Remember, how, as kids, we all enjoyed playing in the rain. The nonchalance with which we jumped from one puddle to the next was a joy unparalleled.
There was nowhere else we needed to be and, most importantly, no cellphones we needed to stick in a bag of rice later. Today, we avoid puddles with an almost precise sense of propriety…sigh, adulthood is clearly not much fun.
Which explains my instant innate desire to purchase the On Cloudventure Waterproof as soon as it was announced!
They didn’t just claim a chemical coating that would keep water at bay for the first three sorties, that they had built an entire layer into the shoe, a membrane of sorts, that would make the shoe impervious to water.
Mind you, this is water in amounts as one would accost when out on a run, maybe a puddle here and there, and in no way gives one the license to wade through a lake.
In spite of having the brilliance of such wisdom on my side, this is precisely what I did!
(Note: Since I have had the shoe for a few months, it has a bit of wear and tear. Nothing unnatural. On the plus side, you can be sure they have run the miles that I claim!)
I always like to start with the looks because that is exactly how we shall first perceive any pair.
The On brand has a rather defined silhouette, long and sleek with a sinusoidal rubber waffle sole that runs down the length of the shoe creating these air-spaces or ‘clouds’ the provide a natural cushioning.
It’s like a Nike Air turned inside out. While other brands beat themselves up trying to come up with new materials that provide grip and cushioning, this Swiss company found an ingenious way to package free air, call it CloudTec®, and make us pay for it under the garb of cushioning!
Well, marketing or not, it somehow works; the bounce in the sole doesn’t wear off after the first few hundred kilometers. But back to aesthetics, every ON pairs share this distinct design DNA, one that is functional even if a bit alien-looking.
The charcoal-on-charcoal finish of this particular shoe lends it a pretty mean business-like look.
For me, it made me focus even more on the waterproof-i-ness of the shoe considering there were no fluorescent flashes to distract me. I knew why I had bought this shoe and looks didn’t matter.
The top is a seamless mix of textures, rubber, and other materials, all of which are fused to give the impression of impermeability. Just below is their proprietary Cloud membrane, a physical layer that renders the shoe water and windproof.
You can’t see it so the only way you know it’s there is when you put it to test.
That’s right, I jumped into puddles for this one! But more on that, later… The lacing is extremely secure and doesn’t loosen on the run which is always great. Oh, one very, very odd thing is the tongue of this shoe.
I almost believed that I had received a defective pair of the tongue that doesn’t run up straight but at an angle. Once you wear the shoe, however, you realize that the angle pretty much follows the contour of your foot.
It settles in nicely, tucked in by the side and doesn’t end abruptly where your ankle begins for there it could rub against the front of your leg and chafe especially as negotiating off-road terrain requires the foot to contort and twist in all sorts of ways.
This is quite the important bit. It is where your foot rests and it has to be comfortable.
With most off-roaders, I find, that in a bid to be safe and secure, they are stiff and unrelenting. The blade that runs along the length of the shoe, as the spine up the back, are both reinforced to take the blow that running on trails can subject the feet to.
Trouble is that every now and then when the landscape opens up and allows for a few flat-out sprints, these shoes seem to drag from under. They, for lack of a better word, trail.
Not so much with the Cloudventure for its gait allows for a good spring and ample flexibility on the recoil. It doesn’t pinch on the forefoot (ample room in the toe box) and neither does it rub around the ankles.
The aforementioned Cloud Membrane insulates and the feet do feel warm, a bonus when heading out for a cold dewy run.
At first glance, the sole looks rather similar to any of the other ON shoes but on closer inspection, the off-road pedigree starts to show.
The clouds are a lot less ‘airy’ which helps ward off unwanted debris that could get caught in them otherwise.
The small 3D lugs (dubbed Grip Rubber by the brand) which garnish the outer sole are great on grip. The sole bottom is further crisscrossed with fine lines to further enhance traction.
All in all, the shoe holds well and you can tell when you gently lean in as you round corners, hit ascents like a mountain goat or come upon a downward slope and don’t need to drop pace to stay upright.
The test phase. I ran through rain, first the gentle drizzly kind and then the torrential stormy type. The shoe endures well on the grip part no matter what.
I tried ambling up rocks that I would normally consider too ambitious to climb up otherwise. The shoe was good as a trekking shoe and also a great running pair.
A versatile one for all things off-road. (I did a few road runs with them too and found them good.)
The drop isn’t much (6mm) and the extra weight (~10oz. for a size 8 pair) helps with training the leg muscles and on race day when you trade these in for running flats, you go admirably faster.)
While running a day after the rains, I was more brazen while approaching puddles. Well, a bit concerned at first but with each splash, as I realized that no water got it, I got bolder.
Later, I realized that the giant splashes ended up entering the other from above around the ankles so getting carried away with my landing had not been a great plan on the run.
Post run, I found a fairly deep puddle and decided to kerplunk my foot like a stone. I did it a few times and didn’t feel the water soak in immediately.
All well then, I thought, but a few minutes later, I could feel my socks soaking up the water. So waterproof but within reasonable limits of exploitation. Go dunking them in puddles like biscuits in a teacup and your feet will end up like the said biscuit!
So far, for the price paid, this has turned out to be a great shoe.
I like how it looks, how it feels, and how it handles. The sole is grippy, the uppers insulated against wind and water (as claimed) and definitely better than any other shoe in the field I have tried so far, and the air cushions (CloudTec, sorry) I suspect, will function just as well as long as you aren’t planning on going for a run in a vacuum.
The price is appreciable, especially considering this is Swiss technology and manufacturing.
The only two drawbacks in the shoe that I could sense were these. First, the shoe should rise higher around the ankles else the waterproof impermeability stands a bit compromised.
Funny thing is that they do have a version (the Cloudventure Midtop) with a higher foot-embrace but why they have chosen to not launch it with this version remains a mystery.
Unless they are going the iPhone way and are planning to launch an upgrade once everyone has bought this pair and got comfy with it. (At the time of writing this, the shoe has been around for almost a year but still, no sign of an altered gator-incorporated waterproof version is known of yet.)
The second thing I found a bit lacking was the quality of the outer sole; it wears out too fast. The treads seemed to disappear on mine barely a few moderately long runs in.
Sure I pronate but it was still surprisingly quick a fade. Mind you, this complaint I have had with all my ON pairs — I’ve used a CloudSurfer and a CloudCruiser before and found them plagued with the same issue. At least, with these, the interiors are sturdier and have been more lasting.
Oh, one last thing, more a caveat than anything — the insulation works well so clearly not the shoe for running on a hot day.
It doesn’t breathe like most other shoe will and while that may be a boon while trudging through snow or slush, it doesn’t work on a hot day when you can feel the sweat start so chafe your feet.
But anybody who wants a shoe which is waterproof and windproof and yet breathable may sooner find success looking for a unicorn!
All in all, a great shoe, well-engineered and executed.
Works for the price it commands and serves the intended purpose only too well. But I am not a serious off-road runner — more an infrequent enthusiast than a regular trailblazer — so perhaps the more serious types may weigh in on this shoe differently.
For me, it is a versatile sturdy trainer that I can take with me on trips and rest assured that no matter what the terrain throws up, I can conquer it.
So good even the pup is curious to get in on the action!