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Running shoes have largely started to resemble each other in both technology and feel. Improvements in cushioning and upper material are made at the margins which makes models such as the Mizuno Wave Line similar to the Asics Kayano line in many regards. However, for those looking for an “out-of-the-box” approach to running shoes, we recommend offerings from On Running. On is an innovative company that takes a non-traditional approach to its visual and cushioning systems. As a result, they have developed running shoes that are not only unique but strong performers as well.

Why ON shoes

On Running is one of the fastest growing running footwear companies garnering both critical acclaim (ISPO Gold 2016) and support from the running community. With its objectively unique cushioning system, Cloudtec Cloud Pods, the Swiss running company set to distinguish themselves from the traditional running shoe market. Judging from the popular response from the running community, it is safe to say they have achieved this goal. On Running’s shoe models offer a unique blend of cushioning, speed, and stability in almost all their models.

Features of ON shoes

On running prioritizes a unique hybrid of speed and comfort. The most distinct feature of On is their unique cloud pods technology. Cloud pods are the cushioning system on On’s running shoes that offer a hollowed out rubberized sole unit that is meant to help with compression and take off. On also manipulates the rubber compound on these to simulate a compressive effect on the entire shoe, something other companies struggle to do.

Why so popular?

Aside from the performance, On Running shoes are also eye-catching models that can function in both performance and casual environments. On largely achieves this by keeping the upper understated with minimal overlays and logos. The only truly “standout” element of On’s running shoes are the unique cloud pods.

While there are numerous On Running shoes that stand out such as the Cloudswift and the Cloudracer, we narrowed down the list to our five favorite models from On Running. These models offer a blend of speed, stability, and innovative uses of On’s cushioning system. All these models are also extremely eye-catching making them great for casual use as well.

1. On Cloudace

The On CloudaceOn Cloudace is On’s stability offering aimed at runners looking for pronation support and maximum cushioning. The Cloudace positions itself as a max-cushioned stability model pitting itself against flagship models such as the Asics Kayano and the Brooks Adrenaline lines. However, even with its relatively recent history, On has made a significant splash in the stability shoe market with the On Cloudace which features its proprietary cloud pod technology configured to offer the runner a cushioned ride with stability and support.

The On Cloudace features a synthetic engineered mesh upper with strategic overlays in the midfoot and the heel. There is also a considerable toe guard in the toe box area to provide both protection and additional structure. There is an outer TPU heel counter to provide stability and keep the runner from excessive lateral movement. A point of note for the On Cloudace is that they chose to be judicious in their use of overlays. Many stability models can overcompensate with too many overlays making it both restrictive and odd-looking. The Cloudace deploys it in enough areas to ensure lockdown while maintaining a minimalist vibe. Even with the minimal overlays, we found that many runners noted that they never felt like they were slipping out of the shoe.

The mesh upper provides for decent breathability while also providing considerable structure for the shoe. Being a mesh upper, it requires a minimal break-in period and the On Cloudace does a good job of maintaining shape after much wear. While many noted that the break-in period was minimal, it did take a few runs for the shoes to become fully comfortable, however. After break-in, we found the upper to be flexible and comfortable almost forming well to the foot. We found no issues with considerable wear holes or durability issues with the upper.

The On Cloudace also features a padded heel liner and a thin tongue to complete the upper. We found that the thin tongue was a welcome addition that added to some breathability during warmer months and during long runs. However, we found most praise for the padded heel liner which served the dual purpose of keeping the runner in the shoe and also added comfort for long runs and even casual wear.

To provide cushioning in the On Cloudace, On utilizes their proprietary cloud pods technology. Cloud pods are essentially hollow rubberized units that cover the bottom of the shoe with the exception of the v-shaped gulf in the middle of the Cloudace. The gulf serves multiple purposes. Primarily, it provides a two-sided opening for rocks, debris, and other materials to escape the inside of the pods. In previous offerings, we found runners complained that debris would get stuck in the pods and in some cases in the middle of the shoe making it difficult to remove the debris. With the v-shaped gulf, runners can easily remove stubborn debris if necessary. Each individual cloud pod compresses on its own and provides both differential cushioning on uneven terrain along with unified cushioning when fully compressed. The advantage of using this system is that cushioning is not interdependent and when a runner steps, they can be confident each step will provide flexible cushioning.

