4 Best On Trail Running Shoes in 2024

Jens Jakob Andersen
Jens Jakob Andersen on
4 Best On Trail Running Shoes in 2024
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Whether you're into short or long-distance trail running, or just want a reliable everyday trail companion, the Swiss-engineered trail shoes from On are definitely a good steal.

Praised by many in the trail running community for its lightweight trail running kicks with unique design, superb grip, and CloudTech cushioning, the limited On the lineup for competitive trail runners and off-road adventurers is simply one of the best out there.

To help you get the right fit, we’ve tested and reviewed the best On trail running shoes available on the market. After a meticulous testing process, we’ve highlighted our top-rated pick(s) in specific categories with their corresponding in-depth reviews. Read on to learn more.

How we test trail running shoes

To make our recommendations, all the old and latest models on this list have been thoroughly checked and rechecked using our rigorous testing process. That means analysing all the shoes inside our RunRepeat shoe lab. We also do real-world wear testing with our trail runners clocking up solid mileage.

Before we make our top selections, we follow these steps:

  • We buy all the trail running shoes from On from our own pocket. This is to avoid brand loyalty and bias.
  • We cut the models into pieces in the lab. We then analyse and measure 30+ parameters from cushioning technology, energy return, and waterproof effectiveness, to upper durability, outsole traction, and many more.
  • We log at least 30-50 miles of running on each pair in technical trails, muddy paths, and other off-road environments, and report back to with our respective feedback.

Best On trail running shoes overall

On Cloudvista
83
Good!

What makes it the best?

When selecting the best overall shoe in a specific category, versatility tends to be the quality we look for most in a shoe, and On’s Cloudvista certainly has it in spades. It’s a road-to-trail shoe that easily takes the cake as On’s best trail runner.

We didn’t expect much from the Cloudvista’s subtle lugs that we measured at only 2.5 mm thick. In fact, they surpassed our expectations during our test runs, where we found them to be extremely grippy whether we were on dirt or gravel. We even experienced great traction on the roads, where the shoe feels just as smooth as it does off-road. They’re also plenty durable to boot, as our Dremel test demonstrates, with only 0.7 mm of material lopped off after contending with the tool for twenty seconds compared to the average loss of 1 mm. 

Testing the softness of the midsole foam gave us a durometer reading of 23.5 HA, which is softer than the average trail shoe. Beyond the foam itself, however, the configuration of the midsole’s individual “clouds” further contributes to the cushioning and responsiveness of the Cloudvista. The large ones at the rear compress dramatically, giving our heel landings an extra touch of perceived protection, while the smaller ones at the forefoot rebound to shape quickly for snappy-feeling toe-offs. 

Our main gripe with the Cloudvista is the narrowness of the toebox around the big toe. At only 76.9 mm wide, it’s 2.3 mm less roomy than average. This may not sound like much, but it certainly becomes noticeable at the end of long efforts and our swollen feet have less room to splay out. This will lead to inevitable hotspots and/or blisters, especially for runners with wide feet.

Pros

  • Works great as a hybrid shoe
  • Grippy and durable outsole
  • Fun at high speeds
  • Highly breathable
  • Rockered for smooth heel-to-toe transitions.
  • Secure lockdown
  • No heel rub
  • No Lace bite
  • Environmentally friendly upper
  • Suitable for walking or hiking
  • Stylish for a trail shoe

Cons

  • Not for technical trails
  • Not a distance shoe
  • Doesn’t accommodate wide feet
  • Midsole catches debris
Full review of On Cloudvista

On trail running shoes with the best grip

On Cloudventure
84
Good!

What makes it the best?

We tested On’s trail running shoes against rough terrains and slippery slopes and discovered Cloudventure offers the best grip. Navigating through beaten paths is a breeze with the shoe’s excellent traction, light and protective build, and breathable upper.

