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7.5 oz. (215 g) for a US M8.5
6.6 oz. (188 g) for a US W7.5
37 mm in heel, 27.5 mm in forefoot (9.5 mm drop)
Race day with premium Swiss style
Pebax-based Helion SF midsole, full-length carbon fiber plate, lightweight upper
MEAGHAN: We’ve been on quite the journey with On running shoes. It wasn’t a great start, but now we find ourselves lacing them up (and enjoying them) for daily training, and, wait for it… race day. Earlier this year, On surprised us with the Cloudsurfer, a daily trainer that’s soft (thanks to the removal of the Speedboard) and made it on our list of top trainers of 2023. And now, we have the Cloudboom Echo 3, a race day shoe that’s finding itself on many a podium, as well as my shoe of choice for the recent BAA 10K.
The big story and update to the Cloudboom Echo 3 is the HF superfoam midsole, a fully recyclable midsole made from Pebax and 46% bio-based materials (derived from castor beans). Paired with a full-length Speedboard carbon fiber plate and Cloudtec design, the elements come together to bring On into the modern race-day world. The upper is also race-ready, featuring a microfiber material that’s breathable and reduces water absorption. It’s light, it’s fast, and it will cost you: $289.99, to be exact.
So is this pretty racer worth the pennies? Let’s find out.
THOMAS: Let’s start with a clean slate. I’m going to forget about any On shoe that came out before the On Cloudmonster cause since then, the On team has been hitting zingers, but before that, On was a swing and a miss for us. Meg, Robbe, and I enjoyed the Cloudmonster, the Cloudgo, and the Cloudsurfer. So, when we got a peek at the Cloudboom Echo 3, I was eager to see if the streak could continue. Batter up. Let’s see if this one can make it on base.
ROBBE: “On again, being On again” was often the sad refrain here at Believe in the Run, but I’m tired of referencing the before times. Because it’s clear that On has changed for good. For those who were victims of running shoe store employees pushing On models prior to 2022, I’m sorry for your experience, and hopefully you’ve gotten therapy for your PTSD. I’m sure they are too. Come back to the clouds; there’s plenty of oxygen up here for everyone.
Thomas and Meg covered the basics, but I’ll say this — give me some Pebax, carbon fiber, and the best design team in the game, and my interest is definitely piqued. There’s been a lot of hype around this shoe for what seems like the last two hurricane seasons. Let’s see if the Cloudboom Echo 3 lights up and cracks the sky or, like a blip on the radar, just passes us by. Maybe you’ll float too.
RYAN: I wasn’t even supposed to get this shoe (as Robbe will explain later), so I’m just here for a little extra flavor at the end. The Cloudboom Echo 3 is only my second experience with On, too, so I can’t even listen to How Far We’ve Come by Matchbox Twenty without feeling like a little bit of an imposter. However, it’s pretty clear that On has come a long way in a short amount of time, completely reinventing its race-day offering from the easily forgotten entry that was the original Cloudboom (sans Echo). It’s always had the Swiss-engineered style, but now the brand has more substance than a heap of Alpine chocolate.
Alright, on to the good stuff…
MEAGHAN: I was hesitant to even put this shoe on. Surely the Cloudboom Echo 3 can’t feel and perform as good as it looks. I was pleasantly surprised on step-in. The shoe felt light. It felt bouncy. And it wasn’t overly firm. I laced it up for the next day’s workout (12 x 400s), and hit the paces, not even thinking about the shoes.
The new Pebax midsole is soft enough to feel comfortable and — paired with the carbon fiber plate — provides a really nice propulsive feeling. The shoe seemed to come to life during quicker paces, but it also felt great for the warm-up and cool-down miles. On’s Cloudboom Echo 3 reminded me a lot of the Vaporfly 3, which has typically been my choice for any race distance under the half marathon.
I did another workout in the Cloudboom Echo 3, this time 5 x 1 mile, and again, it felt like the shoe disappeared on my foot. I enjoyed it so much for my workouts that I used the Cloudboom Echo 3 for the BAA 10k and even snuck in a small PR despite the atrocious warm-weather conditions.
The microfiber upper is not only super light, but it’s breathable and doesn’t seem to absorb any liquids (i.e. the copious amounts of sweat lost at the 10k).
THOMAS: Meg mentioned the look of the Cloudboom Echo 3, and I will echo her… her… her. These are tasty looking. The crisp white upper with the printer’s registration marks gives the shoe a prototype look. The slimmed-down CloudTec openings are most likely just for show. The Cloudboom Echo 3 “looks” like a fast pitch.
Looks are one thing, but fit is another. Good news — the upper fits well. The toe box has some extra material, but it didn’t get in the way. On’s design team nailed the heel counter, keeping it slim but still padded enough to cradle the heel snugly to the midsole. The tongue is gusseted, and I had no issues getting the lacing right. There is a skinny footbed liner that is removable. I didn’t try it, but you may have enough room to throw your favorite aftermarket insole in.
