Our verdict

We believe the Cloudsurfer Trail from On significantly elevates its road version to become an exceptional all-terrain shoe—perfect for travel and versatile enough for varied adventures. It maintains the high-quality materials and overall feel of its counterpart but enhances outsole durability with a robust Missiongrip rubber and ruggedized upper modifications. However, we found the drop somewhat high for trail use, and it's priced slightly above most comparable shoes.

Pros

  • Exceptional outsole durability
  • Excellent build quality
  • Truly versatile design
  • Remarkably light for trail use
  • Cushioned
  • Flexible and comfortable
  • Wonderful for heel strikers
  • Works well on asphalt or concrete

Cons

  • High drop for trail running
  • Pricier than similar models

Audience verdict

88
Great!

Who should buy

We think the trail version of the successful Cloudsurfer from On is ideal for those seeking a robust yet flexible option for varied terrains. Here's why we believe it stands out:

  • It's perfect for trail beginners or anyone seeking a versatile shoe that handles mixed terrain and occasional road use with ease.
  • It's perfect for fans of the Cloudsurfer who crave an upgraded outsole with exceptional durability.
  • It's ideal for runners who want a single shoe for everything that offers top outsole durability and superior build quality, even at a slightly higher price.

On Cloudsurfer Trail

Who should NOT buy

The On Cloudsurfer Trail features a high drop that we think is not the best for forefoot and midfoot strikers. Additionally, many runners prefer trail shoes with less inclined midsoles. For those seeking a zero-drop design, we suggest the Altra Lone Peak 8, and for a moderate drop, the Salomon Ultra Glide 2 is a better road-to-trail choice.

We also found in the lab that the heel collar of the Cloudsurfer Trail tends to wear out quickly, which is a major drawback for some. We recommend the Saucony Xodus Ultra 2 for runners who need a more durable collar, plus you'll also get excellent midsole cushioning and superior ventilation.

On Cloudsurfer Trail parts

Breathability

We initiated our lab review with a breathability assessment as always. The Cloudsurfer Trail's upper differs from its road counterpart yet maintains numerous ventilation holes in the toebox, promising effective breathability.

Employing our smoke-pumping machine, we observed decent airflow—though not top-notch, earning it a 3 out of 5 on our scale. This makes it a versatile choice for year-round use or mild climates.

While watching the smoke exit the toebox is always fascinating, we had more to explore! Utilising a powerful light revealed that the upper is significantly reinforced, explaining the less-than-perfect airflow.

On Cloudsurfer Trail microscope

Diving deeper with our microscope, we confirmed the presence of a dense secondary layer beneath the ventilated top.

On Cloudsurfer Trail microscope 2

This layer, while restricting airflow, enhances comfort and durability—traits we've come to expect from On's superior construction... and price.

Test results
Cloudsurfer Trail 3
Average 3.3
Compared to 83 trail running shoes
Number of shoes
1
Breathability
5

Durability

Toebox durability

We hinted earlier that the durability of the Cloudsurfer Trail should hold up, given its multi-layered upper, but our real test involved using the Dremel.

Our past experience led us to expect that the multiple ventilation holes might affect the upper's integrity. However, while the Dremel easily breached the top layer—actually getting stuck—the robust secondary layer withstood the challenge, securing a decent 3/5 in our durability assessment.

On Cloudsurfer Trail Toebox durability
Test results
Cloudsurfer Trail 3
Average 3.1
Compared to 63 trail running shoes
Number of shoes
1
Toebox durability
5

Heel padding durability

Following the mixed results from our previous test, we decided to evaluate the heel padding of the Cloudsurfer Trail.

Unfortunately, we encountered disappointing results—the padding, while initially comfortable, failed spectacularly under minimal stress from out tool, earning a dismal 1/5 from our team. This may not pose a concern for most runners, but for those who frequently experience holes in this area, we advise avoiding the Cloudsurfer Trail.

On Cloudsurfer Trail Heel padding durability
Test results
Cloudsurfer Trail 1
Average 2.9
Compared to 61 trail running shoes
Number of shoes
1
Heel padding durability
5

Outsole hardness

Hoping for more promising results, we turned our attention to the outsole, equipped with On's Missiongrip rubber—a material known here in the lab for its good performance. 

We immediately measured the hardness of the outsole, which registered at 90.4 HA, placing it on the harder end of the spectrum. While this suggests a slight compromise on grip, the durability needed for a road-to-trail shoe makes this a good design choice in our view.

