Monday, January 29, 2024

Brooks Caldera 7 Multi Tester Review: 8 Comparisons

Article by Jeff Beck and Jeff Valliere

Brooks Caldera 7 ($150)


Jeff B: The Caldera has been Brooks most cushioned trail shoe in the lineup for some time, though it never has been ultra/max cushioned like others brands’ most cushioned shoe. The Caldera 7 changes that up a bit, while it might not be the most cushioned shoe in existence, its stack height and midsole platform are high and wide enough to be considered a max cushion trail shoe. The Cascadia is Brooks every day trail shoe , and the Caldera could be considered the same - just with a little more squish underfoot.

Jeff V:  The Caldera 7 builds on the already excellent version 6, which provides gobs of light, soft, bouncy cushioning with the inclusion of DNA Loft v3, secure upper, roomy toe box and very good stable and protective trail manners.  The Caldera 7 retains the same DNA Loft v3 midsole with a new retooled upper with new TPEE material (retaining the roomy fit of the Caldera 6), lower sidewalls for greater flexibility and a completely new outsole.  


DNA Loft v3 midsole strikes a good soft/bouncy/protective balance: Jeff B/Jeff V

Square toe box shape gives decent width, a nice upgrade from earlier Caldera models: Jeff B

Outsole has decent grip for non-technical running: Jeff B/Jeff V

New lug design also provides much better traction on technical terrain/loose terrain: Jeff V

Midsole platform width/bucket seat construction makes for a very stable ride: Jeff B/Jeff V

Overall comfort/cushioning: Jeff V

Protection underfoot: Jeff V

Performance for a large, max cushion shoe: Jeff V

Improved upper security: Jeff V

.5oz weight drip in my US Men’s 10: Jeff V


Upper lockdown is adequate, but not enough for technical running: Jeff B

Toebox could always be a little wider: Jeff B

Outsole does not shed mud well:  Jeff V

Please find the testers  run bios at the end of the article after Comparisons.


Weight: men's 10.6 oz  / 300g (US9)  /  women's 9.4 oz / 266g (US8)

Samples: men’s  11.25 oz / 319g (US 10.5), men’s  11.1 oz / 315g (US 10)

Measured Stack Height: men’s mm 37 heel / 31 mm forefoot ( 6mm drop spec) 

Platform Width: 110 mm heel / 95 mm midfoot / 124 mm forefoot

$150. Available Now

First Impressions, Fit and Upper

Jeff B: I ran in the Caldera 2, and reviewed the Caldera 3, 4, and 5 but don’t have any experience with the Caldera 6 RTR Review although Jeff Valliere who will be joining my review soon does. My main gripe about every single model before the 7 was toebox shape - it’s always been too pointy. 

Welcome to 2024, where the toebox is more of a rounded square, and as a result, they fit quite nicely, even for my slightly Hobbit inspired toes. No longer is “pointy” a word I’d associate with the shoe, though with my bright yellow colorway, they’re still very much an attention grabber.

The new upper is made from Brooks’ TPEE air mesh, with a few external overlays that give the shoe some structure and support. The mesh is very breathable, and while I’ve only been able to test these in cold to cool weather, I’d be willing to bet they’d make a great summer shoe as well. 

The toe bumper is very rigid without being intrusive, and bolstering around the heel counter is very similar. 

The heel hold is fine, I didn’t experience any heel slip, but at the same time it didn’t feel like I was locked in. One more reason I wouldn’t advise this shoe for technical terrain, but truly, it isn’t meant for it, so I can’t knock it for not living up to something it isn’t trying for.

The tongue is fully gusseted, giving a bootie-like feel to the shoe, but for as super cushioned as the shoe is, the tongue is just thick enough to avoid lace bite, but not enough to give a supremely plush feel. The entire upper is similar in that way, it’s cushioned and comfortable, but not what I’d term plush.

