UPDATED: On CloudFlow Running Shoe Review

25 Apr , 2017 Lifestyle,Reviews,Sports

UPDATED: On CloudFlow Running Shoe Review

UPDATE: 09/24/2017

I have updated this post after 6 months and over 600 miles of combined running and walking in the On CloudFlow. I still stand 100% behind my initial assessment. In fact, I will go so far as to say that these are perhaps the best running shoes I have ever owned. They held up very well to a lot of mileage and terrain. Outside of the original annoyances I outlined below there was only one other issue that came up. The fabric/cushioning on the inside of the heel section, wore out entirely. There is a picture below of what the shoe looks like after 600 miles. I presume the excessive wear and tear in the heel is due to the number of miles I put on the shoes and the fact that I do not unlace my shoes before taking them off or putting them on. So, it’s probably mostly my fault. In fact, my wife’s pair did not wear out in the same way and she ran far fewer miles and is better at putting her shoes on the right way. Ultimately, I plan to buy another pair of the exact same model and color for the next 6 months and try out their racing flats in spring.

SUMMARY


Over the past 10 years, some variation of the Nike Free has been my go to running shoe. However, a couple of years ago, Nike started to use the Flyknit material to reinvent the shoe. To their credit, the new materials resulted in probably the most snug and comfortable running shoe I have ever owned. One caveat though was that the durability of the shoe vanished. I was lucky to get 250 miles in before they would fall apart. With that being said I have been experimenting with different shoes since then. I have tried other Nike running shoes but none performed like the Free.

Recently I discovered the “On” brand of shoes after doing some research and reading reviews in various athletic magazines. On is a Swedish manufacturer and relative new comer to the shoe game. Their differentiator is the use of the Pocket cushioning system in the sole. This scientific approach creates a number of individualized air pockets across the bottom of the shoe. This system adapts to almost any foot strike pattern and running form. Moreover, it gives the shoe a very lightweight feel by not carrying so much cushion material in the sole. In this review, I will discuss and rate the Cloudflow model from On. This particular model is the most akin to the low profile, minimalist, and racer style of the Nike Free 3.0 Flyknit.

DESIGN & FEEL

While not as snug as the Nike Free, the Cloudflow is an extremely comfortable shoe. The shoe weighs in at a lightweight 7.8 ounces thanks to the use of lightweight materials and being engineered to be as minimalist as possible. It has a low profile design and a heel-to-toe offset of 6mm. The upper last doesn’t soil easy and is perforated in just the right areas for ventilation. I especially love that the tongue does not dig into the skin and the toe box is wide and comfy. The shoe laces are extra thin which while providing for lightweight feel can actually be a problem because they seem to become easily undone. They can be easily replaced though with some draw string style laces.

Style is subjective, but I personally find the Cloudflows to be sleek and versatile enough to go well with a casual outfit for strolling around in. The only funky part may be your level of comfort with a sole that has holes through the side of the air pockets. I had no issues with the side profile and don’t get many questions about it either. I think with all of the sole experiments that have come out over the years, people have gotten use to all sorts of shapes and colors of shoes. In fact, I especially like their color options. Nike offers everything in the rainbow whereas On has about 3-4 options. Though limited, they are carefully appointed but not so reserved to make them dull. I went with the grey and orange highlighted models myself. My wife went with the black and white models because they go with most anything.

FEATURES & PERFORMANCE

Activity Testing

I have used the On Cloudflows for three specific types of activities; running (treadmill and road), walking, and cross training in the gym. All three activities involve different foot strikes and lateral versus sustained forward motion. I found that the shoe was a great multi-purpose shoe for all three activities, although not under all conditions. I’ll explain more for each activity below.

Running Use

I first took the shoe for a 6.2 mile test run with my dog after getting them (see below). Outside of the lack of familiarity with them they performed well out of the gate. I struggled most with trying to find an ideal lacing tension and pattern. I have run on treadmills, roads, and park trails in these shoes. The shoe excels on the treadmills which would semm obvious but I have not found that to be the case with all shoes. Some shoes can have an odd and uncomfortable strike on the treadmill or lack of grip for the various types of treadmill surfaces.

