Brooks Caldera 6 Review
This week we have the Brooks Caldera 6 review, the lesser-known trail running shoe from the brand that brought you the Cascadia. ***LINK*** The Brooks Caldera 6 is a trail running shoe unlike no other that Brooks has made before. It is a big, purposeful step towards the higher stack height softly cushioned trail shoes that have grown in popularity more associated with brands like Hoka or Altra.
When you slide your foot into the Caldera 6 it still ‘feels’ like a Brooks shoe. The shape of the upper is the same as their road shoes, so if you are a regular Brooks user the initial feel of the Caldera 6 will be familiar. However, the similarities stop there. The side walls of the midsole come up higher than on lower stack height shoes, so your foot sits inside the midsole. This increases stability and prevents you from ‘falling off’ the top of the midsole. The stack height is 31mm in the heel and 25mm in the forefoot. This categorises the Brooks Caldera 6 as a maximal cushioned shoe. This is like the Altra Olympus or the Hoka Mafate, designed to give you a soft, plush cushioned ride in comfort. The midsole is made from DNA Loft v3. which is a Nitrogen infused foam. The same midsole that is used in the Glycerin 20 road running shoe. The heel to forefoot drop of 6mm and the slight curve to the midsole are designed to promote a more midfoot landing, encourage a faster cadence and a more natural, upright style. This rocker geometry is similar to that used in Hoka and Scott running shoes.
For those who aren’t familiar with Brooks shoes, the regular fit is a little narrow, like a Hoka regular fit for example and more pointed than foot shape brands. However, the foot feels well held in the shoes. The heel cup is particularly well padded, which adds to the luxurious feel of the shoes. The tongue is gusseted to reduce the chance of getting any grit or dirt in the shoes. The upper is a durable and tightly woven mesh again. Designed to be tough and prevent dirt from filtering through the mesh. There is a TPU overlay over the toes to protect the toes in case you should kick a rock or root.
The base of the Calder 6 is broad, giving a stable ride, which may appear to look big and heavy. They aren’t! On your feet they feel light and a lot more responsive than the initial soft feel would dictate. I found the cushioning to be initially softer than a Hoka Speedgoat 5, but the midsole is more energetic. Very similar to the feel of the Inov-8 TrailFly G 280. You feel like you can zip along in the Caldera 6. The broad base and the bucket-seat-like construction of the midsole give the shoes a very stable feel. This is great for road to trail or firmer tracks and trails because it’s specifically designed to reduce the feeling of rough ground hitting your feet. It’s not designed as a nimble trail shoe. The midsole is purposely a little stiffer and guides the foot through the gait cycle. This feels great on firmer trails, but the midsole doesn’t have enough compression to absorb the sharper lumps and bumps of technical trails. It’s perfect for running along the paths, onto your favourite tracks and back home, rather than broken, rocky or root-riddled ground, which a lot of us do regularly.
The outsole is made from Brooks’ TrailTac. This is a soft sticky rubber that offers good traction on wet surfaces. The outsole is completely covered in the rubber, which protects the midsole from rocks and thorns and will increase the durability of the shoes. The outsole isn’t quite as durable as a road outsole, so whilst feeling great on tarmac I would advise against very regular miles on the road. The lugs are well spaced out and 5mm long. The outsole gives good traction in dry and wet conditions. The stiffer midsole is designed for comfortable miles so won’t flex enough to shed deep, sticky mud, where more aggressive shoes perform (but they aren’t comfortable on your mile on the road!).
In summary the comfortable cushioning is good enough for daily mileage to even ultramarathon distance of harder terrain, for those with a narrower foot. Whilst the Brooks Caldera 6 offers a very cushioned ride, it’s a surprisingly energetic one. Need a shoe to run along the road to your favourite track or trail, which is usually harder packed, maybe wet in places? The Brooks Caldera 6 will fit right in.
Topo Ultraventure 2: These have a broad rounded toe box that gives more space for your feet to spread. The cushioning is firmer and more responsive but, you have more feel for the trail which makes these a bit more versatile in that they still function on broken or rooted trails. Read the review for a bit more information: https://www.northernrunner.com/blog/topo-athletic-ultraventure-2-review/
La Sportiva Jackal: These have a firmer more solid ride. The outsole is more versatile. They are still a stiff shoe but narrower base means that you can still run nimbly over more technical terrain. They aren’t as soft and plush on harder tracks and trails and lack the cushioned road shoe feel of the Caldera. Here is our review for more information: https://www.northernrunner.com/blog/la-sportiva-jackal-review-2/
Karhu Ikoni Trail: Versatile trail shoe with a soft feel to the cushioning. Rather than a rocker Karhu use a Fulcrum to give the shoes propulsion and help the runner maintain a quick cadence and upright posture. Link to our review for more information:
Altra Olympus 5: A broader more rounded toe box. Soft cushioning and good grip. The outsole bites better into soft ground but still has the same issue as the Caldera in that the broad base makes the shoes less nimble and the stiffness means that they don’t shed the mud well. So, they are best used for firmer tracks and trails. Here is a link to our review: https://www.northernrunner.com/blog/altra-olympus-5-review/
Hoka Mafate 4: Although these are a narrow fitting shoe they have slightly more rom in the toe box than the Brooks Caldera 6. Which gives your feet a bit of space for foot expansion over the long haul. The midsole is a bit softer at the base and absorbs the lumps and bumps of the trail a bit better. Although these are still not a nimble shoe. The cushioning is similarly soft and smooth. https://www.northernrunner.com/hoka-m92/mafate-t97
New Balance Hierro v7: A similar fit but, available in three widths Men’s and two widths Women’s. The ride is similarly soft but, without the rocker. It depends on the runners as to whether this is good or not. Shoes with rockers can feel a bit like the shoe is in control as the rocker guides you through the gait cycle. Shoes without a rocker feel a bit more natural. Link to our review for more information: