On Cloudflow Running Shoes Review | In Stock At NorthernRunner.com
On Cloudflow Review
The On Cloudflow is the shoe used by British Triathlete Tim Don to run the fastest ever Ironman Triathlon, which includes a marathon as the final discipline that Tim completed in 2 hours 44 minutes and 23 seconds. This gave him a total time of 7 hours 40 minutes and 23 seconds for the swim, bike, run event back in May 2017. However, the On Cloudflow is not just a shoe for breaking Triathlete world records and brings some unique tech and subsequent benefits to casual runners too.
The first thing you notice about On shoes is that instead of having a more traditional thick cushioned midsole, they employ a very thin midsole with lugs aka ‘clouds’ stuck to the bottom. It is these lugs that have been perfected to independently cushion from whatever angle the foot hits the floor. This is very different from the standard midsole, where the shock absorption capabilities of the midsole are only tested in a vertical plain. As we know, your foot can land in many different angles, naturally and where the pavement might not be perfectly flat!
‘Clouds’ & Speed Board Cushion Then Propel
As well as better placed shock absorption, the lugs on the bottom of the shoe also allow the shoe to be more flexible and encourage the feet to function more naturally, rather than lie dormant in the shoe and rely on the comfy cushioning. This is obviously better for your feet strength and encourages a better posture. Above the cushioning pods and just below the insole is the speed board. This is a thin bit of very flexible plastic that is designed to mimic and boost the natural propulsion of your planta fascia on the bottom of your foot.
When you land, the trademark CloudTec lugs act independently to cushion you and the flex of the expertly crafted speed board together with your planta fascia springs you forward into your next step.
So What Does That Feel Like?
Initially when my foot hit the floor I was amazed at how soft it felt. Personally I prefer a firmer and more responsive shoe. I like to ‘know’ my foot is on the ground but it was a pleasant surprise that the comfort that the Cloudflow provides isn’t the soft and soggy feel that I get from lots of other shoes. The lugs definitely spring back quickly and the speed board does spring you forward, feeling encouraging. The more I used the shoes the more I enjoyed the feeling. I have done my long slow Sunday runs on the road in these shoes as well as faster paced runs and interval sessions and they have performed well at all paces.
The fit is generally slim, some more than others. If you require a wider width running shoe then On might not be the brand for you and I’ve made some suggestions below. Although I don’t have very broad feet I do usually prefer a shoe with enough width in the forefoot to allow my feet to spread out when they warm up. However, whilst the On Cloudflow was a tighter fit then I would usually wear, the engineered mesh upper has a bit of stretch to it so the shoe never felt restrictive.
The On Cloudflow is light weighing in at 230 grams for a men’s UK 8 and 190 grams for a women’s UK 5. The heel to forefoot drop is 6mm, which makes it quite low but won’t feel too alien to most heel striker. I am a midfoot striker but noticed the heel of the shoe touching the ground initially, due to the way the heel splays out to increase stability for heel strikers. However once I had ran in the shoes a few times this stopped happening.
Earlier models of On shoes have often felt a bit slippy to me on some wet surfaces. The lugged outsole means that there is less surface area in contact with the floor so the rubber needs to be that bit more grippy than that on more traditional running shoes. I deliberately tested the Cloudflow on every wet surface I would find, worn smooth wet tarmac, wet paving slabs etc etc and never once felt in danger of slipping. I think that the rubber they have used on the lugs now does the job.
As with all shoes that have considerable gaps/splits in the outsole, debris can get caught. The lugs on the bottom of the Cloudflow are spaced wide enough apart to avoid this most of the time.
The Cloudflow is a neutral shoe. If you want to experience an On shoe but need a bit more support go for the Cloudflyer.
Notable about all On shoes is that they are the best finished running shoes around. The uppers are all bonded together and they look like a work of art rather than a running shoe that you are going to take out in all weathers and get dirty. We can’t deny we all love the aesthetic.
I can see why Tim Don has had so much success in this shoe. After swimming 2.4 miles and biking 112 miles event the top professional triathletes’ bodies are tied and battered. So the light, cushioned yet responsive feel of the On Cloudflow would have been ideal for the marathon at the end of his World Record breaking Ironman.
Charlie @ Northern Runner Newcastle
Other Shoes to Consider
On Cloud X: If you prefer a firmer more responsive shoe and like the idea of a shoe that works more with your feet then you could consider the Cloud X from On:
Altra Escalante: The Escalante is Altra’s lightweight training shoe. They have a softer ride than the Cloudflow and are less responsive. All Altra shoes are Zero Drop to promote a more natural midfoot strike and have a wide, rounded FootShape Toe Box to give the toes enough room to spread out on impact and a natural movement within the shoe:
Topo Fli-Lyte 2: Topo has a similar foot shaped toe box to Altra but, a slightly firmer more responsive ride. Similar to the Cloudflow the Topo Fli-Lyte 2 is a do it all shoe and is therefore suitable for everything from intervals to long runs. It’s 3mm from heel to forefoot so more suited to the midfoot striker. The rounded toe box gives enough room for the feet to function more naturally:
Hoka Cavu: A lighter more responsive Hoka shoe. Soft at the heel and firm in the forefoot to promote a faster transition. Hoka’s are narrow fitting shoes :