Monday, January 25, 2016

Reviews and Comparisons- Montrail Caldorado and Brooks Cascadia 11. Cascadia the Benchmark Trail Shoe that Keeps on Getting Better vs.the Speedy Newcomer Caldorado

By Jeff Valliere (see Jeff's Run Bio at the end of the review)

Montrail Caldorado: 
Speed, Protection, Agility
$120, Available Now from Montrail.
Montrail Caldorado. Photo Credit: Jeff Valliere

First Impressions:
Montrail knocked it out of the park with the Caldorado.  I have run in just about every type of shoe over the past 6 years, from minimal to maximal and can make a case for either depending on the run, conditions or how I am feeling, but for the majority of my daily training, I gravitate to a shoe that is somewhere in the middle.
Montrail Caldorado. Photo Credit: Jeff Valliere
The Caldorado falls into that sweet spot for me and does a great job at combining performance, protection, all day comfort and durability.  At 11oz 312grams for a men’s size 9 (non Outdry), the Caldorado is no lightweight, but it feels much lighter than an 11oz shoe, both in the hand and most importantly, on the foot.  This shoe is surprisingly responsive, quick and agile, yet provides enough protection for the steep, rocky, technical trails that I run daily.

Montrail Caldorado. Photo Credit: Jeff Valliere

The seamless upper is made of a lightweight, breathable mesh with strategically placed welded overlays that lock the foot solidly onto the midsole without feeling the least bit confining.  Because of the effectiveness of the overlays in keeping the foot in place, control is quite impressive when pushing this shoe to the limits in technical terrain.  The tongue is moderately padded, not overly puffy, but just enough to feel comfortable without feeling the laces or having to spend extra time positioning.  The laces are your typical/traditional round laces and I can achieve just the right fit on the first try (though runners with more voluminous feet may find that they are a little short). The heel cup is adequately padded, just enough for comfort, but with no extra bulk and is also well protected and keeps the heel solidly in place.  There are handy loops on the heel to aid in with putting on the shoe (though I never really needed them). The toe bumper is quite solid and protective, but integrates well with the shoe.
Montrail Caldorado. Photo Credit: Jeff Valliere

Montrail Caldorado. Photo Credit: Jeff Valliere

I have a lower volume - average size foot and found the fit to be spot on as far as length is concerned.  I don’t have much, if any, extra space in the forefoot, perhaps just enough for foot swell over the day, but I prefer that in favor of better control.  There is no extra room in the mid-foot, as fit is quite precise.

Montrail’s proprietary FluidFoam and FluidGuide technology really shine here.  The Fluidfoam provides a very well cushioned, yet firm, lively and responsive feel.  This shoe does great at any speed, but really shines when pushed hard and begs to go faster.  The Fluidguide gives a very stable feel on uneven terrain at any speed. The patented Fluid Guide is created by placing different, when heated and molded, densities of the same midsole material into the mold. The result is a smooth sense of stability at mid foot without the sometimes harsh transitions of glued in foam layers or posts of different densitites.
Montrail Fluid Guide gray is denser for more stability.Shoe illustrated is not the Caldorado
 I was able to push on steep, rocky technical downhills without the slightest bit of uneasiness or hesitation.  Additionally, Montrail’s Trailshield protection plate provides the highest level of rock protection, while offering enough flexibility to maintain an adequate sense of ground feel and forgiveness.  Stack height is 24mm in the heel and 16mm in the forefoot.  Though I have come to prefer offsets in the 4-6mm range, I hardly notice that this shoe is 8mm.

Montrail Caldorado. Photo Credit: Jeff Valliere

The 5mm lugs also achieve that sweet spot of not being overly obtrusive, yet combined with the shape, configuration and rubber compound, the Caldorado provides remarkably good traction on a wide variety of terrain.  The Caldorado runs well on groomed gravel paths, as well as short sections of road, but truly excels on anything from steep rocky trails, talus hopping, steep dirt, off trail, mud, wet etc…  Grip is also good on packed snow.

Montrail Caldorado. Photo Credit: Jeff Valliere

If one was to own just one trail shoe, the Caldorado would be a great candidate.  It is reasonably light, very quick and responsive, smooth, comfortable, supportive, well ventilated, agile, protective and can handle everything from roads to dirt paths to technical mountain terrain and just about any distance, from short runs to ultras.   Since the Caldorado even comes in an Outdry version for Winter use or wet days only adds to its potential.

