ON running has been around for 8 years. The Swiss company has intrigued consumers with their unique method of providing cushioning: multiple holes in a segmented midsole known as 'Cloudtec' and 'Zero Gravity Foam' designed to compress upon impact.
Consumers are further bought over thanks to the clever wordplay ON utilizes in marketing their shoes. A great example would be the Cloudflyer. Bombastic words such as 'supreme cushioning' and 'running on clouds' are coupled with a premium price point and 'swiss engineering.' One would immediately think of a shoe that is as soft as a marshmallow and of excellent construction.
Before delving into the review, here’s some of my background. For the past 6 months, I’ve worked in a sports shop specialized in running shoes and gear. This shop carries brands such as New Balance, Asics, Saucony, and Hoka but places great emphasis on ON running shoes.
As a result, ON shoes are the best selling brand in the store. Working in a store like this has allowed me to test and compare ON shoes fairly with the offerings of other brands and how ON stacks up against the rest of the market.
|Type||Cushioned Daily Trainer|
|Weight||292grams (US 8.5)|
|Heel to toe drop||7mm|
The Cloudflyer Waterproof uses a fully waterproof yet breathable engineered mesh built to keep both wind and water out of the shoe. There are also reflective elements in many parts of the upper material which allows for safer running at night or in heavy rain.
The waterproof layer is surprisingly breathable. I expected a hot shoe especially at 32°C weather, but the shoe remained decently cool even at such conditions. The waterproof layer serves it’s purpose well.
I ran about 5-6 runs in moderate rain, and I’m pleased that my feet were kept dry. The only area that got wet was near the ankle collar, which did not really bother me. Also, the reflective elements are good looking and work very well for me at low light conditions.
Ankle collar/heel counter
The ankle collar is cushioned well and irritation free. The padding at the sides reminds me of a car seat. It hugs the ankle nicely and provides great comfort to my ankle.
However, the padding on the medial side of the shoe should be done away with. With reference to the picture below, the padding makes the shoe look less aerodynamic and more out of shape. It ruins the look from an aesthetic point of view but does not affect the performance of the shoe.
The heel counter is a great contributor to the stability of the shoe. The Cloudflyer comes with a substantial heel counter which cradles the foot and keeps it from shifting around in the shoe.
In the Cloudflyer, the tongue is well cushioned. It protected the top of my feet well from any lacing pressure.
An important thing to note is the tongue is fixed to the shoe. This means that consumers would not have to worry about the tongue shifting all over the place.
Fit & lacing
The Cloudflyer runs on the narrow side. I had to change the special 'star lacing' at the front of the shoe to accommodate and allow my feet to spread.
The star lacing at the front was intended by ON to provide more stability and a better fit for the user. However, for people with wide feet, this lacing technique just cramps up the toe box further.
Changing the lacing did not result in any noticeable loss of support or comfort for me. Even with the laces changed, the shoes continue to squeeze my foot mildly but not to the extent of discomfort.
Midsole & ride quality
The Midsole is made of EVA foam molded into unique 'CloudTec' pods. The pods were designed to collapse upon impact, softening the landing of the runner. The compressed pods would then provide a firm platform for the take-off.
I’m not sure what makes the ride of the shoe uninspiring - the type of foam used or the concept behind the midsole technology. I find the ride rather dull and unresponsive. I don’t get any softness from the shoe, everything is just firm.
At recovery places, the shoe felt too harsh. At paces up-tempo and above, the weight and the unresponsive feel made it unenjoyable to run in. Running on the treadmill or at steady paces are quite smooth.
The shoe is definitely stable, to the point that it feels clunky sometimes. With the cushioning setup, this shoe will be a great crossfit shoe for gymming and the occasional run on the treadmill.
The Speedboard is made from a semi-flexible plastic designed for smoother heel-to-toe transitions and increased stability overall. I found the Speedboard to work especially well on treadmill runs.
The Speedboard definitely balances out the pods evenly and make them work as a cohesive unit. This prevents uneven pressure to be applied to individual pods.
A drawback of the Speedboard is that it firms up the shoe significantly. ON tends to place the Speedboard so close to the foot as it’s impossible for the Speedboard to be positioned anywhere else due to the design of the midsole.
Having the Speedboard this close to the foot results in a ride that is far from plush. Think of it as lying down on a wooden plank on a pillow compared to a pillow on a wooden plank.
The description of the latter would definitely be more comfortable. ON has made an effort to soften the ride through the use of a special insole, which will be addressed below.
The insole is made up of two sections. The first section is a green memory-like foam that compresses easily. It is soft but does not have good rebound properties. The insole shines at walking paces but fails to impress when paces are picked up.
