Brooks Caldera 6 - Protective and smooth to go the distance in most terrain
Alex: Because I got the shoe a couple of weeks later than Ivan and Tim, I haven’t run enough in it yet. And what a bummer. From the first feelings I got, I think this could be the next daily trainer in my personal rotation. And when a running shoe reviewer actually integrates a shoe in their own rotation…well I think that means a lot! I should update my parts of the review after 50kms or so in the shoe to confirm the above.
Brooks Caldera 6 – Specs
Weight: Claimed: 320g (11.3oz) in sample size US9 / Actual 359g (11.4oz) in size US11 / EU45
Stack height (forefoot/heel): 35/29mm
Durometer score (0 to 100, soft to hard): 28.1/100 for the DNA Loft v3 midsole
The platform is wide, especially in the midfoot and heel. For specific values, please check the Shoe Comparator in which you can compare the width for the forefoot, midfoot and heel against other shoes.
Fit: Lightweight and secure fitting upper
Ivan: I always found the upper in my former version a bit too accommodating and especially the width and midfoot hold caused me some issues. Being marketed as a stable long-distance model it was to be expected, but I remember always having to re-lace the shoe during my runs to get a reasonable fit. I am happy to inform you that this has been significantly improved in the Caldera 6 despite an even broader platform. My narrow heel still suffers a bit from a quite broad heel collar but this was easily fixed with a heel lock.
However, the midfoot hold has been significantly improved. Very secure without being too tight helped along by a well-padded semi-gusseted tongue. The toe box is accommodating and leaves just enough space for the feet to swell a bit on those long runs.
The so-called lightweight air mesh of the Caldera 6 is pleasant overall with extra padding around the heel collar. It is not super thin but I have had no issues with breathability during my summer runs. Also, the fairly padded tongue has some nice perforations.
Living in Denmark, trail running rarely gets very technical but I don’t consider that the intended purpose of the Caldera anyway. It is more of a relaxed and stable trail cruiser. However, a few nice trail features have been included. Such as a protecting toe cap, front and back attachment points for gaiters, and a convenient lace keeper.
Alex: The Caldera 6 came to us with a flashy yellow upper that certainly does not go unnoticed. Aesthetics aside, it appears to be a very reliable and sturdy upper, built to last the distance. The toe bumper overlay does not show a single sign of wear on my pair and I can imagine it lasting well over the shoe lifespan. The fit is generous in terms of volume, not necessarily something I enjoy a lot but certainly a key feature for people considering this shoe for long distance events. My biggest struggle in this upper is definitely the tongue. It’s pretty much the first thing the top of your feet “meet” when stepping in a shoe, and here the tongue material is too rough for my liking. It also lacks the required flexibility to wrap the foot nicely. The fit is a true to size but narrow heel will likely find the heel cup a bit too wide. Not a big deal but something to keep in mind when picking the right shoe for a given terrain. My highlight in this upper is the smart lacing system. The eyelets are actually the top of side “wrappers” that envelop the midfoot perfectly in combination to the semi-gusseted tongue.
Ride: Smooth and stable
Ivan: I have to admit that I am not solely using the Caldera 6 as a trail shoe. Despite from the lack of really technical trail areas around the city of Copenhagen, I have discovered that the shoe also works great as a road shoe. I do appreciate the grippy rubber outsole on the few gravel sections but just as much on wet tarmac. It is not too loud or a clumsy feeling either. Apart from maybe the looks, but even the loud design has grown on me.
I have both the Brooks Aurora BL and the Glycerin 20 with this new DNA Loft v3 midsole and the feeling is quite different in these three models. The Aurora BL was much more flexible and also felt bouncier. Probably to show off the properties of the new foam. In the Glycerin this was definitely toned down and I actually missed that “fun ride” from the Aurora BL. The Caldera 6 is stiff but the geometry and substantial amount of midsole just make the ride such a joy with my biomechanics. The rocker is really noticeable and the ride feels efficient and almost effortless at times. Impressive considering the weight.
I don’t consider this a fast shoe. It is just too massive for that. But for easier runs and also recovery runs it just keeps me rolling and even bouncing a bit. The 6mm drop feels natural for my stride at those paces and I still haven’t had a bad run in this shoe. On top of that, the shoe is very stable for a neutral model. A wide platform and raised sidewalls contribute to that.
Alex: I share some of Ivan’s views. But I also see things a little differently for my gait cycle. Let’s begin with the common opinions. Yes, the Caldera 6 is a stable ride. It’s naturally stable thanks to the wide platform and some features add to that stability. The central groove on the outsole helps to align the footstrike and drive it as neutrally as possible forward. Ivan mentioned the sidewalls that also contribute to that stability. I will also add the DNA Loft v3 foam that despite being cushioned and not too dense, does not compress too much on the medial side for me, unlike some other supercritical foams. On the ride side, the Brooks Caldera 6 indeed offers a pleasant ride a slower paces and a level of cushion that will help most runners tackle longer distances.
Jumping onto some drawbacks, I have to mention the stiffness of the midsole. And more specifically the lack of flexibility. Any terrain that presents sharper edges and cliffs appears tricky for me with this shoe. The platform of the Caldera 6 cannot “contour” the terrain and adapt to its specificities. It’s more like a SUV truck rolling on the terrain without having the required agility to maneuver on it. I feel like this could be the limitation of this shoe for certain races and even for training session on steeper hills where flexibility matters a lot.
That being said the ride remains a pleasant sailing experience on secured premises. You won’t feel betrayed at any point by the DNA Loft v3 foam, which confirms its solid status. The Glycerin 20 flavor of that foam has my preference but it has nothing to be ashamed of here on the Brooks Caldera 6. In the end like very often our biomechanics decide what works and what does not. The Caldera 6 is most likely a shoe suited for runners like Ivan, with a footstrike more towards the back of the midfoot compared to mine. A higher turnover makes sense too as the heavy stomping of a stride runner like me does not get much echo in the forefoot of this shoe.
Conclusion: Versatile and pleasant cruiser
Ivan I consider the Brooks Caldera 6 a great hybrid shoe that can handle both light trails and road running very well and the grip is excellent in most conditions. The real magic for me is happening in the geometry of the shoe combined with the hefty amount of that energetic DNA LOFT v3 midsole. The ride feels pleasantly cushioned and still efficient to me despite the sheer heft of the shoe. I am a light runner but I think that heavier runners might benefit even more from the broad, stable, and cushioned platform. Despite some bounce to the ride, I don’t exactly consider the Caldera 6 a speed demon. It is definitely meant for just cruising along in most types of terrain at easier paces. However, it doesn’t even feel that bad to me when picking up the pace a bit over shorter distances.
Besides the ride, I also find the fit comfortable. A snug midfoot hold with just enough padding and room to not feel constricting on those long runs which the shoe is created for. On top of that, I think it will be quite durable, and considering the versatility of the shoe, I also find the price very reasonable.
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