On Cloudsurfer Trail Outsole hardness
Test results
Cloudsurfer Trail 90.4 HC
Average 85.4 HC
We use an average of four tests. The photo shows one of those tests.
Compared to 106 trail running shoes
Number of shoes
72.5 HC
Outsole hardness
95.0 HC

Outsole durability

We already knew that Missiongrip rubber on the Cloudsurfer Trail was tough, yet we wanted to see how it would stand up under extreme conditions. So, we conducted our third Dremel test to see if hardness translates to durability.

The results were exceptional. Utilising a tyre tread gauge, we recorded only a 0.3 mm reduction in the rubber—hardly noticeable damage. This outstanding performance earned it an A++ from us!

On Cloudsurfer Trail Outsole durability
Test results
Cloudsurfer Trail 0.3 mm
Average 0.9 mm
Compared to 56 trail running shoes
Number of shoes
0.0 mm
Outsole wear
2.0 mm

Outsole thickness

We wrapped up our examination of the outsole by measuring its thickness, which registered at 1.9 mm. 

Considering the remarkable durability of the Missiongrip rubber, we believe On could reduce this thickness in future iterations of the Cloudsurfer Trail, should they opt to release a second version.

On Cloudsurfer Trail Outsole thickness
Test results
Cloudsurfer Trail 1.9 mm
Average 2.4 mm
Compared to 106 trail running shoes
Number of shoes
0.9 mm
Outsole thickness
6.5 mm

Weight

The fit closely mirrors that of the road version, which we confirmed by measuring 98.4 mm across the widest part of the toebox.

This design comfortably accommodates most runners, though it may not suit those with very wide feet—get the Pegasus Trail 5 instead. Additionally, we noted ample vertical space in the toebox, as the mesh is non-constrictive at all, enhancing overall comfort.

Weight

The road-oriented Cloudsurfer 7 impressed us in the lab with its lightweight 8.3 oz design, so we had high hopes for the door-to-trail version.

We found that the added rugged features increased the weight slightly to 9.6 oz (272g), but this is still excellent for a trail shoe. It remains lighter than most competitors, making it a standout choice for those seeking a lightweight yet cushioned option.

On Cloudsurfer Trail Weight
Test results
Cloudsurfer Trail 9.59 oz (272g)
Average 10.30 oz (292g)
Compared to 106 trail running shoes
Number of shoes
7.51 oz (213g)
Weight
13.37 oz (379g)

Cushioning

Heel stack

Indeed, the Cloudsurfer Trail boasts an impressive 37.4 mm of cushioning in the heel, placing it on the verge of maximalist running shoes. We believe this ample cushioning is more than sufficient for heavier individuals, and it might even be a bit excessive for the trails. 

Our standpoint is that while this level of cushioning ensures comfort and support, it could be overkill for those seeking a more natural ride on rugged terrains.

On Cloudsurfer Trail Heel stack
Test results
Cloudsurfer Trail 37.4 mm
Average 32.2 mm
Compared to 106 trail running shoes
Number of shoes
16.1 mm
Heel stack
42.4 mm

Forefoot stack

At the forefoot, we measured a total stack height of 26.7 mm.

While this might seem modest compared to the heel's cushioning, it significantly exceeds the average for trail shoes and proves ample for nearly all distances, accommodating the needs of most runners.

On Cloudsurfer Trail Forefoot stack
Test results
Cloudsurfer Trail 26.7 mm
Average 24.5 mm
Compared to 106 trail running shoes
Number of shoes
15.2 mm
Forefoot stack
33.9 mm

Drop

With a drop of 10.7 mm, the Cloudsurfer Trail stands out for its higher drop, atypical for trail shoes which usually feature more moderate offsets.

This offset makes it less suitable for technical terrain or forefoot strikers, and we think a 7/8 mm drop would have been a better design choice. Nonetheless, it's an excellent option for beginners and heel strikers, offering a supportive and elevated heel experience.

On Cloudsurfer Trail Drop
Test results
Cloudsurfer Trail 10.7 mm
Average 7.8 mm
Compared to 105 trail running shoes
Number of shoes
-0.1 mm
Drop
17.3 mm

Insole thickness

The insole, at a standard thickness of 4.7 mm and crafted from ordinary EVA, provides basic functionality without standout features. As Steve Jobs would say—it just works.