The second section is a black foam material that starts from the middle covering and cupping the first section at the heel. The intended purpose is to center the heel on the green platform. The function seems to work decently well as I don’t find my heel slipping around.
I remember in my first ON shoe review on the ON Cloud that I hoped for a different insole material to make for a more forgiving ride. ON did change the material to the current memory foam variant. However, I’m not sure if this was a step in the right direction for ON as the foam does not return to its original form fast enough to cushion the next few steps while running.
I really do hope ON reads this and starts to consider thermoplastic-polyurethane for its insole foam or adding a thin layer below the insole. Having a Speedboard in a shoe is fine, but having it so close to the foot means that the ride will be more firm in nature. Utilizing a soft yet responsive material in between the foot and the board would dilute some of the firm characteristics and allow more forgiving and enjoyable ride at slower paces.
The Outsole is strategically placed with black rubber patches at high wear areas in both the forefoot and heel for added durability and grip.
The outsole is pretty grippy in dry conditions and decent in wet conditions. I did not slip in wet weather when running on asphalt. I wonder if the outsole compound is an improvement from that of the non-waterproof version which lacked a lot of wet weather grip.
The midsole is holding up well with 80km (50mi) in. However, I worry that with this combination of EVA material and individual segmented holes in the cushioning, the pods are bound to collapse sooner than if the midsole was one-piece.
The outsole shows little signs of wear on the black rubber pieces that cover most of the shoe. The tread of the 3 segments that are not covered is holding up better than I expected.
Type of workouts
The Cloudflyer Waterproof works well at steady paced aerobic runs.
- Effective waterproof layer
- Reflective elements
- Laterally stable
- Firm- not great at recovery paces or anything faster than up-tempo paces
- Insole material needs improvement
- Stones stuck in middle groove
- Quality control/poor design at ankle collar
- Thin laces
- Living in a country where it rains often
- Steady run paces (varies from runner to runner)
- Fancy a firm ride
- Wants to look different
- Offer 2E widths
- Scrap memory foam insole and use a thin thermoplastic-polyurethane/polyurethane layer instead (Eg. Everun topsole)
- Change midsole material to something more 'energized' and responsive (Think Adidas Boost/Nike React/Skechers Ultraflight/Saucony Everun/Altra Ego)
- Apply outsole tooling of Cloud X to reduce chances of stones getting stuck in middle groove
- Thicker laces
ON Cloudflyer Waterproof vs. Nike Odyssey React Shield
Two mild stability shoes with waterproofing technology. Both companies technology works effectively, keeping water out during wet weather.
The Cloudflyer is slightly more breathable which makes it more suitable for hot and humid weather. The Odyssey weighs 43 grams lighter and runs softer than the Cloudflyer. Both shoes fit on the narrow side.
Choosing between these shoes will be a matter of preference. One thing to note is that the Odyssey is cheaper than the Cloudflyer by a significant amount.
ON Cloudflyer Waterproof vs. Nike Pegasus Turbo
The Pegasus Turbo is one of the best versatile trainers in the market right now. The Cloudflyer Waterproof is 54 grams heavier than the Turbo and offers a much firmer ride despite being marketed as 'supremely cushioned.'
The Turbo is much softer and responsive, performing well for recovery runs to track intervals. Other than the added stability and waterproofing on the Cloudflyer, the Turbo is just on a different level.
ON Cloudflyer Waterproof vs. Asics GT-2000 v6
The Asics GT-2000 is one of the most popular mild stability trainers currently. The GT-2000 is softer than the Cloudflyer, especially in the heel. Both shoes are of a similar narrow fit.
I find that the Cloudflyer has a better constructed upper. In terms of ride quality, the GT-2000 is more enjoyable to run in at easy paces due to its more forgiving midsole — a nod to the GT-2000 v6.
The On Cloudflyer is a mild stability shoe best used for steady runs in wet weather. ON running has brought in decent shoes to the table, but has a long way to go before coming anywhere close to being a competitor in the rapidly evolving market of shoe technology.
After 8 years, it’s time for ON Running to move on with the times. If they want to see growth, changing the midsole material or density is a must.
Always a skeptic when it comes to claims of waterproof running shoes, I was pleasantly surprised that the Cloudflyer Waterproof lives up to its billing!
Taking it on the road and even the trail in wet conditions, light or heavy rain, proved to be a rather dry experience for my feet. The overall comfort feels like moving quickly forward on the perpetual carpet.
Though billed as a stability shoe, the outsole and its open arch foam brought forth thoughts of unstable, squishy foot plants that don’t allow for a nice ride.