The pods on the rear of the outsole are made with On’s Zero-Gravity foam for superior shock absorption. They combine this with durable rubber on the forefoot for added durability. While this cushioning setup is effective, we found that numerous runners complained that forefoot impacts were punishing and jarring. We would have liked to see On employing a full-length zero-gravity foam system throughout the shoe given this is a stability model. Therefore, for those who tend to strike with their forefoot, the Cloudace may not be the best model for them.

To achieve stability, the On Cloudace features an intentionally wide platform. The platform keeps the runner from unnecessarily twisting upon impact by providing a wider surface area. Thus, if a runner lands on the lateral edge of the foot and tends to roll inward, a wide base, particularly in the forefoot, will help promote a more centralized toe-off. The On Cloudace further supports stability by using a rigid plastic layer the company calls a “speed board.” The speed board is a plastic unit that when combined with the v-gulf flexibly allows the runner to heel strike without forcing them to compensate with inward rolls.

What do we think about ON Cloudace runners?

We found that runners generally found the cloud pods cushioning to be extremely plush and comfortable. Runners commented that the On Cloudace provided a smooth, cushioned ride which made it perfect for long-distance runs. Additionally, runners commented that the On Cloudace provided adequate cushioning without the sinking feeling of some max cushion models.

However, because of the cushioning system, the On Cloudace will not allow for extremely quick turnover making it less than ideal for speed runs. The speed board along with a firmer cushioning setup in the forefoot will allow for quicker transitions. This is aided by the unique compressive, spring effect of the cloud pods which will provide some launching in each stride. However, the On Cloudace may not offer the speed performance of other neutral models and those looking for a fast shoe may consider other options.

The On Cloudace features an edge-based traction pattern. Essentially, the traction surrounds the edges of the shoe with a purposeful gulf in the middle of the shoe. Each cloud pod features a rubber outsole to provide traction. However, unlike the Adidas Slingblade which featured rubber traction strips on each individual sling in a disconnected fashion, the On Cloudace features connected traction that seamlessly connects the outer edges of the shoe. The connected surface area allows for a secure grip without sacrificing any of the cushioning.

We found that runners generally enjoyed the traction and the rubber compound of the sole unit. It provided adequate traction in a variety of surface areas including road, grass, and even some off-road terrain. As a result, the On Cloudace was a popular all-purpose stability shoe for those looking to run in various environments. We also found the traction to be impressively durable at high mileage use and runners commented that the On Cloudace remained tacky after long periods of time.

The lack of a solid, flat sole unit, however, did contribute to some grip issues in conditions where moisture was an issue. We found that many runners complained about some slippage in rainy or wet environments. As a result, the On Cloudace is less than ideal for those living in increasingly rainy conditions. Additionally, those looking to run in snowy conditions may also benefit from choosing a shoe intended for wet conditions.

The On Cloudace is a true stability shoe that will surely challenge flagship models from other companies. While priced aggressively at $200 USD (Check out the latest rates here!), the combination of technology and durability makes it an attractive choice for those looking for a different, but effective stability running model.

2. On Cloudflow

The On Cloudflow is On’s speed offering for those looking for a quick shoe with a moderate amount of cushion. Many speed racing shoes offer ample responsiveness for speed and tempo runs, but fails to offer adequate cushioning for repeated poundings. The Cloudflow is a great offering that is fast, but comfortable as well.

The On Cloudflow is a hybrid of minimalist and cushioned runner, which is a departure from the minimalist running trend from a few years ago as companies are looking to combine responsiveness while providing enough cushion to avoid injury. The On Cloudflow features a lightweight synthetic upper with a wider toe box to provide space for toe splaying. The synthetic upper is largely a mesh material that is essentially seamless and moves flexibly with the runner. As a result, we found that runners enjoyed using these as a barefoot running shoe in warmer climates.

