A super comfortable shoe that offers exceptional performance on non-technical surfaces
Price: $140 ListPros: Super comfortable, responsive, versatile fit, durable construction, great for cross-over terrain Cons: Expensive, slips and slides on loose and slippery surfaces Manufacturer: Brooks Running
By Amber King ⋅ Senior Review Editor ⋅ Nov 29, 2019
Our Editors independently research, test, and rate the best products. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Learn more
If you appreciate a comfortable ride, the Brooks Caldera 3 is a wonderful choice. From the mountains to the roads in and around the San Juans, we tackled over 60 miles of trail. After exhaustive testing, we've learned this shoe performs best on less technical trails and offers fantastic road running capabilities. While the new outsole is stickier in wet conditions than the Caldera 2, it is not aggressive enough to provide trustworthy footing on super steep or slippery surfaces. The fit is neutral with a wider toe box that offers a versatile fit for both narrow and wider footed runners. The ultra-comfortable ride will keep you chugging for miles; it's an excellent option for short or long distances, including marathons.
New Model Released
Brooks has come out with the 4th generation of the Caldera. Check out the specifics of the new shoe below.
Our Analysis and Test Results
Caldera 4 vs Caldera 3
Since our test period, Brooks released the Caldera 4. This latest model has updates to the mesh upper to provide breathability in strategic spots, a redesigned midsole and outsole with the intent of more stability, and an updated TPU toe cap and mudguard. Compare the Caldera 4 (first photo) to the Caldera 3 we tested.
We're now linking to the Caldera 4, but as we haven't tested the updates ourselves, the review below refers to the Caldera 3.
Hands-On Review of the Caldera 3
The Brooks Caldera 3 is an all-around average yet super comfortable trail running shoe. The cushioning is firm yet springy and responsive for longer runs on less technical terrain or even roads. This is an excellent option for the budding trail runner or for those who stick to less technical terrain.
This shoe offers an average level of foot protection, utilizing 24 mm of cushioning in the forefoot with 28 mm in the heel. The cushioning itself is responsive and springy without any "mush" factor; it does feel like running on air. The Caldera protects from underfoot hazards, but some of the sharper rocks and sticks can still be felt underfoot with a direct impact.
The toe cap is pretty tough and not super flexible, and provides an excellent level of protection from stubs. The overlay is fairly breathable, doing a decent job keeping out trail debris.
The level of protection is adequate, but not as protective as harder trail shoe options.
The Caldera offers decent sensitivity; you can feel underfoot hazards while still being protected. Given the level of cushioning, it's not the most sensitive shoe out there, making it a good option for longer distances, as well as short trail adventures.
The outsole in this new iteration is loaded with a new rubber composite that is meant to be stickier than the previous version. During testing, we were traversing over rocky and wet terrain and were able to stick to wet surfaces.
The outsole itself isn't super aggressive and doesn't do incredibly well while climbing up or down steep hills as it slips out on rubble and rocks. Over mud and debris, this material gets gunked up on the outsole and can cause less traction with muddy surfaces. As a result, it's not meant for super-technical terrain; instead, we'd recommend it for hard-packed single track trails or even dirt roads. The lug didn't wear down much after 60 miles of testing on both road and trail, making it a great cross-over option.
Stability is average, with the outsole and midsole encapsulating trail hazards and pushing off them. The sole offers lateral flexibility, which absorbs some of this impact, allowing you to correct your body position. While it's not the most stable shoe out there, its performance is adequate and will keep you safe on most terrain.
Comfort & Fit
We adore the comfort elements of this shoe. The cushioning is super responsive and springy with sleek and well-constructed materials. On the run, it provides a smooth and even ride, and keeps you going strong for long distances.
The fit is regular and is ideal both wide and narrow fit. The lacing system is unique as well, detaching from the tongue and wrapping the foot for a precise fit. This precision ensures there isn't any toe bump on the downhill (your front toe doesn't bump against the front) and keeps the heel in place. There is also a touch of arch support, which adds to the fit. The 4 mm drop is low profile and a good option for both forefoot and heel strikers.
It weighs in at 9.1 ounces, which is lighter than most technical trail shoes. This lightness makes it a great option for longer trail races over less technical terrain.
Eeek! This shoe is expensive for its function. If comfort is a priority, and you've had good experience with the Brooks brand, we recommend you try it. After wearing for over 60 miles, we haven't noted any serious signs of wear and tear, which bodes well for this contender. That said, many contenders cost less that offer a similar ride at a lower cost.
The Brooks Caldera 3 is super comfortable trail runner that's average across the board. Its plush, responsive cushioning offers an exceptional ride, but it isn't the most protective or rugged option out there. The outsole is sticky but limited to performing on less technical surfaces, making it a great option for those just learning the art of trail running or appreciate sticking to the hills and the roads.
GearLab is founded on the principle of honest, objective, reviews. Our experts test thousands of products each year using thoughtful test plans that bring out key performance differences between competing products. And, to assure complete independence, we buy all the products we test ourselves. No cherry-picked units sent by manufacturers. No sponsored content. No ads. Just real, honest, side-by-side testing and comparison.