If you’re a fan of On and you’re looking for a firm racing shoe for short distances, the Cloudboom Echo 3 is for you. It has decent stability and a hydrophobic upper.
If you’re looking for a soft racer for long distances, the Cloudboom Echo 3 is not for you. If you want a racer that can double up as a trainer, it’s also not for you.
On is currently the hype brand of running. Over the past 12 months, I’ve received more questions about my On shoes than when I’m wearing any other brand. At my local specialty running shoe store, they’ve told me that sales of On have skyrocketed and it’s one of their top selling brands at the moment, even though it’s the most expensive.
Personally, I don’t think that On running shoes perform better than any other brand but they market themselves as a premium Swiss brand and they don’t try to compete with price. Their unmistakable, unique Cloudtec designs are what fascinates both runners and non runners. I admit that the On uppers are the most comfortable and best fitting in the game. I’ll give them that.
The last 2 On shoes that I’ve reviewed, the Cloudsurfer and the Cloudmonster were fantastic. I continued using both shoes in my rotation after reviewing them. What I liked about them was that they weren’t firm like previous On shoes and they had really engaging ride transitions.
The Cloudboom Echo 3 is On’s flagship marathon racer and it costs a whopping $290. It has a stack height of 37 mm in the heel and 28 mm in the forefoot, comfortably below the World Athletics limit. It weighs 7.6 oz (215 g) which is competitive, and it’s the exact same weight as the Adidas Adios Pro 3.
The Cloudboom Echo 3 has been completely revamped and it’s the first time they are using Helion HF midsole foam which is made from Pebax. They state that it’s their fastest race-day shoe.
I ordered the shoe from the On international website as soon as it launched. Most of the sizes were available but an hour later, there were only a couple of sizes left. It will be restocked in September.
When I took the Cloudboom Echo 3 out the box for the first time, I was disappointed with the finishing of the shoe. There were dried glue pieces stuck to the outsole and a loose thread sticking out the inside of the shoe. It definitely didn’t feel like a $290 shoe.
My first run was a hill repeats session. My first observation was that the ride felt a lot firmer than I expected it to feel. It felt more like a half marathon racer than a full one. I felt a mild forefoot rocker which assisted to speed up transitions slightly and the carbon plate felt extremely stiff.
It didn’t feel as punchy to me as some of the other super shoes. The midsole foam didn’t feel as compressive or energetic as a top tier racer.
The shoe that it reminded me of most was the Kiprun KD900X from Decathlon but the Cloudboom Echo 3 felt a bit softer and much more comfortable. Both racers have firm, PEBA midsoles.
Like most On shoes, the Cloudboom Echo 3’s upper is its best feature: it’s lightweight, comfortable and has good lockdown. The material isn’t the most breathable but it doesn’t absorb any liquid.
The tongue is thin and semi-gusseted only on one side so there’s no excessive tongue slide. There’s no heel slippage but I do have to use a runner’s knot. There are additional eyelets underneath the regular ones for extra lacing options which is a rarity on running shoes these days.
It fits true to size but it’s a narrow fit so it’s not suitable for wide-footed runners. My favourite thing about the upper is the laces which have silicone inserts and a rough texture that feels really premium.
The Cloudboom Echo 3 has a ride which doesn’t feel like a marathon super shoe. There’s more ground feel and it feels a bit flat, there’s not much energy return.
On says that their new Helion HF midsole is ultra-soft and that it has plush cushioning but I disagree. If you love how squishy the ZoomX foam in the Vaporfly is and the ProFly X in the Rocket X 2 is, you’ll be disappointed with the firm Cloudboom Echo 3. The Cloudboom’s midsole is a firm Pebax that doesn’t compress much when loaded. It feels a bit like a firmer version of Adidas’ Lightstrike Pro.
I did every type of run in the Cloudboom Echo 3, from easy, to intervals, to tempo and threshold. It doesn’t have a versatile ride character. This is due to how firm the midsole feels underfoot. It just doesn’t feel comfortable when I’m doing easy paces slower than 5:30 minutes per kilometre (8:52 per mile). It only comes alive when I’m pushing the pace.
I feel that it’s best suited to short distance races up to the half marathon, intervals and short tempo runs. You can run a full marathon in it if you like firm rides. I did a 41 km long run but it wasn’t a comfortable one; in the second half, I craved a softer shoe.
The Cloudboom Echo 3 has a wide carbon plate- so wide that you can see it on both sides of the midsole. It’s a really stiff plate that doesn’t flex much. The stiff plate makes it feel snappy during uptempo runs but awkward during slow runs.
For a light runner like myself (60 km), I find the midsole too firm to fully engage the plate so I don’t feel a lot of speed assistance from it, even though it has an aggressive placement. There are unique gaps underneath the plate in the forefoot and heel but I didn’t notice that it makes a difference to the ride.
Another unique feature of the Cloudboom Echo 3 is the insole which has thin, silicone strips pasted onto the forefoot. These strips are designed to hold your feet in place. You can feel these strips under your forefoot so the ride is not a smooth one but you do get used to it.
Durability is the Cloudboom Echo 3’s biggest weakness. The outsole is not flat, so the raised parts catch the ground. I’ve noticed significant wear on the outer lateral midfoot and heel. On even states on the box that its lifespan is 4 marathons- that’s less than 170 km for a $290 shoe.
Traction is excellent. One of my runs was in light rain and it felt grippy throughout the run.
I’m disappointed with the Cloudboom Echo 3 and I expected more from it. It isn’t in my top 2 tiers of marathon racers. I find the ride to be too firm and it doesn’t offer as much propulsion as other long-distance racers. The forefoot rocker also isn’t very prominent so it doesn’t speed up transitions that much.
At $290, it’s just not worth it. It’s the second most expensive running shoe currently available (after the Adidas Prime X Strung) and it has extremely low durability so you have to save it for racing. It’s $40 more than other excellent racers like the Vaporfly 3, Rocket X 2 and Adios Pro 3 which are faster and softer.
I would only recommend the Cloudboom Echo 3 to you if you want a racer with a comfortable upper and a firm ride. If you’re a fan of On Running shoes, you’ll probably be happy with it because On shoes generally have firm rides but the Cloudboom Echo 3 doesn’t have that unique Cloudtec ride.
For the next version, I would make the midsole about 30 percent softer, I would increase the stack height to the maximum 40 mm and I would make the outsole flat to distribute the wear evenly over a larger area. Those changes would make it more competitive and more durable.