That initial thought was quickly put to rest as I went for my first run. The feel of the ground was solid and cushioned, but not spongy as I expected when I pulled them out of the box.
More than cosmetic
The Swiss engineers did a wonderful job combining a great look with function.
The black on black with silver reflective detailing in the logos, laces, and thread through the toe box affords extra safety by lighting up those early mornings and evening runs as cars approach.
The durable toe box with thermoplastic polyurethane overlay may not be needed for a strict road shoe, but then I don’t run the roads often.
I do like the great toe protection as mine tend to eat away at the upper from the inside out. Any extra material in this area gives a longer life to my shoes.
This shoe performed well on the trail as long as it was not too muddy.
The stability on the grassy trails and mildly sloped single track allowed me to maintain a good pace while providing comfort in wet and dry conditions.
Inside the look
The On Cloudflyer Waterproof is an excellent road shoe, especially in wet conditions.
The embedded waterproof material is protected well by the outer and the inner material. This allows for abrasion protection and long life of the waterproofing material.
The only drawback was the waterproofing did not allow for much breathing and therefore a considerably “hot foot” on mild, dry days.
The padded tongue and inner sock also add a soothing feel to the top of your foot.
The inner sock also keeps the tongue in place while keeping out dirt and water. It covers the inner material seams as well as reducing the possibility of chaffing.
The midsole provides a stable ride that is not so cushioned to take away the road feel. I know some people like, especially on an easy day, but for me, I want to feel the road and trail.
The outsole of this shoe gives more grip than initially expected, but the durability seems to lack as I only have about 60 road miles and it is showing wear on the outside heel pad.
The heel cup locks your heel well to reduce lateral roll and gives a smooth ride even in uneven terrain.
The rear finger loop is substantial though not extremely necessary unless you put your gloves on before your shoes on a cold day.
The 7mm drop is just what the doctor ordered for me and those who like less may not be too impressed with this shoe.
But everyone will be impressed at the weight for a cushioned stability shoe – only 298g in size 9.
The overall feel of this shoe is like sliding into bucket seats in your favorite sports car and cruising down the road like you own it.
Oh wait, don’t all runners own the road! You may burn up the tires sooner if you hit the road too often or too hard.
Though the retail price of $180 is a bit steep for many of us, this shoe offers good value for those of us who live in cold and wet climates.
Good to know
- The On Cloudflyer road-running shoe gets an upgrade with the Cloudflyer Waterproof. The new design of the shoe presents a combination of lightweight support and waterproof protection, allowing the runner to log more miles in a wide variety of conditions.
- As the engineered mesh upper levels up a notch, wearers experience waterproofing without sacrificing breathability. With the On membrane, runners are protected against water and wind, yet still, receive the proper ventilation for their foot.
- Additionally, the sole unit still employs the CloudTec technology, in which the midsole reduces inward rotation while also allowing natural movement and a stable ride, while the outsole promotes long-lasting durability and reliable grip. These elements work together to support the runner in long runs by producing an energized running position.
The On Cloudflyer has a true-to-size fit; thus, runners could expect an exact fit with their usual shoe size. Similar to the original Cloudflyer, this shoe features a narrow heel and a moderate forefoot, catering to wearers with low to average foot volumes. Both the men’s and women’s versions of the Cloudflyer Waterproof are available in medium width.
The CloudTec technology employs a zero-gravity foam as its outsole. In the Cloudflyer Waterproof, the CloudTec outsole ensures stability and a firm stance. It is designed to feel ultra-soft and provide supreme cushioning.
Although the CloudTec made mainly of foam, the outsole of Cloudflyer Waterproof delivers lasting durability, and its unique tread pattern guarantees grip on wet roads. The high-impact areas are protected with rubber pads for enhanced sturdiness.
The CloudTec technology extends its work to the midsole of the Cloudflyer Waterproof, where it delivers responsive cushioning and protection against shock. Made primarily of compressed ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA) foam, the midsole features a curved rocker structure that promotes the foot’s natural rolling motion.
Beneath the EVA foam is a flexible plate, called the Speedboard, which gives a stabilizing effect. The Speedboard enables a purposeful heel-to-toe transition and, overall, a smooth ride.
The On membrane is a thin and stretchable film layer that goes on top of the mesh upper. It provides the waterproof and weatherproof protection of the shoe. The On membrane assures an irritation-free fit because it is not made of harsh chemicals and thus gentle to the skin. Because it is only a thin material, the On membrane still permits adequate air circulation to keep the foot ventilated.
A set of reflective strips could be found around the shoe, as well as the logo itself. This feature allows for easy running during low-light conditions.
A V-shaped heel cage keeps the foot secure and in place while on the road. It also prevents accidental shoe removals.