REVIEW: CLOUDSURFER ON RUNNING SHOES
ON running shoes were born as a collaborative project between former world duathlon champion and Ironman champion Olivier Bernhard and his two friends – David Allemann and Caspar Coppetti. They set out to make a running shoe combining superior cushioning within a form that allowed for ideal running biomechanics. Their vision was realized through a proprietary technology that turned the jarring impact of the foot landing into an energy-efficient push off. The journey to arrive at that point involved trial and error of countless prototypes. Specifically, their goal was to create a shoe that offered a combination of vertical and horizontal cushioning when foot occurred. In a story reminiscent of the Nike waffle-iron sole – ON’s unique hollow sole actually evolved from a primitive prototype consisting of sliced up garden hoses glued to the bottom of the shoe.
The final prototype tested in early 2010 focused on simultaneously reducing pronation and strengthening the foot. A first glance at ON running shoes reveals a design that stands out from other shoe makers. Viewed from the side the see-through sole appears to resemble cartoon clouds supporting the shoe’s uppers. It seems so simple compared to the complex technologies other shoe manufacturers have come up with. A series of ringed tubes act as springs and give the shoe a truly unique shock-absorbing cushion. The company calls this cushion design “CloudTec”. Complimenting the clever technology is a refined design aesthetic that is refreshingly minimalist. A 3-4 color palette combines bold with subtle with the eye-pleasing effect of allowing the textures of the shoe materials to shine through.
The Cloudsurfer makes an immediate impression from the very first run. It feels very much like an extension of the foot – both snug and comfortable. New Cloudsurfers have a very firm landing which will soften somewhat as shoe mileage increases. Nonetheless it is definitely a firmer ride than most shoes. These shoes feel fast with good grip on either dry or wet roads due to the quality of rubber and lightly grooved tread patterns.
Between the midsole and outsole is a speedboard made of a waffle-like material that is intended to flex in appropriate ways as the foot gait swings forward with each stride. The stable midsole plate is designed to promote proper form by invisibly guiding foot motion starting from the rear outer edge and moving forward towards the toes during push-off.
The Cloudsurfer is targeted at competitive runners looking for a shoe appropriate for both training and racing. The Cloudsurfer is lighter than the Cloudster and Cloudrunner models with materials that are indeed different. The Cloudsurfer has a mesh paneling upper for breathability and keeps the foot cooler during warm seasons. This breathability, conversely makes them unsuitable for cold winter or autumn runs outdoors.TRAIL TEST
Running off-road in the Cloudsurfer is equally exciting as on road with one caveat. In wet conditions they can be somewhat slippery on uneven surfaces or rocky trails. The unique sole that elevates the foot on its “spring” platform can result in stability issues when running on natural trails littered with stones and twigs. It doesn’t mean you cannot trial run but you definitely need to be more alert and watching the trail surface for incoming obstacles.
PACKAGING & SUSTAINABILITY
Upon opening the box it becomes quickly apparent that ON has chosen to use ECO packaging. The box contents are as minimalist as the shoe design with only what is necessary to safely transport the shoes present. Materials for the box and shoe forms are made out of recycled paper which can in turn be recycled.
The normal array of tags and brochures have been replaced by a single black ON Customer ID card. Customers can register online with the ID number. Registration includes warranty and allows for feedback participation with ON as well as access to future updates and news.
WHO IS THE CLOUDSURFER FOR?
ON running shoes model differences are based on how fast you plan to run. The Cloudster model designed for the beginner level. Cloudrunner model is for those running high mileage. Next is the Cloudsurfer, good for both training and racing needs. Lastly is the Cloudracer, the lightest of the group and made for racing. The Cloudsurfer has a heel-toe offset of 6mm and weighs less than six ounces (170 grams). It is designed for runs of 4 to 5 minute per km pace (6.4 to 8 min mile)
At the 2012 Ironman in Melbourne, Tela Loroupe narrowly missed the female Ironman world record while racing with ON running shoes. ON is a serious running shoes company with its the intelligence, verve and moxy to compete with the giant brands. If the ON Cloudsurfer was a car it would be cast in the mold of a Porsche or Ferrrari with a rigid chassis that allows you to feel the terrain below. The Cloudsurfer feels quick and light – its responsiveness to your movement is simply fantastic. These are shoes designed to make the running purist happy on all fronts. Those with a need for speed should make the Cloudsurfer a top choice. Running with a pair of ON Cloudsurfer’s strapped to your feet makes runs feel more exciting and exhilarating.