn B said...

How do they compare to the Challenger 7’s? I’m considering both for a 50 miles of a non technical ultra. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this great review!!
Would you recommend them for a fairly technical 50k trail in the French Alps? the s/lab genesis (and the classic version) are too narrow for I'm looking for a pair that might work.

Mike P said...

Shawn B - Although I haven't run in the recent Challenger, they're quite different shoes. Challenger is softer and uses a rocker-oriented ride. It's typically more of a training shoe but it all depends on your level. Some runners use them for racing if you're concerned about cushion and you're feet getting beat up. If perhaps you're more advanced and looking for speed, the Catamount is clearly faster.

Anon- Yes, they could definitely handle a technical 50K. S/LAB Genesis is a decently wide shoe though - I think Cat 2/3 may be slightly wider at the forefoot, but perhaps less vertical space. I go 1/2 size up in the Cat 3 compared to the Genesis.

Mike P said...

Catamount Agil "First Impressions" video posted -

Josh said...

Slightly late to be the game!

If anyone is having issues with firmness and have a pair of inov-8 boomerang insoles or some of the craft beaded insoles laying around.

They fit perfectly in the shoe and add a little bounce and cushion! They basically turn into a truly great racer.

Mike P said...

Josh- I could see that working well, just need to make sure you have enough volume inside. The Inov-8 insole is probably 1-2mm thicker than the basic Brooks foam one. Going 1/2 size up and adding the TPU insole could be a great setup for longer distances.