Our verdict

The Brooks Caldera is back and better, keeping its star features—tonnes of cushioning, a ventilated upper, and a stable ride—perfect for easy trails. We were impressed again by its plush and responsive performance during our evaluations. Still, it falls short for technical terrains and could benefit from a lighter design. Based on our tests, the Caldera truly stands out for runners who prioritise a plush ride on the trails.

Pros

  • Tonnes of cushioning
  • Plush DNA Loft v3 foam
  • Best Caldera to date
  • Roomier than ever
  • Superb upper ventilation
  • Surprisingly stable
  • Fairly priced

Cons

  • Still heavy
  • Outsole could be better
  • Not for technical trails

Audience verdict

87
Great!

Who should buy

We think the Caldera 7 is a superb choice for:

  • Runners who cherish the plush ride of Brooks' road shoes with DNA Loft v3 and want a trail option for easy adventures.
  • Those new to trail running that want a superbly cushioned shoe.
  • Maximalist shoe fans exploring new alternatives beyond Hokas that seek a stable ride.

Brooks Caldera 7

Who should NOT buy

With such a soft and thick midsole, we observed that the immediate feedback from the ground is just missing. It's designed to prioritise comfort above all else, which we think might not suit everyone's taste. Those who favour a firmer midsole would do better in the Brooks Divide 4 or the Altra Outroad.

We also think that those who prefer lightweight shoes won't find a pleasant experience with the Cascadia 7. However, we have tested a fantastic alternative that also boasts a good chunk of foam but in a lighter build—the Hoka Mafate Speed 4.

Brooks Caldera 7 parts

Breathability

When it comes to trail shoes, breathability often takes a backseat, especially when compared to their road-running counterparts. Yet, the Caldera 7 shatters this expectation with outstanding ventilation.

Following our tests using a smoke-pumping machine, we awarded it a perfect score of 5/5, making it a top pick for warm weather trail adventures.

Curious about its superior airflow, we zoomed in on the construction and discovered that while the toebox boasts robust ventilation, the rest of the upper opts for a thicker, more structured build to enhance stability.

Brooks Caldera 7 ventilation holes

Initially, we didn't notice any ventilation holes, prompting a closer look under the microscope. To our delight, we uncovered hundreds of microscopic holes within the engineered mesh, designed to efficiently manage air and moisture.

Brooks Caldera 7 microscope

Although the mesh isn't particularly stretchy, it offers commendable comfort.

The midfoot and heel areas, while adequately padded, do not quite reach exceptional levels, probably due to weight concerns at Brooks HQ.

Test results
Caldera 7 5
Average 3.3
Compared to 83 trail running shoes
Number of shoes
1
Breathability
5

Durability

Toebox durability

Boasting exceptional ventilation through its ultra-thin toebox, the Caldera 7 was screaming for our Dremel test.

At 5,000 RPM, the Dremel attacked the TPEE upper, yet the toebox showed impressive resilience, largely due to the tough overlays protecting it. This performance confirms that the Caldera 7 excels in providing both superior breathability and solid durability—a rare combination in trail shoes!

Brooks Caldera 7 Toebox durability
Test results
Caldera 7 3
Average 3.1
Compared to 63 trail running shoes
Number of shoes
1
Toebox durability
5

Heel padding durability

Satisfied with the toebox durability, we turned our focus to the heel, hoping for equally impressive results.

To our delight, the outcome surpassed our expectations—after evaluating the damage, we awarded the Caldera 7 a robust 4/5 for heel durability.

Brooks Caldera 7 Heel padding durability
Test results
Caldera 7 4
Average 2.9
Compared to 61 trail running shoes
Number of shoes
1
Heel padding durability
5

Outsole hardness

A crucial feature of any trail shoe is its outsole, which must provide a robust mix of durability and traction.

Brooks Caldera 7 outsole

The outsole boasts chevron-shaped lugs designed to enhance traction during descents and ascents. Additionally, we discovered a large central channel that significantly aids in flexibility and mud clearance.

In our outsole hardness evaluation, we applied our Shore C durometer to the TrailTrack Green material and recorded a score of 90.4 HC. This score aligns with our experience on the trails—while the Caldera 7 offers decent grip, it doesn’t quite reach the heights of extraordinary performance.