On Cloudsurfer Trail Insole thickness
Test results
Cloudsurfer Trail 4.7 mm
Average 4.7 mm
Compared to 106 trail running shoes
Number of shoes
2.7 mm
Insole thickness
9.8 mm

Midsole softness

Note: a low durometer measurement equals a soft material, whereas a high measurement means it's firm.

The Cloudsurfer Trail's ride closely mirrors its road version and maintains the typical dense and firm feel characteristic of most On shoes—with a caveat.

The new CloudTec Phase system revamped the "cloud" elements with custom shapes that allow the midsole to compress better, offering a softer feel underfoot despite its firm 26.4 HA rating on our durometer.

We also discovered that the Cloudsurfer Trail also utilises the same Helion (EVA + OBC) midsole found in many other On Cloud models. In our experience, this foam ranks among the top training foams currently available on the market, on par with others like FF Blast+ or Nike ReactX.

On Cloudsurfer Trail Midsole softness
Test results
Cloudsurfer Trail 26.4 HA
Average 22.7 HA
We use an average of four tests. The photo shows one of those tests.
Compared to 82 trail running shoes
Number of shoes
9.1 HA
Midsole softness (soft to firm)
39.0 HA

Difference in midsole softness in cold

We appreciate Helion foam because, although it's primarily EVA, the addition of Olefin block co-polymers enhances its performance, especially in cold conditions. After chilling the shoe for 20 minutes in our freezer, it only became 19.9% firmer!

On Cloudsurfer Trail Difference in midsole softness in cold
Test results
Cloudsurfer Trail 19.9%
Average 26.4%
Compared to 82 trail running shoes
Number of shoes
0%
Difference in midsole softness in cold
100%

Stability

Lateral stability test

The Cloudsurfer Trail and its counterpart, the Cloudsurfer 7, are neutral running shoes that incorporate stability features such as enhanced sidewalls and midfoot guidance. However, we wouldn't recommend them for runners who require substantial support.

If that's you, something like the Cascadia 17 from Brooks is a better pick, as it features a wider heel design.

Torsional rigidity

In our manual assessment of the shoe's rigidity, we gave the Cloudsurfer Trail a score of 4 out of 5—really high for a model without a plate.

Test results
Cloudsurfer Trail 4
Average 3.5
Compared to 100 trail running shoes
Number of shoes
1
Torsional rigidity
5

Heel counter stiffness

We also examined the heel counter, finding it similar to the standard ones in daily road running shoes, scoring an average 3 out of 5.

In our view, this design by On effectively enhances stability and security in the heel area without being overly intrusive.

Test results
Cloudsurfer Trail 3
Average 3.2
Compared to 98 trail running shoes
Number of shoes
1
Heel counter stiffness
5

Midsole width in the forefoot

One key reason for the Cloudsurfer Trail's neutral stability profile is its dimensions. Typical of most On designs, it's not overly wide, measuring just 112.9 mm at the forefoot.

While the trend is moving towards wider shoes, we don't believe this suits everyone. A neutral runner seeking a versatile shoe may find the Cloudsurfer Trail's narrower build offers a more natural and less cumbersome ride.

On Cloudsurfer Trail Midsole width in the forefoot
Test results
Cloudsurfer Trail 112.9 mm
Average 112.1 mm
Compared to 106 trail running shoes
Number of shoes
102.1 mm
Midsole width in the forefoot
126.0 mm

Midsole width in the heel

The same observations we noted earlier also apply to the heel area, where we measured a standard width of 90.4 mm.

On Cloudsurfer Trail Midsole width in the heel
Test results
Cloudsurfer Trail 90.4 mm
Average 89.7 mm
Compared to 106 trail running shoes
Number of shoes
77.2 mm
Midsole width in the heel
109.3 mm

Flexibility

Stiffness

A shoe designed to excel in all aspects and become your go-to travel companion must offer flexibility for comfort. Our expectations were set high, given that its road counterpart, the Cloudsurfer 7, has shown remarkable flexibility in our tests—one of the most pliable road running shoes we've ever assessed at 12.5N.

While the Trail version slightly reduces this flexibility, it still maintains considerable comfort, registering at 20.0N in our latest evaluation. Is this reduction a downside? When compared to its road version, perhaps—yet, the inclusion of the durable Missiongrip outsole is a trade-off that totally worth it, at least in our view.

