On The Cloud Running Shoe Review
Posted on November 17 2014
I have to admit that I wasn’t expecting to like these shoes. My previous experience with an ON shoe was the original Cloudracer, and my impression was that to take advantage of the cushioning provided by podded sole design you needed to land with a pronounced heel strike. Otherwise the shoes felt very firm (not necessarily a bad thing), and were too heavy for a racing shoe. They were also expensive relative to most other shoes in the racing niche.
ON contacted me again this summer and asked if I’d be willing to try out a few of their newer models. They sent pairs of the ON The Cloud, and the ON Cloudsurfer. I’ve now put miles on both, and am going to start by reviewing the Cloud (just going to refer to it as Cloud since saying the The Cloud sounds silly…) since I prefer it over the Cloudsurfer. (Disclosure: these shoes were review samples and were provided free of charge by the manufacturer).
Sole and Ride
ON’s trademark is the podded sole design seen on all of their shoes. Basically, these consist of squarish rubber pods that are hollow in the middle. The pods compress on contact to provide cushioning – the bigger the hollow, the more cushioning provided.
The Cloud differs from other ON shoes in that the sole pods are built from the midsole rather than the rubber outsole – in other words, they are hollowed out foam and the pillars supporting the pods are thicker, so they don’t compress as much. This gives the shoes a more responsive feel from heel to toe than the other ON shoes I have tried. For me, this was actually a welcome surprise as they have a racing-flat feel on the road (though more flexible), and they felt great when picking up the pace. I’ve actually had fun running in this shoe, and at 7.4oz they are and 1.5 oz lighter than ON’s actual racing shoe. I think the weight reduction is largely due to the lack of heavier rubber pods on this shoe.
The drawback of the firm-feeling sole of the Cloud is that I’m not sure I’d choose this shoe for long distances. I tend to prefer more cushion for double-digit miles. But if a firm, flexible shoe sounds like a good match for your stride, they could certainly work for that purpose.
One last thing about the sole, and this is a negative – the podded design is really good at picking up road debris. I’ve had to stop to pull acorns out of the sole on many occasions (acorn production is out of control this year where I live!), and I wouldn’t go anywhere near a trail in these for fear of what they might pick up. They’re a lot like the Nike Free shoes in this regard – you will occasionally have to stop to pull junk from the sole.
Upper and Fit
When I first saw photos of the Cloud I felt that it looked more like a causal, fashion shoe than a running shoe. When they arrived this feeling was further enhanced by the fact that they come with thin, elasticized laces that allow for easy on/off but do not allow for tightening (see photo at left). The elasticized laces don’t even utilize the bottom two lace loops, and I didn’t feel that the fit was secure enough with them for running purposes. Fortunately ON includes standard laces in the box, and I immediately swapped them onto the shoes.
The upper of the Cloud has a very casual look to it. Although they run like a racing shoe, they do look like a fashion shoe, and that’s not a great match. This is not a flashy shoe that will make you feel fast. Conversely, they are subdued enough that you can wear them casually around town and not look like you’re about to run a 5K.
The upper mesh over the forefoot is fairly thick and feels very durable, and toward the back of the shoe the upper has a canvas-like feel. There is minimal internal structure to the upper, and it almost has a slipper-like feel to it. Pretty comfortable shoe.
Regarding fit, this is not a roomy shoe. The forefoot width is adequate for my foot, but there’s not a huge amount of room for toe wiggle. Those with wide feet should look elsewhere, but if you like a racing flat feel these should be fine on an average width foot. I’ve been wearing them casually quite a bit and they feel fine for all-day wear.
The Cloud is a bit of an odd shoe. It looks like a fashion shoe but runs like a racing flat. I love the ride, especially when picking up the pace, but would like a bit more flash for a speed shoe. However, they are conservative enough in appearance that you can wear them out and about and not look like you’re wearing a running shoe. I’d recommend these for someone who likes a firm, flexible feel with a low-key aesthetic (with a average to narrow-width foot). The Cloud is solid offering from ON.
The ON The Cloud is available for purchase at Running Warehouse and Zappos. Purchases made via these links provide a small commission to Runblogger and help to support the production of reviews like this one – thanks!