Neutral / cushion / high arch
Shoes for runners who do not need any additional arch support (Around 50% of runners). Best for people with normal, high or medium high arches. See the best neutral shoes.
Stability / overpronation / normal arch
Shoes for runners who need mild to moderate arch support (Around 45% of runners). Best for runners with a low arch. See the best stability shoes.
Motion control / severe overpronation / flat feet
Shoes for runners who needs a lot of arch support. Best for runners with flat feet. See the best motion control shoes.
Good to know
Cushioned shoes for your daily easy running. Great comfort. See best shoes for daily running.
Lightweight shoes good for races, interval training, tempo runs and fartlek. Here are the best competition running shoes.
Good to know
If you want just one pair of shoes, buy a shoe for daily running.
WeightMen: 9.3ozWomen: 8.5oz
Heel to toe dropMen: 4mmWomen: 4mm
The height difference from the heel to the forefoot, also known as heel drop, toe spring, heel to toe spring or simply drop.
There are many opinions about what a good heel drop is. We do not recommend any in particular. Lean more in this video.
WidthMen: StandardWomen: Standard
Release dateDec 2018
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91 / 100 based on 12 expert reviews
Brooks Caldera 3 - Cushiony, comfortable and fast
The Brooks Caldera 3 is marketed as a lightweight trail shoe that has the traction to keep you going for miles on end. While some of that is true, some of it is far from it. Marketing aside, Brooks has put together a high-quality trail shoe, with a few small tweaks could be truly spectacular.
As you continue you read, you will come across 3 sections: Why?, Why Not?, and Conclusions. My review will focus on the reasons the shoe could work for you (Why?), what may not work for you (Why Not?), and some final thoughts (Conclusions).
The Caldera 3 has Brooks's BioMoGo DNA midsole foam. I have run in several other Brooks shoes with this foam and I was left unimpressed. However, the BioMoGo worked great on the Caldera 3 platform.
I'm not sure if it was the trails as opposed to the road shoes, which I had previously run in, or if Brooks has made some adjustments. But the midsole worked for me. There was plenty of cushioning, but not overly cushioned. There was plenty of responsiveness, but not an overly harsh ground feel.
I also thought the stack height of the midsole was going to be a little much for my liking, but I never felt as though I was wearing a highly cushioned shoe.
The BioMoGo lived up to its name. The cushion felt as if I could go more miles and had more get up and go. After several runs of 25k plus my feet still felt fresh and the foam still felt cushioned underfoot.
The upper material really stood out to me. The mesh proved to be durable and breathable which don't always come together.
Usually, you get one or the other. Additionally, the drainage of the upper was quite good. As the trails get wet in the winter, they drained quickly after crossing flooded trails and creeks.
The overall build quality of the Caldera 3 is good. The mesh is durable with minimal stitching, and well-positioned overlays. There is no wear on the outsole at 60 miles and so far the mid-sole feels as if it will last for several hundred miles.
Brooks website has the Caldera 3 listed at 9.3 oz for a size 9. My size 12 comes in at 11.5 oz.
This isn't a great number in at first glance, there are much lighter trail shoes on the market. However, the shoe runs lighter than it's weight. It feels nimble and fast underfoot.
The traction on the Caldera is really good in almost all conditions. Wet, dry, rocky, packed dirt, rutted trails the Caldera handled with easy. They only condition it wasn't up to par was the mud (for more see the Why Not? section).
I found the Caldera has a good lug system and grippy rubber. Some trail shoes are overbuilt and feel more like hiking boots. The Caldera 3 does a good job providing the grip but staying true to a running shoe.
Brooks shoes usually are the best fitting shoes for my foot. I always get an 11.5 and they always work. For the Caldera 3 I sized up to a 12 because I read they tend to run a little short. For me, the 12 was the right choice but it wasn't perfect.
The length feels great and there was plenty of room in the toebox but, the midfoot and heel were sloppy. I had to tie them super tight to keep my foot from sliding around on steep downhills and off-camber sections.
This wouldn't be a problem but the laces are a little stretchy and would need to be re-tied to keep a tight fit every 4-5 miles. If they were road shoes, I would have never noticed. It was only really a problem on steep terrain when a secure fit was needed.
