Running one of the world’s most iconic ultra marathons – what better way could there possibly be to test trail running kit? This is exactly how I put the new Brooks Catamount 2 trainers and head-to-toe High Point clothing collection through their paces this winter.
I headed to Gran Canaria – a sun-scorched island of rocky moonscapes and soaring volcanic peaks – to run the 45km Transgrancanaria ultra marathon. How would the kit hold up against two vertical kilometres of climbing and a knee-crushing 3,000m of downhill, all on brutally rugged terrain?
My kit for the ultra, which attracted almost 1,000 runners from across the globe and was won by Kenyan Robert Matayango in 3 hours and 25 minutes, included the newly-released Brooks Catamount 2 trainers and a full quota of the High Point Collection apparel.
Seattle-based running brand Brooks describes the High Point clothing line as “engineered with the elements in mind” with “every detail dedicated to meeting the needs of trail runners”. Good trail running kit must protect from the elements while remaining comfortable and practical, so I was interested to see whether the collection would fit the bill.
In particular, the Catamount 2 trail running shoes came across some harsh and varied terrain on the rocky, mountainous Spanish island. The kicks are touted to be light and responsive, with an all-new SkyVault propulsion plate designed to keep the pace ticking over.
Here’s how we got on with the kit on our Gran Canaria adventure…
Brooks Catamount 2 review
Building on the success of the original Catamount, the new-for-2023 Brooks Catamount 2 (£160) is a technical trail shoe designed for big mileage days and tough mountainous terrain. Brooks claims the unique shape of the shoe provides flexibility on technical terrain, as well as stability and comfort on downhill sections.
The headline feature of the Catamount 2 is the new SkyVault propulsion plate, which is integrated into the midsole and designed to deliver efficient uphill propulsion. Or, in other words, the plate (which is made from a flexible polyamide called Pebax) is made to literally propel you forward and upward on those energy-sapping ascents.
This really is how it works in use, too. During footstrike, the plate bends when the runner steps forwards, then snaps back into place at push-off, the process delivering both propulsion and assistance especially during a climb. The plate also doubles as a rock shield, protecting the foot from lumpy, bumpy terrain.
The midsole features Brooks’ DNA Flash technology – a nitrogen-infused combination of EVA foam, rubber and air designed to provide a “supremely soft” cushioned feel, responsiveness and speed. In testing they felt moderately bouncy with good energy return, particularly on the ascents.
Underfoot, the TrailTack rubber outsole offers sticky traction on both dry and wet surfaces due to the chevron-shaped lug structure. You also get drainage slits, which do a good job at allowing water to leave the shoe quickly.
I found that the grippy traction helped me cope with wet rock and muddy paths, particularly during a rainy outing. I would have liked slightly more aggressive lugs on some of the terrain, and the Catamount 2 didn’t feel as cushioned as other over-sized midsole trainers I’ve tested such as the Brooks Caldera 6 or Hoka Bondi 8.
Environmental considerations are at the forefront of the air mesh upper’s design. The soft inner layer, tongue and gusset are all made from 100% recycled polyester fibres. Meanwhile, the outer layer of the upper is hydrophobic and abrasion resistant.
These dual layers are designed to achieve the best of both worlds – internal comfort and outer durability. In addition, strong yet flexible internal reinforcements around the midfoot, with a half-bootie tongue construction, help to give that locked-in feel to the foot.
Other features include a sturdy toe bumper and a mud guard to protect against rock and debris. The midsole drop is 6mm and each shoe weighs 275g (men’s UK8.5), making this shoe suitable for those who prefer a little structure to their shoe.
On the unforgiving terrain of the Transgrancanaria ultra marathon, I got on extremely well with the Catamount 2 trainers. I’d worn them a few times for runs around the Lake District, but this was their first major outing – so quite a baptism of fire. I didn’t get any blisters and comfort levels were high. Overall, I found the Catamount 2 trainers to provide a light, springy, and fast ride.
1. Brooks Catamount 2
- Comfy upper
- Reliable grip
- Good balance between support, cushioning, and propulsion
- Lugs could be more aggressive
- Not as cushioned as other trainers, such as the Brooks Caldera 6
Brooks High Point Collection
Featuring a waterproof jacket, shorts, t-shirt, long-sleeve top, and socks, the Brooks High Point Collection provides a colour-coordinated, head-to-toe set of apparel for runners. The men’s collection is a fusion of blue, orange and golden-brown, while the women’s is a mix of pink, fuchsia, hazelwood and ochre.
