What they say:
Making the Swiss Alps a little flatter.
Growing up in the Swiss Alps. The On team learned a thing or two about running in the mountains. When we set put to design the perfect trail shoe, we remembered what is important: a shoe so light and fast that you can reach the peak in time to watch the sunrise. Reliable grip for when a thunderstorm catches you by surprise. And clever cushioning to save your legs when you are flying back down to reach the valley before it gets dark.
Introducing the On Cloudventure. Engineered in Switzerland.
Runner profile: Runners looking for a lightweight trail shoe with full cushioning protection.
6 mm 0.23 in Heel-toe offset
— Seamlessly integrated lightweight rubber toe-cap
— Cleverly placed reflective strips all around shoe for improved visibility
— Extended rubber side and heel cage for extra protection
— Comfort liner for embedded fit
— Lightweight no-sew eyestay construction
— Antimicrobial sock liner
— Provides powerful take-off in complex terrain
Outer layer of the upper is built from engineered mesh. It is water-repellent and breathable at the same time and in the right places.
Toe-cap is firmly fused with the engineered mesh to protect the toes.
What I say:
I previously had very little experience or knowledge of On, I knew of one runner who has used them & although he was positive about them I was a little suspicious that their cloud cushioning system would be a gimmick or worse wouldn’t withstand the mileage I expected from my shoes.
That said, when I was invited along with several journalists & dealers to the launch of their first trail model in the Engadin Valley, Switzerland I wasn’t going to turn down the opportunity. For fairly obvious reasons and if I’m honest the shoes weren’t top of that list.
We had a pair of the shiny new Cloudventure Trail shoes given to us & first impressions were good, lovely details proved the attention to details described by the team during the tour of their new offices and they certainly look like a premium running product. Trying them on for the first time they fit like a glove, or more accurately like a pair of slippers. They feature a soft inner lining which would enable you to wear them without socks, but with them they ensure a snug but not too tight fit that added to the instant feeling of comfort out of the box. Walking in them at first was an odd experience, you can feel the cloud collapsing, not with a bump but with noticeable cushioning, particularly on the heel. This doesn’t cause imbalance or instability at all & once you’ve got used to it and as they push back as the regains their shape, what is described by On as ‘snapicity’ it returns some energy.
We took them on a steady hike along a trail just outside St Moritz to try the Cloudventure out before running in them and they performed well, as comfortable as expected, the DWR kept the water at bay admirably & they inspired a quick pace but the real test was to be the next day.
Next morning we assembled early to really put them through their paces, in On Running’s birth place, the foothills of the Swiss Alps. The first couple of miles took us along tarmac tracks & out to stunning trails and single track winding through woodland & along a lake side. The shoes functioned well, 2 things that stood out particularly during this stretch was how confidence inspiring they were on the descents and how well they coped with the different terrains. Many shoes are described as ‘Door to Trail’ but these felt like they met this particular mandate without compromise, unlike many shoes designed for this purpose the transition from the hard man made surface to spongy pine needles was seamless and the Cloudventure appeared to deal with both as well as the other.
After stopping for a breather we headed up a climb, the shoes again did well on the terrain, good enough grip to push up onto the front of the foot to power up the ascent. Briefly anyway until I struggled with the altitude and slowed to a wobble for the remainder of the climb. Reaching the top we had a stopped for a chat & to take some photos & film of the shoes and views.
I opted for the long course which continued through the woodland taking several ascents between some very fast steep descents. Olivier described their search for the perfect balance between ‘slip & grip’ which in use meant that on the descents there is a certain amount of movement underfoot, which is good on surfaces like the pine needles and dirt but I found they didn’t inspire the same confidence on the rocky ground, particularly wet rock and I struggled on this terrain, especially on the steep downhills. Others were flying down regardless of the terrain, though so this may say more about my technical abilities than the shoes.
The On Running team obviously have a genuine passion for running and particularly the trails & mountains of Engadin and their enthusiasm was infectious – although the views also helped.
What is my conclusion of the Cloudventure?
They performed very well on the varied terrain we threw at them. By the teams own admission they designed these shoes to incorporate some movement underfoot (in contrast to Salomon for example who build shoes specifically designed to grip & hold) so this will be a factor whether these work for you. I found they were exceptionally comfortable and on many surfaces the movement was welcome as it meant a more natural gait, but it did mean I struggled with confidence on some terrain during fast descents.
I’m not sure I can agree they made the Swiss Alps a little flatter but if you run on a varied surfaces on your trail run they are nigh on perfect ‘door to trail’ shoes.
Edit: Since originally writing this review for the launch of the On Cloudventure I have chosen them as my shoe for the Lakeland 50 and Day 1 of the Druids Challenge and other than the right shoe squeaking annoyingly their performance and most notably comfort has continued to impress.