We also found that runners found the Cloudflow to promote excellent breathability which was a highlight during quicker tempo runners in warm climates. However, the downside to this is that using the Cloudflow in colder climates may require the use of equally warm socks. Therefore, we would advise runners to consider their use cases when trying on and considering the Cloudflow.

The minimal upper and sleek look of the Cloudflow made it one of the better looking models of the group. We found that many reviewers commented on the aesthetics of the On Cloudflow and how it was appropriate for both running and casual use. The On Cloudflow also uses a number of different colorways for those looking for a little “pop” as well.

Designed as a speed shoe, the Cloudflow is a bit narrow in the heel and midfoot, but unlike other racing models, the generous toe box makes it appropriate for a number of different runners. Therefore, runners with wide feet may be able to comfortably use the Cloudflow as well. We also found that many runners commented that the Cloudflow were true to size and the fit was secure throughout the run. The Cloudflow achieves this with a combination of mesh material and strategic overlays, which keeps the runner locked in without restricting movement.

The On Cloudflow features On’s innovative Cloud-Tec sole. However, unlike other models, the Cloudflow uses 18 cloud pods throughout the sole to provide cushioning throughout the runner’s stride. The number of cloudpods allows the Cloudflow to maintain superior cushioning, while also making it a bit faster and performance ready than stability models such as the Cloudace. Like the Cloudace, however, the Cloudflow also employs Zero-Gravity foam to provide enough cushioning without losing responsiveness and ground feel. The Cloudflow also embeds the “speedboard” throughout the sole between the insole and the cushioning.

The speedboard on the Cloudflow provides a malleable “flexplate” that moves with the runner while also providing an extra spring during toe-off. The On Cloudflow manipulates the density and amount of cushioning with this speedboard to account for cushioning versus responsiveness. They provide softer density for more cushioning and a firmer one for more responsiveness. The Cloudflow is an appropriate mix of the two. We also found that the speedboard does a good job of maintaining ground feel which maximizes the ability of the speedboard to contribute to faster runs.

The cushioning is plush, but it will not provide a sinking feeling associated with some max cushioned models. If we were to provide a visual analogy, it was akin to putting in a foam insole into a pair of minimalist runners such as the New Balance Minimus or the Vivo barefoot. We found that runners still got the responsiveness they were looking for without the jarring shock that comes from repeated pounding on road surfaces. Therefore, the Cloudflow is a great transition shoe for those looking to gain a little speed performance by switching between a stability model and neutral model. Many times, this transition is too steep, but the Cloudflow allows runners to make this transition more seamlessly.

The traction of the Cloudflow uses a similar compound in other On models. As a result, we found that the traction was quite tacky which helped in runners looking for extra speed through firm foundations. However, unlike some On models, we found that the traction on the Cloudflow performed well in wet and slippery conditions as well. We found that runners commented that they experienced minimal slippage using the Cloudflow in wet surfaces and rainy environments. We believe some of this is attributed to the cushion set up of the Cloudflow which encourages a low-to-the-ground feel, which may aid in traction.

Should you buy the Cloudflow?

The Cloudflow is an excellent shoe for those looking for a quick, responsive shoe with enough cushioning to keep them from jarring shock. We also found that the Cloudflow was one of the most attractive options on this list for those looking for a casual “do-it-all” shoe. Many reviewers commented how the Cloudflow, with its sleek minimal profile made for a great everyday shoe that they can easily use as a gym or low-mileage running shoe in addition to a “running errand” shoe as well. At $140, it is on par with other offerings from On Running. At full price, it is an excellent shoe that should fit a variety of needs. However, at a discount, we would rank the Cloudflow over it similarly priced competitors such as the Nike Free Rn.

