So where does the Cascade Drive stand amongst Yonex's badminton shoe series?
If you are familiar with Yonex’s badminton shoe ranges and, like me, fancy super light, super fast shoes, you would go straight for the Aerus models. If you want plenty of stability with firm cushioning, the Eclipsions would be your best choice. Looking for ultimate cushioning? Get the power cushion Comforts. Looking for a super comfortable fit with plenty of good support? Go straight to the world-famous and pros’ favourite, the 65 series. Finally, if you are looking to add a little more innovation, or just hate lacing up your shoes, go for the Infinities with BOA dials.
If you have read my previous post on the Infinity 2.0, you would know that I really like the BOA dials after having worn a pair of the Yonex Saferun 350 running shoes for months.
I had quick a look at Yonex Japan’s website and the Cascade Drive is not listed as a standalone series. On Yonex.com, it's listed as an all-rounded pair of shoes in the same category as the 65’s.
The first thing I noticed while wearing the Cascade Drive is a large amount of plasticky synthetic rubber-like material on the upper side of the shoe. I believe Yonex calls it "synthetic leather" but it certainly feels more rubber than leather to me. It feels smooth and I have no doubt at all about its durability. I certainly love the gold Yonex lettering that appears on both sides of the shoe.
On the inside section of the shoe, the gold Yonex logo and lettering are stuck or glued onto the shoe whilst on the outside, the gold Yonex logo and letters are moulded as part of the synthetic leather material. When I ran my fingers through it, it certainly felt sharp as the edges were part of the solid synthetic outer material. Again, the gold-on-dark colour combo is super cool.
Another feature which stuck out for me was the “nose” on the heel support section. It reminded me a lot of a goblin’s nose from the movies and I was worried it was going to cause issues with fitting. More on that later.
The shoes also have a plastic section in the middle of the outsole of the shoe and no carbon fibre-looking plate like in the other higher-end shoes. They have retained the hexagon shape outsole traditionally used in Yonex’s higher-end shoes but without any Power Cushion + in the heel or forefoot section of the shoes.
There are also plenty of mesh areas on the shoes, especially around the ankle and tongue areas, so ventilation around the shoe would not be an issue. However, they feel slightly more rigid than the Aerus and 65Z models.
The Cascade Drive also have shockingly basic insoles. The insoles' surface is even smoother than the ones found in cheaper models such as the 65X. Yonex marketed this insole as a memory foam insole but it felt super thin with an extremely smooth surface. In fact, the surface material reminded me of polyester which is a material often found in our badminton shirts.
The base of the Cascade Drive is also sealed without mesh ventilation holes, unlike the 65Z and Eclipsion, although there’s plenty of mesh around the mid and upper side of the shoe so ventilation is not a huge issue.
In terms of weight, the Cascade Drive weighed 670g per pair at 28cm in size. In comparison, the 65Z white tiger came in slightly heavier at 681g per pair at the same size. Finally, the Aerus Z which is famous for being super lightweight came in at almost 100g lighter, at 576g per pair.
So how did the shoes perform? It didn't turn out great for me, unfortunately. First of all, the insoles were too slippery. I came off a 2-hour session with huge blisters under both my big toes, and my toes were super sore after sliding within the shoe when I was lunging all around the court. I tried everything I could to limit the sliding, including tightening my shoelaces, but it didn't make much of a difference.
As the insoles were the predominant issue for me, I took the insoles out and swap them for the wavy insoles found in the 65Z and the Eclipsion. I really like the wavy insoles as they are really grippy and when worn with thick grippy socks, they feel great.
Here’s a simple experiment I did with a £1 coin to show you the difference in grip of both insoles. You can see the coin doesn't slide around as easily with the wavy insole of the 65Z and Eclipsion compared to the smooth memory foam insole of the Cascade Drive. After I swapped the insoles, the Cascade Drive was very pleasant to play in. I tested them again over several on-court sessions and I didn't have any further issues with sliding or blisters.
On the plus side, besides the insoles, everything else was fine. I was surprised at how well the shoe fitted me. The goblin’s nose at the back actually did not catch anything. Instead, it made wearing the shoes easier by acting like a little tab for you to pull and push on. Cushioning felt firm and supportive so no issues with that at all. The outer parts, as predicted, looked well constructed and should last for those seeking durable shoes.
It is important to note that Yonex marketed the Cascade Drive as an intermediate, mid-high-end badminton shoe that you can wear not just for badminton games, but also for casual walks. Perhaps this marketed concept influenced Yonex's choice of smooth insoles. I personally prefer smooth insoles and socks for walks and casual wear. However, for badminton, in which we go through so many start and stop movements, I personally think smooth insoles are a bad choice. I certainly prefer grippy badminton shoes so that my feet won't slide around in the shoes. If you have a pair of Cascade Drive and are experiencing the same sliding issues, I would recommend that you swap onto a pair of grippy insoles and that should hopefully solve your problem.
I hope Yonex would make a firm decision on which direction they want to go with the second generation of Cascade Drives. Are they looking to position Cascade Drives as a pair of casual shoes or badminton shoes? I don't think they can be both, especially if they’re going to be marketed at close to top price points.
Let me know what you think in the comments section below and do check out my other Yonex badminton shoe reviews in my blog!