ON Running Cloudrunner A New Year’s Resolution
I started running, I mean really running in 2009. I went from not being a runner and struggling to run 2 km to a full marathon at 3:52 in 4 months. Determination and not being employed were major factors in the time I could devote to my training. After the first marathon, I caught it — the distance running bug. Two months later I was running another marathon.
Tracking my runs with iPhone Apps like RunKeeper and dacadoo I saw last year, 2012, that I had run some 2500 kilometers. I decided that this year I wanted to run at least 3000 km, which is about Zurich, Switzerland to Oulu, Finland or Jerusalem, Israel. Loving to run distances requires a lot of time and staying in good condition to get out there day after day.
During the week I like to run on paths along the river and up gravel hiking paths to the top of Zurich’s local mountain, the Üetliberg (approx. 400 m of climb). At the weekends in the summer I prefer to run mountain marathons, which help get the distances in quickly.
ON Running Cloudrunner 3 Years of Running on Clouds
For the past three years I’ve been running on clouds, that is I’ve been running with the patented CloudTec system found on the running shoes from the Zurich based company ON. I’ve tried almost every model over their many releases and my favourite is the Cloudrunner. Perhaps it’s because the very first pair I ran with were Cloudrunners, but I’d say it has more to do with the fact that this shoe is built for endurance and I find it hard not to run at least 20km when I go out.
The first model I tried 3 years ago was a bulky looking shoe with a light grey upper and light blue sole. Colour wise it wasn’t offensive, but not impressive either. However, those who noticed the shoes, noticed them for their CloudTec, that is the rubber ringlets that make up the sole. These absorb both vertical and horizontal shock and make running very comfortable. The uppers though were a thick mesh that kept the foot from breathing and led to sweaty feet.
Last year, 2012, ON released an updated model of the Cloudrunner. The colours were changed to dark grey (stone) and yellow. They looked brilliant, the mesh on the upper was made thinner and allowed your feet to breath. The ringlets were also stronger. I used these shoes for three mountain marathons, one of which was the Swissalpine Ultra the day after I got them, so it was literally my first run in them.
I had a great experience with them and on the Jungfrau Marathon, which I ran on two consecutive days, I beat my previous record each day. However, after 6 months the uppers along the front of the foot started to rip near the sole. I have a wide foot, and this is one of the main reasons mesh uppers will weaken and rip over time with me.
ON Running Cloudrunner A redesign
This year’s Cloudrunner has been completely redesigned. Dark grey and an aqua blue sole, they look great. ON has kept the side sewn tongue, which keeps it from sliding around and like was mentioned in the previous post on the Cloudsurfers, allows Triathletes to change their shoes faster.
The configuration of the CloudTec has also changed. They have increased the number of ringlets from 13 to 15 and their distribution is better suited to how the average runner lands and roles on the foot. This means running with the shoes now feels even better. I run a great deal on gravel paths and have had no issues with stones getting caught between the ringlets, which is a concern of many who see the shoes for the first time.
The designers have even added little side walls beside the ringlets to keep them from collecting dirt. On has also built in what the call the Speedboard – a plastic mesh sole piece that helps with energy transfer and give an additional spring in the take off. The Speedboard also adds more rigidity to the sole.
ON Running Cloudrunner Performance
My first race, 4 days after wearing them for the first time was the Zurich Marathon. During the race I really noticed the energy feedback from the Speedboard – running was smooth and light. I have a fairly neutral run with slight pronation, and am a mid/forefoot runner — that is definitely not a heel-striker.
The new layout of the ringlets made the landing even softer than with the previous Cloudrunners. For as soft as the landing is though, the push off is stable and powerful. My goal was 3:20, which would have been 5 minutes off my best time from the Zurich Marathon 2011. The day was cool and cloudy – perfect running weather.
I started behind the 3:15 pacer, hoping that if I just kept him in sight, I’d achieve my new PB. At kilometer 12 that all changed, when the 3:15 group stopped for water and I didn’t. For the next 30km I ran believing that they were hot on my tail. I finished in 3:11.47 – very happy and then walked 4km to brunch with friends.
ON Running Cloudrunner On the trails
Since the Zurich marathon, I’ve worn the Cloudrunner on several light to medium trail runs with one that was totally into the wild. When I hit the trails I usually run established hiking trails in Switzerland (Wanderwege) which can go from paved surfaces gravel to sections of uncovered tree roots and others where a stream needs to be run through.
Before tackling the SOLA (a 115km relay race around the mountains or rather large hills surrounding Zürich) I ran a new path up the Üetliberg where I found that I was in the woods without any trail and was pulling myself up with trees and bush as much as running. The hold in the shoes was good, but these shoes are meant for running on established trails.
I’ve also worn ONs in the high Alps and as long as the trail is established, I’ve had no issues. For pure off trail running or highly technical trails, a trail specific shoe will serve you better. My segment of the SOLA was almost 15 km of uphill and downhill racing. I finished this race with a new record pace for myself and then ran home another 5km to shower, maintaining my pace.
The Cloudrunner with the horizontal shock absorption makes running downhill comfortable and easy. The reinforced sides along the sole and upper give the foot great support, you never feel like you’re going to roll over on your ankle or that you’re sliding around.
ON Running Cloudrunner Overall Assessment
Over 500km into the new Cloudrunners, the uppers and all the seams are holding much better than the last model, but are lighter and breathe better than the first. I think On has finally found the right upper design. The ringlets are also stronger and their new configuration means there is less wear on them, so they hold up better. Runners can expect to get a few additional hundred kilometers out of these shoes.
This shoe is also well-suited to runners up to 80kg and has a weight itself of 381g (size 11 US / 45 EU), it’s not a sprinting shoe, but an endurance shoe. The Speedboard definitely does deliver and provides great energy transfer back to the runner while adding additional rigidity to the soul, which was missing from the previous versions. With this I can say that these are definitely the best ONs to date.
ON Running Cloudrunner Future Wishes
What I’d like to see in the future are a series for wider-footed people like myself and a trail running shoes, as I’m convinced that the CloudTec lends itself ideally to downhill running and navigating trails. Of course this will demand a change in the ringlet configuration and a more abrasive tread with a grippier rubber. The uppers should have a reinforced band around the entire sole to make sure sharper stones do not lead to premature tears.
At present wet surfaces on polished rock are definitely still slippery and require a special rubber. Runners going off trail and really needing to feel the ground, will also want to consider another shoe like an Inov8. Until ON releases a trail shoe, most trail runners will be well served by the new Cloudrunner in most conditions.
We thank the nice people at ON Running for sending us a pair of Cloudrunner to test. This did not influence the outcome of the review, written after running more than 50 miles in them.