Brooks Caldera 7 Outsole hardness
Test results
Caldera 7 90.4 HC
Average 85.4 HC
We use an average of four tests. The photo shows one of those tests.
Compared to 106 trail running shoes
Number of shoes
72.5 HC
Outsole hardness
95.0 HC

Outsole durability

After our durometer recorded such high score, our anticipation grew to deploy the Dremel one last time in this lab review.

Unfortunately, our optimism was tempered when we measured the outsole with a tyre tread gauge and noted a disappointing 1.2-mm wear mark. While not alarmingly poor, this performance clearly demands enhancement for v8.

Brooks Caldera 7 Outsole durability
Test results
Caldera 7 1.2 mm
Average 0.9 mm
Compared to 56 trail running shoes
Number of shoes
0.0 mm
Outsole wear
2.0 mm

Outsole thickness

We measured the outsole thickness at 2.0 mm—reasonable considering the heavier build of this shoe. However, it appears to us that Brooks might consider slimming this down in future models to reduce the overall weight.

Brooks Caldera 7 Outsole thickness
Test results
Caldera 7 2.0 mm
Average 2.4 mm
Compared to 106 trail running shoes
Number of shoes
0.9 mm
Outsole thickness
6.5 mm

Weight

Speaking of the devil, the weight of the Caldera has always been a significant concern, as it tended to feel a bit heavy for everyone.

We were pleased to discover a slight reduction in weight with version 7, which now dips below the 11-oz mark to a more manageable 10.75 oz. But we want to see it reach 10 oz, come on Brooks!

Brooks Caldera 7 Weight
Test results
Caldera 7 10.76 oz (305g)
Average 10.30 oz (292g)
Compared to 106 trail running shoes
Number of shoes
7.51 oz (213g)
Weight
13.37 oz (379g)

Cushioning

Heel stack

At first glance, the Caldera 7 unmistakably features a maximalist design, focusing on a thick midsole above all. However, in our lab, we don't just rely on appearances; we measure. Using digital callipers, we determined a substantial heel stack height of 36.7 mm.

Brooks Caldera 7 stack heel

This significant measurement is especially appealing for heavy heel strikers looking for a durable, leg-friendly trail runner. We guarantee that this kind of cushioning absorbs impacts effectively, making long runs less taxing on the legs.

Brooks Caldera 7 Heel stack
Test results
Caldera 7 36.7 mm
Average 32.2 mm
Compared to 106 trail running shoes
Number of shoes
16.1 mm
Heel stack
42.4 mm

Forefoot stack

The forefoot height of the Caldera 7 dips below 30 millimetres, measuring just 27.8 mm.

This lower profile offers a grounded feel for forefoot strikers, ensuring the shoe doesn’t feel overly tall during runs as it does with heel strikers.

Brooks Caldera 7 Forefoot stack
Test results
Caldera 7 27.8 mm
Average 24.5 mm
Compared to 106 trail running shoes
Number of shoes
15.2 mm
Forefoot stack
33.9 mm

Drop

The Caldera 7 features an 8.9-mm heel-to-toe drop, ideally suited for rearfoot strikers, though it accommodates all types of footstrikes with ease. 

It's important to mention that Brooks advertises a 6-mm drop, so runners expecting a mid-drop feel might notice a slight difference in the shoe's feel.

Brooks Caldera 7 Drop
Test results
Caldera 7 8.9 mm
Average 7.8 mm
Compared to 105 trail running shoes
Number of shoes
-0.1 mm
Drop
17.3 mm

Insole thickness

We discovered that the insole in the latest Caldera is 5.3 mm thick, slightly more than the 5.0 mm insole of the previous model. This additional thickness provides a bit more comfort underfoot.

Brooks Caldera 7 Insole thickness
Test results
Caldera 7 5.3 mm
Average 4.7 mm
Compared to 106 trail running shoes
Number of shoes
2.7 mm
Insole thickness
9.8 mm

Midsole softness

Note: a low durometer measurement equals a soft material, whereas a high measurement means it's firm.

We've delved deeply into the Caldera's cushioning and discovered its core—DNA Loft v3, an EVA-based foam that's infused with nitrogen.