On the road, the On Cloudflow is great in dry track or concrete/asphalt conditions. I actually believe my hill performance has improved in these shoes. I say that only because I know my foot strike is different going uphill and these shoes respond well to that. While you won’t break records on the track, the shoes grip just tight enough around the foot to use for speed work or racing. However, in wet conditions, the slick sole of the shoe and lack of tread pattern make them less than ideal. The lack of performance in is less than ideal conditions is an odd miss for a company out of Sweden. It’s ok with me, because I generally only run outside during optimal conditions. However, the hardcore 24/7/365 types may want a different shoe.

The Cloudflow is marketed as a road shoe so it should seem obvious not to use them on trails but I double checked how they would do on easy park trails for this review. On most densely packed gravel trails they do ok. However, because of the air pockets, it is likely that you will get rocks stuck in between the pockets. This extra baggage is true on any surface you run on. Something that needs to be addressed in future models if possible. Rocks usually get stuck in the heel section where the spacing is looser between air pockets, but I mostly strike on the front of my foot. So, I mostly get things stuck in my shoes while walking which is where I am likely to heel strike.

Walking Use

I walk a lot compared to most athletes. Mostly, because we live in a walkable area and have an energetic 50 pound Goldendoodle who needs to go on walks to look for squirrels. So, I  get in 9-15 miles a week with these shoes just walking around Atlanta. I also have walked over 50 miles through the Manhattan urban jungle in these shoes. If you are on a tourist holiday, you can walk all day in these with no back pain. Their styling also gives them a good casual/leisure work that can go well with all sorts of athleisure wear or a pair of jeans. Again, walking in the rain and gravel/rocky surfaces is not ideal but not as bad compared if you are in the middle of a race with them.

Training Use

When I mention training, I specifically am talking about dynamic and explosive workouts like Crossfit, Bootcamp or HIIT workouts. Lately, the athletic shoe industry has been creating shoes just for these types of sessions. I am not a big fan of owning a shoe for every little specific activity so it is important to me that my athletic shoes be multi-purpose. I have used the Cloudflows in all three types of workouts.  I credit the lightweight and responsive materials for giving this shoe the range of motion needed for these types of activities. Moreover, I am especially pleased with it’s support during lateral movement. Some shoes shift under you or feel too heavy for dynamic motion.

These shoes grip and respond well to every movement from burpees, to lunges, to shuttle runs and box jumps. The inner sole sticks with your foot, the upper last has the right balance of rigidity and flex to let your foot move inside but not become displaced. The air pockets adapt as the surface and foot position change so that you can concentrate on the movement and not worry about trying to make bad corrections through body positioning or modifying the excercise so your shoes will work. I was escpecially encouraged when I saw that my athletic trainer was using the same shoe in gym sessions and loving them.

COMPARISONS

I’ll stick to comparing these shoes against the last three running shoes I have owned.

PRODUCT COMPARISON
Category vs. Nike Free vs. Nike Zoom Pegasus vs. New Balance Minimalist
Style: Nike Free On CloudFlow On CloudFlow
Running Use: On CloudFlow On CloudFlow On CloudFlow
Walking Use: On CloudFlow On CloudFlow On CloudFlow
Training Use: On CloudFlow On CloudFlow New Balance
Feel: Nike Free On CloudFlow On CloudFlow
Durability: On CloudFlow On CloudFlow On CloudFlow
Weight: Tie On CloudFlow New Balance

VERDICT

I am aiming to put a total of 333 to 399 miles on these shoes before replacing them. At the time of writing this review I just crossed the 100 mile mark in them. I can already see they may be more durable than my last 3 pair of shoes. I will try and update this post with long-term results when I change them out. I hope that On will address the shoe lace, wet surface, and spacing between pockets issue before the next time I buy a pair. Regardless, these shoes rate as an 8 out of 10 for me and I would recommend them to anybody. They are priced at the higher end of the market but worth every dollar.

SUMMARY
Score Pros Cons
8 out of 10
  • Super comfortable and responsive strike.
  • Finding the ideal lacing pattern and style comes with a learning curve. The shoes laces come undone more than with other shoes.
  • Lightweight feel helps limit fatigue.
  • The shoe does not do well on wet surfaces or trails.
  • Materials do not scuff or soil easily.
  • Rocks get stuck between pockets.
  • Air pockets adapt as your foot strike changes depending on activity.
  • Good racing shoe; I used them in a 10K and 5K race already this year.

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