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April 19, 2019 2 min read

Brooks was one of the last running shoe brands to release their versions of the minimalist footwear concept (the Pure line), and once again, at least when it comes to trail-specific shoes, they are fashionably late to the "maximum cushion" party. But the wait was worth it. In the simplest of categorizations, the Caldera is Brooks' version of a Hoka-style max cushion trail shoe. And, in my opinion, they nailed it.

If you are, or have been, a Cascadia fan but seek a shoe with considerably more cushioning then the Caldera is worth a spin. It has the most cushioned ride of any trail shoe in the Brooks line, and that cushioning is especially noticeable in the forefoot. The shoe has ample toebox room but is also quite roomy throughout both the midfoot and heel. If you love the roominess of the Altra line but need or simply prefer to have a bit of heel rise, the Caldera comes in with a 4mm drop. The shoe drains well after creek crossings or in otherwise very wet conditions and the light, breathable upper dries relatively quickly. The traction is solid, even on steeper terrain, without being overly aggressively lugged, which makes the Caldera suitable for groomers, dirt roads, and even some pavement miles. The Caldera would definitely work as an all-around, jack-of-all-trades shoe.

I logged wear-testing miles on some steep, loose and technical dirt roads and trails in the White Mountains, in both bone dry and record-winter wet conditions, and also on some flat Owens Valley loops with mixed dirt and paved roads and was happy with the ride of the shoe at every turn of weather and underfoot conditions. Although I have not yet fastpacked with the Caldera, the fastpacking season is rapidly approaching (outside of the Sierra high country anyway!{see Paiute Pass photo at bottom}) and I'm thinking the Caldera will be a great choice for those multi-day, dawn-to-dusk, mixed hiking and running adventures that define summers of exploration.

As with Altras, the only caveat to the fit of the Caldera is this: if you have a narrow foot, or otherwise do not "fill" the shoe adequately with your foot shape and volume, it may have a tendency to feel medially/laterally unstable on uneven terrain.

Brooks Caldera specs:


neutral, but with a noticeable arch contour

25mm heel/21mm forefoot (4mm drop)

Velcro gaiter tab on heel counter (1st shoe outside of the Altra trail line to add this feature...I think?)

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