This supercritical formula delivers a remarkable bounce while maintaining an ultra-plush sensation, which we quantified at a soft 15.5 HA on our durometer, notably soft for a trail shoe.

This plushness steers the shoe toward long distances and gentler trails. With such a soft and thick midsole, we observed that the immediate feedback found in firmer soles is missing—it's designed to prioritise comfort above all else, which we think might not suit everyone's taste.

Brooks Caldera 7 Midsole softness
Test results
Caldera 7 15.5 HA
Average 22.7 HA
We use an average of four tests. The photo shows one of those tests.
Compared to 82 trail running shoes
Number of shoes
9.1 HA
Midsole softness (soft to firm)
39.0 HA

Difference in midsole softness in cold

After chilling the Caldera 7 in our freezer for just 20 minutes, we re-evaluated its softness. We were delighted to discover it had become only 20.2% firmer!

Brooks Caldera 7 Difference in midsole softness in cold
Test results
Caldera 7 20.2%
Average 26.4%
Compared to 82 trail running shoes
Number of shoes
0%
Difference in midsole softness in cold
100%

Rocker

The Caldera 7 incorporates a subtle toe rocker—though it's not very pronounced, it feels less significant during a run than it appears, as the midfoot and heel remain mostly flat, and there's virtually no heel bevel at all.

Brooks Caldera 7 Rocker

Stability

Lateral stability test

The Brooks Caldera 7 has shed some stack height, yet it remains impressively tall for a trail shoe. This might suggest a risk of instability, yet, surprisingly, our experience was quite the contrary—we felt better-than-average support.

How is this possible? We attribute much of the stability to the substantial midsole sidewalls that adeptly channel the foot forward. However, there's more to the story—let's dive deeper.

Torsional rigidity

This shoe is remarkably inflexible—even boasting a central groove in the outsole—as we struggled considerably when attempting to twist it.

This rigidity led us to rate it a solid 4/5—yet it also helped us understand why it's not ideally suited for tackling complex, technical terrains. This lack of flexibility limits agility where nimble movements are crucial, and positions the shoe as a solid pick for easy trails.

Test results
Caldera 7 4
Average 3.5
Compared to 100 trail running shoes
Number of shoes
1
Torsional rigidity
5

Heel counter stiffness

To enhance stability, Brooks maintained the same stiffness level (4/5) in the heel counter. This decision, while positive for stability, slightly compromises comfort.

Test results
Caldera 7 4
Average 3.2
Compared to 98 trail running shoes
Number of shoes
1
Heel counter stiffness
5

Midsole width in the forefoot

In terms of stability, the standout feature of the Caldera 7 is its impressively wide midsole. We measured 118.6 mm in the forefoot, providing an expansive and stable landing platform that benefits midfoot and forefoot strikers.

Brooks Caldera 7 Midsole width in the forefoot
Test results
Caldera 7 118.6 mm
Average 112.1 mm
Compared to 106 trail running shoes
Number of shoes
102.1 mm
Midsole width in the forefoot
126.0 mm

Midsole width in the heel

If you think the forefoot of the Caldera 7 is broad, the heel will astonish you. We measured it at an expansive 105.2 mm, marking it as one of the broadest heels we've encountered in trail running shoes, which dramatically enhances stability for rearfoot strikers.

However, we've noted a necessary compromise. Comparing the agility of an SUV to a sports car—the Caldera 7 obviously resembles the SUV, reducing its nimbleness around tight turns.

Brooks Caldera 7 Midsole width in the heel
Test results
Caldera 7 105.2 mm
Average 89.7 mm
Compared to 106 trail running shoes
Number of shoes
77.2 mm
Midsole width in the heel
109.3 mm

Flexibility

Stiffness

The Caldera 7 demonstrated a low resistance for its thickness, requiring just 29.7N to achieve this bend. This result is particularly beneficial for a shoe designed for long-distance running, as it guarantees that this shoe is not overly stiff.

Test results
Caldera 7 29.7N
Average 28.1N
We use an average of four tests. The video shows one of those tests.
Compared to 106 trail running shoes
Number of shoes
10.5N
Stiffness
54.5N

Difference in stiffness in cold

We placed the Caldera in the freezer for another 20 minutes and retested its stiffness. The result showed a 20.2% change, confirming that the shoe maintains its flexibility even in winter—an excellent feature that ensures it won’t stiffen up too much in chilly conditions.