3. On Cloud X

For those looking for a versatile option that can double as a running and training shoe, we love the On Cloud X. Similar to the Cloudflow, the On Cloud X is a moderately cushioned racer for those looking for speed and responsiveness, while maintaining a comfortable ride. However, unlike the Cloudflow, the On Cloud X provides additional cushioning and support for those looking to mix longer distances with gym and training sessions.

The On Cloud X features an engineered mesh upper that, with wear, will form to the runner’s foot. It also uses the same foam padded collar that is present on the Cloudace which provides for a secure lockdown of the heel and comfort for moderate distances. In fact, we found that the padded collar was one of the most highlighted aspects of the Cloud X as runners found this feature to provide long term comfort and protection without sacrificing performance. The Cloud X also continues to use On’s seamless approach to constructing their uppers which promote reduced irritation and can be worn barefoot if desired. The seamless construction along with roomy areas in certain parts of the shoe made for excellent breathability and moisture wicking as well.

The roomy upper of the On Cloud X also makes it a popular option for both wide and narrow foot runners. The latter was satisfied with the midfoot overlays which allow for secure lockdown and fit. Wide foot runners found the roomy toe box combined with the padded heel collar to be a perfect combination for both running and training as well. Finally, the mesh upper also breaks in and provides some flexibility that will eventually form to the runner’s foot. We also found that reviewers enjoyed the On Cloud X versatility as a gym and casual shoe as it provided all-day comfort without the overlays and unnecessary elements of some stability models.

The On Cloud X uses a moderate cushioning setup that provides comfortable cushion for long distances, but doesn’t weigh the shoe down for those looking to pick up the pace. The Cloud X uses On’s “CloudTec” Elements, which is essentially their cloud pod technology modified to provide the correct level of cushioning. In the On Cloud X, the cushioning is both ample and comfortable. It is strikingly similar to the Cloudace, but we found that it felt like it could perform in speed runs as well. Like other On models, the cushioning in the On Cloud X is also extremely flexible which allows the runner to move smoothly in transition, while maintaining the comfort of cushioned shoes. On largely achieves this by removing any unnecessary elements such as glue or structures, which keeps the cushioning foam flexible and comfortable.

While the Cloud X performs well for those use to speed shoes, we have heard from runners that may feel the On Cloud X may take some time to adjust for new runners. The reduced cushioning and improved responsiveness can be jarring to some runners not used to faster shoes. Therefore, we recommend new users of the Cloud X to take ample transition time to avoid injury and get used to the shoe. We liken this experience to those running for the first time in a minimalist shoe or something unique such as the Hoka One One. However, once runners were adjusted to the On Cloud X, many noted that the discomfort of the new technology dissolves quickly.

Similar to other offerings from On, the On Cloud X uses the angled edge in the sole which serves as part crashpad and also keeps rocks and debris from getting stuck in the cloudpods. The On Cloud X also uses their speedboard to provide support between the sole and the insole. The speedboard, a flexible plastic strip throughout the base of the shoe, aids in keeping the runner from sinking into the cushion and also provides some additional support during toe-off. As a result, the runner can land and transition quickly without feeling like they are completely reliant upon either the speedboard’s responsiveness or the cushioning comfort. The two act in tandem to help the runner through landing and takeoff.

Is the Cloud X worth it?

We felt that the price of the On Cloud X was perfectly reasonable given the technology and usability of the model. At $140, the On Cloud X is a bit more expensive than the Nike Pegasus line and cheaper than the Asics Kayano line. Given the versatility and durability of the On Cloud X, however, we found that the price to be preferable to other offerings from other brands.

4. On Cloudflyer

Many runners need the assistance of running shoes to aid in providing support and stability. However, stability and support shoes such as the Asics Gel Kayano, Mizuno Wave Inspire, and the Saucony Guide can sacrifice stability for speed. While it is not impossible to run quickly in those shoes, some runners may find that repeated quick churns can tire them out due to the bulk and weight of these models.

