The third iteration of Columbia-Montrail’s Caldorado trail shoe has a lot going for it, including a seamless upper and shrewd multi-directional lug design. On the trail, it feels light and nimble, and it’s versatile enough to handle a variety of trail conditions and terrains. However, our wear-testers had concerns with the lateral support and durability of the uppers. More than one runner on our team experienced a rip or tear in the stretchy knit upper. Additionally, there were concerns about the fit, particularly the low heel cup and low-slung toe box.
Overall, the Columbia-Montrail Caldorado III is a versatile off-road shoe and Columbia-Montrail has some smart upgrades from the previous version, but our runners have some concerns that keep it from ranking higher in this round of head-to-head testing. The biggest update for the Columbia-Montrail Caldorado III is the new knit upper. In bright yellow, it’s modern and visually striking. It’s also seamless, and our wear-test team also appreciated the glove-like fit. The bootie-like upper material is paired with a well-structured and supportive heel cup on the back end (although some runners may find the heel itself too low). The Columbia-Montrail Caldorado III is the only trail shoe in Columbia-Montrail’s line with this particular knit upper, although other models like the FluidFlex and Trans Alps may get redesigned with innovative uppers as well.
The Columbia-Montrail Caldorado III’s midsole is made from compression-molded EVA foam, and Columbia-Montrail enhances the foam with their FluidGuide design. FluidGuide is a process of targeting the firmness of the EVA foam, and Columbia-Montrail gives the Caldorado III’s midsole a softer center and firmer edges to balance comfort and responsiveness. The removable insole follows the same design principle, with a softer middle section and slightly firmer foam around the arch, heel and lateral edge. The midsole has 26mm rear stack height and 18mm forefoot stack, for an 8mm heel-to-toe drop. Our wear-testers were also impressed with the Columbia-Montrail Caldorado III’s full-coverage outsole and multi-directional lug design. Three flex channels in the front half of the outsole keep it from being too stiff or clunky, even with the TrailShield forefoot rockplate.
However, our wear-test team had concerns about the fit, performance, and durability of the Columbia-Montrail Caldorado III that kept it from landing higher on the head-to-head test. While the stretchy one-piece knit upper is comfortable and dries quickly, multiple runners on our wear-test team reported abrasions and tears from rocks and other trail obstacles. Comfort and breathability have to be balanced with durability, and there were some concerns about that balance here. In terms of fit, some of our wear-testers reported that the toe box, while wide enough, was lower than they preferred and their toes felt constricted. And while our runners praised the multi-directional lug design, some of them noted that rubber compound Columbia-Montrail uses on the outsole gets slippery in wet conditions. Compared to trail shoes with tacky, sticky outsoles like the Saucony Xodus ISO 3 and Brooks Cascadia 13, our runners felt less confident using the Columbia-Montrail Caldorado III in wet weather. Finally, this is a minor issue, but some of the runners on our wear-test team noted that the visual design of the Columbia-Montrail logo and midsole sides look cheap and outdated. “I was worried someone would think I bought them at Wal-mart,” complained one wear-tester on the team.
Straight out of the box, our wear-testers were impressed with how comfortable the Columbia-Montrail Caldorado III felt. One reported back, “the stretchy neoprene-like upper material makes for a slipper-like feel when you first put them on.” However, he also felt like the material was so stretchy that he had a hard time getting the consistent lace pressure and snugness he wanted. Our wear-testers agreed that the Columbia-Montrail Caldorado III fits true-to-size, with a wider than average forefoot. Compared to a shoe with legendarily wide forefoot like the Altra Lone Peak 4.0, the Columbia-Montrail Caldorado III’s front end is only slightly narrower. Runners who would like more room for their toes to splay out, but find Altras too wide (or prefer not to run in a zero-drop shoe) will like the generous width here. Despite the width, the toe box is low-slung across the top, and one of our wear-testers felt like the front of his feet were being squished down and constricted.