Test results
Caldera 7 20.2%
Average 35.1%
Compared to 103 trail running shoes
Number of shoes
0%
Difference in stiffness in cold
102%

Grip / Traction

Lug depth

Brooks has traditionally marketed the Caldera as a set-and-forget shoe ideal for easy trails, so we were somewhat surprised to discover 4.0-mm lugs, a slight increase from the 3.5-mm lugs on the Caldera 6.

Is this a beneficial change? It depends. While the deeper lugs add versatility for navigating more varied terrains and improve traction in wet conditions, we also believe they might reduce comfort on flat, easy trails. Indeed, trail running outsoles always involve trade-offs!

Brooks Caldera 7 Lug depth
Test results
Caldera 7 4.0 mm
Average 3.6 mm
Compared to 106 trail running shoes
Number of shoes
1.7 mm
Lug depth
5.8 mm

Size and fit

Toebox width at the widest part

We used our digital callipers to measure a critical aspect of any running shoe—the toebox.

Our initial measurement gave us 99.5 mm across the widest part of the upper, confirming our impression that this version of the Caldera is the broadest and most spacious yet. However, we'll reserve our final judgement until after our second evaluation.

Brooks Caldera 7 Toebox width at the widest part
Test results
Caldera 7 99.5 mm
Average 98.8 mm
Compared to 106 trail running shoes
Number of shoes
92.0 mm
Toebox width at the widest part
104.9 mm

Toebox width at the big toe

We discovered that Brooks has significantly expanded the upper around the big toe area compared to previous versions, creating a less tapered toebox.

Brooks Caldera 7 toebox

This modification is excellent news for ultra-distance runners, as the rounded toe cap provides greater room for toe splay, enhancing comfort.

Brooks Caldera 7 Toebox width at the big toe
Test results
Caldera 7 80.7 mm
Average 79.0 mm
Compared to 68 trail running shoes
Number of shoes
70.5 mm
Toebox width at the big toe
92.1 mm

Tongue: gusset type

We were delighted to discover a fully gusseted tongue in the Caldera 7, a feature we consider essential for any trail shoe. This design effectively keeps most debris out of the toebox and ensures the tongue stays firmly in place, preventing any side-to-side movement.

Brooks Caldera 7 Tongue: gusset type
Test results
Caldera 7 Both sides (semi)

Comfort

Tongue padding

As we mentioned earlier in our lab review, a major drawback of the Caldera 6 was its weight. Aware of this, Brooks made several minor adjustments to optimise the design without sacrificing cushioning. The tongue, now reduced to 3.8 mm, is a prime example of this effort.

Brooks Caldera 7 tongue

Despite its reduced thickness, we found the tongue still offers some padding. Additionally, there's an elastic band to secure the laces and prevent them from shifting.

Is this change beneficial? For those who prefer a less padded tongue, it’s definitely a plus. However, runners who don’t mind a bit of extra weight for more comfort might prefer the thicker tongue of the Merrell Nova 3.

Brooks Caldera 7 Tongue padding
Test results
Caldera 7 3.8 mm
Average 6.4 mm
Compared to 106 trail running shoes
Number of shoes
1.5 mm
Tongue padding
12.2 mm

Heel tab

Consistent with recent Brooks design trends, the Caldera 7 omits a heel tab.

Brooks Caldera 7 gaiter

However, it includes a Velcro attachment point for securing ankle gaiters.

Brooks Caldera 7 Heel tab
Test results
Caldera 7 None

Removable insole

The insole is standard and not glued, allowing you to easily swap it out with third-party footbeds right away. This flexibility is ideal for those who need customised orthotic support.

Brooks Caldera 7 Removable insole
Test results
Caldera 7 Yes

Misc

Reflective elements

Unfortunately, the Caldera 7 lacks reflective features, which we always consider essential for trail shoes. This omission is a drawback for us, especially for runners who prioritise visibility at night.

Brooks Caldera 7 Reflective elements
Test results
Caldera 7 No