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The CloudRunner shoes from the Swiss company "On" are natural running shoes that feature plush cushioning and extra heel support

Posted Nov 26 2011 12:00am
Posted in: Featured , Kit Reviews

“ON are a relatively new company founded by six times IronMan winner and World Champion duathlete turned engineer Olivier Bernhard. Olivier had some injury problems whilst he was training one year, and after a long time spent on the road to recovery he was sure that it was his running shoes that were to blame. Thousands of miles of testing and innovation later, his company, ON, have released two lines of new shoes, both of which feature a revolutionary new cushioning and outsole technology called CloudTec. This cloudtec technology really is something special and totally unseen in the world of running shoes to date. It also makes these shoes “potentially the fastest shoes in the world” (details to follow).

The CloudRunners from "On"

The CloudRunners from "ON"

‘ON’ running shoes have been designed to enhance your natural running gait and style. The founder, Olivier Bernhard has a philosophy that conventional running shoes are to blame for many of the most common running injures that both career and amateur runners pick up during their training. By restricting and controlling the horizontal movement of the foot, conventional running shoes effectively neutralise the body’s need to control these forces, and as a result the postural muscles in the foot and lower leg become weakened from lack of use. ON running shoes have been designed to reactivate the postural muscles and force you to run on the middle of your foot rather than the heel.

The "On" Logo

The "On" Logo

ON currently have two running shoe lines on the market, the Cloudsurfer and the Cloudrunner. Both Shoe lines have the patented and revolutionary CloudTec technology as well as a breathable mesh upper, good ankle support and an 8mm heel to toe offset that encourages mid-foot running (compared to a conventional running shoe that has an offset of 12mm – aka, a bigger heel). I have already reviewed the Cloudsurfer Shoes in more detail but On have been kind enough to provide me with a pair of Cloudrunners to try out as well.

Technical Stuff

The main difference between the Cloudrunner and the Cloudsurfer is that the Cloudrunner is made for training whereas the Cloudsurfer is made for racing. There is more support in the Cloudrunner shoe (specifically in the heel) which keeps your foot secured into the shoe and offers that little bit of extra guidance that is needed when you are undertaking long training sessions. After running in both the Cloudrunner and the Cloudsurfer, I cant say that I noticed the difference in heel support, but it is nice to know that the shoe is working hard to keep my gait neutral and to keep my foot supported within the shoe.

The Cloudrunner is also slightly heavier as it accommodated slightly plusher cushioning for those long training runs. Although the shoe only weights an extra 20 grams the feel of this extra plush cushioning is immediately noticeable when comparing the two lines of running shoes side by side. Depending on whether you are aftera pair of On shoes for either faster running or long distance running, the scale and feel of the cushioning may dictate which shoes are best for you.

CloudRunner CloudTec Rubber Lugs

The CloudTec Rubber Lugs

Moving to the outsole of the shoe, ON’s most important and innovation is immediately recognizable. Lugs made from a hard compound of rubber are situated in a diamond pattern on the sole of the shoe and it is these lugs that are the secret to the shoes speed claims. These lugs compress smoothly when your foot strikes the ground and then lock in place during the mid and end stages of the gait cycle. As you prepare to toe-off the lugs release all of their elastic energy and physically propel you forward. I have heard of people saying that running in the shoe is like landing on sand but taking-off from concrete. The fact that the lugs lock in place is a great innovation as if they were to keep deforming throughout your gait cycle then they would not only upset your running style, but they would also remove a lot of potential energy from your stride.

Another job that the Cloudrunner manages excellently is translating the energy that is stored in the landing phase of the gait cycle into forward propulsion. The 8mm heel to toe offset (compared to the 12mm of conventional shoes) is just enough for you to really experience that natural running feel, without overstating the potential for lower leg discomfort when you first make the jump from potential to natural running shoes. This 8mm offset heel encourages you to run on the mid section of your foot and ensures that a high proportion of that potential energy stored in the lugs of the Cloudtec cushioning system is released in the correct direction to actively propel you forwards.

Whether or not the CloudTec system in ON shoes makes the shoes faster than any other shoe has yet to be determined but a recent test at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology found that athletes that ran in ON compared to their normal running shoes had a heartbeat reduced on average by 2-3 beats per minute and a lactic acid concentration that was 5.4% lower. I am sure that more studies will follow as these shoes become more popular but for now all I can rely on is my own testing and the testing of those other runners and triathletes.

The Testing

Opening the ON shoe box you are immediately struck by how awesome the shoes look. They have been created with a simple but vibrant colour scheme and look like no other running shoe that I have ever encountered. The Lugs on the outsole are immediately visible and you cant but help to mess around with them and wonder how on earth these little lugs are going to make a difference to your running.

Sticking with the box for a minute, the outside is solid black with the ON logo (that looks like something out of Egyption calligraphy) featuring on the lid and sides. The inside of the box is plastered with a cloud design which I guess has been done to reinforce the “Running on clouds” slogan that has become the unofficial slogan of the ON running shoes.

When worn for the first time the shoes feel slightly alien. The 8mm heel drop makes you intuitively think that your foot should be flat to the floor but, the lugs provide a platform which feels like you are literally waking on a platform of air.

The CloudRunners from On

The CloudRunners from ON

Running the first few steps in the Cloudrunenrs felt a little strange and can even be slightly awkward as instead of reverting to your normal running style the shoes encourage you to run more on your mid-foot. After a few minutes of running you soon get into your stride and then the shoes really show off their features. The faster you run the more you feel like the shoes are propelling you forward and although not as smooth as the natural running shoes that I have run in, you can really feel the lugs working to catch your foot on landing and then propel you forward during toe-off.

I am used to running in shoes with a 4mm heel to toe offset and so moving to the 8mm Cloudrunner offset wasn’t a problem for me and I felt no lower leg discomfort at all either during or after running in the shoes. I cannot speak for people that are looking to make the move from conventional to natural running shoes, but the 8mm heel of the ON is a relatively small jump and I don’t expect you to feel much discomfort after your first run or two. Having said that, it is prudent to break-in any new shoe and so I would suggest taking the ON’s out for a shorter run before you start training in them for long distances.

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