REVIEW: ON Running The Cloud 24/7






On Running has been around since 2011. I first came to know about the brand when I visited their booth at the 2011 Ironman 70.3 World Championships Expo in Henderson, Nevada. They were an up and coming brand at the time and were getting some attention from the Slowtwitch forums, so I decided to check them out. They had only one commercially available shoe at the time, the Cloudrunner, retailing for a then promotional price of ~US$140 if I recall correctly. The folks at ON Running took a rather novel approach to midsole cushioning, and that is a compressible ring of rubber (coined a Cloudtec Element), which is supposed to compress during footstrike and rebound back into shape as the foot takes off. This in turn generates a sort of cushioned and bouncy feel to the shoe. Back in 2011, I was quite new to running technology and I had arrived at the race planning to wear my trust Brooks Launch on race day, but a short jog around the expo in their demo samples had me sold. I promptly bought two pairs of the shoes at a then ~$1.75 conversion rate and duly used the Cloudrunners during my triathlon. The race itself didn’t go quite according to plan but it wasn’t down to the shoes. I did not notice it at the time but when I got back to Singapore and started running in the Cloudrunners again, I found that I had very bad heel rub that I could not quite get around despite playing with the lacing. I did not use the Cloudrunners again for a long time. I later found that subsequent updates to the shoe included some modifications to the heel counter of the shoe which seems to have addressed the heel rub issue I had with version one, but I never got round to trying Cloud shoes again.


Fast forward to 2015, and ON Running has built up a healthy following, especially in the European market, and now sports several different models, with The Cloud 24/7 being its latest model. Curiously, their entire line appears to target only neutral runners. At the end of May, my girlfriend purchased a pair of The Cloud 24/7 shoes and told me that she found the feel similar to her Adidas Adios Boost, and that was the spark I needed to give ON shoes another try. I immediately set about getting a pair of ON The Cloud 24/7 to test out. 

photo credit: On Running Singapore
The first thing that struck me about The Cloud 24/7 is that it is a lot lighter than the rest of the shoes in the ON Running line-up. My pair of US9.5s came in at 230g a piece, and that’s including a fairly thick and padded insole. 



Out of the box, the shoes come stock with elastic laces, though there is a set of conventional laces thrown in if you wish to switch them out. The Cloud is designed as a do-it-all shoe, including casual use and so I suspect the elastic laces were used to allow for a more dynamic comfortable fit. During the testing of this shoe, I deliberately used the stock elastic laces for half the runs and conventional laces for the other half.

FIT

Sizing wise, the shoe fits very slightly on the long side for me. I normally wear a US9.5, and while a US9.5 fits fine with padded socks, it does feel a tiny bit long with thinner race-day socks. I would place this shoe in the medium category as far as shoe volume goes. The breathable mesh upper combined with minimal suede overlays in the forefoot provide ample volume for the toes to splay naturally. There are more rigid overlays in the midfoot and the heel, and these provide more structural support to the foot. The heel counter is relatively low and unpadded and this does a good job of not getting in the way. The tongue is somewhat rigid and sufficiently padded to protect the foot from any pressure points from the laces. Overall the fit and feel of the shoe is very comfortable, and there is definitely the potential for casual use like a pair of moccasins. The shoe comes with a straight last and has minimal arch support. Combined with the adequate width in the midfoot, this shoe makes for a good candidate for people with low arches.     


photo credit: On Running Singapore

photo credit: On Running Singapore

MIDSOLE

The midsole is what differentiates ON shoes from the rest of the herd, and the Cloud is actually different from the rest of the ON running line in that it has Cloudtec Elements lining the entire length of the outsole, providing a full ground contact feel to the shoe. The other ON running shoes have Cloudtec Elements situated strategically in the forefoot and the heel as high pressure landing zones. The other thing I noticed is that the Cloudtec Elements in The Cloud appear to be less compressible than e.g. on the Cloudrunner, and I think this was achieved by a more squared shape.  Combined with the full length lining of the Elements, this generates a more stable landing platform, and actually reduces ground “feel”. With the Cloudrunner, the Elements compressed more readily so even though there was impact cushioning, you still got maximum ground feel just before toe off, even at slower paces. 

photo credit: On Running Singapore

photo credit: On Running Singapore
With the Cloud, partly because there are many more Elements to share the weight, and partly because the squared Elements are less compressible, there is a variable degree of ground feel depending on running pace. At a slower easy jog, your feet land softer and the Elements never fully compress, giving the typical spongy Cloud-feel that you expect from ON shoes. When you want to run fast, the feet push harder at toe-off, and the maximum compression gives a more responsive feel, but because the Elements in the Cloud are less compressible, you retain the spongy feel over a wider range of running paces. 

