ON Running Shoes

On Running: Turning Your Muscles "On"

On Running, a Swiss brand, is a relative newcomer to the American running shoe market; they have only been sold in the United States for about a year. When I was first introduced to On's running shoes, I couldn't help but judge a book by its cover. I observed the rubber, lug-esque protrusions on the outsole--known as "clouds"--and thought they looked... well...gimmick-y.

My first impression was quickly dispelled when I slipped a pair on and went for a six-mile run.

Science of the Shoe: Running on Clouds, Literally

On Running, a Swiss brand, constructs their shoes with one major mission in mind: to reduce the occurrence of significant running injuries.

A tall order, no?

Olivier Bernhard, a former world-class triathlete who finished as high as fifth at the Ironman World Championships, birthed the concept of the the shoes out of pure frustration. Having suffered from chronic Achilles tendon injuries, Bernhard resorted to drastic measures and glued segments of a cut-up garden hose to the soles of his shoes. A very unorthodox solution, but it solved his problems, and, inadvertently, Bernhard had created the first prototype of On shoes.

Improving vastly upon a rubber garden hose, On product developers have employed "cloud" technology in their footwear, which addresses both the vertical and horizontal forces that impact runners. These carbon rubber clouds compress upon landing, giving runners vertical cushioning. Likewise, the clouds provide horizontal cushioning by accounting for the the horizontal shearing force that occurs with each step. The clouds act like "tiny stability balls," which respond to the individual motions of your foot and activate postural muscles. Doing so, according to the manufacturers, "turns your muscles on" and reduces the risk of injury by strengthening muscles around joints, tendons, and ligaments.

You can see where brand gets its name.

"Most conventional running shoes use a block of EVA foam that compresses and gets very firm after so many miles," said On Technical Representative Mike Robinson when he visited Holabird Sports. "The clouds are not only more durable but also more responsive. It's a different style of cushioning, but, in our opinion, 'different' is good. It's a paradigm shift in how we understand running shoes."

"Cushioned landing. Barefoot takeoff." That is the brand's theme. When the clouds compress under your weight upon footstrike, the teeth in both the bottom and top of the clouds align to provide a solid base for toe-off.

Perhaps you are interested in running on clouds? There are currently four On models:

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Check back soon for our individual shoe reviews!