On our wet and muddy encounters, the outsole cemented its supremacy in providing traction. Even when tackling steep downhills, we had no slippage issues and remained surefooted. We give credit to the Missiongrip outsole that has a zig-zag pattern for better traction.

Along with a reliable grip, its light nature allows us to be nimble and in control. Weighing 7.9 oz (225g), it stands 24% lighter than the average trail shoe. Its 6.0 mm heel drop gives us a good feel of the ground.

Hugging the top of our foot is a mesh upper that feels like it’s made of high-quality materials. It strikes the middle ground between breathability and durability, keeping our feet away from unwanted things such as sweat, hotspots, and debris.
 
Even after several runs, the overall ride feels stiff, which could trigger muscle soreness. We recommend exploring other options if plush cushioning is a priority.

Pros

  • Durable
  • Great traction
  • Reflective details
  • Looks good
  • Roomy toebox
  • Feels light

Cons

  • Very thin laces
  • Expensive
Full review of On Cloudventure

Best On trail running shoes for long distance

On Cloudultra
84
Good!

What makes it the best?

On Cloudultra won us over with its cloud-like cushion, steady ride, and durable build. The comfort it offers allows us to mindlessly gobble up miles, while its reliable grip handles technical terrains with ease. The fact that our legs have no fatigue after long hours on the trail makes it our best long-distance trail runner.

Each stride feels protected with the ultra-soft foam, muting ground impact and little rocks we step on. Not only is it secured underfoot, but even the top and sides of the shoe effectively shield us from debris. Cloudultra gave us a worry-free and pain-free experience.

Surprisingly, for such an amount of foam, the ride feels steady and stable. Cloudultra gives us a well-planted sensation despite running through steep and uneven terrains. We had no slippage issues even as we ran through muddy paths and loose gravel.

With all its bounce, we found it difficult to sprint as the shoe seemed to absorb the energy rather than return it. Cloudultra performs best on long and steady runs.

Pros

  • Comfort for long runs
  • Good traction
  • Cloud-like feeling
  • Feels light
  • Stable
  • Breathable
  • Durable
  • Great midfoot lockdown

Cons

  • Break-in is a must
  • Not for cold days
  • Not true to size
Full review of On Cloudultra

Best waterproof On trail running shoes

What makes it the best?

On our encounters with mud and river streams, Cloudventure Waterproof was the most effective in blocking water out among On’s trail lineup. It's protective against moisture, sweat, and debris with its unusual upper that surprisingly blends waterproof and breathable elements. Underfoot, its outsole displays the best traction on softer ground and inclined trails.

Cloudventure houses a gusseted tongue that successfully keeps unwanted elements out. Even when standing in a shallow stream, our feet remained completely dry. The upper includes an impermeable membrane, yet we’re pleasantly amazed at how breathable the shoe is. This is unusual for waterproof shoes.

The front has a spacious toebox with a bumper that guards us against jagged rocks and roots, while the midsole includes a stiff speedboard for additional protection. We noticed how this stiffness comes to life on soft mud and returns a good amount of energy.

The Mission Grip outsole offers excellent traction on soft terrain and loose gravel thanks to the triangular rubber lugs that cling well to mixed surfaces. Even when traversing uphill or downhill, we never had instances of slipping.

We found the fit to be loose around the midfoot and heel area. Even when we tightened the laces, it didn’t give us the snug fit we're looking for.

Pros

  • Waterproof
  • Roomy toebox
  • Breathable
  • Gusseted tongue
  • Looks

Cons

  • Loose fit
  • Stiff heel collar
  • Heavy
Full review of On Cloudventure Waterproof
Author
Jens Jakob Andersen
Jens Jakob Andersen
Jens Jakob is a fan of short distances with a 5K PR at 15:58 minutes. Based on 35 million race results, he's among the fastest 0.2% runners. Jens Jakob previously owned a running store, when he was also a competitive runner. His work is regularly featured in The New York Times, Washington Post, BBC and the likes as well as peer-reviewed journals. Finally, he has been a guest on +30 podcasts on running.