So I did it. I finally pulled out my wallet and bought a pair of the “Swiss Engineered” On running shoes.
The brand has been picking up popularity but like many others, I have just been deterred by the high price tag, the odd design, and the philosophy behind their products.
I mean I love to try new things but when that new thing is about double the price of what I usually spend for a shoe, I get a bit leery. Good thing for a friend of mine though.
He has been wearing On for about 2 months to work and always talked about how much he loved them. I finally asked to borrow the shoes for a run one night and I was sold.
The most noticeable thing about Ons are the pods that make up the midsole. The 16 pods in the model bring both cushioning as well as stability. The philosophy of On is that the pods will not only provide “cloud” cushioning but will give your feet feedback on contact.
The feature will allow you to naturally adjust mechanics for a more neutral gait pattern for those of us who overpronate. Cool right? Love the idea. I am all about natural support.
And after my wet winter in these On Cloud Waterproof shoes, I am a fan of the company. Follow me and let's break down this shoe.
This shoe is waterproof. There, I got it out of the way. Most likely, that is the main reason you will buy this shoe and the end opinion will land on whether or not it is indeed waterproof.
But to give you more detail of what that means, here you go:
- It is waterproof in snow. I ran many times in the snow and was all good.
- It is waterproof in a sleet mix with ice.
- It is waterproof in light - moderate rain.
- It is waterproof in wet roads.
- It is not waterproof in downpours and huge puddles.
These are not rain boots. So if you try to go in a torrential downpour and expect to trek through puddles, then you will be disappointed. (I did it and feet were soaked)
As you can see the shoe is made up of a multi-layered waterproof mesh. There is no weird spray, rubbering or heavy layering. It's just a lightweight mesh!
What I have discovered with On is quality. The detail of this shoe and the time spent on the product is seen throughout and especially in the upper material. The fact that they can keep a lightweight shoe like this waterproof just amazes me. Great job!
The upper material transitions from the mesh and into a heavier fabric around the midfoot. I'm guessing they have this here to provide further support and even more waterproofing capability.
The overall upper material is solid but, it is not super soft and is pretty rigid at first. It took me about 1 month of wearing these until they felt broken in. Also, they are very snug. When buying these go half size up. They also recommend this on the On website.
Even though it is mesh, it is not very breathable. They will keep your feet warm, which is good for a cold day but I would never want to wear them in hot weather.
I have also discovered when they do get wet inside (from trying to trek in puddles) they drain very poorly. Again made to not let water in so they will not let it out.
Oh yeah! Awesome! They did one hell of a job with getting this built in. It is totally unexpected.
When you see the shoe it just looks black and you don't even notice the reflective tech built in, but it is all over this shoe. All the way down to the outsole even.
This makes it a perfect shoe for those dreary rainy days and even night runs. Will keep you dry and let folks know you are there.
Nothing extraordinary here. Just some light padding. Definitely not made to be a plush shoe. Just enough to maintain comfort.
Good quality is seen here as with everything else. The insole is very minimal but does provide a mix of foam and fabric.
I was pretty surprised by these and feel like they do bring some extra needed padding.
The inside of the shoe is made up of a very soft mesh material as well. Feels good on the feet and can even slide these on without any socks.
What a great design here. I absolutely love the little details with the On logo and how they make only one shoe to say “Swiss Engineering” with the Swedish flag.
The details are also catchy and stylish. It’s not just the looks here though. The heel is very structured and firm in these shoes.
The zero heel slippage is noted and very secure. To finish things off they have a big heel tag to make putting on these shoes a breeze.
This could go either way for you guys. I have narrow feet and am primarily running in Nike, so I am used to and prefer to have a narrow toe box, but I know many do not.
The fact is, it is better to have a nice big toe box to allow for proper toe splay and use.
Many companies are starting to go in that direction as well. It was a surprise to me when I put these on and noticed how narrow they were.
On top of them fitting snug(due to waterproof) I thought it was almost too narrow but after a month use they loosened up enough for me to feel comfortable in them.
So, yes they are narrow and yes go up a ½ size to allow for more space.
Tongue and lacing system
The tongue is very flimsy and thin albeit, it is solid in quality like everything else. I understand that they are trying to keep this shoe minimal but I would have appreciated a little extra padding here.
The laces are bad. I’ve read many reviews that talk about how bad On's laces have been. These are no different.
The same story as the tongue is seen here. Flimsy.
The lacing system, in general, does allow for good lock-down which is the biggest deal but you will need to double knot the shoes to ensure lasting security here.
The midsole is the crown for The On running shoe lineup. It is probably the one thing that brings On to stand out amongst the many “normal” looking running shoes on the market. It definitely is unique and with it, brings a lot of curiosity.
I know the look is what drove my initial interest. It makes you ask the question “I wonder what they feel like to run in?”.
On’s answer to that question is...Hmmm...a cloud, hence the name. The idea here is the 16 pods will use air to bring about a natural feel.