Montrail Caldorado Score: 4.8 out of 5
-0.20 for potential long term durability issues  upper mesh

Brooks Cascadia 11: 
The Benchmark Trail Shoe Keeps Getting Better
$120, Available Now

First Impressions:
The Brooks Cascadia 11, the latest iteration in a long lineage of reliable benchmark trail shoes takes it up yet another notch.  With an improved (more durable) upper on an otherwise unchanged midsole and outsole, the Cascadia 11 continues to get the job done.  Though a touch on the heavier side at 11.8 oz/334 grams., the added weight is well worth the all day protection and rugged durability it provides. The new colorways are subtle and have somewhat of a retro look to them.
Brooks Cascadia 11. Photo Credit: Jeff Valliere

Brooks Cascadia 11. Photo Credit: Jeff Valliere

To address durability concerns that were of concern in the Cascadia 10, Brooks added, reconfigured and seemed to have beefed up critical areas where there were previously issues with tearing and delamination.  The most noticeable being a strip of durable, rubberized material along the middle ~60% of the medial side of the shoe.  Breathability remains excellent and the reconfiguration of overlays still provide a very precise and dialed fit.  I did however find that the toe box seems to be just slightly more voluminous and fits just a touch larger than the previous Cascadia 10.  Otherwise, midfoot fit is the same, snug and precise with excellent foothold and control.
The toe bumper/cap is quite protective and has good flexibility.  The heel counter is just the right height, padding is on the thick side, but is quite comfortable and protective with excellent heel hold.  As mentioned above, this Cascadia 11 feels just a touch longer than previous versions, which is evident when I try both the 10 and 11 on side by side, but it is minimal enough that I would call it true to size and likely not a consideration for the majority of users.

Brooks Cascadia 11. Photo Credit: Jeff Valliere

Fit is somewhat on the narrow side and those with more voluminous feet, or those looking for more room for toe splay may want to carefully consider.

Brooks has found a very good formula with their BioMoGo DNA midsole and wisely have not deviated from this.  I find the midsole to be very well cushioned and supportive, great for all day outings in rough terrain, but it is not particularly plush in my opinion, nor is it very responsive.  Not necessarily a problem for me though, as I am aware of this ahead of time and choose this shoe not so much for fast performance, but for all day protection, comfort, traction, reliability and predictability.  The Ballistic Rock Shield does an impressive job at essentially eliminating any jabs from even the sharpest pointiest rocks, but does so at the expense of lateral flexibility.


The Cascadia 11 outsole is also unchanged and continues to do an impressive job of combining traction and durability, with an effective tread pattern and a somewhat hard, long lasting rubber compound.  This outsole excels on steep, rocky technical trails, loose dirt, off trail and packed snow.  It also does reasonably well in muddy conditions, but mud tends to stick and cake between the lugs.  The harder rubber compound is great for longevity, but can be a bit slick on wet rock and is not particularly forgiving.
Brooks Cascadia 11. Photo Credit: Jeff Valliere

The Cascadia 11 is a great shoe for all day forays into the mountains, off trail, technical terrain, long distance training or an ultra shoe for the masses.  Though Brooks discourages this use on it’s website, the Cascadia 11 has even gained a following with thru hikers due to its durability, support and lower weight relative to a hiking boot.  I find the Cascadia to be ideal for moderate paced runs at best. The weight of the shoe when combined with the very stiff mid-sole and rock plate does not make it particularly responsive, quick or agile and it does not contour  uneven terrain very well due to its lateral stiffness.  The Cascadia 11 has a 10mm offset (27/17mm) which is a little more than I typically prefer, but is not a problem for this shoe and its typical use (moderate to slower speeds, rougher terrain).

