Brooks Caldera 7 Review

An in-depth review of the Brooks Caldera 7 trail running shoe.

By on February 22, 2024 | Comments

The Brooks Caldera 7 ($150) offers a compelling package for trail enthusiasts looking for a maximally cushioned shoe. The Brooks Caldera has long been cherished by trail runners in search of a maximal cushioned shoe for extended distance trail runs and races.

I was a fan of the Brooks Caldera 5 myself. I appreciated its moderate cushioning and lightweight design, which struck a balance without being overly corrective. It quickly became my preferred choice for long distance runs.

With a heel-to-toe drop of 6 millimeters, achieved via a claimed midsole height of 35 millimeters at the heel and 29 millimeters at the toe, and a claimed weight of 10.6 ounces (301 grams) for a U.S. men’s 9, the Brooks Caldera 7 strikes a balance between cushioning and stability, ideal for sustained comfort over varied terrain. Its use of recycled materials and carbon offsetting initiatives underscore Brooks’s commitment to sustainability and environmental responsibility.

Just as its predecessor, we’ve found the Brooks Caldera 7 to be worthy of inclusion in our Best Cushioned Trail Running Shoes guide.

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Brooks Caldera 7

The Brooks Caldera 7. All photos: iRunFar/Reese Ruland

Brooks Caldera 7 Upper

The Brooks Caldera 7 upper has been rethought since the Brooks Caldera 6. It now features a resilient TPEE air mesh upper, designed to withstand the rigors of trail running while remaining lightweight and breathable.

I ran in the rain with this shoe and while, of course, my feet got wet — I was shocked by how after the shoe dried the upper wasn’t smelly from road grime and sweat. I’m not sure that’s an intended feature, but a bonus.

I noticed that the toebox area was a bit thin and my big toe did rub on the top of the toe protection guard for the first several runs. While annoying at first, nothing critical ever happened because of the thin toebox.

Brooks says they incorporated an external cage on the upper to enhance midfoot support, ensuring a secure and adaptable fit that keeps your foot stable even on challenging terrain. I didn’t notice a secure fit. This shoe was, in Brooks’s classical style, wide and roomy — perhaps a bit too roomy for my feet. I got several blisters on my toes.

I normally never use the farthest back shoelace eyelet, but I did end up needing it with the Caldera 7. Using that helped to keep my heel down while running and my foot a bit more secure in the shoe. I would guess that if you’re a fan of wider shoes – think Altras – this fit is perfect, but I tend to like a shoe that locks in my heel and midfoot, but has a slightly roomy toebox.

Brooks Caldera 7 - lateral

A lateral view of the Brooks Caldera 7.

Brooks Caldera 7 Midsole

The midsole is the reason people purchase the Brooks Caldera 7. One of the standout features of the Caldera 7 is its plush DNA LOFT v3 cushioning, infused with nitrogen for increased softness without sacrificing durability.

This midsole technology offers a smooth ride that absorbs impact and provides lasting comfort. During testing, I was impressed with how stable the shoe felt, which is due to the very wide base. However, I didn’t find the shoe to be overly responsive. I was hoping there would be more “oomph,” but it just wasn’t there. The larger base was maybe partially to blame for the flat-feeling ride.

When considering the max cushioning appeal, the Brooks Caldera 7 certainly presents itself as a plush shoe at first glance. However, a closer examination reveals a somewhat deceptive midsole. Despite its appearance, the foot sits somewhat deeper into the foam.

It’s important to acknowledge that the Caldera 7 might appear more cushioned than it actually is even with its claimed midsole height of 26 millimeters at the heel and 20 millimeters at the toe. In contrast, a shoe like The North Face Vectiv Infinite 2 boasts a full stack height of 28 millimeters to 22 millimeters, but visually appears to be noticeably less cushioned than the Caldera 7 while actually feeling more so.

Brooks Caldera 7 - medial

A medial view of the Brooks Caldera 7.

Brooks Caldera 7 Outsole

Overshadowed by the lure of the midsole, the outsole is the unsung heroine of the Brooks Caldera 7. Equipped with TrailTack Green outsole material, the Caldera 7 delivers exceptional traction on both wet and dry surfaces, thanks to its sticky rubber compound.

Coming in at 4 millimeters in height, the lugs on the Brooks Caldera 7 are the perfect depth, offering traction without getting in the way in times when you just need to go fast. They were perfect for the trails of Fort Collins, Colorado.

Notably, at least 25% of the outsole material is recycled, aligning with Brooks’s commitment to sustainability. Better yet, despite lots of running on trails, roads, and gravel paths, they remained in excellent condition throughout the whole testing period – now over 100 miles. The redesigned outsole enhances stability, adaptability, and traction, ensuring a smooth and confident ride over technical trails.

Brooks Caldera 7 - outsole

The outsole of the Brooks Caldera 7.

Brooks Caldera 7 Overall Impressions

While I can envision the Brooks Caldera 7 being ideal for individuals in search of a stable, spacious, and cushioned option for longer races, I feel it didn’t quite meet my expectations. This doesn’t imply it’s a poor shoe; it simply didn’t align with my preferences. I lean toward shoes with a good full-length rocker that aids in propelling me forward, which the Caldera 7 lacks.

Nevertheless, for runners who prioritize comfort and stability in long distance trail endeavors, the Brooks Caldera 7 stands out as a top choice. Its blend of plush cushioning, sturdy construction, and dependable traction renders it a reliable companion for navigating diverse terrain effortlessly — the reasons why we deemed the Caldera 7 worthy of inclusion in our Best Cushioned Trail Running Shoes guide.

Shop the Women's Brooks Caldera 7Shop the Men's Brooks Caldera 7

Call for Comments

  • Have you tried the Brooks Caldera 7? What are your thoughts?
  • Do you like running in more cushioned trail shoes in general?

Our Favorite Trail Running Shoes

Check out our Best Trail Running Shoes article to learn about our current favorite trail running shoes!

Brooks Caldera 7 - animal auxillary

Our tester’s assistant checking out the Brooks Caldera 7.

Reese Ruland

Reese Ruland enjoys spending her time exhausting herself in the mountains and desert, either on foot or by bike. She is a Pop Tart enthusiast, gear addict, science nerd, and mom to two French bulldogs, Loaf and Oatie. When she’s not out on some big adventure, she enjoys working with athletes on developing a healthy relationship with endurance sports and their bodies.