We have all had that relationship. The one that seems like it should exceed expectations but somehow, and ever so disappointingly, it just doesn’t quite get there. Some relationships just can’t get passed the initial romanticism of the circumstance, despite anyone’s best efforts. Unfortunately for me, that is my relationship with the ON Cloudflyer.
The On Cloudflyer is the latest shoe from the award-winning Swiss running brand, called ON. The shoe is a stability model meant to provide lightness, comfort and easy transition to runners. It is a moderate stability shoe for nuetral runners and overpronaters. Hopes and expectations could hardly be higher when I received this product. It certainly appeared to be a winner at a glance, but in the end it just wasn’t compatible with my fickle, finicky feet.
Out of the box
First impressions of the shoe were all positive. The shoe had a beautiful look to it-delicate lines with good color mix of dark and light blue. From the toebox to the padding in the heel collar everything seemed well-planned out. I found a super supportive and light shoe that integrates intriguing technology. The cushion, or science, of the On product line is unique. It takes a traditionally supportive/cushioned shoe but eliminates excess weight in the process.
On’s shoes tend to be cut quite narrow. For my long, skinny feet I felt the Cloudflyer was sufficient, and the toebox ample with enough room for toe splay when you get fatigued. These were narrower than some other models I’ve tried. Definitely try them on before you buy them. I needed to get a size larger. I wear a size 12 and a 12.5 would have fit me best. The shoes weigh in about 12 ounces for my size and has a 7mm drop.
The On technology really comes down to 12 mini shock absorbers (clouds) known as “pods” that mitigate shock from the foot impacting the ground. The shoes utilize a light foam On calls “zero gravity foam”. The rubber pods on the sole collapse flat on contact and are supposed to expand on lift off. The pods, which have little ridges on them, provide cushioning as they compress. The ridges then lock together to provide a firm base for push-off. The pod concept is that each pod works independently as you move. Running down the middle of the shoe is a central channel and each pod can move laterally or forwards or backwards as it reacts to your movements. That’s the idea of the On Cloud Technology. They have a few great videos demonstrating the difference on their website.
The shoes have a wide platform oursole for bilateral stability.
Quality was above average, with a great looking shoe and no defects. The mesh vents and the light fabric allowed adequate ventilation making the upper very breathable. It is a mesh with minimal overlays. The ankle collar is lightly padded and comfortable. Comfort seemed to be a priority for this shoe, and it is noticeable in the design. A plush tongue was a welcoming sight, something manufacturers sometimes neglect or cut corners on. The Achilles collar was also well-padded.
The lacing system, although traditional, also stuck out to me during my initial inspection. The laces hugged my long skinny feet like a warm fuzzy blanket. Overall the Cloudflyer seemed to be a super comfortable well fitting and looking shoe, with great promise. Rolling into a long running season I couldn’t wait to hit the road.
My first run I noticed, almost instantly, an insane amount of support/cushion from the shoe. Something, at first, I thought would be a huge benefit for myself. I was shocked to find shortly into my run that my foot/ankle was growing fatigued abnormally quick. As with any new shoe, there is some degree of transition so I ignored the mild discomfort.
Unfortunately, no matter how far I ran or walked this discomfort never seemed to subside. These shoes came at a busy time for me and I was running higher mileage than I am used to, so any shoe could have revealed some of the same discomfort. However, what ultimately ended my romance with the Cloudflyer was a pain in my right foot. These shoes seemed to put an unreal amount of pressure on the ball of my foot. The pods on the forefoot are thin and don’t provide much cushion, so the ride felt pretty firm. If you like a firm shoe that’s great, but the shoes are advertised to feel like “clouds,” and they definitely did not feel billowy underfoot.
This stress, and the mileage I was attempting, made for a perfect storm. Due to training tempo, I was unable to slow down and work myself into this shoe. Personally, I wanted my feet to love this shoe; it certainly seemed to offer a whole hell of a lot. The only real negative thing I found with the shoe was the tread pattern. I found the tread pattern mildly annoying, as it seemed to invite a collection of rocks right down the middle of the shoe. For this reason I would definitely call this a road only shoe.
There is enough room in the toebox for foot swell or toe spread. The overall concept is good but they should rethink this a bit. Running in muddy conditions means clogging betweent the pods. Because of the flex groove which runs down the center the shoe really doesn’t have good lateral traction. Forward traction is excellent. Overall they provide excellent comfort and plenty of cushioning below the heel, however I feel this is a shoe for a heel-striker and not a mid-sole or forefoot-striker. They can be quite stiff feeling for certain runners. 90% of runners are heel strikers.
Durability is an issue for me as I do a lot of training. The shoes retail for $159.00. A bit steep for any lawman or military personnel. The On Cloudflyer is a good shoe but it is for the road and not any off road because of the channel down the center of the shoe. Overall, a good shoe that can serve a lot of people, even if it didn’t work for me. Great concept. Let’s see what the next season holds for the Cloudflyer.
So to conclude:
- A comfortable upper that feels like a soft sock.
- They look great.
- On trails stones get stuck in the shoes easier.
- A bit pricey.
The On Cloudflyer comes in ‘Water and Flame’ (red/dark blue) or ‘Iron and Sky’ (light blue/slate grey) for men and ‘Maui and Lemon’ (light blue/yellow) or ‘Purple and Rose’ for women.
Ranger Smash- extreme endurance is my journey as a retired US Army Ranger, and the amazing team that makes all this craziness happen. My military career was cut brutally short due to multiple combat related injuries, which forced me into an early “retirement”. The greatest key to my transition/ rehabilitation was discovering the benefits of an extremely health conscious lifestyle: specifically targeting competitive endurance races/ training. However, nothing in this world is worth doing alone so consider this your invitation to join the Ranger Smash team and follow along, one extreme endurance adventure after another!
– Most notably I am an accomplished swimmer, my childhood career lasted 13 years
– I was able to snatch a State championship title and have held multiple federation (AAU)records
– As an adult I am currently the 4th ranked 25-29 year old according to USAT’s aquathlon ranking system
It is a short list, but I eagerly await the opportunity to prove my self as a competitive triathlete.