The pods will then independently, naturally redirect your foot to support a better gait pattern and provide excellent cushioning while maintaining a lightweight structure. So you can have the best of both worlds. A very lightweight and highly cushioned shoe.
As you can see and read from above they are very lightweight. The midsole is deceiving, however. I honestly thought they would have a flexible sole but in fact, it is quite rigid.
It does look like a Nike Free type flexibility from the pictures but looking at it below. Not a ton of give!
With the lack of flexibility comes a little discomfort for me with running. It just felt too “hard” at times which took some of the comforts away for me.
The general cushion is fair overall. I know it is a lightweight shoe but from the name of “Cloud”, I would have expected more “softness”. If anything it was the opposite for me. They just feel hard.
Now, they are pretty responsive which is good so it's not like the sole is crap but, if your claim is that the shoe will feel like a cloud it better be a lot softer. It's not soft.
The outsole is very durable. It’s all high-quality rubber that seems like will last a long time. The tread, however, is bad. I slipped numerous times and had to be very careful when running on snowy streets.
As you can see from the picture, there is no lateral traction here. It is all for straight. So, be cautious on turns or cutting movements during wet days, they won't give you the grip you need.
Other than that not much to say here. I mean it looks cool but I rather have better traction. Besides, who is looking at the bottom of my shoes anyway?
Performance and use
Hindsight is 20/20 right?! I know now after researching this shoe more for my review that this is On's casual wear shoe.
Not to say you can't wear for running but I think On designed this for the person wanting to feel comfort and quality while just walking around and maybe doing a quick run every now and then.
So with that in mind here you go. The quality is excellent overall and I can’t knock it in any way. This brand is expensive but once you buy them you can tell they are worth it.
The overall running experience in this shoe has been fair. I am not in love at all with them, when it comes to that. As I said above, they are not made for running all the time and it shows.
They are just very rigid and not enough support and comfort associated with this shoe to make them a rotation running shoe for me. I honestly feel like they hold me back some when running in them. They just feel sloppy.
Hard to explain but it made me happy when I found out that they are a casual shoe by design. After I read that it all made sense to me!
Back to running though. It seemed to me that these shoes are mostly suited for miles of 5 or less. In fact, I ran about 8 miles 3 different times in these and each time I had calf issues.
They do bring forth solid responsiveness with the run and from mile 2 - 8 I noticed the pods helping me feel the road and giving great feedback. Almost felt like they felt better the longer I ran but once I hit 8 the pain begins. Probably just me. Who knows.
They are a low drop shoe with minimal support so they may take some gradual adjusting to those not used to that low of a heel-toe drop.
They are not suitable for any length competition or as a daily trainer. I think the perfect use of these shoes is to use them for walking around and on occasion when it is wet out and you want to keep your feet dry, use them for a run up to 5 miles. That's it. No daily trainer here.
The On Cloud Waterproof has lived up to its name partially. It is waterproof but does not feel like a cloud at all.
When it comes down to the use of this shoe. I would much rather throw them on with some jeans then lace them up for a nice road run.
Swiss engineered. Waterproof. Unique and cool looking. Clouds. So, I couldn’t wait to try these works of running architecture, especially in December in the muddy countryside.
Although these are fundamentally ‘road’ shoes, I also test-drove them in the beautiful rain-sodden Dordogne valleys to see if they lived up to their waterproof name.
Initial impressions: despite being rather stiff right out of the box, these neutral waterproof Clouds were comfortable and lighter than they looked. The sturdy ‘pod’ treads offer a great grip in the mud, but they look starkly urban chic when thrown into rural bogs.
Were they going to be worth the £135 asking price? Let’s look in more detail.
|Weight||250g (men's) 216 (women's)|
Size & fit
As for sizing of the On Clouds, I’d recommend sticking to your normal size. I had read reviews recommending that the On Cloud Waterproof fitted a bit small so I went for half a size bigger than my usual shoes.
This was a mistake I think as I found I had to either lace the shoes super tight (not so comfortable) or wear extra socks to stop my narrow feet sliding around. However, for my walking recovery days, they were perfect over thick socks through drizzle, puddles, up rough trails and down slippery fields as well as on tarmac.
The ‘speed lacing system’ short laces, (perfect for swift triathlon transition or rushing to jump in the shower after a long/cold/wet/hard run or general ease of slipping on and off) only seemed to lace half the loopholes. I then found an extra pair of traditional, longer, thin spaghetti laces and preferred the conventional lacing system for my rather narrow, bony feet.
The tongues are slightly unconventional in the sense that they are cut on askew, to lie rather cleverly over the contours of the upper foot and don’t get folded uncomfortably as some fatter tongues can.
Made from waterproof materials, the shoe is well insulated and warmer than my Salomon Speedcross trail shoes. The special Antimicrobial sock liner is an unseen but practical bonus. I have only tested these in winter, for which they are well suited, but I am not sure how cool or breathable they would be in warmer temperatures.
