As runners, we are constantly on the look out for new ways to make us faster and more efficient. One of the easiest ways, without more bloody training, is to have a pair of shoes that enhances your running. So at every marathon expo or running event I would stare enviously at the On stand, ogling their incredibly innovative shoes.
On is a Swiss running company that has taken the running world by storm. It went from a start up in 2010 to now supplying 3 million runners with shoes. And not just the average Joe’s like you and me but top tier athletes such as Ironman record holder Tim Don.
Luckily, On were very kind enough to send me a pair of their Cloudflyers and I waited like a kid at Christmas for the parcel to arrive. I know a lot of runners who swear by their shoes but would they work their magic on a runner at the heavier end of the spectrum?
I tore the box open and immediately went out for a run. Most shoes I really feel like they need a fair few miles to perform at their best but, with the On, I felt like they needed no breaking in period. I put this down to the innovation that has made them the fasting growing running shoe brand in the world; Cloudtec.
The Clouds are the air-pockets on the soles which as the company puts it; “deliver a soft landing followed by an explosive take-off.” The way the air pockets work is that they compress as you load them with your full weight and as you push off they propel you forward like a spring. It isn’t just PR hype either and it’s safe to say these shoes feel seriously fast. The only way I’ve been able to describe the sensation to others is like being tied to a dog and it running as fast as it can, pulling you along whether you can keep up or not. Because of this, I would often find myself hitting the wall a lot sooner than expected in these shoes as they simply push me to go faster and faster. I have yet to use them in a race setting because I am concerned that their excitable speed will effect my ability to pace longer distances effectively.
Being a fan of a lot of cushioning I was surprised that despite being a well-cushioned shoe, during runs they feel minimal. Brooks Gylcerin, which are my old faithful for road running feel like you are running on a lot of cushioning. But because of the On’s innovative cushioning the responsiveness gives the feel of a fast, efficient track shoe rather than a stodgy cushioned shoe. I also expected to feel each individual cloud pocket as I ran in an awkward lopsided way but surprisingly it feels like one cohesive unit.
However, my major gripe and why they won’t become my daily running shoe is down to this incredible bit of tech.
There are two sections of these pockets on the sole with a divide down the middle and this divide is where the problem lies. As they compress the divide in the middle of your shoe widens and turns into the claw from an arcade game picking up whatever it can on the surface you’re running on. Because I live in the countryside rather than the pristine, stone free roads in the advertising by the end of a run my shoes are more like a quarry then a shoe (picture below). I have often had to stop mid run and awkwardly try to fish out the collected stones as they scratch along the ground affect your running.
I know full well that these shoes are not my new marathon shoe. After about 10km of running I can feel hot spots starting to form on the ball of my foot and I experienced some rubbing on the heel . But every cloud has a silver lining and I will, however, use them in my attempts to set new 5K and 10K PBs later this year because of their incredible boost in speed.
So far, I’ve logged about 100 miles in them and have also used them as my shoes in the gym, a place where I feel they really thrive. The airpockets allow for more drive in squats and cushioning for my weighty body during more impact exercises. What is great, that despite all that, there is very little wear and tear on the shoes and I really feel like I will keep using these shoes on and off for many years to come.
BUT the big question is; would I recommend this shoes?
If you are a fast runner looking to go faster in a 5K or 10K then 100%. If you are looking for a shoe to do the shorter, more explosive training runs then still 100%. If you are someone like myself who is an average runner with an above average weight then no, save your money and find a shoe that will do both the long runs and the short runs while cushioning you every step of the way like the Brooks Glycerin or the New Balance Fresh Foam 1080v8.
So in conclusion:
On has created an innovative bit of technology that isn’t a gimmick with the Cloudtec, which offers a surge of speed twinned with cushioning in a lightweight and stable shoe. While it isn’t the perfect shoe for my running goals, it might well be for you.