Additionally, there is a Speedboard that runs the full length of the midsole and this serves to evenly distribute weights across all the Cloudtec Elements. The Speedboard is also present on some of the other ON running shoes, but seems to be more perceptible in terms of providing torsional rigidity for the Cloud, possibly because the Cloud is a lower stack shoe compared to its cousins.

OUTSOLE

The outsole of the Cloud is composed of exposed midsole EVA foam in the midfoot section, and overlain with blown rubber (coined Cloudtec rubber) in the high wear areas (forefoot and heel). Horizontal grooves in both the Cloudtec rubber and the midsole EVA (coined Honeycomb Slip Pattern) serve to add traction and grip to the outsole. This scheme of saving weight by restricting outsole rubber to the high wear zones is quite common these days, and in this shoe, the overall traction is more than sufficient for road use. I did manage to get a small pebble lodged in the middle groove once, but most of the time the shoe doesn’t pick up much debris at all. 

photo credit: On Running Singapore
As far as overall durability goes, the rebound properties of the midsole appear to hold up pretty well. I have clocked about 200km in this shoe and have yet to notice any loss of bounce in the shoe. As far as wear goes, the outsole blown rubber is hold up very well, though there are some early signs of wear on the grooves of the exposed midfoot region. I think this is especially evident for me, because I tend to lend on my lateral midfoot a lot when I run. I think the blown rubber will easily get past the 500km mark, but I suspect the midfoot grooves will be mostly worn at that point.





OVERALL RIDE

The ride quality was somewhat influenced by which laces I used for these shoes. With the elastic laces, it took me a while to get the right tension, and once I bedded in the tension of the laces, there was a decent lock-down in the midfoot (the elastic does not cover the forefoot) and minimal heel slippage. The elastic made it really convenient to slip in and out of the shoe quickly too. I did, however, find that on fast cornering or going downhill, my feet tended to move around a little too much within the shoe to inspire confidence for more technical terrain or race use. When I replaced the stock elastic laces with conventional laces, I was mainly able to get a better lock-down in the forefoot and this helped to stabilize the foot better within the shoe and inspired more confidence with quick directional changes or bombing down that slope.

Generally, I like that the shoe has a bouncy feel to it without feeling overly mushy, and that it has a relatively low arch structure which I believe will suit Asian foot shapes well. I really like the insole for its generous padding; it is one of the best insoles I’ve encountered on the market, and I see myself using it aftermarket in other running shoes in my rotation. The toespring of the shoes combine well with the Speedboard to generate a nice smooth transition from midfoot to forefoot. This is not a shoe that flexes easily, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. In fact I found that more than anything, the Speedboard acted somewhat like a torsion plate and reminded me somewhat of the old Adidas Takumi Ren. The shoe comes in at a good weight for a lightweight trainer and I think in time, it will outsell the Cloudracer as the go-to racing shoe in the ON running line. Having used the shoes for a variety of runs, including hill intervals, uptempo runs, and easy runs, I like them best for uptempo runs. I think this shoe will work well as a racing shoe for distances of 10-42km.

If you like the feel of shoes like the Adidas Adios Boost, or the New Balance Zante, but find the fit of those shoes overly restrictive or narrow, especially in the forefoot (as some people have reported them to be), then the ON Cloud may be the answer for you as it has a generous forefoot last. Finally I really like that the shoe works well over a wide range of paces. You would be surprised how hard it is to find a shoe that works well for both fast intervals and easy runs; some shoes are great for uptempo work but beat you up on easy runs. This shoe is able to adapt to feel sufficiently responsive at fast paces while feeling well cushioned on easy runs. If you could only have one shoe, this would be very high up on a very short list of candidates.

There are very few things I don’t like about the shoe. As a running shoe, I would have liked the midfoot overlays to have been a little more performance-oriented akin to the Cloudracer. The other thing about the overlays is that the fabric used tends to be on the thicker and more rigid side and so when it gets wet from running, it takes a longer time to dry than the typical running shoe. I think there are some weight savings to be had there, but I can understand the direction ON took with this, given that the shoe is also aimed at being an everyday casual wear shoe. Finally, I would have preferred a less rigid tongue in this shoe. I can understand that their tongues are fairly standard across the ON range, but I think the tongue is just a little too stiff for a “racer” and even more so for a casual shoe, which presumably, some people would go sockless in. There is nothing wrong functionally with the current tongue as it does not budge at all during the run, not does it cause abrasions or discomfort, but I think it may be even more comfortable with a slightly softer construct.


















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