Brooks Cascadia 11: 4.5 out of 5
-0.25 for weight
-0.25 for lateral stability

Comparisons Montrail Caldorado to Brooks Cascadia 11:

I initially made reference to the fact that the Montrail Caldorado would be in direct competition with the Brooks Cascadia 11 and thus was given the opportunity to test them both side by side.  They do indeed share many similarities, being similar weight, size, price and both shoes will certainly appeal to the same group of trail runners looking for a durable and reliable trail shoe for long distances.  They both have top level protection, firm cushioning, durability, traction, all day comfort and fit is quite similar.
Their differences though, however minor, may sway one's decision one way or the other.  The first and initially most noticeable difference is weight, 11.8 oz. for the Cascadia 11 vs. 11 oz. for the Caldorado.  Though .8 of an ounce does not sound like much, it is clearly evident when holding each shoe and more importantly, is evident when running.  The Caldorado feels lighter than 11 oz. and feels comparatively much quicker, agile and nimble than the Cascadia 11.  I attribute this to the lower stack height/offset (24/16mm vs. 27/17mm in the Cascadia 11) and a more flexible and forgiving outsole.  I found that with the Caldorado, I had much better trail feel in technical terrain, yet I found protection to be similar to the Cascadia 11 and is much more forgiving when contouring over rocks, roots and other imperfections in the trail and felt that I could push faster and with more confidence than I could with the Cascadia 11.
Toe Box Comparison: Caldorado Left, Cascadia Right Photo Credit: Jeff Valliere

The Cascadia toe box is slightly more tapered than the Caldorado's and the Caldorado is slightly more rounded in the toe box. That said, they both feel about the same, a low volume, precise fit throughout and about the same in the toe box. I have a somewhat low volume foot and find both of them to be perfect, as I don't usually look for extra room since I run on technical, steep terrain almost exclusively and prefer control over room fro splay (within reason of course).

I also found that wet traction was a little bit better with the Caldorado.  None of this however is a knock on the Cascadia 11, as I would give it a slight advantage over the Caldorado in regards to all around traction (excluding wet rock), quality/durability and all day protection (thicker stack height and BioMoGo DNA).  The upper of the Cascadia 11 also seems more durable to me, as though it could withstand a bit more punishment over a longer period of time.

Either way, you could not go wrong with either shoe, it just depends on your preference.

The Caldorado and Cascadia 11 were provided at no charge to Road Trail Run. The opinions herein are entirely the author's.

Reviewer Bio

Jeff Valliere is a former pro cyclist who now runs and climbs the mountains of Colorado. He has been top 5 Masters, top 25 overall, at the Pike's Peak Marathon several times, finishing 3d Masters this year. Jeff loves vertical accumulating more than 500,000 vertical feet per year, has climbed all the 14's and 200 of the 13's and has held FKT on several.  He often runs and climbs at night. Passionate about the sport but also the gear he has reviewed hundred of shoes for various magazines and sites and participated in product testing for many brands.  Formerly a bike mechanic he now works in Satellite Imagery. He has twin 5 year old daughters who keep him ever busier yet.
The Cascadia 11 and 10 (at a great price) are available from 
Road Trail Run Partner 
Running Warehouse
Men's Here
Women's Here

Want to stick with the Cascadia 10?  Tri-Village has a great deal on them below

Save 36% on the Brooks Cascadia 10 Running Shoe - Was $119.95, Now $76.77!

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Mike H said...

Hiya Jeff,

Great reviews. Glad I found this because I'm particularly intrigued by the Caldorado. My Cascadia 9s are on their last leg. I love them very much, probably the most comfortable trail runner I've had. I tried the Cascadia 11 on but, man, the forefoot is just too snug for me. Big fit change compared to the 9s. I haven't had a chance to try on the Caldorado yet, but how would you compare the fit to the Cascadia 11, particularly in the forefoot?

Mike H.

Jeff Valliere said...

Thanks for the kind words Mike. Both shoes fit fairly similar, but when I get home this evening, I'll try them on side by side for the most accurate comparison I can give and post back here. As I wrote in the review, the Cascadia 11 seemed to have a bit more toe room than the Cascadia 10 (not sure how that compares to the Cascadia 9), but I think the difference was more in length than it was in width. As always, I would suggest trying them on before buying though. I'll post back soon. Jeff.

Mike H said...


Jeff Valliere said...

OK, I just tried them on side by side. It seems as though the Cascadia is SLIGHTY more tapered and the Caldorado is slightly more rounded in the toe box. That said, they both feel about the same, a low volume, precise fit throughout and about the same in the toe box. I have a somewhat low volume foot and find both of them to be perfect, as I don't usually look for extra room since I run technical, steep terrain almost exclusively and prefer control over room for splay (within reason of course). I took a photo of them side by side and asked Sam to add to the review. Hope this helps.

Mike H said...

That's very helpful, Thanks Jeff!

Looking forward to checking out the Caldorado.