To address the need for runners looking for a faster shoe, but with the stability and support of beefier running models, On introduced the Cloudflyer. The Cloudflyer is a hybrid training shoe meant to be faster than stability models, while providing more cushioning than true minimalist shoes. Traditionally, runners would have to choose a neutral runner and outfit it with custom orthotics, but with the On Cloudflyer, runners can have the best of both worlds without sacrificing stability or speed.

The On Cloudflyer features a slim profile upper made of engineered mesh with strategic overlays in the forefoot and around the midfoot and heel. The overlays do a good of blending in with the rest of the shoe and On continues to take its simplified approach in designing the Cloudflyer. As a result, the Cloudflyer maintains its low profile upper without complicated overlay patterns. In addition to the low profile upper, we found many runners commented that the shoe was quite snug and provided good lockdown throughout the run. We did not find many complaints of a constricting fit leading us to believe that the density of the engineered mesh provides for a little give, unlike harder density mesh uppers that restrict foot movement without flexibility.

Similar to other On Running models, the Cloudflyer also features a roomy toebox which allows for toe splaying upon impact. We found this to be an enjoyable benefit of the Cloudflyer as many low profile shoes can feature restricting toe box areas to maintain the sleek vision of the shoe. In the Cloudflyer, On was able to maintain a slim profile, while also accommodating wide foot runners and proper landing technique.

The Cloudflyer features a snug, padded heel liner to keep the runner from slipping out of the shoe while providing comfort for moderate to long distance runs. The heel lockdown also helps the Cloudflyer’s stability and support aims. The heel cushioning and lockdown helps prevent the runner from unnecessary twisting upon impact.

The Cloudflyer also uses a padded sockliner and insole which provides some comfort and cushioning for longer runs. While we found that many runners enjoyed this feature, we are weary of foam-based sockliners since they have the tendancy to compress after repeated use. However, this may be an easy fix for those looking to purchase the Cloudflyer by simply purchasing another pair of insoles that are more durable, yet properly cushioned.

The Cloudflyer uses their usual cloud pods technology to provide the primary cushioning system for the shoe. The cloud pods in the Cloudflyer is made of a lighter, yet durable foam compound. This is the most significant contributor that sheds most of the weight from the Cloudflyer. Many stability shoes can range from roughly 12-14 oz depending on the technology they choose to employ. The Cloudflyer weighs in at roughly 9 oz which makes it only slightly heavier than popular neutral runners such as the Saucony Kinvara, but with the added stability and support of the heavier models.

The Cloudflyer also features a wider sole and base to keep the runner connected to the ground longer. The base of the Cloudflyer is similar to the one used in the Cloudace. The wider base keeps the weight in the central part of the foot longer which helps prevent excessive planting and toe-offs from an inward position. While the system is not perfect and will not completely alleviate overpronation for severe cases, we found that the majority of runners that needed a little stability support found the Cloudflyer to be a perfect fit for both speed and assistance.

The largest complaint we found on the Cloudflyer, and other On models, is the lacing system. We found that numerous runners commented that the lace material was subpar and was prone to untying quickly. While this is an easy fix with purchasing new laces, we found this to be a place where too much innovation was unnecessary. On features their “star-lacing” system on the Cloudflyer, which is essentially an additional pass-through for the laces. However, simply using normal laces, and lacing system here, may have sufficed as the fit and lockdown engineering were quite solid.

Should I buy the Cloudflyer

The Cloudflyer is excellent shoe that fills a surprisingly large gap in the running shoe market between stability and neutral runners. We found that many runners looked for shoes that allowed them to pick up the pace when necessary. The Cloudflyer allows runners seeking a little bit of correction to still maintain aggressive paces and tempo runs as well. The On Cloudflyer achieves this by shedding an impressive amount of weight from the shoe and utilizing strategic manipulations such as a wide base and heel lock down to provide stability to the runner. As a result, the remainder of the shoe can remain flexible and responsive throughout the run. The only two negatives with the Cloudflyer is the overly intricate lacing system that many found was ineffective. Secondly, at $160 (Check out the latest rates here!), it may price some out of the Cloudflyer. However, given the innovative tech of the cloud pods along with the sparse offerings in the “speed, but stable” market, we think the Cloudflyer warrants a look for those looking to fill a gap in their running shoe rotation.

