On’s Cloud running shoes prove that chocolate isn’t the only superior product coming out of Switzerland. The company’s three Swiss co-founders produced their first shoe design in early 2010, and within 18 months, On could be found in running stores in 18 countries. After I stepped foot in the Cloud for the first time, I understood why On shoes are becoming so popular. The Cloud is one of the company’s newest additions, and the most lightweight. It looks sleek and performs magnificently as an everyday running shoe. More than anything I was impressed by the shoe’s incredible comfort. After several runs and some full days on my feet in the Clouds, I couldn’t spot a single thing I didn’t like about the shoe.
The Cloud’s outsole is made with Zero-Gravity foam. The patented CloudTec sole sports eight sets of rectangular segments, each with a horizontal aperture that is widest at the shoe’s center (9 cm) and decreases in size towards the front of the shoe, with the smallest at 5 cm. On calls these segments “Cloud-Pods” and they serve two purposes: 1. To cushion the foot when it hits the ground by compressing vertically and, 2. To allow the foot to use the ground as a firm surface to power off from when the Clouds are compressed. The segmented pattern also allows the shoe to bend easily and move naturally with the foot’s configuration.
I was very impressed with how easily the shoe moved with my foot in all directions. The paired segments are split by a deep central channel that gives the shoe incredible flexibility in a medial-lateral direction. All segments have horizontal grooves for grip, and the very back and front Clouds are topped with a rubber for solid traction when the heel and front foot are in contact with the ground. The shoe performed well on wet roads, but I cannot testify to the traction on muddy or leaf-littered surfaces.
The Cloud boasts a minimal neutral midsole; the 16 Cloud-Pods of the outsole attach to a full-length EVA Speedboard with anterior-posterior cuts that let the sole respond to the foot and distribute force to all pods. This terrific design cuts out the need for a bulky midsole that would compromise the mass of the Cloud.
Some arch support is noticeable, but more than anything, the upper wraps around the arch, angling in at the strobel board. This is one of my favorite characteristics of the shoe because it is what makes the overall fit of the shoe so comfortable.
The Cloud has an impressively small drop (6 mm) from heel to forefoot. The sock liner is about 6 mm and is sturdy without compromising flexibility. The liner also has grooves at the forefoot, arch, and some that encircle the heel. The hard strobel board below runs the length of the shoe.
A substantial part of the upper is made from breathable mesh that is still dense enough to keep out nuances like pebbles and dirt. The toe box is contoured with a felt fabric that also extends to the four extra lace loops. The shoe doesn’t have a lot of vertical space in the toe box but the outsole is so flexible, the shoe moves easily with the toes. The toe box is suitably wide enough to give my toes just enough room to spread out as far as they’ll go.
The tongue is its own piece; it attaches at the toe box but it’s gusseted, attaching near the shoe’s collar. It’s made with a perforated felt on the dorsal side and a soft fabric ventrally that feels very comfortable when going barefoot.
Beginning at the arch and extending to the heel is a tough, wear-resistant overlay to which the laces attach. It’s sturdier than the mesh at the forefoot and helps to retain the shoe’s shape. The collar is made with the same soft fabric as the underside of the tongue and it extends on both sides of the inside shoe to the midfoot.
Instead of an individual heel counter, the shoe has shaft enforcements around the entire heel that help to support foot placement within the shoe. A flexible heelstrap drapes around the posterior upper, extending 10 cm on either side of the shoe. It’s meant to adapt to the foot’s movements, while still providing support for foot placement.
On symbol reflectors are located at the tip of the toe box, at the heel, and on the lateral and medial sides of the arch.
The shoes come fitted with an easy-entry lacing system, but a pair of typical laces can be found in the box if you are looking for a tighter or more individual fit. Four additional lace loops on the anterior part of the shoe allow you to create a tighter fit at the forefoot.
As a minimal shoe, the Cloud hugs the foot just the right amount. My feet are pretty average and I love how the shoe feels like it was made specifically for me. It’s wide and tight at just the right places so sizing was spot on for my feet. This seems like a great shoe option for those with narrower feet, especially because of the slightly pinched upper at the arch.
When it comes to cushioning, the Cloud lives up to its name. It provides great cushioning but still allows the foot to feel and power off the ground. Despite being a minimalist shoe, I was impressed at the number of hours I could spend on this shoe without having aching feet. I am prone to developing blisters in snug shoes so I was unsure what to expect when I took the Cloud on longer runs or on my hilly route. Despite the slightly tighter fit, I had absolutely no problems with the shoe on either run. The shoe performed so well on my runs, I wore it on long days at work that require me to remain active on my feet all day.
My runs with the Clouds were very enjoyable. I used them mainly for short recovery, hill, and long training runs. I was impressed at its versatility in suiting my needs during all of these runs. The Cloud has more going on than your typical minimalist shoe, but without compromising flexibility or weight. The US women’s size 7 Cloud weighs an impressive 5.8 ounces and retails for $110. In the shoebox you will even find an owner card with your personalized Owner ID that you can use to register your shoes on their website. The On Cloud is an equally terrific investment for veteran or rookie minimalist runners.