caldera 5
Shoe ReviewsTrail

Brooks Caldera 5 Performance Review

What You Need To Know

  • Weighs 11.7 oz. (303 g) for a US M10.5 / 9.4 oz. (266 g) for a US W8
  • Minimal drop is ideal for ground-feel
  • Max cushion provides superb comfort
  • But does it all work well together?

TAYLOR: Way back in middle school, I won a homecoming cross-dress day event. I have no trophy to show but I do have a little pride. Thanks to my loving big sister, I had a Supergirl t-shirt, tall black boots, and I worked that outfit. You can bet I challenged my friends to a “drag” race (you’re welcome) in those boots.

I open up my past to tell you all that my first few runs in the Brooks Caldera 5 brought me back to that day in junior high. 

The Caldera 5 is a high-stack trail runner. Foot protection and versatility are its aims. There were only a couple of small changes to this year’s model after last year’s overhaul – which was a surprising shoe for me to review after the lackluster experience in the Cascadia. Does the surprise status continue?

COURTNEY: Like Taylor’s review on the Caldera 4 at first glance I expected the Caldera 5 to feel comparable to the Brooks Cascadia 15. While Taylor might not be partial to the Cascadia 15, I love it and was a tad disappointed when the Caldera 5 was not comparable.

caldera 5

The Good

TAYLOR: What’s good is what was retained from the Caldera 4, as the 5 is basically the same shoe. Last year’s model was the first glimpse of hope for Brooks’ trail line.

A smooth ride is one of the first things you’ll notice. Trail shoes with a 3-6 millimeter drop have really been doing it for me lately. The Caldera has a 4 mm drop combined with a pseudo-rocker forefoot which makes turnover rather easy when running on smooth terrain and uphill.

The Caldera also feels light on feet. I was surprised to see it weigh in at 11.7 ounces for a men’s 10.5. 

The Caldera 5 runs like a babbling brook on pavement too. Brooks held onto a unique outsole fitted with their always dependable Trailtack compound, slim rectangular lugs and interesting flex grooves pattern. Just as in the Caldera 4, I feel that this particular combo lends itself to being a solid performer no matter the surface.

BioMoGo DNA midsole is the same as the previous version too. Although it feels more firm this year, it wasn’t harsh nor plush necessarily. I found that it had great protection underfoot and adapted well to various terrain. 

My biggest complaint about the Caldera 4 was lockdown. This year, not so much. A midfoot Ghillies was added to provide more security, meaning better performance over a larger variety of terrain. A mono loop engineered mesh and gusseted tongue create a nice tucked-in feel. The mesh is form-fitting, very breathable, and even protects from elements pretty well. I dig it.  

Let’s not forget about a couple of trail-specific features that find their way into all of the Brooks trail line. A slim Lace Keeper runs across the midfoot to tuck laces for secure storage. I never have an issue with it and it is so simple. Also, gaiter attachments are appreciated.

COURTNEY: The Caldera 5 retro color combo of teal and canary yellow was refreshing and quire photogenic. 

The mono loop engineered mesh upper is nice, although, even with a reinforced upper around the midsole I’m curious how long before it wears or blows out as the mesh is pretty soft. 

While I struggled to find things I like about the Caldera aside from the aesthetics, the traction icy and snow-packed roads was very impressive.

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caldera 5

The Bad

TAYLOR: If you’ve held in this long, congratulations! You’re now going to find out why I had flashbacks to that fateful day in middle school. 

We had options when going to lunch. Riding the bus was for the weak, or you could run the gauntlet for about a quarter-mile to get a chance to be the first in line. ALWAYS take the mad dash – even in heels. I busted out the back door of the school, blasted down the stairs, and across the road. All was fine until I hit the grassy section. Wibble, wobble, slam! Down goes the dude in boots. 

This is precisely how I felt in the Caldera 5. A slim profile with a tall stack doesn’t bode well on any technical trail. Trying to run downhill on such ground was like playing a pick-up game with Allen Iverson, both of my ankles could have been broken within the first two points scored. Man, it was unsettling and a little disappointing.

COURTNEY: The first thing I commented on was the color, so it’s pretty clear that the Caldera 5 isn’t a favorite of mine. Perhaps the shoe requires a longer break-in period, or maybe it’s the combination of a 4 mm drop with maximal cushioning that just doesn’t jive with my form.

The plush BioMoGo DNA midsole gives you the floating-on-cloud sensation when you’re walking around, but unfortunately, that feeling didn’t transfer over for me in running. The Caldera 5 fell into the boxy category and I certainly didn’t find it to have a fast or responsive feel to it.

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caldera 5

Brooks Caldera 5 Conclusion

TAYLOR: The Caldera 5 continues to be the streak of hope in Brooks’ trail line. It’s vastly different from the rest of the line in a positive way. It’s a high-stack option that gives runners protection, comfort, and a very smooth ride over a variety of terrain. Attention to fit gives the fifth version much more foot security with the same amount of comfort as before. I would stay away from the more technical stuff and off-trail while running in the Caldera 5, though. The skyscraper-like stack really limits how you choose to run over technical terrain.

COURTNEY: The Brooks Caldera 5 did not go the distance for me. The design and idea behind this shoe make sense, but it doesn’t deliver for those looking for a shoe to bounce and roll along for long miles over technical terrain.

You can pick up the Brooks Caldera 5 on 2/01/2021 for $140 at Running Warehouse (featuring free 2-day shipping and 90-day returns) by using the shop link below.

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Taylor Bodin is a trail and ultrarunner living in Estes Park, CO, with his wife and daughter. He and his wife both love running the trails in Rocky Mountain National Park. When not running, Taylor is a Kindergarten/1st grade teacher, running coach, and youth leader for his church.

Courtney Schwartz( Contributor )

Courtney is a mountain ultra trail runner living in The Rockies trying to keep up with her Vizsla! She is the founder and leader of Wydaho Wolfpack in Teton Valley, Idaho.

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