Test results
Cloudsurfer Trail 20.0N
Average 28.1N
We use an average of four tests. The video shows one of those tests.
Compared to 106 trail running shoes
Number of shoes
10.5N
Stiffness
54.5N

Difference in stiffness in cold

We also reassessed the shoe's flexibility after chilling it in the freezer for twenty minutes. Our findings showed a 39.7% increase in the force needed to flex the shoe to the same degree as before—a result we consider to be just okay.

Test results
Cloudsurfer Trail 39.7%
Average 35.1%
Compared to 103 trail running shoes
Number of shoes
0%
Difference in stiffness in cold
102%

Grip / Traction

Lug depth

Using our digital vernier calliper and a precisely cut piece of midsole, we measured the lug depth on the Cloudsurfer Trail and found them quite shallow at 2.5 mm.

On Cloudsurfer Trail lugs

We discovered that On combined squared and L-shaped lugs on the outsole. Additionally, they integrated multiple cutouts to enhance the shoe's flexibility.

Is this a drawback? It depends on what you need or want. If your routes include a mix of surfaces, including roads, this depth is adequate, offering decent performance across various terrains. However, for more technical or muddy trails, the 2.5-mm lugs might fall short, and you should pick something like the Hoka Speedgoat 6 instead.

On Cloudsurfer Trail Lug depth
Test results
Cloudsurfer Trail 2.5 mm
Average 3.6 mm
Compared to 106 trail running shoes
Number of shoes
1.7 mm
Lug depth
5.8 mm

Size and fit

Toebox width at the widest part

The fit closely mirrors that of the road version, which we confirmed by measuring 98.4 mm across the widest part of the toebox.

This design comfortably accommodates most runners, though it may not suit those with very wide feet—get the Pegasus Trail 5 instead. Additionally, we noted ample vertical space in the toebox, as the mesh is non-constrictive at all, enhancing overall comfort.

On Cloudsurfer Trail Toebox width at the widest part
Test results
Cloudsurfer Trail 98.4 mm
Average 98.8 mm
Compared to 106 trail running shoes
Number of shoes
92.0 mm
Toebox width at the widest part
104.9 mm

Toebox width at the big toe

Our second measurement in the big toe area showed a well-sized width of 78.2 mm—suitable for a wide range of foot shapes.

On Cloudsurfer Trail toebox

It's refreshing to observe On widening their toeboxes somewhat, a notable improvement over the narrow, constricting fits from years past that often hindered comfort during those long adventures on the trails.

On Cloudsurfer Trail Toebox width at the big toe
Test results
Cloudsurfer Trail 78.2 mm
Average 79.0 mm
Compared to 68 trail running shoes
Number of shoes
70.5 mm
Toebox width at the big toe
92.1 mm

Tongue: gusset type

For a road-to-trail shoe, a semi-gusseted tongue is perfectly acceptable—so we're content with this design over a full gusset. Most importantly, we avoided a non-gusseted tongue!

On Cloudsurfer Trail Tongue: gusset type
Test results
Cloudsurfer Trail Both sides (semi)

Comfort

Tongue padding

We meticulously measured the tongue and found that the Swiss brand mixed weight with comfort. With a thickness of 5.5 mm, they achieved an ideal balance for us!

On Cloudsurfer Trail tongue

Additionally, we found that the Cloudsurfer Trail uses a hybrid lacing system, which might not appeal to everyone.

On Cloudsurfer Trail Tongue padding
Test results
Cloudsurfer Trail 5.6 mm
Average 6.4 mm
Compared to 106 trail running shoes
Number of shoes
1.5 mm
Tongue padding
12.2 mm

Heel tab

While most On road shoes currently lack a heel tab, they have already begun incorporating them into several trail models, with this Cloudsurfer Trail serving as a prime example.

On Cloudsurfer Trail Heel tab
Test results
Cloudsurfer Trail Finger loop

Removable insole

The Trail version of the Cloudsurfer series comes with a replaceable insole, similar to what you'd find in most running shoes, and it can easily be swapped if needed.

On Cloudsurfer Trail Removable insole
Test results
Cloudsurfer Trail Yes

Misc

Reflective elements

On consistently earns high marks in our lab for including reflective elements—a safety feature we highly value.

We found the Cloudsurfer Trail excels with its 360-degree nighttime visibility, though we consider the large, non-reflective logo on the side a slight oversight especially because it's present in the road version.

Test results
Cloudsurfer Trail Yes