Review: Brooks Caldera 5

Written by

Katherine Takai

Long Distance Runner, former Sprinter.

This expert review is written by

Katherine Takai

Long Distance Runner, former Sprinter.
Katherine Takai is a consultant and endurance sport enthusiast in constant pursuit of new running adventures and the optimal shoes to take her there.

Over 15 years ago, she was a sprinter who turned long distance event runner. Ultimately, she found her greatest passion in trail running and has spent the past five years running around the mountains of Colorado and her current home near the Tetons in Idaho.

Weight

We usually consider 10 ounces a "medium" weight for a running shoe: less than 10 and we are entering the lightweight category and above 10 the shoes start to be heavy.

Heel-to-toe drop

Heel drop is the measurement in mm of the difference between the height of the heel and the toe of the sole.

A lower drop (0mm - 5mm) promotes running on mid-foot and fore-foot, while higher drops (8mm - 12mm) are more traditional and meant to support a heel-striking gait.
Expert score
7/10

Quick overview

Best for
Regular training, long, slow training runs, short trail races (up to half marathons), marathon and 50k trail races, ultra distances, 50 miles and greater
Terrain
Best for moderate trails, technical trails, rocky areas, muddy areas, through creeks and streams, through snowy or icy sections
Grip
The Caldera 5 provides excellent grip and traction on all kind of terrains and surfaces
Lack Traction
Average Traction
Provide Traction
Cushioning
The Caldera 5 is maximally cushioned
Little cushioning
Medium cushioning
Highly cushioned
Weight

10.60

 oz
301 g
Heel to toe drop
Drop

4

 mm

Pros and cons according to our running expert

Pros and cons according to our running expert

  • Maximum cushioning for underfoot comfort
  • Reliable traction and protection
  • Versatile on various terrain types
  • Durable
  • Fit can be difficult to optimize
  • Narrow toebox is not ideal for long efforts
  • Slow to dry out

Our verdict

The Brooks Caldera 5 is a versatile, maximalist trail shoe that excels on varied terrain but can be difficult to get a secure fit.

Introduction Brooks Caldera 5

At $140, the Caldera 5 is Brooks’ maximalist trail runner that provides cushioning and protection underfoot for longer efforts, akin to the Hoka ONE ONE Stinson.

The Caldera 5 takes almost a full ounce of weight off its predecessor to 9.4 oz. (10.6 oz. for the Men’s version).

Paired with the BioMoGo DNA midsole, this weight reduction makes this shoe feel springier and more responsive.

The Caldera 5’s traction, protection and stability are generally reliable on a range of terrains – from the road to a rockier scramble.

The fit of this Caldera is more finicky than previous versions, and the toe box doesn’t have the same roomie feel. Adjusting the laces to secure your foot in the shoe helps, but getting the fit right felt harder than it needed to be.

Cushioning Type
The Caldera 5 is plush: provides shock... Read more absorption and comfort over energy return and
Responsive
Plush
Cushioning Amount
The Caldera 5 is maximally cushioned
Little cushioning
Highly cushioned
Flexibility
The Caldera 5 is quite rigid and does not... Read more flex easily
Rigid
Flexible
Stability
The Caldera 5 has some inherent stability and... Read more support
Not particularly stable
Very stable

Impressions Brooks Caldera 5

picture of Brooks Caldera 5 - copyright Running Shoes Guru

picture of Brooks Caldera 5

The design of the Caldera 5 is sleek for a maximalist trail runner – these look like they would excel on a variety of terrain types despite the higher stack height.

They’re also lightweight for a maximalist trail shoe.

The engineered mesh upper felt stiffer than the previous version of this shoe that I’ve tested (Caldera 3). The fit felt snug, so I didn’t initially pull the laces as tightly as I later learned I should have.

My first run in these shoes were on a flat, dirt trail behind my house, and my initial observation was that the midsoles felt balanced in their responsiveness and plushness.

Initially, my toes were bumping up to the front of the shoes causing discomfort; however, I realized that the laces need to be tied tightly to lock down the fit and ensure my foot would not slip forward.

It took a few subsequent runs to optimize the fit, and the shoes became more comfortable with additional runs. After breaking them in, I found the Caldera 5 to be reliable and responsive on a variety of terrain types from road to dirt to rocks and scree.

The BioMoGo DNA midsole is designed to adapt to the terrain, as well as your stride, weight, and speed to protect your joints; and it does so at remarkably low weight.

The lug pattern and stickiness of the TrailTack rubber outsole provided excellent traction both up and downhills and on dry and wet rock faces.

The high stack generally did not compromise stability or agility. While the cushioning is substantial for longer runs, the narrow toe box can be constrictive on longer runs. Wet weather and stream crossings were an issue, as these shoes were slow to dry when fully saturated with water.