Lengthwise I’d call it true to size, with my big toe just barely getting to the toe bumper. If you are considering the shoe for ultra distance, you may want to consider going up a half size to avoid any irritation that could come from a slight toe rub for a half dozen hours or more. As far as width goes, it’s a very generous fit for my somewhat wider than normal foot, and I could see narrow footed runners wanting to use thick socks with the Caldera 7.

Jeff V:  I have reviewed every version of the Caldera and they keep getting better and better!  Jeff gives a good description of the build and mechanics of the upper, so I will focus on my experiences with fit and performance.  

Fit for me is true to size, with a secure heel, secure lacing/midfoot lockdown, with ample room in the forefoot for foot swell and splay for my relatively thin, low volume foot.  

Length is perfect for me as well in my normal size 10, with enough length to not feel the front of the shoe even on steep downhills.  I could easily run all day in the Caldera 7 with no fit issues whatsoever, as they are exceptionally comfortable, breathable and provide welcome roominess.  

Despite the roomy fit though, I do not feel any looseness or movement when running on technical terrain and find I can get a better lockdown in the 7 than I could in the already pretty good 6.  On a recent 8.5 mile out and back run with 3,700 feet of gain/descent with some very challenging steep trail and off trail conditions, I was very impressed with how well the upper held my foot and how stable and secure they were.  I contemplated using a more technically oriented shoe for the utmost confidence over such demanding terrain, but decided to wear the Caldera 7 since I need some quality testing time in them.  After the run I had no regrets and they performed much better than I anticipated (athough I shouldn’t  have been surprised, as I have run in them on other very technical runs and knew they were solid).

Compared with the Caldera 6, the upper has a very comparable roomy fit, yet the 7 provides an even better foothold.

The upper is adequately protective and I find the toe bumper to be sufficient, as the shoe rides high enough that I rarely if ever find myself needing more upper protection.  

While the gusseted tongue is moderately padded, it is plenty thick enough to be comfortable and provide plenty of protection from the laces, even when I crank them down for technical running.

The heel collar is beefy: secure, well padded and well held.  

There are also velcro gaiter traps (which I never use), though there is no longer a gaiter ring or attachment at the front of the laces (which is fine, as I typically just clip a gaiter to the front lace anyhow).

Midsole & Platform

Jeff B: The midsole is easily the most exciting part of the Caldera 7, and I was very curious how a trail shoe would work with DNA Loft v3, since I’ve only run in road shoes that used that compound. The first DNA Loft v3 shoe I ran in was the Aurora-BL, which was one of the bounciest shoes around, and then the Glycerin 20, which still had some bounce, but was more controlled than the Aurora, but in the Caldera 7 it feels like they’ve tweaked the formula a little more than it’s road brethren. 

Don’t get me wrong, there’s still some bounce, but it’s a much softer ride that really cushions your feet. I wouldn’t term it sluggish by any stretch, you don’t get that “running in sand” feeling that some ultra soft shoes give, but it’s nearly that level of soft. The bounce you get is much more of a “run long” bounce than a “run fast” type of bounce - if you’ve run in a number of bouncy/responsive shoes you likely understand what I mean. It gives just a little bit to every step, but doesn’t really push you to pick up the pace.

A big part of that is likely the shoe’s overall bulk and heft. The platform width of 110 mm heel / 95 mm midfoot / 124 mm forefoot plus the foot sitting down in the midsole sidewalls is so substantial, there’s no stability concerns, even with this soft of a shoe. Looking back at the Caldera 5 review, using the same calipers the Caldera 7 forefoot platform is a whopping 7mm wider than the Caldera 5 - that’s truly substantial. 

There’s no rock plate hidden in the midsole, but the massive slab of foam underneath helps blunt any rock landings. The midsole is soft enough you’ll likely feel the rocks if you land directly on them, but they shouldn’t be too painful with that much DNA Loft v3 between you and the stone.

Jeff V:  I love the performance of the DNA Loft v3 foam  as it is soft, yet stable, energetic light feeling and bouncy.  Even though it is the same foam used in the Caldera 6, the Caldera 7 feels slightly more pared down than version 6, with lower sidewalls and dropping a full half ounce in weight something that  is noticeable.  