The shoes look relatively slim but are medium width for both the men’s and women’s versions. I had to lace up tight which caused a bit of pressure over the navicular, but overall they are comfortable.
The grip water-logged conditions, as advertised, is great. But, after running through the limey clay of a recently ploughed field in the French countryside, I had to stop and kick-unpick some of the mud out which had got packed in between the ‘pods.’
These little rubber clouds in the midfoot compress magically on landing and give a cloud-like ride whereas the heel is a little firmer. On road, they have the traction of a wise old four-wheel drive, and I felt I could put my 100% trust in getting me safely down and up slippery wet roads.
Minimalist and neutral - thanks to the shoe’s technical design. The shoe has a Speedboard which is a high-grade ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA) foam.
The Speedboard is acting like the skeletal muscles of the upper, providing good arch support and spreading pressure from pavement pounding evenly across the foot (as long as you don’t lace too tightly as I did).
Once I’d broken the shoe in, and the initial stiffness had softened, I found it encourages a light, swift foot-strike.
A good-looking shoe I would be proud to wear for general walking around as well as galloping in, the uppers are engineered for functionality. Compared to the non-waterproof Clouds, the toe-cap and upper material on the On Cloud Waterproof are sturdier and water repellent.
The microfiber 3D air mesh material enables foot ventilation on the run and on arriving home after puddle stomping my socks felt surprisingly un-sweaty and fresh!
Even after running over a dung heap! How? With the On membrane! Clever. Think of a tough cell membrane, whose primary function is to protect the cell (your foot) from its surroundings.
However, it is selectively permeable and allows some air circulation. A stretchable filmy layer that both stops the elements water and wind leaking in or out. The On membrane is skin-friendly and ‘free from harsh chemicals.’ I have pretty sensitive feet, and these uppers didn’t irritate at all.
The thin reflective strips hugging the heel make it a good safe choice for a night or low visibility running.
Any reasons not to buy?
Slightly clumpier than my Salomon Speedcross. May not suit narrow footed runners.
The On is a very cool looking, well-engineered shoe for road training in wet conditions and for venturing off the beaten track as long as it’s not cross country. A bit too wide for my narrow feet but good for medium width neutral runners who like some cushioning.
Good to know
- The flagship shoe of the On Running brand gets an upgrade in the form of the On Cloud Waterproof. A road-running shoe, the Cloud Waterproof is designed to perform in all conditions while maintaining its lightweight structure. Like many other of the brand’s running shoes, the Cloud Waterproof encourages a more forward foot strike and a centered running position, both of which are essential for an efficient running style.
- This shoe presents a mesh upper with synthetic overlays; a structure that provides support on the crucial areas of the foot. It is specially engineered to be 100% waterproof and windproof, making it suitable for wet conditions. It also features the popular lacing system used in the original version for quick and hassle-free wear.
- A zero-gravity foam makes up a part of the Cloud Waterproof’s sole unit. It combines minimal weight and exceptional cushioning for a comfortable foot strike and an efficient toe-off. It is complemented by a rubber outsole made from a compound that gives it low-abrasion durability and excellent grip.
The On Cloud Waterproof follows the structure of a standard running shoe; thus, runners should expect a perfect fit with their usual size preference. The shoe’s silhouette is slightly elongated and slender, accommodating wearers of low to moderate foot volume. The Cloud Waterproof comes in medium width for both the men’s and women’s versions.
The CloudTec is the brand’s proprietary outsole technology that is constructed very differently from conventional outsoles – it is made of foam rather than rubber. In the Cloud Waterproof, the CloudTec outsole comes in the form of hollowed pods, making it lightweight and flexible, and therefore allowing more speed. The unique formula of the CloudTec compound also gives the shoe exceptional grip in various types of surfaces, most notably, wet ones.
The CloudTec outsole comes with deep flex grooves that encourage a wide range of foot movements. The entire unit is directly attached to the midsole to reduce bulk and to permit adaptability to the footprint.
A high-grade ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA) foam, called the Speedboard, gives the Cloud Waterproof a minimalist and neutral design. The Speedboard is connected sturdily to the upper, thus promoting adequate arch support. It also evenly distributes pressure across the foot for an energized, efficient running performance.
The upper of the Cloud Waterproof boasts of a sleek design, with its microfiber 3D air mesh. The material allows optimal air circulation to keep the foot well-ventilated throughout the run. The air mesh is supported by synthetic overlays, which also provide structural integrity.
To give the shoe its waterproof quality, it employs the On membrane, a layer of stretchable film that not only repels water but also protects against the harsh effects of wind. Without the use of harsh chemicals, the On membrane is skin-friendly, which makes the upper irritation-free.
There are reflective strips around the heel, and the logo is also made of the same material. This feature allows for low-light visibility.
The On Cloud Waterproof comes in a slip-on construction with a speed-lacing system that encourages easy wear. However, a set of regular laces would also be available with each purchase of a pair.
How Cloud Waterproof compares
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