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Gear Review: ON Cloudracer

Posted Oct 14 2012 9:46am
While down in Florida this past summer I noticed someone running in a pair of shoes that well, just looked different than any other running shoe I've come across.

When I was able to catch up to this gal (there was a red light!) I found out that the shoe was the ON CloudRacer. I never heard of ON befor that meeting, but a quick Google search later I found myself on the ON website reading up on these little beauties.

The technology on which these shoes are built is referred to as ON CloudTec technology.  I really find the story surrounding the development of this technology quite interesting, so I'm going to share it with you as it is posted on ONs website
The wish for a pain-free and effortless running experience marked the beginning of the On CLoudTec (tm) technology: a Swiss engineer and running pioneer, who was struggling to continue to run because his knees had taken severe damage from years of using conventional running shoes, set out to change the physics of running.

He had realized that he felt much less pain when running on gravel or sand covered trails, which would allow his foot to softly glide into every step.  The engineer observed that there are two forces at work when running: the vertical and horizontal impact.  He discovered that it is the horizontal impact, which causes the most damage to muscle cells, ligaments and joints.  Oddly, existing running shoes only absorb the vertical impact.  The engineer wanted to create a running shoe, which would allow a runner to land as softly as on sand and to push off as effectively as on concrete.

The result was a surprisingly simple, yet highly functional cushioning element:  A piece of circular rubber, which absorbs both the vertical and the horizontal impact.  As the foot hits the ground with forward momentum, the CloudTech (tm) element folds back, effectively allowing the foot to glide to a softer halt.  After landing, the element is compressed by the weight of the runner, locks together and is fully firm for the push-off.  The Swiss Federal Laboratories for Material Testing and Research concluded that the On CloudTech (tm) cushioning system reduces impact force by 25 - 30 percent, and is even more active during push-off than a regular running shoe.
The company went as far as to ask the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) to test the ON against the favorite running shoe of athletes.  Check out this video (results of the study are posted towards the end)

Now, IMO, research is a funny thing.  You can likely find research that supports or negates an argument so unless you have multiple research studies conducted by third parties you have to take some of this with a grain of salt.  HOWEVER, the fact that these shoes were developed by an actual RUNNER and not a bunch of marketers goes a long way in my book.  There's something positive to be said about a running shoe company whose Founder is a 6-time Ironman winner!

Out Of The Box:

Now that I bashed marketeers (of which I am one), let me pass along big KUDOS to the ON Marketing Team.   The packaging is absolutely beautiful.  Included with the shoes are an extra pair of laces in a contrasting color and a membership ID card that gives you access to the company founder, Olivier Bernhard who really is a 3-time world champion and 6-time ironman winner.

The shoes are simply stunning.  Seriously, the nicest looking running shoe I've come across.

Most notable are the treads or "lugs" that provide the cushioning between the ground and foot.  The heel to toe ratio is 5 mm and the shoes weigh in at a mere 7 3/4 oz (Women, US 7).

The Run:

When I first put on the shoe I noticed a disc-like padding in the mid-foot area.  A little research and I was able to find out that this is called the "flight pad".  Its purpose is to stimulate the toes to splay out as to aide in a quicker toe off.

It also allows the runner to "feel" the ground, as these shoes are marketed as a minimalist shoe.  So, basically, the "flight pad" enables the runner to feel the connection with the pavement.

I wasn't a big fan of the "flight pad" when I first tried the shoes.  By my 3rd run it was a total non issue for me but did make me all that more appreciative of that technology that has gone in to the design of the CloudRunner.

Now, back to those circular rubber "lugs" that make up the sole of the shoe.  These lugs are what separates the CloudRacer from any other running shoe I've tried.  As previously mentioned, they're designed to not only absorb impact (you really do feel as if you're running on air), but they literally fold back on impact, helping you glide in to your stride and enabling you to push off on a solid surface.

For me, I feel as if this shoe provides this neutral gait runner with an even more efficient running stride.

So, What Would I Change?

Overall, I really enjoy running in the CloudRacer.  Being that it has the same 5mm drop differential as the PUMA Faas 250Trail shoe I ran in most of the summer, I'm not sure I've gotten closer to barefoot running, but I have a lot less knee pain than I've had in the past.

With that said, if I had to find something to nit-pick it would be

(1) The laces are a little long. Ok, they're alot long.  Shorter laces would be more than welcome and a simple upgrade.

(2) The mesh material took a little getting used to for me.  I've been known to run sock-less in the hot weather, especially if I'm just running intervals.  I found socks to be a must when wearing the CloudRacer.

Overall, I really give the CloudRacer two thumbs up.

If any CFB readers are running in ON Running Shoes, I'd LOVE to hear from you!  Also, for those of you considering ON, you can learn more about ON's complete line of running shoes HERE .


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