Our verdict

The Cloudswift 3 is a masterclass in balancing heritage and innovation—it features all the bells and whistles of a next-gen shoe, yet still stays true to its On roots. Though upgrades to the cushioning system and upper construction immensely improved its performance, in our opinion, the foam still feels too firm underfoot. All in all, they're a solid pair of daily trainers for both longtime fans and modern runners alike.

Pros

  • Comfortably snug upper
  • Immensely breathable
  • Secure lockdown from heel to toe
  • Responsive and protective cushioning
  • No break-in necessary
  • Smooth forward-flowing ride
  • Doesn’t collect debris as much as v1 and v2
  • Very good grip on various surfaces
  • One fine-looking runner
  • Solid sustainability elements
  • Best for daily training and easy runs
  • Also great for gym workouts

Cons

  • Slightly firm underfoot
  • Not advisable for long runs

Audience verdict

85
Good!
  • Top 25% most popular running shoes

Who should buy the Cloudswift 3

We recommend the On Cloudswift 3 if you:

  • Need a good-looking pair that can serve as a road runner, gym trainer, and even a going-out sneaker.
  • Want a running shoe with firm cushioning and a close-to-the-ground feel.
  • Are looking for a comfy daily trainer with solid sustainability credentials. 

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Who should not buy it

For an On runner that has more of that running-on-clouds sensation in a much lighter package, try the Cloudsurfer 7. If you’re after a daily trainer that can handle your LSD weekends, check out the Cloudmonster. And if you love soft and squishy running shoes, we suggest checking out the Nike Invincible 3.

One breathable piece is all you need

One of the notable upgrades in the third-gen Cloudswift is its all-new upper.

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The new model still features the bootie-like fit of its predecessors, but with a one-piece construction with zones that vary in texture thus offering an adaptive fit that conforms to different foot shapes.

We also found the upper material to be highly breathable as it kept our feet cool even on the hottest subtropical days! The Cloudswift 3 achieved an impressive 4 out of 5 in our breathability test. This outstanding score solidified our experience with the shoe.

If more evidence is required, let's shed some light on the matter. The utilisation of thin knit fabric by On enables airflow in the medial part, while the presence of perforations in the toe box area ensures optimal ventilation.

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The presence of those ventilation holes in the toe box is crucial. Without them, this shoe would have delivered a score of 1 or 2 on our breathability test.

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We also particularly liked the quality of the knit and the ample padding around the shoe’s hyper-flexible heel counter. That feature allows for a non-slip, secure hold in the rearfoot.

We found it to be an exceptionally flexible heel counter, scoring only 1 out of 5 in our test, with 5 being the stiffest.

Like running on clouds… firm clouds

The Cloudswift 3 also saw upgrades done to its midsole. It’s now equipped with On’s Dual Density Helion foam, which fuses both soft and rigid elements for a balanced and smooth underfoot feel.

However, because this On shoe feels more on the firm side, we don't recommend it for long-distance runs.

Our lab measurements confirmed that this shoe is not even moderately soft according to today's standards. With a hardness rating of 29.1 HA, it is 65% firmer than the popular Nike Pegasus 40 and 17% firmer than road running shoes on average.

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Disclaimer: We do 4 measurements and exclude any outliers. The photo above shows just one measurement.

As with most On shoes, the shoe comes with a series of pods underneath—the CloudTec cushioning technology—that compress during landings and pop back up on take-offs, adding some spring and impact protection to the shoe's ride.

Stable without being hyper-wide

On running shoes tend to have good stability thanks to their moderately firm platforms. We found that to be the case in the Cloudswift 3 too.

There are two important factors that contribute to the shoe's stiffness:

  1. The shoe's firm foam and the TPU Speedboard
  2. The outsole shape and width

Disclaimer: We take an average of 4 measurements and remove any outliers. This video shows just one of our measurements.

The result is a moderately stiff shoe, although it may feel rigid for some. In our bend test, it took 26.5N of force to reach the 90º mark, which is 14% less than it takes a road shoe on average but, at the same time, more than most daily trainers.

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When comparing the platform to the already-stable On Cloudswift, the midsole is just 1% narrower in the forefoot and 2% wider in the heel.

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This means that the landing pad for heel strikers is even bigger, providing a wider surface area for a comfortable landing.

Battle-tested durability

So we already know that the Cloudswift 3 is stable, comfortable, and breathable. How great would it be if it were also durable?

Well, here's some good news: this shoe is undoubtedly top-notch when it comes to durability. After conducting our standardised Dremel test on the CS3's toebox, we were amazed by the minimal damage inflicted on the shoe.

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The Cloudswift 3 (left) really outperformed a do-it-all shoe like the Hoka Kawana (right). What a contrast!

