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95
/100 by , posted on .

I first considered the Columbia Caldorado III back in January 2020. I was formulating my plan for the year ahead and had an Ultra itch that I wanted to scratch and wanted a shoe fit for the task.

Although Columbia is a huge brand across the globe, I didn’t actually know anyone who ran in their shoes regularly, so I was a little short of advice.

I liked what I read but didn’t feel convinced enough to buy the shoe. Their Montrail connection certainly brought extensive trail experience and credibility, but I couldn’t bring myself to purchase without a personal recommendation.

In the end, I plumped for the Salomon Ultra Pro (reviewed on RunRepeat), which ultimately left me disappointed: it just felt a little lifeless and not what I was looking for. Unfortunately, my Ultra ambitions fell victim to COVID-19, but the Caldorado III remained in my thoughts, and a few months later, I took the plunge.

 

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I picked up the shoe for a scarcely believable price, which made buying it an easy decision. Although my purchase was exceptional, this shoe can be easily found for sub-£70, which makes it a very attractive proposition.

Upper & design

Out of the box, the shoe is an attractive design in my ‘Steam/Tangy Orange’ colourway. It looks a little more speed hiker than trail runner, but I like it. 

The upper has the appearance and feel of a soft, thin neoprene, which is pretty unique amongst the trail shoes I have come across. It feels comfortable, plush, and flexible and has a nice sheen to it.

The upper is overlaid with varying thicknesses of TPU. There is a substantial but reassuringly lightweight and flexible toe bumper to protect the feet from the impact on rocky trails.

 

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The overlays thin out from here until the lace channel, where they bulk up and provide some soft structure around the foot’s bridge. This, allied with the flat, elasticated laces, provide a nice lockdown and some support without sacrificing any flexibility.

The heel counter is firm and provides plenty of support, which is the only place on the shoe where we see the real structure.

In terms of the design, the heel differs from the rest of the shoe as it is clad in a stout mesh, which is completely different from the upper. It is a little inconsistent in design terms and quite old school in appearance, but not offensive.

The gusseted tongue and well-padded collar and heel counter contribute to the soft, luxurious feel across the shoe. Comfort levels in the seamless upper really are excellent!

Fit

The fit is true to size (I’m a UK10 in almost everything) with ample room in the toe box without feeling like my foot was lost in it.

Midsole

The midsole of the Caldorado III is made from Columbia’s FluidFoam material. It provides all the cushion I want without ever feeling vague or squishy.

Compared to my Ultra Pro experience, I found it to be softer with vastly superior ground connection. Running in this shoe is a very pleasurable experience.

 

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The addition of a TrailShield rockplate provides some protection under the forefoot, but the flex grooves on the outsole stop the shoe from feeling too stiff or detached from the ground. It’s a really attractive combination of protection and feels, which I like a lot.

Columbia’s FluidGuide technology is used to provide some gentle stability in the midsole. It’s a subtle influence that does nothing to diminish the natural feel and flow of the shoe.

Outsole

The wide outsole clad with extensive multi-directional 4mm lugs provides a confidence-inspiring platform on which to progress.

The grip is adequate but isn’t particularly aggressive: it works a treat on the loose stone trails I am used to and would be ideal across the alpine-style trail it is designed for.

I purposely tested the shoe across some wet, grassy terrain, and the Caldorado iii handled it pretty well, but it certainly wouldn’t be my go-to choice for mountain running on grass or muddy surfaces.

 

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My first run in the Caldorado III was a steady pace across my usual loose stone forest roads, nothing too aggressive or challenging.

After a few minutes, I knew I had a winner on my feet: zero break-in period - just straight-up comfort in a relatively lightweight and responsive package. 

It works well as a road to trail shoe, primarily due to the comfort levels within. The numerous small lugs offer a smooth, steady ride on hard surfaces.

I have clocked almost 80 miles in the Caldorado III, mainly running but with some hiking and everyday wear too. I have enjoyed them all. It provides comfort on long runs but has enough feeling and response to handle quicker workouts. 

The bad

As always, I have a couple of minor gripes but not enough to push me away from the shoe.

I occasionally find the tongue gusset, which is made from the same plush material as the upper, can bunch, which can cause discomfort. This is avoided by taking some care with the placement of the gusset when lacing up.

I do think this could be avoided completely by using a thin, elasticated material and a slight change in design (Under Armour absolutely nailed this feature in the HOVR Sonic 3, which I recently reviewed).

 

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I find the fit a little vague around the bottom of the lace channel/forefoot. The toe box’s room is very welcome, but I’d like it to taper in a little more approaching the midfoot.

Although this is a gripe for me, the extra room would doubtless be very welcome for someone with a wider foot.

The Caldorado III comes in a waterproof Outdry version, which mine is not. I tend to avoid waterproof footwear as on wet days or particularly sodden terrain, water inevitably enters the shoe at the collar and stays in.

The Caldorado didn’t drain particularly well, and the plush upper tends to encourage water retention, which didn’t make for a particularly enjoyable experience.

Durability

Durability after 80 miles is very good. I’m experiencing very little wear to the outsole, and the upper is holding up well.

I had a nasty slip whilst hiking and took a pretty good impact on my foot, which left a large bruise on me but nothing more than an abrasion on the upper. A less substantial upper might not have survived. 

Verdict

The Columbia Caldorado III has turned out to be everything I wanted it to be and more. I laced it up with no preconceptions, prejudices, or expectations, and after 70 miles, it is safe to say I am a huge fan.

I have been really impressed by the shoe and find myself torn between it and my beloved Inov-8 Roclites every time I head for the trails.

As a rule, if I am going over 8 miles, I’ll reach for the Columbia as it has all-day comfort and plenty of room across the board. That’s not to say it can’t handle shorter, faster workouts or an increase in pace when the mood takes me, but I prefer to keep it as my long day shoe. 

 

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For long trail days with mixed terrain, it’s a great choice, and if I ever get round to doing an Ultra, I will find an able partner in the Caldorado III.

If you want a one-stop trail shoe with all-day comfort but light and responsive enough to handle a brisk outing, I can’t recommend it highly enough. It’s a great all-rounder at an excellent price point.

Great job, Columbia!

| Level 3 expert Verified
I am an exercise evangelist who loves the physical and mental benefits of running! I run 30-40 miles per week, split between trail and mountain runs and more focused road work. My favoured events are trail races and mountain runs but have competed in lots of road runs too. I am a shoe geek, always looking for my next pair and weighing up the strengths and weaknesses of what is out there and how it might suit me.

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Author
Jens Jakob Andersen
Jens Jakob Andersen

Jens Jakob is a fan of short distances with a 5K PR at 15:58 minutes. Based on 35 million race results, he's among the fastest 0.2% runners. Jens Jakob previously owned a running store, when he was also a competitive runner. His work is regularly featured in The New York Times, Washington Post, BBC and the likes as well as peer-reviewed journals. Finally, he has been a guest on +30 podcasts on running.