Trail Tested: Brooks Caldera 3
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Weight: 9.7oz (M), 8.0oz (W)
Best features: Snug and comfortable fit, fairly lightweight, versatile and grippy tread.
Room for improvement: Brooks claims the Caldera 3 repels and drains water quickly—in reality, they don’t appear to perform differently from other shoes in this manner. The mesh upper allows water in, and out, but feet remain wet.
I may be dating myself here, but the Brooks Cascadia 7 was the first trail shoe I fell in love with and made trail running the flowing meditation that I enjoy so much today. When I received the Brooks Caldera 3 (women’s version here), I slid them on my foot and a sparkle lit in my eyes.
That day I added the shoe to Strava and nicknamed it, “looks like an Altra, fits like a Nike” because it is more understated than some of Brooks’ other trail shoes and has a similar comfort to the Nike Terra Kiger 3 upon first feel. After running in the Brooks Caldera 3 for a month, I can soundly say I have the same feeling I had upon wearing the Cascadia 7 in 2012—it feels like an extension of my foot.
This shoe follows the general trend we see in trail-running shoes of lighter weight and more cushioning, but has a versatile tread (~3mm lugs) that is great on slickrock, dirt, rocky footing, roads and mud.
The fit of the Caldera 3 is true to size and the lacing allows for premium snugness. The 4mm heel-to-toe drop matched with the natural rocker of the sole makes for a quick and dynamic foot-strike—rare in a shoe with as much cushioning. Brooks added in a gaiter-feature and elastic lace storage that makes the shoe a clear choice for scrambling missions or thru-hikes. The toe-guard is integrated into the upper and is thus not over-developed or prone to coming unglued.
I did run a few days in snowy and muddy conditions and I didn’t find the Caldera 3 to drain any better than other shoes, but they also did not retain water or slosh around.
I can’t emphasize how nice this shoe feels. I consider the Caldera 3 as a go-to daily-driver for mixed road/trail runs as well as a fantastic option for mountain adventures and trail races. In comparison to the previous Caldera 2, the Caldera 3 is slightly lighter, has slightly less drop, fits more comfortably, and isn’t quite as stiff. This is the trail shoe I want to wear while at work, during my midday run and racing on the weekend.
—Jeff Colt is a professional trail runner based out of Redstone, Co. When he is not running on trails, he can be found tending bar or working as a PR-professional for Backbone Media. Jeff most recently placed third at the Bandera 100K.