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Brooks Caldera 5 Review

David: The Brooks Caldera 5 continues on the successful ultra running high stack trail racer from Brooks running. The shoe provides plenty of protection for long miles, surprisingly good ground feel, and traction that will be able to take you through a large variety of trails. The ride has a nice rocker to it and it is a shoe that will most likely agree with a lot of people. 

Specifications (per Running Warehouse)
Weight:  10.6 ounces / 300 grams (men's size 9)  9.4 ounces / 266 grams (women's size 8)
Stack Height: 33mm / 29mm
Drop: 4 mm
Classification: Long Distance Trail Running Shoe/Ultra Marathon Racer


The Brooks Caldera 5 is a trail running shoe for those looking to log some LONG miles, or you just really like cushion and want something that can cover a large variety of trails. The shoe has surprisingly good ground feel for the high stack height and really good traction for nearly every trail condition. The upper is constructed well and should do well with sharp turns without blowing out (it literally saved my ankle one instance...). 


David: The Brooks Caldera 5 fits true to size in my normal 9.5. The fit of the Caldera is normal width throughout in the heel and midfoot with a normal to slightly narrow toe box. Overall the fit is nice with a good hold throughout on the foot. The medial aspect of the forefoot though has a taper that is almost linear along the medial aspect of the foot that did cause some irritation on both of my feet. Everything else about the upper was almost perfect, but I did blister through the medial aspect of the forefoot. There is a toe guard that did well when stubbing my foot or having some harsher landings or translations. The upper itself is very hearty while still being breathable. I had one really close call coming down some technical terrain and the shoe seem to somehow keep my foot from blowing out even when it was almost parallel with the floor. The lockdown of the shoe is pretty good throughout and I had no problems with translation or heel slippage. 


David: The ride of the Brooks Caldera 5 is really refreshing. The amount of cushioning is good in that it feels great in harsh conditions with rocks or high impact downhills, but also on road as well. The shoe has a nice bevel to the heel and gradual toe spring creating an effective rolling sensation throughout the shoe. The outsole is sticky and does a great job with gripping all surfaces I've thrown at it. It did well in soft mulchy horse trails, gravel roads, hard packed dirt, as well as technical boulder like terrain. The shoe is very versatile. The weight is noticeable and this will be best for longer efforts where you know you will be on your feet for a long time. The foam is also surprisingly responsive for the weight and stack height. I was still able to push this shoe pretty decently in trail settings, but would still opt for another option for shorter racing distance below 50k or trail marathon. 


David: The Brooks Caldera really surprised me with how stable it is. I was expecting a soft foam and high stack height to make me question my steps and proprioception a little bit but they did a great job integrating stability throughout. The upper locks you into the platform really well and the full contact outsole is firm and very grippy. Because of this you can feel the ground under really well while still not taking any of the impact from it, even in rocky conditions. The shoe does not have a rock plate but honestly does just fine without one. The upper is very formidable and hearty. My ankle went about 90 degrees on a 3000 ft decline in some technical terrain here in Santa Barbara and it somehow kept my foot from either blowing out of the shoe or fully rolling and making me fall. I kept running and had minimal discomfort for something that should have probably hurt a little more. It isn't the most stable trail shoe in the world because of the other aspects, but for the high stack and soft midsole the shoe does a pretty awesome job in this category. 


     Anytime a shoe falls within the maximum cushioning category for the road or trail it is tricky to keep the shoe from feeling too soft or unstable. The Caldera 5 does a good job of beveling and creating a rocker throughout the shoe to help keep such a thick slab of foam moving forward without it feeling mushy or speed bump like in any specific region. One company that does a pretty good job of this is HOKA and the Caldera runs pretty similar to some models from them in that regard. The outsole is full contact with an upper that locks down really well and keeps the foot close to the platform. Where I am going with this is that many people have stiff ankles and have a really hard time with steep inclines and declines where excessive ranges of motion are needed. The rocker and stiffness of the shoe (not softness or durometer) really help with that in the Caldera and this may be a pretty good option for those who have limited dorsiflexion (bending of the ankle upwards) or plantar flexion (downwards like a gas pedal). The result is a very smooth and quick transitioning shoe for such a high stack height. 