The greater flexibility and lighter weight help the Caldera 7 to actually feel pretty fast, and especially so for such a maximal shoe.  Running uphill, they feel quick, light and energetic, roll along effortlessly on the flats and they steamroll the downhill, eating up impact like nobody’s business.  If I were to run the Pikes Peak Marathon tomorrow, I would almost certainly pick the Caldera 7, and likely will come September!

The sidewalls have been reduced some vs. the 6 giving the 7 some additional flexibility, which makes the ride and performance much more agile and ground conforming.


Jeff B: The outsole is made with Brooks’ TrailTack Green rubber, which is very grippy, and seemingly pretty durable as well. The 4mm lugs give really solid grip on dry terrain, though I didn’t get a chance to test them in any wet conditions. I did have one run that was a few days after a light snow, just enough to leave a few muddy patches, and the outsole definitely held onto every bit of mud it could find. I wouldn’t recommend them for truly muddy conditions, the lugs will be hidden by mud after your first mile or so. In the case of this picture - the lugs only re-emerged after a quarter mile of street after getting back from my local road-to-trail that was barely muddy.

Jeff V:  The outsole is a drastic improvement over the 6’s.  The 6 outsole (shown below) was pretty good for door to trail and light to moderate trails. 

 I have found the new outsole to perform well on all of the same, plus it is very good on steep, loose technical terrain, snow, frozen snow, light ice, off trail, wet conditions, etc…  Actually, I was quite surprised many times where I thought traction might be shaky in any shoe, but the Caldera 7 really performed well in those situations.  

As Jeff mentions, the lugs do tend to collect mud and it takes some significant running on loose dry gravel, or in the snow to get the mud to shed.  Actual traction in mud is OK, at least until the mud builds, which is quickly, so I guess not so great depending on the type of mud and steepness of the trail (the only time I had any close calls slipping was on steeper angle mud, but may have slipped in just about any shoe really).

Ride, Conclusions and Recommendations

Jeff B: The Caldera spent a few iterations in somewhat of an in-between position - it was well-cushioned but oddly shaped, making it a shoe that had plenty of cushioning to go long but not nearly the fit for it. The 7th version has fixed that, making the toe box and overall width wide enough to accommodate even slightly wider feet for hours on end, and at the same time the beefed up the midsole with a big stack, both in height and width, of Brooks’ top midsole material. The result is an all day trail cruiser that will likely be very popular for more tame terrain ultra marathons. It’s not an ideal technica terrainl or mud shoe, but for just about anything else, it’s going to keep your feet and legs more cushioned than just about anything else out there. The “soft, but still bouncy” midsole is unlikely to get you any race PRs, but eight hours into your run you’ll appreciate it that much more.

Jeff B’s score 9.3/10

Ride (30%): 9.5 Fit (30%): 10 Value (10%): 10 Style (5%): 9 Traction (15%): 8 Rock Protection (10%): 8


Jeff V:  The Caldera 7 is a big improvement over the already great Caldera 6.  Lighter weight, with a more secure, yet roomy comfortable upper, more flexible construction, drastically improved outsole and the same great responsively bouncy, smooth, soft riding Loft DNA v3 ini a now more flexible geometry midsole for all day comfort and performance.  

I can easily recommend the Caldera 7 as a day to day trainer for just about any terrain, a recovery shoe, door to trail shoe or even a longer distance race shoe where a roomy yet secure upper and heaps of performant soft cushioning are paramount.  As I mentioned above, the Caldera 7 will be a frontrunner pick for the Pikes Peak Marathon in September, or the Grand Canyon RRR if I make it back there anytime soon, or for anyone running a 100 miler (Hardrock 100 comes to mind).

