For the last few years I have preferred running in a zero drop shoe. After a few years of exclusively running in them I decided to venture out and try a minimal drop shoe (4mm-6mm). The first attempt was with the New Balance Leadville V3. This year Brooks released the Caldera that was a maximum cushion, minimal drop shoe designed for long distances. With multiple friends swearing by their Cascadias I figured it was worth a try.
The Short Story-
The Brooks Calderas were a instant replacement for my Altra Superior 3.0s. The day after receiving the Brooks they were immediately used for my training runs. I attempted to find the shoes on discount somewhere online, but lacked any luck so I ended up paying retail from Brooks. The good things about this was that Brooks has a 90 day guarantee on their shoes, so if worse came to worse, I could return them after trying them out. The sizing on the shoes was a little off and Brooks suggested going a half size up.
The men's 7.5 I ordered ended up seeming a little long in the toe when I initially tried them on. My concern was with the added length the toe may snag on technical terrain. After running for a few hundred miles I can say the length was not an issue. The toebox is also wider then most shoes (not quite Altra wide) allowing expansion of the foot under load. One of the selling points on this shoe was the dialed in heel. Other shoes I have tried tend to have a huge heel that refuses to cinch down and eventually leads to slippage. The Caldera has a more tapered heel that has only slightly expanded with the 200+ miles I have on them.
On the trails the shoe is light and supportive. Although heavily cushioned the shoe still is able to tackle technical downhills. With the lack of a deep tread pattern the loose terrain can require some additional focus. The design of the lugs tend to work best on dry or rocky trails. The Caldera offers a surprising amount of grip on steep rock, inspiring confidence. So far the tread shows minor wear with a few of the lugs beginning to separate from the bottom of the shoe. The fit mentioned above does a excellent job of locking the foot in on descents and the added cushion helps ease the fatigue on the long runs. The upper material has a tight weave that minimizes dust from entering the shoe. This does create a less breathable upper though. The overall feel of the shoe has changed very little from the first run.
Final Verdict- The Brooks Caldera has quickly replaced the fleet of trail runners I use. The added stack height (comparable to Altra Lone Peaks), superior build quality, and fit combine to create a excellent trail running shoe. Add in the design features of the lace garage and gaitor trap and the shoe really shines. This shoe is ideal for a long distance runner, who isn't ready for zero drop but still wants to take advantage of the added protection of the cushion. The longevity of the shoe is on course to exceed most other shoes in this category that I have tested. With Brooks solid reputation and comfort guarantee, it is hard to go wrong with these. You can find out more about the Caldera or other shoes in the Brooks line by visiting their website.
*These shoes were purchased for testing.