Brooks Caldera 2 Review

Overview of the Brooks Caldera 2

The Brooks Caldera 2 is billed as a versatile trail shoe for all-day comfort on moderate terrain with a high-energy returning design. It provides subtle updates from the Brooks Caldera 1 (released in 2016) and those include changes to the upper to improve fit, breathability, and durability. Overall, I found the Caldera 2 to be true to its word. It’s a great all-around trail shoe that handled everything from sloppy wet and muddy trails, to gravel, to short stretches of road well.

Brooks Caldera 2
Brooks Caldera 2

Specs

  • Weight: 8.5 oz (women’s size 8); 9.9 oz (men’s size 10)
  • Category: Neutral
  • Drop: 4mm
  • Stack Height: 28mm heel, 24mm forefoot
  • Fit: Slightly short (I tend to fluctuate between an 8.5 and 9; 8.5 when a shoe is billed as true to size. I wore a 9 in these and I think I could have gone up to a 9.5, which would be a first for me)
  • Size Tested: Women’s 9
  • Arch: Medium, High
  • Upper: Double mesh upper (Ariaprene mesh and Cordura AFT)
  • Midsole: BioMoGo DNA midsole (Brooks notable cushioning system)
  • Features: Gusseted tongue, lace garage, gaiter attachment
Brooks Caldera 2
Brooks Caldera 2

We’ll break this review down into six areas:

  1. What’s good: the new, differentiating, or simply well designed or built features or aspects of the shoe.
  2. What could be improved: tweaks or improvements that could be made to make the shoe better.
  3. When to use it: the situations or scenarios where the shoe excels.
  4. How it compares: My current go-to shoes and how this shoe compares.
  5. Should you purchase? My overall recommendation on whether to purchase this shoe or not.
  6. Purchasing Information: where to go to purchase this shoe.

What’s Good?

The fit: This is a comfortable shoe from the moment you slip it on your feet. First thing I noticed was the ample toe box affording me plenty of room for my toes to splay. The improved upper features a bootie style tongue that wraps your foot for a snug fit and helps to prevent debris from getting into the shoe. The laces are flat and once tied required no fussing out on the trail, even with repeated trips in and out of puddles.

The cushioning: With a 28 mm heel and 24 mm forefoot stack height this is not a close-to-the-ground shoe. But that allows for a lot of cushioning that comes in the form of Brooks BioMoGo DNA midsole. This midsole is definitely designed to rack up lots of miles in comfort, while still retaining decent ground feel.

The ride: I already mentioned the cushioning, so next up is the outsole and how it handles in the mud. In short, it gets the job done. I took these through some super muddy conditions—and went through up to ankle deep mud—and I never felt my feet slip. Both on the ups and down in the muddy I felt good grip. At one point I even came across a woman who was wearing slick bottomed road shoes while descending a particularly muddy stretch who was completely trapped mid hill with her feet sliding out from under her. I was able to have her grab on to me and get her down the hill without any slippage.

Brooks Caldera 2
Trail tested Brooks Caldera 2’s.

In addition to the mud I took the shoe in some longish stretches of gravel and rocky fire roads (one of my least favorite types of terrain). I purposefully sought out the rocks to see how the shoe fared. With no rock plate you are dependent upon the midsole cushioning to even out the ride. To my surprise, it functions really well. Even hitting what appeared to be sharp rocks the shoe glossed right over them.

The upper: Running in wet conditions I pretty much expect that once I plow through the first puddle I’m going to be dealing with feet that feel wet for a while. The breathability of the upper on this shoe is impressive. The shoe seemed to dry quickly between immersions and while my feet weren’t actually dry, they didn’t feel wet. Which in my book is pretty good.

What Could Be Improved?

The tongue: This might be nitpicky but I’d love for the tongue to be just a bit longer. I tend to like to use the heel-lock style of lacing (also called the runner’s loop, runner’s tie, or lock lacing) which employs the second set of eyelets at the top of the shoe. The Caldera comes with a lace garage feature (which is a great feature!), and yet if you use heel-lock lacing you can’t use it as the tongue isn’t long enough.

Brooks Caldera 2
Brooks Caldera 2 Lace Garage and Heel Lock Lacing Issue.

Snugger fit through the mid-foot: No matter how I snugged the laces, I couldn’t seem to get my heel to fully lock into place for steep downhills and definitely felt some forward momentum and toe banging on the longer, steeper descents. On moderate downhills and flats, this was not an issue. This could also have been the result of what I mentioned earlier of feeling that this shoe might run a little short, as this problem might be solved by sizing up to a 9.5.

Additional color options: There is one color way for women and one color way for men. The one women’s color way includes pink (to be fair, it’s a purply-pink). The Brooks Caldera 2 is relatively new so more color options may be on the way.

Wide width option: This definitely falls into nitpicky, but … I feel like there are so many shoes out there that are narrow, that this shoe could knock it out of the park for those folks with truly wide feet by offering an actual wide version.

brooks caldera 2

When To Wear the Brooks Caldera 2:

    • Everyday trail running
    • Moderately technicaly trails, muddy trails, gravel roads, and anything in between
    • All distances—the midsole is definitely meant for long days on the trail

Comparison to My Current Shoes

  • Topo Terraventure: The Terraventure offers a similar drop, 3mm as opposed to 4mm, with a very similar stack height, 35mm to 22mm. However, the Terraventure has notably less cushioning to even out rocks and roots. For longer runs, I’d opt for the Caldera 2.
  • New Balance 101: I may still be the only person who has several pairs of brand new NB 101s in my closet. When they brought them back after discontinuing them I stocked up (now discontinued again; sad face). It’s a low to the ground super responsive shoe that I love for moderate days on the trails. But that low ride and flexibility come with the tradeoff of cushioning. For rocky or more technical days, I would opt for the Caldera 2.

Should You Purchase?

These days $140 is getting to be middle of the road for a running shoe, so where I would have said this was expensive before, now it seems pretty par for the course for a solid, all-around shoe.

My recommendation would be yes, especially if you like a shoe with a wider than average toe box, that is designed for comfy rides over long distances that the Brooks Caldera 2 would be a good shoe for you. The out-of-the-box comfort and solid construction could easily make this one of my go-to shoes.

With 75 miles on the shoe I’m seeing no obvious signs of wear. I’ll report back as I continue to run in them over the next few months.

brooks caldera 2

Purchasing Information

If you’d like to purchase a pair of the Brooks Caldera 2’s, please visit your locally owned, independent run specialty store. They need your business and are a great bonus to your running community.  If that’s not possible, please consider purchasing them through this Amazon affiliate link. There’s a great return policy and your purchase will drop a few bucks into the URP bucket.  Thanks!

Your Reviewer: Sarah Bradham

I started my love of gear as a climber and as I turned my attention to running I shifted from carabiners, ice tools, and crampons to hydration packs, midsole foam types, compression clothing, and everything in between. After several years of foot injuries, I’m enjoying getting back to my beloved muddy and rocky trails near my home in Portland, Ore. In my work life, I enjoy coordinating an annual Mountain and Ultra Running Camp at the base of Mt. Hood with Yassine Diboun, Amy Sproston, Joelle Vaught, Krissy Moehl and Jeff “Bronco Billy” Browning. 
This product was provided to URP/me for review purposes. Compensation was neither offered nor requested and all words and thoughts are 100% my own.

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