For most trail conditions, the Caldera 5 can be a workhorse for both training and racing at any distance (unless you need a wider toe box).

For a narrower foot, these shoes may go the distance. Once you get the fit right (and after a bit of a break in period), the Caldera 5s are a cushioned, versatile trail running shoe that can comfortably go for miles.

Protection Brooks Caldera 5

picture of Brooks Caldera 5 - copyright Running Shoes Guru

picture of Brooks Caldera 5

These shoes were notably more protective than their predecessor – both in their upper design and outsole.

The engineered mesh upper almost feels like a structured shell providing protection from impact on the top of the foot, and the durable welded overlap reinforces that protection where the upper connects to the midsole.

The high stack (33mm heel and 29mm forefoot) provides excellent protection underfoot from tree roots and hard, sharp rocks. The durable outsole extends to the tip of TPU toe cap for full coverage protection to the tip of your toe.

Essentially, this shoe is a fortress from impact hazards. Front and back gaiter attachment points make it easy to add on extra protection from the elements and debris.

While a mudguard and high stack generally keep debris out of the shoe, significant wet weather, deep puddles, or water crossings can be an issue.

After accidentally submerging these shoes during a stream crossing, insufficient drainage made these shoes heavy and uncomfortable for several miles. It took a long time for them to fully dry.

Rockplate
The Caldera 5 does not have a rock plate.
Not present
Solid protection
Lugs
The Caldera 5 provides excellent grip and... Read more traction on all kind of terrains and surfaces
Lack Traction
Provide Traction
Water resistance
The Caldera 5 provides a decent protection... Read more from splashes and puddles
Poor
Water Resistant

Durability Brooks Caldera 5

picture of Brooks Caldera 5 - copyright Running Shoes Guru

picture of Brooks Caldera 5

After over fifty miles of testing the Caldera 5s in varied conditions, including road, dirt trails, rocks, mud, and snow, they have proven to be outstandingly durable.

While they have shown dirt, there are no signs of wear on the upper.

The outsoles have shown some signs of wear; however, the performance of the lugs are not compromised. I would be confident in these shoes’ durability for a long ultra distance race and over many miles of training.

Responsiveness & Speed Brooks Caldera 5

picture of Brooks Caldera 5 - copyright Running Shoes Guru

picture of Brooks Caldera 5

The Caldera 5 is a highly responsive shoe for a maximalist trail runner.

The lightweight BioMoGo DNA midsole technology minimizes the amount of weight sacrificed for a higher stack and maximizes energy return on a variety of surfaces.

While lightweight for a maximalist shoe, at 9.4 ounces these are still heavy for hitting and maintaining top speed on a fast course. The weight would be less consequential for a longer race.

The stability of these shoes are minimally compromised by the higher stack.

The Caldera 5 has a stack height of 33mm in the heel and 29 mm forefront offering a 4mm low to mid-drop. The multidirectional raised rubber TrailTack lugs help propel you up and are reliable downhill on variable surfaces, including dirt, sand, mud, and rock.

Comfort and Fit Brooks Caldera 5

picture of Brooks Caldera 5 - copyright Running Shoes Guru

picture of Brooks Caldera 5

The modified fit on the Caldera 5 was tougher for me to dial in compared to previous versions of the Caldera and comparable trail shoes. Because the outsole is stiff and the toe box is small, the fit initially felt small and thus I didn’t tie them as tightly as I should have.

Ensuring that the laces were taught through all eyelets was critical to ensuring adequate lockdown, otherwise my foot moved around inside the shoe. During my first runs without tying the Calderas as tightly as I should have, my toes jammed into the front of the shoe causing significant discomfort and hotspots.

Although the heel cup is plush and cushioned, the rest of the upper is a stiff engineered mesh. While very durable and protective, the upper took some breaking in for me and caused some initial hotspots.

After optimizing the fit and getting more accustomed to the shoe, I found these shoes to become gradually more comfortable over time.

Sizing
The Caldera 5 has average sizing: buy the... Read more usual size
Buy size smaller
Buy size bigger

Conclusion Brooks Caldera 5

picture of Brooks Caldera 5 - copyright Running Shoes Guru

picture of Brooks Caldera 5

If you seek a maximalist shoe that looks sleek and isn’t overly heavy, the Brooks Caldera 5 is a great option.

You’ll need to be willing to sacrifice a roomy toe box and might need to play with the optimal fit for your first few runs.

Once the fit is right, the Caldera 5 is a workhorse of a trail runner that maintains its durability and protection over many miles and all types of terrain – from the road to dirt to technical, rocky terrain.

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