A cloud is made of billows upon billows that look like clouds. As you come closer to a cloud you don’t get something smooth, but irregularities at a smaller scale – Benoit Mandelbrot
Not to be outdone by nature’s transformation of water vapor into billowing clouds of majesty, On has built a line of running shoes that includes an innovative “active sole” that echoes mother nature’s creativity and her no-nonsense utilitarian design.
With the addition of the Cloudracer, On is aiming to rain on the parade of racing shoes everywhere.
On, a Swiss based company, was started by a former professional 3-Time Ironman winner and eventual shoe engineer Oliver Bernhard. After suffering a career ending injury that he believed was caused by poorly designed shoes, he sought to create a high-performance running shoe that would help to reduce running related injuries.
The heart and cornerstone of On’s running shoes is their Cloudtec™ active shoe technology. Like a system of individual billows, each rubber element is designed to absorb the shock, lock together and then provide a fully firm push-off. This design promotes a more natural running gait while increasing stability, improving core strength, and allows the body to find its own natural balance.
Conventional shoes typically protect only against vertical forces. According to On, the Cloudtec™ active shoe technology helps protect your feet from both vertical and horizontal impact forces, which may decrease the chance of being injured as a result of impact injuries common to runners.
The On line-up consists of four different models. The Cloudracer is On’s new racing flat built for runners with neutral mechanics. Setting the Cloudracer apart from On’s line of existing running shoes is the inclusion of 18 Cloudtec™ elements (instead of 13) making the shoe even more responsive and ready to propel you quicker and more efficiently to the finish line.
It’s not just the active sole, that sets the Cloudracer apat. Like the wispy Cirrus clouds that let you know a storm is coming, the Cloudracer features a light opaque air-mesh upper that not only keeps you light on your trek towards that new PR, but is highly breathable keeping your feet cool during on summer race days. This is combined with a lightweight perforated and breathable tongue that comfortably and effortlessly keeps your shoe in place.
Since the Cloudracer is a “European” shoe it sizing is based on the European standard. While the Cloudracer runs about a half a size big, our run guru found that notwithstanding the extra thumbnail of room, the shoes were comfortable and the extra length seemed to shrink away after a few uses.
Tester’s Experience …
These aren’t your take a jog in the shoe store and immediately love them type of running shoes. To truly understand the performance of the Cloudracer – especially if you are new to On’s line of running shoes – you’ll need a strong mix of curiosity and patient persistence.
Our run guru has tested a massive array of shoes over the years, but his testing experience of the Cloudracer was as unique as the shoe itself.
The first run resulted in a halt of protest in the middle of a 2-mile run; followed by a barefooted walk back home barefooted. The initial run gave the impression that the shoes were too soft, too big and the Cloudtec elements altered the mechanics of the footstrike. It felt as though the shoe had shifted the foot strike from the forefoot to the heel.
Despite this initial troubled outing, and further trepidation against running in the Cloudracer, patience and persistence triumphed over the initial impressions.
Just as the clouds overhead are constantly changing, our run guru readjusted his testing approach, putting the Cloudracer through easy and short miles in an effort to adjust to the feel and function of the Cloudtec elements. Adjusting to the new sensations and natural running style the Cloudracer promotes, was at first challenging but became very rewarding.
Over the last 40 miles our run guru has become one with the shoes. They are light, comfortable and the active sole elements work in harmony to create a smooth, not too soft and supportive feel. Running in them feels natural and effortless, the way running should feel.
Room for Improvement …
The Cloudracer is a standout performer, ready to help you fly to the finish line after you fully adjust to the difference of running on the Cloudtec™ system. However, there are still a few critiques worth noting. First, at $129 a pair, while the Cloudracer is designed to last approximately 150 miles like similar shoes in its class, we would like to see the next iteration of the Cloudracer last longer – longer is better!
Second, for those triathletes looking for a fast, lightweight racer, this may be your shoe, however, that same highly breathable tongue that effortlessly helps to keep your shoes in place once they are on, may also add seconds to your bike-to-run transition because of the need to find the proper placement of the tongue.
Bottom Line …
The Cloudracer is a sleek, modern racer that incorporates Swiss science, innovative cushioning and performance technologies that may help you stay near the front of the pack. While it may take a few adjustment miles to become comfortable running on the Cloudtech elements, the result is worthy of your patience. Limited only by its lack of longevity, the Cloudracer would be a solid addition to your race day gear.
On Running (www.on-running.com) Heel-toe drop: 5 mm; Weight: USW 7: 225g; USM 8.5: 245g; Price: from $129.