Over the last two months I have been testing a pair of OnRunning Cloudsurfers after I was offered the opportunity to review them at the end of last year. This was a new brand for me and a quick glance at their range had me instantly fascinated. The benefits of minimalist footwear have been widely publicised in recent years and many runners are now experimenting with simpler shoes. However on the other side of the argument there are companies out there pushing the boundaries of conventional running shoes, using every form of technology available in an attempt to create the perfect shoe with some interesting looking results.
On is a Swiss company founded by former Swiss Ironman Champion, Olivier Bernhard, and his two friends David Allemann and Caspar Coppettie. Olivier’s theory was that the sole of the perfect running shoe needed to have cushioning for horizontal as well as vertical forces which worked in harmony both when the athlete lands and when they take off again. The prototype was created using bits of cut-up garden hose and the innovation began from there.
We’ve all heard of Hoka OneOne and seen their eye-catching large shoes built on thick soles. OnRunning have pushed the envelope further and created their striking trademark sole comprised of nine ‘clouds’. They have four models, each geared towards a different type of runner and terrain: Cloudster, Cloudrunner, Cloudsurfer, and Cloudracer. According to the athletes section on their website, many well known athletes and triathletes who have begun racing in these shoes have seen consistent improvements in their times and have gone on to race personal bests whilst wearing them.
I was sent the CloudSurfer Prism edition, which includes three extra sets of laces so you can co-ordinate your kit perfectly.
A small card inside the box declares:
“I unleash your speed.
This unique model celebrates the light running sensation of the On with the colour of light: white. While its looks make the heart go faster, running it will reduce your heartbeat again – so say the scientists.
Goal: Increase performance, train and compete
Target speed: 4-5 min km / 6.4 – 8 min/mile
Runner profile: Trained runners, runners looking to build up foot stability (pronation/supination)”
Sitting in the shabby changing rooms in the old gym at work, I felt unnerved yet excited tying these surreal Swiss works of art with an attitude to match onto my hooves. Just walking out to the door I felt a sprung, forward motion that hinted towards potential speed, although I would liken the initial sensation of walking on the ‘clouds’ to walking in a pair of hockey boots with soft cleats.
Off I went for my usual lunchtime 8 mile road circuit and I was immediately flying. I like to think that I’m usually pretty impervious to over-enthusiastic marketing promises, but everything that I had read about the shoe so far was true – my steps felt light, my feet were bouncing off the ground and my pace was effortlessly fast. The fit was snug but with plenty of room to move in the toe box, the ankle is well supported but with nothing hindering movement, and the forward motion encourages a light forefoot strike. It is almost impossible to heel-strike in these shoes.
Over the next few weeks I tried the shoes running slow, long, fast, sprinting, on trails and on a running track and I am extremely impressed with the performance. I did a speed session with my club in them and on each repeat when I sped up it was like putting your foot down in a powerful car and finding another level of energy altogether. If I put these on for the second of my back-to-back long runs, the extra cushioning makes fatigue appear to disappear from my legs. It might hurt to get the stiff legs going at first, but the shoes make busting out a double-figure run for the second day on the trot a breeze.
The one surface in which I do not find them beneficial is on soft or stony trails. The pods make my grip feel unstable and unbalanced, and the pods quickly clog up with mud and gravel. They are not designed or marketed as trail shoes though, so this cannot be marked down as a fault. I would be very interested to see what On come up with if they ever design a trail shoe.
At first, like many of my friends, I was a little skeptical of these creations. I have been working my way towards running in a more minimal shoe and this was a step in the ‘wrong’ direction. I am currently rotating several pairs of shoes and they are all lined up next to our front door. These days if I am running on road, when presented with my line-up I pick the CloudSurfers without a second thought – I love these shoes. I have a road half marathon (RunGarioch) and a road Marathon (Paris!) coming up in the next month and I intend to race them both in the Cloudsurfers. I can only hope that the shoes confer the same success on me as the OnRunning athletes and that I have two new PBs in my future.
CloudSurfers retail at £115 RRP and can be purchased directly from On HERE, or from various other outlets online.
As for the extra laces? Well someone found a use for them…
*disclosure* It goes without saying that as always, the opinions expressed in this post are my own and I have not been paid for this review.