Brooks is currently only offering 1 color for each the men's and women's Caldera 3. The teal and gray are just ok. Mine are dirty enough were they almost appear camouflaged. Some runners may want certain colors or more options.
Brooks's website states "the rubber outsole keeps you going mile after muddy mile." I disagree the outsole works great everywhere but the mud.
The position and depths of the lugs appear to be more suitable for packed dirt, rocks, and sand. This may just be marketing jargon, but if you live in an area with muddy trails there are better options out there.
Brooks has made a high-quality shoe. The Caldera 3's midsole is a winner. It is responsive and cushioned. The traction is good under most conditions. This is a versatile trail shoe. Short races or Ultras.
Fast and packed or technical trails. The Caldera 3 will excel in most conditions. If Brooks works out the sizing issues these would be one of my favorite trails shoes released in the past couple of years.
This expert has been verified by RunRepeat. Reviews are neutral, unbiased and based on extensive testing.
Brooks Caldera 3: Built for endurance
Everyone has that moment in their life when something just feels right. Maybe it's the first date and despite all of your nervousness, it goes perfectly.
Or maybe it’s a new job where you can feel your shackled potential starting to be unleashed. Lacing up the Brooks Caldera 3 was one of those moments for me. They just felt right. With that said, there is a lot to talk about with this shoe, so let's get started.
From the first moment, I slipped these on the upper material seemed to cocoon my foot in a comfortable, pliable mesh fabric. The tongue and heel collar are amply padded but not over the top. The sizing is spot-on in my opinion.
The reinforced lacing grommets secure the foot evenly and snuggly, holding the heel firmly in the heel cup. The wide laces and reinforcement around the lace holes distribute the pressure of the tightened shoe and avoid creating unwanted pressure points on the top of the foot. For my foot, neither super wide nor super slim, the toe-box is perfect.
The toe box is roomier than the Caldera 2 but not as liberal as some other brands.
I feel like my toes have the room that they need to flex and splay out but not so much that they feel sloppy. The shoes feel light and nimble on the feet. At 9.3 oz the Caldera 3 is a clear frontrunner for lightweight trail running shoes that are aimed at tackling aggressive terrain on the long course.
Brooks uses its proprietary BioMoGo DNA™ technology in the midsole and is both responsive on the trail and cushioned enough to make the longer efforts less stressful on the joints. During the first few runs I did in these shoes I felt very connected to the road and trail but cushioned enough to push as hard and long as I wanted to.
While the Caldera 3 is not as plush as the Hoka One One Speedgoat or Stinson, it does have plenty of cushioning to get you through the long distances. The heel to toe turnover is exceptional and there was never a moment where my foot strike and recovery felt inhibited by the shoe. The Caldera delivers a smooth ride with ample comfort.
I was super impressed with the TrailTack™ sole of the Caldera 3. While the lugs are not super aggressive or deep, the grip on the trail was excellent, even with the current wintery mix of conditions.
The lugs have a lot of micro-surface-area features that help add to its traction. The broken octagonal lug pattern creates a unique lateral grip.
The winter here in Missoula, MT looks a lot more like early spring. This afforded me a perfect chance to test the Caldera’s self-acclaimed drainage of the Ariaprene™ upper weave.
Running through sloppy mixes of snow and slush, deliberately aiming at puddles, I was able to put it to the test. The Ariaprene™ mesh performed as promised. The shoe drained water with ease, not holding on to excess weight in the padding of the upper.
The water-resistant trim near the reinforced edges is a nice touch. This lightweight, transparent membrane adds to the weatherproofing quality of the shoe and will assist in avoiding the typical delaminating that often occurs between the fabric and the toe-guard. The lace cage edging is also sealed with this translucent rubber and is sure to add strength to this high-stress area as well.
The gusset on the sides of the tongue is a great feature. Not only does it act as a snug little seatbelt for your foot but it keeps the tongue from sliding down on either side of the foot.
It also adds another layer of defense against debris finding its way down and underneath your foot. The ankle collar is padded nicely, but not so cushy as to feel bulky. The laces are a wide braid that facilitates a solid lockdown around your foot and stay tied securely.
The Caldera 3 is full of well thought out features like the gator hitch and dual attachment points up front.
The front hook on the gaiter can grab the loop found mid-laces or the notch at the front of the lace cage. The rear Velcro tab works nicely with a variety of gaiters.