Jeff V’s score 9.7/10

Ride (30%): 9.75 Fit (30%): 9.75 Value (10%): 10 Style (5%): 9 Traction (15%): 9 Rock Protection (10%): 10


Trail Scoring Rubric

8 Comparisons

Index to all RTR reviews: HERE Roadtrailrun 

Brooks Caldera 6 (RTR Review)

Jeff V:  Compared through out, but the 7 is a half ounce lighter, has an equally roomy and more secure upper, is more flexible and easy to run in, has the same great Loft DNA v3 midsole, but with the weight drop and greater flexibility, feels more agile and dynamic.  Traction is also superior.

Brooks Cascadia 16 (RTR Review)

Jeff B: It’s a handful of very slight changes, but they add up to paint a different picture. The Cascadia fit is much narrower and the stack height/width is dialed in. The Cascadia with its DNA Loft v2 has good cushioning, but is not nearly as soft as the Caldera’s v3. Traction wise they are very similar, but the Cascadia has much better foot hold, making it betterl for somewhat more technical terrain. Solid 1-2 punch of the Caldera for easy or longer days and Cascadia for faster or more technical trails.

Jeff V:  Jeff sums it up!.

ASICS Trabuco Max 2 (RTR Review)

Jeff B: Effectively the same shoe made by two different companies, these line up so cleanly if you told me they worked together to make them, I’d believe it (like the Subaru BRZ and Toyota GR86). The ASICS platform is 2 mm  narrower up front and weighs 3 grams less. They have nearly identical fit throughout the foot, very similar bounce profile with the ASICS having a slight advantage on traction. The Brooks is ever so slightly wider if fit , but otherwise they might as well be the same shoe. Luckily, they’re both incredible shoes, so you can’t go wrong.

Jeff V:  Again, Jeff sums it very well, but I would debate whether the Asics has better traction, though I would say it is pretty close to a toss up.  I find the Caldera’s accommodating forefoot (even for my thin foot) to be a clear advantage for longer distances and find the Loft DNA v3 to be bouncier and more dun and dynamic.

Hoka Stinson 7 (RTR Review)

Jeff B: There’s no mistaking the extra bulk of the Hoka, but it’s not bigger in all ways. While it does have a wider platform, there’s less room for the foot, both in the toebox and midfoot. Also, the higher stack is firmer, with Hoka still using an EVA midsole, and it feels almost dull to run in. I’d give the Brooks the traction advantage as well.

Jeff V:  Agreed with Jeff on all points. The Stinson 7 is a beast of a shoe and I find the Caldera blows it away, weighing much less (almost 2 oz / 56g less), and feeling even lighter than the weight difference suggests, with a much more easy, runnable feel to them, better traction, and a more accommodating toe box. I might give the Stinson an edge for durability and overall protection, but would pick the Caldera in every circumstance.

Saucony Xodus Ultra 2 (RTR Review)

Jeff B: Saucony’s most cushioned trail shoe feels lacking when going up against the Caldera 7. It’s got a lower stack and a different bounce, more of a “fast” than “go long” feel to it, and it also has a more dialed in fit. For me that all speaks to it being a quick day shoe rather than consideration for anything long - but faster runners with narrow feet would definitely favor the Saucony.

Topo Ultraventure 3 (RTR Review)

Jeff B: This comparison surprised me in two ways - the Brooks toebox isn’t nearly as wide as the Topo (similar revelation, water is wet), but it is closer than I’d pictured while I was testing the Brooks. Also, the Topo’s Zip Foam 2 has a very similar cushioning to the Brooks DNA Loft v3. The Brooks has just a couple more millimeters of stack, and has a little better traction, while the Topo has the wider toe box. Otherwise two very comparable shoes.

Jeff V:  Agreed with Jeff, although I  find the Caldera 7 to be more zippier, and more stable and fun to run.

