Feel of the ShoeWhen you first step into the shoes, you feel the "clouds" beneath you. The clouds are rubber suspension units on the outsole--4 in the heel and 9 in the forefoot. They provide the cushioning in the shoe and are unique to On. The shoe fits to size, so don't worry about sizing up or down.
In the Cloudsurfers, the clouds are not that prominent but are still noticeable at first. I can't say that it bothered me; it just felt different. The upper wrapped very snugly around the top of my foot.
Within the first few steps of my first run, I had an “a-ha” moment. These shoes are very responsive and put some good spring in your step. As soon as I got moving, the clouds felt natural beneath my feet. There is still a thin layer of EVA foam to provide a buffer zone of cushioning, but the clouds absorb the bulk of the shock. The shoes aren't soft like an Asics Nimbus, but you still feel a cushioned response. (If you try them on for yourself, you'll see what I mean.)
Before I even had the chance to run in the Cloudsurfers, On Technical Representative Mike Robinson told me that the shoes improve efficiency to the point where it's difficult to "run poorly" in them. "I tried to go out of my way to 'run sloppy' in them," said Mike. "It's nearly impossible."
Seeking to put Mike's claim to the test, I tried doing the same. (I wouldn't recommend doing this on a crowded street, as you will probably receive many confused looks from bystanders.) I tried altering my stride every which way, and Mike's statement was pretty true. The Cloudsurfers really promote a clean midfoot strike, something I try to be conscious of when I'm on the roads.
I can see what the manufacturers mean when they say that the shoe "turns on" your postural muscles. My legs felt a little bit shaky and slightly sore when I finished my initial six-miler in them. The following day, though, I felt no soreness whatsoever.
Fairly light, these shoes tip the scales at 10.8 ounces for a men's size 9 (9.1 ounces for a women's size 7). By contemporary standards, that's on the heavier side of the "lightweight trainer" category. Yet, the pure responsiveness and glove-like feel that the shoe provides will outweigh any excesses in weight.
The biggest downside? If you're on trails, especially during rainy days, rocks and dirt can get trapped in between the clouds. However, it's nothing a little post-run scrub can't handle. I also noticed that wet, slick roads can pose a bit of a problem, although nothing too dangerous. Overall, nothing big.
The biggest upside? I am an overpronator, and though the Cloudsurfer doesn't have any traditional pronation control built into the shoe, I have had no issues with injury thus far. I have run about 100 miles in the shoe. Very impressive.
The Bottom LineAs On characterizes their footwear, "Cushioned landing. Barefoot takeoff." Thanks to the clouds, I felt ample padding upon landing could toe-off quickly. That high level of responsiveness with each step is what I found most pleasing about the shoe. Though I haven't quite reached 500 miles yet, I've had absolutely zero outstanding aches or pains to date. Initially a doubter, I am now a believer. Nice work, On Running!
Recommended for: Runners looking for a fast, responsive trainer
Heel-to-toe offset: 7mm
Shop Cloudsurfer for men
Shop Cloudsurfer for women