5. On Cloudventure

Trail running shoes have boomed into popularity recently with more runners seeking hardcore challenges, newer runners looking to find runs off of roadways, and casual hikers looking for comfort and support on weekend hikes. As a result, numerous companies have begun offering hybrid trail running shoes aimed at the entry-level runner or the occasional hiker/trail runner such as the Nike Terra Kiger and the Brooks Caldera.

On Running has also entered the trail running space, and we feel like it is one of the better available options on the market. The Cloudventure is the company’s trail model offering that features all the technical specifications to handle a variety of trails while maintaining their custom technology offerings and features. On offers a low and mid top version of the Cloudventure. For the purposes of this review, we are going to review the low-top version, though they are largely similar with the exception of collar height.

The Cloudventure features a dual-layered upper to provide a unique combination of lockdown, comfort and protection. The Cloudventure uses an inner bootie that acts like a sock for the runner and then provides an outer mesh shell. The outer mesh shell acts as both a protective layer against debris and water and as an additional layer of support and lockdown. As a result, we found that runners never complained about falling out the shoe at any point in various trail running environments. The bootie construction is also a flexible material, which made it comfortable for runners with a variety of foot widths. The only negative with the Cloudventure is that it may take additional break-in time as opposed to one piece of running shoes. However, once broken in, we found that the Cloudventure was extremely comfortable and durable.

The Cloudventure also features a rubberized toe guard and floor paneling. The toe guard helps with kicking debris during hikes, while the mudguard around the shoe helps in keeping elements out of the shoe such as water and also providing some additional stability. Despite these rubberized elements and two-piece upper, we found many runners commented that their feet did not overheat as compared to traditional trail running shoes that use a water-resistant coating such as the North Face 109 series. As a result, the Cloudventure is an appropriate four-season trail runner in a variety of different conditions.

The cushioning on the Cloudventure is a large departure from their traditional road running models. Most noticeably, the Cloudventure features extremely closed cloud pods as compared to their other running shoes. As a result, we found that runners never felt unstable in uneven terrains. The cloud pods still provided excellent cushioning and their compressive elements were still intact despite a reduced opening width. The reduction of the cloud pod opening also helped in providing more responsiveness as well. As a result, runners should be able to easily feel a variety of surfaces and gain secure footing when necessary. Another nice touch of the Cloudventure is that they created jagged grooves in the cloud pods which aid in shedding debris, mud, and rocks that may get stuck in the shoe’s sole. Finally, the Cloudtec pods continue to have the ability to compress individually and provide further stability for those in uneven trails. This was a welcome feature that many runners highlighted. Many felt that regardless of terrain, they felt stable, yet adequately cushioned as well.

The traction on the Cloudventure features some moderate to slight lugs to help in shedding debris and help the runner move quickly through various terrain. The sole also features a unique teardrop cut out with deep grooves going down from the middle of the shoe to the heel. This feature helps in moving the runner through uneven surfaces quickly and the lugs prevent from too much debris from getting stuck in the sole. While we found no complaints from runners on the space in the middle of the shoe causing issues, we would caution runners in particularly mountainous territories in exercising caution as the grooves may get caught on uneven, yet firm surfaces. Additionally, while the rubber compound of the sole was quite durable and effective, for those looking to run in extreme environments, we would recommend also exploring other shoes with aggressive lugs such as Nike’s Terra Kiger series.

Is the Cloudventure worth it?

The Cloudventure from On is a unique offering from the innovative running company that seeks to blend its award-winning cloud pod technology with trail running features for those looking for a comfortable, durable all-purpose ride. We found that the Cloudventure does a good job of protecting the runner from the elements, while also providing ample cushioning for extended use. Additionally, at $150, we feel that the Cloudventure is correctly priced for the design elements and features in the trail running space. However, we would caution its use in extreme environments. But for regular trail-running, the Cloudventure is a worthy option.