I wore the entire collection for my Canary Islands ultra adventure and it worked perfectly fine. From a purely aesthetic perspective, it felt good to be in a matching outfit (if you look like a professional, will you run like one?). Read on to see whether they performed as good as they looked…
Brooks High Point Waterproof Jacket review
This lightweight waterproof jacket (£160) has a hydrostatic head rating of 14,000mm and a 14,000g/m2/24hr breathability grade. It has a DWR (durable water resistant) treatment, taped seams and a waterproof zipper, as well as several added vents for enhanced breathability.
This translates to a medium level of waterproofing, but not as substantial as some of the waterproof running jackets we’ve tested before. All Gore-Tex fabrics offer a minimum rating of 28,000mm, for example. In terms of breathability, the 14k is again middling performance, especially when compared to the 20k in the Inov-8 Stormshell.
The end result is a jacket that will keep you dry in rain, yet won’t get too clammy or sweaty when you’re working hard. The waterproof-breathable technology used is called DriLayer Seal, with a 2.5-layer construction, as seen in the Adidas Terrex Agravic 2.5.
The cut is described as semi-fitted by Brooks, meaning it’s not too baggy yet there’s enough space for good ventilation or to fit a running vest underneath it. It packs down very compactly and you also get a well-shaped hood with in-built visor.
I didn’t wear the waterproof jacket for long during my Transgrancanaria adventure, but it felt nicely breathable and protective during the morning showers I experienced. I was particularly impressed by the venting options. You can fully open the zipper for maximum breathability but keep the jacket attached across your chest via two popper buttons. There are also permanent vents – angled holes in the fabric – across the back and upper torso.
The High Point Waterproof Jacket is best suited to lighter showers rather than full-on blizzards in the UK’s mountains. All in all, it’s a well-designed, comfy and protective waterproof that will be useful to most runners and weather conditions.
2. Brooks High Point Waterproof Jacket
- Excellent venting options for breathability
- Good hood with visor
- Waterproof rating could be higher
- Vents risk water ingress
- No pockets
Brooks High Point 2-in-1 Shorts review
Brooks has designed these lightweight shorts (£60) to provide a trio of benefits: durable protection, full range of motion and ample storage options. The 2-in-1 refers to the twin construction, with a protective outer and an integrated liner.
The outer is made from a DWR-treated ripstop fabric front panel, which aims to offer water-resistance, abrasion-resistance and UPF 30+ sun protection, while the inner is a chafe-free, stretchy, liner short. The cut features a notched side-split to aid freedom of movement.
During my Transgrancanaria adventure, I loved the soft inner liner, which was excellent at preventing chafing. In-use, the liner almost felt like a pair of stretchy cycling shorts underneath the main shorts material – it worked for me, but this feature may polarise opinion. The men’s shorts are also only available in a 7” version, which is quite long. Personally I’d have preferred a shorter version of 5” to achieve a lighter and more minimalist fit.
In terms of pockets, these shorts are superb. You get a central zippered pocket at the base of your spine – ideal for your car key or any other valuables – and then two stretchy stash pockets on each side. A pull tab on the back zipper pocket makes opening and closing easy, even on-the-move. These four stretchy pockets have an excellent design and orientation, providing ample storage options for your gels, snacks, headphones or whatever else you want to carry with you.
The women’s 3” shorts are made from a 25% recycled fabric, equivalent to two plastic bottles, while the men’s 7” shorts are 51% recycled, saving six plastic bottles from landfill.
3. Brooks High Point 2-in-1 Shorts
- Superb pockets
- Complete freedom of movement
- Liner short style may polarise opinion
- Quite long and only available in 7” version for men
Brooks High Point Crew Sock review
Available in crew and quarter-length versions, the unisex High Point Socks (£16) provide the finishing touch to the Brooks trail look. Made from a merino wool blend, these socks wick away sweat quickly while providing comfort, support and cushioning where needed.
Extra protection and reinforcements add durability at the toe box and heel, while mesh venting helps improve breathability. These unisex run socks kept me blister-free during my ultra running adventures and provided excellent cushioning for a comfortable run experience.
4. Brooks High Point Crew Socks
- Good cushioning and support
- Durability at the toe box and heel
- Not the most technical
- A tad warm and clammy for some conditions
Brooks running tops review
Though they’re not officially part of the High Point Collection, the men’s Atmopshere Short Sleeve 2.0 (£40) and Long Sleeve 2.0 (£45) tops match perfectly with the silhouette’s colour scheme.
The t-shirts are ultralight, fast-wicking, quick-drying and comfortable, and provided everything I needed for my long trail runs. Plus, they're made from 76% recycled materials.
The accompanying women’s tops are the Sprint Free Short Sleeve 2.0 (£40) and the Sprint Free Long Sleeve 2.0 (£40), both made from 86% recycled materials.