I’ve sometimes been skeptical of gaiters but after running my first two ultras this past summer I am sold.
Running with some grit or small pebbles in your shoe is fine for a bit, but when you're out there for hours on end it is simply untenable. The Caldera 3 is pictured here with an Altra brand gaiter.
The Caldera 3 really impressed me with its performance. I love the 4mm drop. It's perfect for technical trails and climbing. The wide sole base is ideal for lateral motion control and stability.
The stack height is not too stilted but high enough to give you a great cushion. The sole has a superior grip and is very responsive on the trail.
The upper material of the Caldera 3 is holding up tremendously well.
During the first 83 miles in this shoe, it has seen some rough trails, with mixes of rock, ice, and snow and has been unyielding to all terrain. The tight weave is holding up under pressure. I imagine that I will wear out the sole of the shoe long before the upper material.
The toe box and heel cup are both covered with a really tough layer of rubber. Unlike most toe guards that are attached with a layer of adhesive this material seems to be infused into the material that it sits on top of. I really liked how integrated and seamless this setup is.
The sole is seeing some typical wear in the usual spots but nothing beyond normal. Most of my runs involve a mile or two of the road to get to my local trails. This obviously adds a different factor into the equation for a trail-specific shoe but the sole is holding up well overall. Given that the lugs are not particularly deep I am a bit concerned about them wearing out prematurely.
- Well constructed
- Cushioned appropriately
- Lug depth is a bit shallow
- Only one color option
The Brooks Caldera 3 is an all-around excellent trail runner. It checks off all of the boxes in my criterion for a long distance trail running shoe: lightweight, great grip, small drop, water-shedding, durable and comfortable. For the coming Ultras, I have planned in 2019 I imagine that I will split my training time between these and my Hoka One One Speedgoat 2.
If you're looking for a shoe that's built to endure the rugged trail, light and responsive, comfortable enough to run in all day and stylishly unassuming, the Caldera 3 is definitely one to consider. At an MSRP of $140.00, the Caldera is well worth it.
This expert has been verified by RunRepeat. Reviews are neutral, unbiased and based on extensive testing.
The Brooks Caldera 3: Equivalent to military humvee
I must start by letting you know that I had sworn off all Brooks shoes to never buy another pair. Why you may ask? I had purchased one of their trail shoes and paid quite the premium price for them, and the first run I went for a twenty-mile trail run and the entire sole came loose from the midsole.
I call and was told that they would send me my “once in a lifetime” replacement. I thought that it was odd that I had paid nearly $200 for a pair of shoes ran in them once and I was lucky enough that they would send me a replacement pair.
Well, the replacement pair arrived, and I went out for one trail run and the same thing happened to the new pair. I felt like Brooks had made some decisions along the way that was affecting the quality of their product.
Given the opportunity to test the Brooks Caldera 3, I felt like would give them a chance to redeem themselves.
I am normally not someone to care about the aesthetics of a shoe but this shoe with its colors and geometric design was very pleasing to me. My wife and kids like the look of the shoe as well. You can see that the midsole is beefy which looked to promise plenty of cushioning.
The upper is made of mesh with an integrated structural reinforcement that reminded me of a fishnet structure but stiffer. The laces are the flat style lace that I have performed flawlessly in my previous experiences.
The top two eyelets have a metal grommet to support the hole. The sole of the shoe promises lots of traction with its’ bumpy texture and lots of area for clearing out mud and snow.
There were some features that were new to me and well thought out by Brooks engineers. The incorporated gaiter attachment points in both the front and rear of the shoe along with a lace guard.
This is where I feel like that the comparison of the Caldera 3 to that of the armed services Humvee are fitting. Both look like they are ready to take on the toughest of terrain, both are bulky, stiffy, slow, and not as comfortable as you thought they might be.
My first run in these shoes was on a bike trail, due to too much snow on the best running trails. The shoe was stiff and despite the 9.3oz weight of the shoe, it felt heavy.
I honestly hated running in this shoe, at least for the first few runs, and couldn’t wait to take it off. I was only able to run 4 miles during the initiation run and these shoes were miserable.
After 100+ miles
While this shoe is a trail running shoe, I was forced (mother nature) to put in miles on the road, treadmill, paved trails, along with some true trail running miles. I travel a good bit, so I was able to run in Denver CO, Portland OR, San Francisco CA, but mostly in the mountains of ID. The condition that I was most able to run in was deep snow.
