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Trail Running Shoes • January 2, 2020

Brooks Caldera 4 Performance Review

Brooks Caldera 4 - feature

What You Need To Know

  • Weights 10.0 oz./283g for a US M9.0
  • Supremely comfortable upper
  • Low 4mm drop
  • Lighter cousin of the Brooks Cascadia

ERIN: I’ve done a lot of trail running in Brooks shoes over the last 2 months, which isn’t something I thought I’d ever say. Even more surprising? I enjoyed most of my runs in both the Brooks Divide and the Brooks Caldera. I know!

TAYLOR: I am going to be honest. My biggest worry about reviewing another Brooks’ trail shoe is that it would be similar to the Cascadia 14. The new Divide (also in review) likens itself to it in some ways. The Cascadia shot a bogey for me, while the Divide was a par. Onto the scene steps the Caldera 4, and I think finally found something I really like in Brooks’ trail offerings.

The Caldera 4 comes in a completely different package than the Cascadia and Divide, but it is virtually the same as the 3 (save for a new outsole pattern). It’s fresh. It’s light. And it has my attention for a handful of reasons.

I ran the gamut with the Caldera’s doing easy days, long runs, and even a couple of up-tempo workouts. They felt good on all.

Though it’s not going to dominate today’s trail shoe market as the Cascadia has done in the past, it should become a recommended trainer in the new year.

brooks caldera 4 feature

Brooks Caldera 4 – Women’s

The Good

ERIN: I feel like a bit of a broken record here, but like every other pair of Brooks I’ve reviewed in the past two years or so, the step-in comfort and fit of the Caldera is not lacking. Unlike some other companies (you know who you are), a Brooks 8.5 fits like an 8.5 across models and updated versions. I appreciate that.

Design-wise, the Caldera also gets a red 100 with two underlines emoji. Breathable engineered mesh upper, tongue is the perfect thickness, heel collar nicely padded but not too padded, and sweet colors for the cherry on top. The tongue has a handy elastic loop that I assume is for tucking laces into, which Altra should consider incorporating if they continue to insist on making their laces mad long. Anyway.

You may notice, upon looking at the Caldera, that the stack height is a bit un-Brooks like and is in fact approaching HOKA-like. I’m not sure what the actual stack height is, but it works for me: not ankle-roll-inducing or so high that you lose all ground feel, but high enough to allow for a well-cushioned midsole and durable full-length outsole. These also have a 4 mm drop.

The outsole is Brooks’ sticky TrailTack rubber, and I found these to have more traction than the Divide; I’d say they’re comparable to their heavier cousin, the Cascadia. The wide lugs are great for smoother, faster trail running.

TAYLOR: I think of the Caldera 4 as a band that you hear for the first time that reminds you of an old favorite, but with a fresh twist. You turn it up, lean in a little closer, and take in the sound. What’s the ‘Similar Artist You May Like’ in this case? Altra or Topo Athletic. Definitely reminds me of those shoes, with a more foot-shaped upper and low-drop.

The engineered mesh upper is breathable, durable, and really nice fit. It hugs in the right ways around the midfoot and eases up through the forefoot (not as roomy as most Altra’s though).

With trailheads just a couple of miles from my front door, I tend to do a lot of door-to-trail runs. This is a shoe that seems to fit that niche well. The Caldera feels just as smooth on roads and on trails. Even if you pick up the pace a little, these did fine for me.

The outsole/midsole has a pretty flat profile and plush ride. There is only 4mm of drop. I have come to love the 3-5mm range for the trail.  Brooks’ BioMoGo midsole, that is also used in the Cascadia 14 and Divide, seems so much softer here. I was actually surprised to do a little research and see it was the same midsole. Anyways, I dig it!

Along with being moderately weighted (10.0 oz/280g for a US M9.0), a tapered toe really helps the shoe feel a little more snappy at toe-off (but really just a little).  Do not depend on this shoe to go hyperspeed on the trails, but you can do most any pace on easy to moderate trails.

Shop Brooks Caldera Brooks Caldera 4 - outsole

The Bad

ERIN: I don’t really have too many complaints about the Caldera. For some reason, longer runs in them tend to give me a bit of pain on the lateral edge of my foot. They fit great, so I’m not sure what the deal is with that. Maybe because the midsole is slightly firmer than what I’ve been gravitating towards lately (namely the HOKA Speedgoat for trails).

These would also not be my first choice for anything above moderately technical, or in super sloppy/muddy trail conditions, but that’s not really what they’re meant for.

If I’m being really nitpicky, they’re a tad heavy (8.9 ounces). It’s not a shoe that feels lighter than it is, at any rate.

TAYLOR: The issues I had with the Caldera 4 are kind of a hard line to draw because, for the most part, I believe they just took more miles than I’m used to really soften up.

Out of the box, I did have some issues with heel slippage on steeper or moderately-technical trails, but I still enjoyed them. It caused a pretty shifty ride, but I solved that issue quickly by utilizing the top eyelets for heel-lock lacing.

But then the integrated tongue really started rubbing in the wrong way. I went back to the typical lacing after a few runs that way, and what do you know, all seemed good in the world. From then on, I haven’t had the same heel slipping, which I’ll attribute to the upper softening a little.

Now for the other issue. It happens to be the same big issue I had with the Cascadia but (thankfully) on a much smaller scale. One of the reasons this will never be a speedy shoe is because there is too much stability stemming from the anterior heel/midfoot. I could only feel this when I was trying to crank it up and especially on fast descents, but it was the same speed-resisting force that I felt with the Cascadia. Thankfully, it isn’t too over-powering and the Caldera can actually pick it up a bit compared to its cousin.

Shop Brooks Caldera Brooks Caldera 4 - upper both

Brooks Caldera 4 Conclusion

ERIN: If you want a durable, fairly light (for a Brooks trail shoe), pretty versatile pair of trail shoes, give the Brooks Caldera 4 a try.

TAYLOR: The skinny on the Brooks Caldera 4 is that it is a really nice day-to-day trainer and one of the better performing door-to-trail shoes. It’s a bit roomier in fit in the toebox and that’s fine by me.

It has a softer ride that seems as protective as any and enough traction to hit those moderately technical trails without a problem. If you’re not a fan of extra stability, these may not be your first choice, but try them on anyways. The comfort might make you not care as much.

The Brooks Caldera 4 will be available 2/01/2020. You can pick it up at Running Warehouse (featuring free 2-day shipping and 90-day returns) by using the link below.

Shop Brooks Caldera

Have something to say? Leave a Comment

  1. Krzysztof says:

    Thx Mates! I hv always read your opinions and comprehensive, tailored comments. I think they are close to me. I am from Poland and like as you run a lot and I ate a lot shoes … it is impossible to count.
    I will try Caldera 4. Keep your fingers crossed, the 240 km mountain race ahead of me 🙂

  2. Robbe Reddinger says:

    Good luck in your race! Thanks for reading.

  3. Shaun P Kell says:

    Late commenter, but I’m hoping you’re still monitoring! I’ve run several long races in earlier versions of the Caldera with no problems, but his new version is causing the same lateral foot pain Erin mentions. I’ve had this issue with the latest Cliftons and the Topo ultraventure, too. Salomon Sense Ride 2 were just ok fit-wise. Narrow foot, “overpronate,” but hate stability shoes. Love the NB Rebels and the Brooks PureFlow for road, but I need an ultra shoe! Any recommendations?

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