Speedland GS:PGH (RTR Review):

Jeff V:  Very close in stats and overall feel, I find the new softer foam in the PGH to be similar to the Loft v3.  The PGH has an even roomier upper which can be easily snugged up with the dual Li2 BOA fit system dials to provide great foothold. I can’t emphasize enough how convenient this is in the field to make micro adjustments throughout the day, or to quickly remove the shoe to empty any dirt or debris.  Traction is comparable and weight is about the same, though if you add the carbon plate to the PGH, then you are adding another half ounce.  The plate does add a good bit of added protection (to already very good protection).  The Caldera is however almost half the price, so an amazing value, but,  if in your budget, the PGH is a great choice for the BOA system and carbon plate option.

Hoka Speedgoat 5 (RTR Review)

Jeff V:  The Speedgoat 5 is a smaller, more nimble shoe, with better foothold and traction.  The Speedgoat is actually quite a bit lighter and t with similarly good cushioning under foot.  I think those looking to really spread out on longer, less technical runs would appreciate the Caldera 7, where the Speedgoat would be preferrable for more tech terrain.

Tester Profiles

Jeff Beck is the token slow runner of the RTR lineup, and as such his viewpoints on shoe and gear can differ from those who routinely finish marathons in three hours or less. Jeff runs 20 miles per week on roads and trails around Denver, CO (and sometimes on the treadmill when the weather gets too much for a Phoenix native). Jeff only got into running in his 30s, as a result his career PR's are 4:07 for the marathon and 5K at 23:39. Jeff has finished several ultra marathons, from 50K up to 50 miles, and is still debating if he wants to go down that road again.

Jeff Valliere loves to run and explore the mountains of Colorado, the steeper and more technical the better. He has summited all of the 14ers in the state and can be found on mountain trails daily, no matter the weather, season, conditions or whether there is daylight or not.  On the side he loves to ski (all forms) bike and hike, often with his family, as he introduces his 12 year old daughters to the outdoors. Jeff was born and raised in New Hampshire, but has called Colorado home for over 25 years. He is 5’9” and 145 lbs.

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Anonymous said...

Thanks for the detailed comparison with the Caldera 6! I still have mine, got quite some shoes and it still has some life, despite a very creased midsole with quite some twig and sharp rock marks and holes.

I am the Anonymous who simply didn't get along with the Trabuco Max 2 last year, I very much preferred the Caldera 6. I still don't know exactly why, a friend who got my Max 2 loves them dearly, but I absolutely couldn't run in them.

But before going too much off-topic, I saw some upcoming styles for the Caldera 7 on AliExpress. They had the (for sure not legal/licensed) Caldera 7 already weeks before in a selection of colors of which not all are yet available.

I like the looks of the 7 also better, but giving it a 10 for style despite this greenish rubber sole absolutely demands a comment. :)

You probably also sold me the Salomon Genesis, now I am just pondering which of the two I should get first.

Thanks and keep up the good review work.

Jeff Valliere said...

Thanks for reading, I would highly recommend! Both Jeff and I gave a 9 for looks, I think it is sharp, but definitely not a 10. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder though.

guillet jean jacques said...

je suis en tous point daccord avec ce que vous avez marqué , c est marrant parce que j ai fais exactement la meme description que vous a quelqu un qui me demandait ce que j en pensais , et notement comparé aux Hoka speedgoat , et pour la boue c est tres vrai , cette chaussure retiens la boue , mais cela depend aussi de celle ci , merci pour cette essai et comparaison , j avais pour ma part arreté d acheter les caldera a leur 3 eme version , c est dire l evolution de cette 7 eme version , pour moi cette C7 a pris le meilleur des mafate speed et des speedgoat , et je les aient commandé des leur sortie le 1er janvier sur le site brooks , aucuns regrets .derniere chose , je ne peus plus courir avec les speedgoat , car meme neuve j ai une sensation de drop negatif , c est a dire comme si debout les chaussures m obligeaient a basculer en arriere , et au fil des ans cela a rendu mes tendon senssible , pour preuve , une sortie longue en speedgoat et je souffres , une sortie longue en caldera 7 , nike zegama qui ont pourtant un drop de 4 !!! , nike wildhorse 8 et je n ais absolument aucunes douleures .