It took me close to 70 miles before I felt like this shoe was truly broken in enough to get some flex out of the sole. I had honestly thought that this shoe would never give in which provided much-appreciated stiffness in a lateral performance and protection from rocks.
I was surprised with the amount of torsion that the sole still allowed which was perfect for climbing in rocky conditions. Once the shoe was broken in, I found myself enjoying the shoe more and more with each mile.
I was miffed by the lack of abuse that this shoe showed throughout all the miles that I put on this shoe. This shoe could come with a 6-year 36,000-mile warranty and it might just make it if it was used strictly on trails.
The color scheme hid dirt very well; great on trails and through deep snow. My only complaint would be that the soles are so sticky that I often found pebbles snow and ice being thrown up into the back of the heel.
That I have to stop to dig them out. This could be solved by using gaiters. If I was on dusty rocky trails all the time I would have given the gaiter attachments a try.
On the road and treadmill, this shoe was less than desirable as it felt slow and clunky. I wouldn’t recommend this shoe to anyone who plans on road running solely and it’s not what this shoe was built for.
I did find that on icy patches of tarmac that the shoe held quite well with very limited slipping and had no issues ever in rain (thank you Portland OR).
It is very soft and promised much cushioning, however, I felt that it also provided enough support for my feet. Brooks BioMoGo DNA is supposed to provide a soft ride and changes to support individual impact upon each stride.
I didn’t notice anything special from the midsole outside of it being surprisingly soft after 70 miles of training. I felt that it worked best when running across stones, at least I didn’t have any issues with stones hurting my feet.
By the end of testing I did get some break down in the midsole but nothing of concern.
Being mesh and claims to drain water efficiently, which I never took the opportunity to do any water crossings. I did, however, find the shoe didn’t breathe well and kept my feet very hot.
This resulted in some smelly test shoes. While the mesh should provide plenty of airflow, the tongue is sewn in with an elastic band that covers the entire midfoot which may lead to the inability to breathe well.
This shoe felt wider than an average foot and so I had to pull my laces tighter than normal. This caused some buckling in the top of the forefoot.
I also found the arch support to be lacking and it wasn’t because of the footbed which seemed ample. I believe that it came mainly from the wider than normal fit.
The outsole was crazy sticky and I rarely worried about slipping on any surface. I wasn’t able to run in any significant mud where I feel the shoe might have issues due to the lack of having big lugs. The outsole held up very well with just some minor wearing in the usual places.
- After getting the shoe broken in, it provides tons of cushion
- Great gripping outsole
- Durability is amazing
- Looks great
- Takes a long time to get broken in
- Doesn’t breathe well
- Runs wide
I started this review stating that I would no longer run in Brooks shoes, but this shoe may have changed my mind. The shoe may have opened my options to run in Brooks shoes again since the quality of this shoe far exceeded my expectations.
There is room for improvement still with better breathability in the mesh. However, it’s a solid trail shoe that you should consider buying if you stay on the trail.
This expert has been verified by RunRepeat. Reviews are neutral, unbiased and based on extensive testing.
The Brooks Caldera 3 after 100 miles
Over the last three years, I have integrated a few Brooks models into my running shoe rotation, including the Brooks Caldera 3. The Caldera is a highly cushioned, light, hybrid shoe that could take a neutral runner from pavement to light, groomed trails.
When I first purchased the Caldera 2 last year, I found that it was light and comparable in terms of weight to the Hoka Speedgoat. Granted, the Caldera’s traction was less aggressive than the Speedgoat. On the other hand, Brooks’ highly touted BioMoGo DNA provided much more energy return than the aforementioned Hoka.
The stack height was less, and the cushioning was superlative. I was relieved to be closer to the ground with less stack height, while still benefiting from the protection needed for a master’s level endurance runner to remain injury free.
Price $140 Weight 9.7 oz Heel to toe drop 5.5mm (very low) Heel height 34.5mm (high) Heel cushioning very soft Forefoot height 29.1mm (very high) Forefoot cushioning very sot Flexibility very stiff Energy return moderate
Last month I purchased the Brooks Caldera 3 with high hopes that it would live up to my earlier experiences running with the previous edition. I have now run more than 100 miles in theBrooks Caldera 3 and find that I am drawn to this shoe.