Then, we moved on to the heel, which is another area of concern for most runners. This shoe features pure foam padding, similar to the Vaporfly, that provides incredible comfort and works wonders. However, it's worth noting that, as you can observe, durability is compromised.

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The Cloudswift 3’s magic is in its midsole

In addition to its Helion+CloudTec combo, there are a couple more elements that contribute to the Cloudswift 3’s ride. 

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First is the TPU Speedboard plate embedded in its foam. Its rigid nature helps to create more responsiveness through a springboard-like effect.

Complementing this is the shoe’s rocker geometry, which promotes a smooth and efficient forward rolling.

Additionally, you'll find a stack height of 34.0 mm in the heel and 24.3 mm in the forefoot, resulting in a 9.7-mm drop from heel to toe.

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The Swiss brand claims that the Cloudswift 3 has an 8-mm drop. However, our precise measurements reveal a difference of 21% from their stated value. Too much!

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Altogether, these result in an enjoyably smooth, agile-but-stable, low-to-the-ground ride that’s great for anything from daily training, easy days, cross-training sessions, and even just all-day casual wear.

Finally, having an EVA-based foam, it was expected that the Cloudswift wouldn't be A+ in cold temperatures.

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After spending 20 minutes in our freezer, the Helion midsole becomes 25.7% firmer—a number pretty similar to the average shoe—and a teeth-grinding 77.2% stiffer—significantly higher than the average of 45.6%. For proper context, this shoe lacks flexibility even in mild or warm weather, so it's going to feel like a horrible brick in winter.

A good balance of roominess and snugness

The one-piece construction of the CS3’s upper creates a very comfortable, medium-width fit.

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After measuring the shoe, we found that the upper has a comfortably snug fit. With 96.6 mm in the widest part and 72.6 mm around the big toe, the Cloudswift 3 is a few millimetres narrower than the average road running shoe.

But thanks to the shoe's forgiving, sock-like upper, there is some stretch to accommodate a medium-width foot like ours.

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We were also impressed by the central TPU piece à la Ultraboost which serves as both a lacing cage and provides a secure fit. It embraces your feet, offers ample support, and adds a stylish touch.

This—combined with the supportive upper—provides a solid lockdown that felt very helpful on harp turns.

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Heavyweight disappointment: thin tongue, heavy package

Most running brands go all out to reduce weight when releasing a new version of any model. It appears that On takes a more relaxed approach to it, not placing as much emphasis on this topic.

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The On Cloudswift 3 being 10% heavier than the first Cloudswift is rather disappointing.

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On the flip side, the sock-like tongue, now only 2.1 mm thick, is 58% thinner than before. This makes us wonder: how much heavier would this shoe be with a padded tongue? It's time to go back to the drawing board, guys...

Exceeding 300g for a US 9 is considered excessive by today's standards even in a daily trainer. For comparison, the ASICS Novablast 3 weighs only 242 g.

No need to pick stones off after every run

We were pleased with the CS3’s revised outsole—particularly with its redesigned pods and centre channel, which no longer collected debris as much as previous versions.

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It's evident that On attempted to reduce the weight of the outsole considering that the rest of the shoe is quite heavy. Their approach was straightforward: they made the outsole thinner and minimised the use of rubber as much as possible.

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As a result, the outsole is merely 2.9 mm thick, with a significant amount of exposed foam covered by small lugs.

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Disclaimer: We do 4 measurements and exclude any outliers. The photo above shows just one of our readings.

Unfortunately, this design choice affects its durability, which is a downside. As a result, On addressed this concern by incorporating a non-abrasive rubber, which we measured at 85.3 HC, which is among the 22% harder measurements we've ever made in the lab. By doing so, they managed to enhance durability, albeit at the expense of reduced grip.

Lace ‘em up and go

The Cloudswift 3 had a comfortable fit and felt great right off the box. Not to mention that it was super easy to get the shoe on in the first place.

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The On crew in Switzerland had the intention of creating a shoe that could serve as both a running and gym/walking shoe. This means it will be frequently taken on and off. That's precisely why the pull tab and the sock-like tongue in this model are highly appreciated.

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Other minor details that received major props

Though looks shouldn’t really be a big priority in running shoes, we found it tough to deny that the Cloudswift 3s were pretty attractive.

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On the sustainability front, the shoe can hold its own as well. Nature-caring runners will be glad to know that the v3 has upped its green game—with significant increases in water savings and use of recycled materials, as well as reductions in carbon emissions and waste.

The laces and the upper are crafted from recycled polyester, while the EVA sock liners incorporate recycled EVA material.

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It's also cool to have some reflective pieces in the shoe. While a nocturnal jogger might have hoped for a disco party, this On still outperforms 99% of shoes in the reflectivity game.