The Brooks Caldera 3 is a $140 trail running shoe that runs right out of the house to the trailhead and beyond. It is lighter, less aggressive, and more cushioned than the Brooks Cascadia.
The Caldera 3 is quick and responsive on most trail conditions and includes helpful features, like gaiter attachment points, that increase its versatility.
Out of the box, this shoe fit great and ran with no issues in my first few outings. I liked the look of this shoe, which was very similar to my road running shoes only with a noticeably higher stack.
The cushioning felt great, and the shoe was sufficiently responsive. Because the shoe looked suitable for road running, I tended to run in these right out of the house to various trailheads in my neighborhood.
From road to dirt trails in the foothills around Denver, these shoes had the perfect traction and protection on hills of varying steepness.
I felt confident in drier snow; however, less so in icy conditions.
Additionally, on rockier and sloppier terrain, I did not feel like these shoes had enough traction and would prefer a bit more lug and stickiness, especially on the downhill.
The high stack on this shoe provided protection from trail hazards and felt sufficient even though the shoe did not feature a rock plate.
The mesh upper felt soft and less protective than other trail shoes, but I did not notice significant impact from contact with rocks and roots on the trail.
Water did come into the shoe when running through snow and puddles; but the Ariaprene™ mesh upper was quick to drain and dry.
As someone who is rough on shoes (and often runs into rocks and other obstacles), I found these shoes to be durable and would be willing to wear them over a long distance.
After over seventy five miles on rocky, muddy, and wet terrain, there is very little sign of wear on the outsoles or upper.
I typically see holes (or at least wear) on tips of my big and pinkie toes after fifty miles, but there are no signs of wear on the Caldera 3’s upper.
Responsiveness & Speed
At 8 oz., this shoe felt lightweight and responsive over a variety of terrains.
The TrailTack Sticky Traction provided sufficient grip on most types of terrain; however, on mud, rock surfaces, and in wet winter conditions, I was sliding around at times and not very confident in my traction both up or downhill.
The BioMoGo DNA Midsole was designed to adapt based on the force applied to it, and it provided cushioned responsiveness over many miles.
These shoes were fast both uphill and downhill on less technical trails, so they would be perfect for a long race in predictable conditions.
Comfort and Fit
These shoes were true to size and felt comfortable right out of the box. Although thin, the flat lace system ties tightly and reliably.
The toe box was sufficiently roomy and flexible to accommodate splaying and swelling over longer mileage.
The Ariaprene™ mesh upper provided sufficient ventilation over longer runs.
The toe box felt roomy enough at first; however, I experienced hot spots around the big toes of both feet after a longer run with significant downhill.
For everyday trail conditions, this shoe IS comfortable, responsive, and versatile over less technical conditions (so long as there are less slippery rocks and ice).
The Caldera 3 is an ideal shoe for transitioning from road to trail and for most conditions on dirt, snow-covered, grass, or gravel trails.
I plan to utilize these shoes for road marathon cross-training around my neighborhood.
We purchased a pair of Brooks Caldera 3 from running warehouse using our own money. This did not influence the outcome of this review, written after running more than 50 miles in them.