The color scheme is not the reason for my preference. If I were to choose the shoe based on its camo style coloring, I wouldn’t gravitate toward it at all. I’m not certain why it is the Caldera has habitually been produced in one color as compared to the Cascadia.
However, if you look beyond color and go with feel, you will be pleasantly surprised. Running with the shoe, this neutral offering has continued to live up to expectations as a fast, light trainer with reasonable traction for slick wet roads and groomed trails.
The heel offset is a reasonable 4mm, and I find that stride turnover rate is efficient, permitting high cadence during solid training runs. The shoe encourages a forefoot to mid-foot strike, and during this process, the moderate tread does not distract.
The comfort level running in this shoe is high, and my feet were happier running in the Caldera 3 than many other road and trail shoes that I have called on.
The upper is built from an Ariaprene mesh that is touted as repelling water. Though water will enter this shoe, its drainage happens equally fast.
The shoes remain light and comfortable in wet weather and on sloggy surfaces, positioning the Caldera as a four-season shoe. There is also a newly added water repellent film placed around the shoe, just above the sole.
During runs on wet surfaces when there is no rain, this new addition assists in keeping feet dry. Brooks also dispensed with their overlays in this edition, creating a more breathable product.
The Caldera 3 is wide, requiring a very tight, careful lacing. There is also ample room for toe splay, even for someone with a wider foot, especially now with a revisited toe bumper.
The heel cup, at least for me, is perfect. Though I always use the heel lock system with every shoe, this shoe locks down nicely to the point where I often forgot I was running with a shoe at all. I have yet to experience a black toenail running in this Caldera, something critical for runners training in hilly locations.
Brooks has added a lace keeper in place of the previous lace garage sewn into the newly gusseted tongue. Though I find this edition an improvement over the previous lacing system because it is accessible, I still tucked the laces into my own snug lacing.
When I did use the lace keeper once, it was the first and only time my laces came undone mid-run, suggesting the addition is not a final solution to a lingering problem.
The outsole has been improved over the previous two editions with a stickier TrailTack compound, which I found reasonable in slippery, though not in icy conditions. However, what is noticeable is that the outsole stands up to considerable mileage.
A hexagon pattern of 3D Hex Lugs is also placed strategically throughout the shoe’s sole to improve traction. This configuration works well, but I will disclose that I went through two pairs of this shoe during my trial.
The Hex Lugs were not properly glued in the first pair and came partially off during the first run. When I received my replacement pair from my local running outlet, the problem did not resurface, so the problem might have been simply a faulty pair.
The midsole is stacked high, and Brooks intention is to ensure runner protection against moderate level trail hazards. Brooks has become known for its use of BioMoGo DNA cushioning.
There has been considerable discussion devoted to energy return in relation to midsole compounds. The energy return in this shoe cannot be compared with Nike’s PEBAX classified foam found in their faster shoes, though such comparisons shouldn’t happen anyway.
The Caldera is built as a comfortable, well cushioned hybrid trail shoe and not as a high octane racer. I can attest to running 20KM+ in this shoe and feeling equally happy with the shoe across the distance. Even the next day after a long run in the Caldera 3, my legs were fresh and ready for another active day.
- I appreciated the wide, comfortable upper construction.
- This shoe is also extremely light when compared with many of its competitors in the trail shoe classification.
- The shoe felt soft underfoot, permitting longer distance runs, rain or shine.
- This shoe was also used on road and trail surfaces and performed equally well in both environments.
- There was ample toe room in this shoe, ensuring comfortable splay.
- My foot also felt like it was being cradled by the shoe, adding to a comfortable experience.
- This shoe is classified as a trail shoe, though within this classification, I would not venture off groomed trails. The rubber compound is not yet sticky enough, and the hexagon pattern outsole is only moderately aggressive.
- This shoe needs to be laced carefully given its width. Otherwise, it will feel sloppy and loose in the forefoot.
- The lace keeper is not a perfect solution to a recurring problem with this shoe.
- There needs to be a more careful and diverse selection of color schemes.
I hope that Brooks continues to produce this line of shoes into the future. The Brooks Caldera is an almost perfect hybrid running shoe that can take you from road to trail and achieve this during the lengthiest of runs in good to moderate weather conditions.