Overall, the runners on our wear-test team were pleased with how quick and smooth the Columbia-Montrail Caldorado III felt on a variety of different surfaces and conditions. One wear tester called it “light and fast with easy turnover and no clunky feel.” Another reported she, “could easily pick up speed in these shoes, because they feel so light and springy.” At 10.1oz for men’s size 9, the Columbia-Montrail Caldorado III is the second-lightest shoe in this round of testing (beaten only by the Hoka Mafate EVO at 9.6oz for the same size). That make the Columbia-Montrail Caldorado III more than a full ounce lighter than a lot of comparison models like the Brooks Cascadia 13 (11.7oz for men’s size 9) and Saucony Xodus ISO 3 (12.9 for men’s size 9). Overall, the Columbia-Montrail Caldorado III “is a surprisingly fast shoe that can serve up smooth singletrack at speed, as well as hold its own in technical terrain,” concluded one of our wear-testers.
Security of Fit
Our wear-test team was divided on how secure they felt in the Columbia-Montrail Caldorado III’s stretchy knit uppers. One tester who had a positive review explained, “the fit is very secure for such stretch material. It wraps my food, and when pushed in technical terrain I get a bit of movement, but it was minimal and predictable.” Another describe the fit as secure and glove-like, although she had trouble with the laces coming untied on the trail. On the other hand, one of our wear-testers reported back that “the combination of the wider forefoot and stretchy upper material made for sloppy lateral movement in the Columbia-Montrail Caldorado III, especially on technical terrain and downhill.” Compared to trail shoes with structured, firm midfoot wraps like the Saucony Xodus ISO 3 or Brooks Cascadia 13, the Columbia-Montrail Caldorado III is noticeably less supportive and secure around the midfoot.
The Columbia-Montrail Caldorado III’s lugs and outsole design got universal praise from the trail runners on our wear-test crew. The lugs are a mix of flat-sided squares through the middle channel and six-sided lugs in various configurations strategically placed around the medial and lateral edges. Looking at the outsole, it’s clear that someone has thought carefully about the design and placement of each lug. It’s no surprise that this pattern has stayed exactly the same from the first version of the Caldorado through the newest generation. It’s deliberate and well-done. One wrote, “I could easily navigate trail obstacles, and could stop quickly without slipping or losing my footing.” Another described the Columbia-Montrail Caldorado III as “precise and agile, and can negotiate any terrain without feeling the least bit clumsy.” However, despite praising the lugs, our wear-testers reported that the rubber compound is slippery and loses traction in wet conditions.
One of our wear-testers reported that the Columbia-Montrail Caldorado III has “pretty good get up and go, enough for racing or uptempo training.” The EVA foam midsole and FluidGuide targeted-firmness design are, “soft enough to absorb impact from rocks but retains its springiness to keep you going for the long haul,” reported a wear-tester who puts in big miles on Colorado’s front range trails. Overall, our wear-test team though the midsole felt energetic and lively, and the design has a great springy toe-off through the stride. No one reported that the FluidGuide foam was too marshmallow-soft or mushy.
Our wear-test team had separate judgements about the Columbia-Montrail Caldorado III’s upper and lower halves. There were substantial concerns about the durability of the Columbia-Montrail Caldorado III’s uppers. Two different runners on our wear-test crew reported rips and tears from sharp branches and rocks. While the abrasions were minimal, the Columbia-Montrail Caldorado III was the only shoe in the head-to-head test that saw that sort of trail damage. On the bottom half the shoe, however, our runners had nothing but praise for the Columbia-Montrail Caldorado III. The rockplate is flexible enough that some questioned whether it even has one (it does), and the blown-rubber full-coverage outsole protects well from small trail obstacles. Runners looking for an even more protective version of the Columbia-Montrail Caldorado III should check out the waterproof Columbia-Montrail Caldorado III OutDry edition, which has a proprietary water resistant treatment.