-David Salas PT DPT CSCS


David: My main recommendation for the shoe revolves around the upper. I love the security of it and how well it can take harsh turns and abrasion, but the forefoot could be refined. The medial aspect of the forefoot is tapered awkwardly and runs pretty linearly when it could be rounded a little more like a natural foot. I did get rubbing there and did have some blistering. Honestly... I like this shoe a lot and was still willing to put my foot through that a few more times after the initial blistering and discomfort to the region. 


David: The Brooks Caldera 5 is a maximum cushioning trail shoe for those looking to either run LONG distances or really enjoy high stacked cushioned shoes. For a trail shoe the shoe is very protective and forgiving even on road surfaces and could double as a road to trail shoe. The shoe is surprisingly stable for such a high stack shoe and also provides a great versatile outsole that can handle a large variety of conditions. This is a trail shoe that can dabble in ultra marathon racing, daily training efforts, road to trail. Trail conditions: nearly all of them, soft muddy conditions may stick to the lugs and make it more heavy and a little uncomfortable but otherwise this a pretty solid go to shoe for many types of trail conditions. 



Fit: B (Secure, very durable and hearty, breathable, good all around, but the medial forefoot is irritating with the taper)         
Performance:  A
 (For the goal of the shoe I think they hit the mark well. The shoe does great for long efforts and is very versatile across a large variety of conditions.) 
B+ (High stack height and soft midsole take away some points here but... it does a good job everywhere else with outsole and upper) 
DPT/Footwear Science:  
A- (Brooks did a good job of implementing some stability measures and a smooth rocker design to help with maintaining smooth translations for such a thick slab of foam) 
A- (The Caldera is a really fun shoe to run in and you will be able to take this through a good variety of trails. For me the upper irritates the medial side of my forefoot, but otherwise really great) 
Overall:  A- (A solid all around trail running shoe for a large variety of surfaces that can extend out to the ultra marathon distances well if needed)             

Interested in purchasing the Brooks Caldera 5? Check out at Running Warehouse here. Using this link helps support our work at Doctors of Running! Thank you so much.


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Thanks for reading!


Dr. David Salas is a 135 lb male with notable PRs ranging from 3:54 in the 1500m to 1:08:36 for half marathon. He typically runs 60 to 70 miles per week and trains from about 7:30 recovery runs to fast shorter efforts at 4:30 pace. He normally prefers neutral shoes with a firmer ride, but is completely open to other types of shoes.  He is a footwear enthusiast at heart and will always appreciate a high quality shoe when it comes around. For updates on training or testing, IG handle: @docsofrundavid

Editor's Note: As always, the views presented on this website belong to myself or the selected few who contribute to these posts. This website should not and does not serve as a replacement for seeking medical care. If you are currently injured or concerned about an injury, please see your local running physical therapist. If you are in the Los Angeles area, I am currently taking clients for running evaluations.

Doctor of Physical Therapy
Board Certified Orthopedic Clinical Specialist
Fellow of the American Academy of Orthopedic Manual Physical Therapists

Nathan Brown PT DPT MS
Doctor of Physical Therapy 
Masters in Anatomy and Clinical Health Science
Movement Performance Institute Certified in Advanced Functional Biomechanics 

David Salas PT DPT CSCS
Doctor of Physical Therapy
Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist

Bach Pham MS
Marketing and Social Media Manager
Master of Arts in Cultural Anthropology

***Disclaimer: These shoes were provided free of charge in exchange for a review.  We thank the  people at Running Warehouse and Brooks Running for sending us a pair.  This in no way affected the honesty of this review. We systematically put each type of shoe through certain runs prior to review. For trainers and performance trainers, we take them on daily runs, workouts, recovery runs and a long run prior to review (often accumulating anywhere from 20-50 miles in the process). For racing flats we ensure that we have completed intervals, a tempo or steady state run run as well as a warm up and cool down in each pair prior to review. This systematic process is to ensure that we have experience with each shoe in a large variety of conditions to provide expansive and thorough reviews for the public and for companies. Our views are based on our extensive history in the footwear industry and years testing and developing footwear. If you are a footwear rep looking for footwear reviews or consultations on development, we are currently looking to partner with companies to assist, discuss and promote footwear models. Partnership will not affect the honesty of our reviews.

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