Let’s talk shoes. Trail running shoes. Let’s talk about the Brooks Caldera 6, Brooks’ long-distance trail-running shoe. My number 1 trail running shoe. Why? Because it’s soft, comfy and I didn’t get injured running in them for the 650 kilometers I’ve used them up until now.
Okay, maybe not getting injured sounds like a strange criterion to evaluate a shoe, but I think it’s an important one. I see on social media a lot of people running in new shoes, and getting injured. Often it’s their own fault, as you shouldn’t run a long distance on a new pair of shoes, but that’s a story for later.
Before I tell you what I like, and what I don’t like about the Brooks Caldera 6, I want to make clear that this is an independent review. I bought the shoes myself. Brooks is not sponsoring me.
Besides that, I’ve done some serious running on them. I don’t believe you can run 10k on a pair of shoes and write a proper review. That’s why I ran more than 600 kilometers on this pair of pair of Caldera 6 before writing this.
On top of that, I’ve run on them in the snow during the Houffa Trail, in the rain during many training runs, and in the mud. I’ve used them during short 5k training runs, and when I was running the 44,5 kilometers Run Forest Run Ommerland run. So I think I’ve tested them thoroughly.
The Caldera 6 is soft. Very soft. I admit this is the first time I had a shoe with such a thick sole, but I never noticed it. It felt stable from the beginning. According to Brooks the cushioning is thanks to nitrogen-infused DNA LOFT v3. No clue what that means, but I liked it.
The day before Christmas I ran a 37 kilometer easy trail run and the shoes felt nice and comfortable for those five hours on muddy terrain. The Houffa trail in the Ardennes in Belgium took me 3 hours and 15 minutes. My feet were warm and comfortable.
Only last weekend, during the mid-winter marathon Ommerland I started to feel the ball of my right foot, after 4 hours. Maybe that was because I’ve already been running 653 kilometers on these shoes. I’ll come back to this at the end of this review.
Snow, mud, wet roads, rocks, steep hills. I think I’ve run over every kind of surface with these shoes, and I always had a good grip with Brooks’ Trail Tack rubber out-sole. The only time I didn’t have a great grip, was on some of the steep downhills during the Houffa trail. However, I don’t think any shoe would have provided good grip as those hills were covered in frozen snow.
The kilometer count in my Strava says I’ve run precisely 653,8 kilometers on these shoes. The out-sole hardly shows any wear and tear. Only the lugs on the outside of my right heel are a bit worn. The overlays still look good, but the heel collar of both shoes has a little hole in it.
Trail running shoes are trail running shoes. I brush off the sand after a run and put them on a shoe dryer. That’s it. Yet, if I would wash them, I believe they would almost look new.
Brooks claims that it uses 48,4 percent of recycled materials in the upper part of a pair of Caldera 6, and that it uses 6.22 recycled plastic bottles. I am a trail runner, I love to be in the forest, in the mountains. We have to protect them, so the more we use recycled materials the better.
The main reason for me to start running on Brooks is that Brooks makes shoes in big sizes. I have shoe size 47,5. Lot of brands only make shoes up until size 46. The length of my feet however is only half my problem.
I also have wide feet. Lots of brands make shoes with a toe box that crushes my little toe. Brooks offers shoes with an extra wide toe box. But not the Caldera 6. The Caldera 6 only comes in medium wide.
Loss of cushioning
The cushioning isn’t as good as it was in the beginning. It feels like I’ve beaten some of the bounciness out of it, during my trail runs. To be sure it’s not just an idea, I put on my Brooks Glycerin 20’s. That’s a whole other feeling, but I remember that this pair of Caldera 6 felt that soft in the beginning as well.
I know a running shoe is good for 500 to 800 kilometer. The 650 I’ve run on this pair is precisely in the middle, but I find that too quick. I mean, I could have named this paragraph Sustainability or Durability as well. Running shoes should last longer.
Yes, trail running shoes take a big beating on all the rocks and tree trunks we run on and over. Yet, we also run on soft mud, forest paths. As I said, we all have to contribute to saving this earth. Less waste is a step in the right direction. Less waste also means shoes that last longer. That have cushioning that keeps on working longer. I think this is the biggest point of improvement for this pair of Caldera 6.
Would I buy the Caldera 6 again? I am doubting. I care deeply about the environment and want shoes that last longer. So, that’s a no.
At the same time, I have an ultra run next month. I need a pair of new trail running shoes. A pair my feet are used to. I have my Brooks Cascadia, but I wouldn’t run anything longer than a half marathon on them. They are nice, but not comfy.
I ordered a pair of HOKA Speedgoat 5 and New Balance Fresh Foam X Hierro v7. Of those two the HOKA’s should have the most cushioning. I’ll put them to the test next week. If they are disappointing, I will get another pair of Caldera 6. Just to buy me some time to find a pair of shoes that will last longer.