Updates to Brooks Caldera 3
- The 3rd iteration for the Brooks Caldera is now redesigned with an Ariaprene upper mesh. This gives the shoe a great construction for ventilation and at the same time guarantees the fast draining of any accumulated water that may have been collected in the shoe along the duration of the run. This Ariaprene update to the upper makes the shoe’s breathability and flexibility more superior than it was on Brooks Caldera 2.
- Working with the mesh upper is the mudguard which provides stretch and structure for a much better fit. This also enhances the protection and durability in areas that are prone to constant abrasion.
- Also, an added enhancement that most trail runners are happy about is the gaiter attachment point now also found at the front of the shoe. This works great with the integrated and improved Gaiter Tab situated in the heel.
- Brooks has also updated its lace garage on the Caldera 3. This improvement keeps the shoe laces secure, clean and kept out of the way.
- Same as the well-reviewed neutral running shoe, Brooks Launch 6, the Brooks Caldera 3 is also supplied with the BioMoGo DNA cushioning gel. However, in this Brooks Caldera 3, the DNA gel is now stacked higher to create a responsive and steady stride. The midsole geometry to this new edition of Brooks Caldera 3 was also refined as it now supplies inherent protection and a stable ride that helps as fatigue from running sets in.
- Moreover, lastly, giving the shoe an overall quality build is the improved TrailTack Sticky Rubber outsole that features lugs with high surface areas. This rubber outsole provides the much-needed traction on uphill and downhill trails - even including traction on wet surfaces.
Brooks Caldera 3 size and fit
Brooks Caldera 3’s sizing is available in standard medium sizing D for men and standard medium sizing B for women. Although the sizing feels a half size too small, it still runs true to width. The toe-box measurement may vary according to size and the shoe also tends to have a wide fit on its sides.
The Caldera 3 has a heel-to-toe drop of 4mm. Shoe weight for men is 9.9 ounces while it weighs in at 9 ounces for women. Trail runners with a medium to high arch and neutral gait cycle would best benefit from this model.
Shoe sizes for men run from 7 to 15 and for women, it runs sizes 5 to 11. Both Brooks Caldera 3 for men and women are available in half sizes which means the user will be able to find his/her perfect fitting pair with no problem.
The outsole is known to be the essential part of any trail running shoe, and Brooks Caldera 3’s outsole now boasts an updated TrailTack Sticky Rubber material. This material is laid out with hexagonal patterns that help propel the runner forward and guarantees excellent traction on all kinds of terrains. This new rubber outsole also features high-surface area lugs that provide exceptional uphill and downhill grip, including on wet trail surfaces.
Almost always constant in Brooks shoes is their BioMogo DNA cushioning technology. This reliable midsole cushioning is once again present in the Brooks Caldera 3 as it is in the Brooks Ghost 11. This DNA gel continually provides midsole cushioning and comfort throughout the run. The very responsive BioMoGo DNA gel which is also found in Brooks Caldera 2, promotes a steady stride over long distance runs. It also aids in protecting the foot against different trail hazards avoiding unwanted injuries for the user.
Also adding to the comfort of the Brooks Caldera 3 is the smooth, fabric lining and its removable foam insole, which offers a great in-shoe feel.
The Brooks Caldera 3 upper has now been redesigned with the use of Ariaprene mesh. This mesh upper provides maximum breathability, ventilation, flexibility, and fast drainage. And in case of wet trails, the Ariaprene mesh upper helps in draining water exceptionally quick making it adaptable to handle all types of tough and unpredictable terrains.
Mud guard has also been incorporated strategically in the Brooks Caldera 3. This aids in a better stretch and structure to ensure a more adaptable fit.
Also found in the Caldera 3 is the new front gaiter-attachment point. This compliments the integrated gaiter tab at the heel and easily secures the gaiters with a hook and loop system.
One of the updates to enhance the functionality of Brooks Caldera 3 is the lace garage for added shoe lace security. This lace garage or lace keeper guarantees that the shoelaces are kept securely in place and out of the way.
The Caldera 3 also features a padded tongue and collar that helps provide additional comfort and better fit to the entirety of the shoe.
And lastly, the shoe has a strobel last with its upper stitched seamlessly to a full-length fabric providing a comfortable underfoot feel.