Moving down to the midsole, it feels somewhere between the Vaporfly 3 and the Vaporfly 2. It is firmer than the Vaporfly 3 and softer than the Vaporfly 2. It has a similar profile to Adidas Lightstrike Pro but a less dense feel. The shoe’s turnover is snappy and quickly transitions off the toe. Typically if I don’t like a shoe, it comes down to how the cushioning feels behind the toes. I like the bounce to come from under the fat pad of the foot. The Cloudboom Echo 3 delivers this sensation.
I will skip over the outsole traction since 90% of my review miles for this shoe were done on the treadmill, and the outside run was done on a beautiful dry day. I could comfortably hold a pace between marathon goal pace and half marathon goal pace, right around 7:30 for the mile. I agree with Meg. The shoe felt good at a wide range of speeds.
My US M10.5 weighs 8.75 oz. (248 g), more than I would have guessed, just slightly less than the Alphafly 2. The shoe feels exceptionally light on the foot. I am at a loss to explain it.
ROBBE: You know we’re living in the golden age of running shoes when “The Good” section of an On race day shoe is far longer than the bad section.
As Thomas and Meg already said, the prototype design of the shoe with color swatch gradients and target printer marks give the shoe a distinctive look. I mean, who doesn’t love a good bullseye? The large On ‘O’ branding on the side is bold but simple, and I absolutely love how it lines up with the exposed carbon fiber plate to complete the bottom of the letter. Well done, design team. Point being — when you lace this up and stand at the start line, you’re gonna look amazing.
The upper itself is probably my favorite race shoe upper. It’s sleek and lightweight but with enough structure in the heel that the shoe stays locked in, without that gaping you find in some race day shoes. The lacing is simple but has a couple of extra eyelets to find your perfect fit, which isn’t that hard to do. I really like the faux microsuede tongue (gusseted), as it provides the perfect amount of protection while ensuring a good wrap around the foot. Once you’re strapped in, you feel like you have a rocket on your foot.
Thankfully, On has seen the light and has realized the Speedboard of old is nothing but a crutch that cripples. They’re still calling this carbon fiber plate a Speedboard, but it’s really not a Speedboard in the traditional sense. Really, it’s just… a carbon-fiber plate. It’s sandwiched between a mostly-solid Pebax midsole with very low-profile cloud cutouts. At this point, the Cloudtec is purely aesthetic.
The HF hyperfoam is responsive, but certainly not soft, in my experience anyway. Apparently nobody agrees with me on this, but I feel the ride reminds me a lot of the Saucony Endorphin Pro+, a shoe that I personally loved but many people found too harsh for longer distances. To me, the HF foam feels great for shorter distances but doesn’t offer the same bounce and comfort as most of the other super shoes out there. That’s probably because it’s made from 46% bio-based materials derived from castor beans. People keep trying it, but it’s just not the same as 100% Peba (I guarantee you it’s cheaper, though).
Once you get going in the shoe, it feels like running on a rail because the fit and platform are super narrow, most notably in the midfoot-to-heel area. I risked it all by taking this on a muddy rail trail for a 10-mile run out of the box, and the knuckles of my ankles turned white with terror for the out-and-back ride. Nevertheless, they escaped unscathed (the all-white upper did not).
I don’t think anyone else mentioned this, but the carbon-fiber plate is aggressive as hell. If you love the aggressive feel of the Asics Metaspeed Edge+ or Saucony Endorphin Pro 2, then boy, do I have a shoe for you. It almost feels like they threw a real-life check mark in there and said giddy-up. I’m not hating on it because when you get up to speed, the toe-off is exactly what you want in a race-day shoe. It transitions quickly, just like the Endorphin Pro 2, so you get a really snappy turnover.
At easier paces, it still works, but it’s far more unstable. I would opt for something like the Hoka Rocket X 2 or Adios Pro 3 in those situations.
One surprising aspect of this shoe was the traction of the rubber outsole. My first run was in wet, humid, and muddy conditions, and the second one was post-thunderstorm. On both, I felt secure underfoot. Cornering at fast speeds on wet brick and pavement wasn’t an issue at all, both in terms of traction and stability. I really expected it to slide a bit (like some other race shoes), but it stuck to everything.
Since a couple of my runs were in wet conditions (I actually had left them in a thunderstorm on my porch the night before my second run in the shoe), I should point out that, even when soaked, this shoe still feels light and fast underfoot. Always good for that unexpected race day weather.
I really like this shoe, and would probably choose it for distances of 10K and under over any other shoe.
Lastly — you finally won’t get any rocks stuck in the midsole! The cutout is shallow enough that you should be fine.
RYAN: Man, I really wanted to just write “ditto with what Robbe said,” but he told me I can’t do that. I do agree with his observations, though, especially regarding the Cloudboom Echo 3’s style. I think it’s closer to a crash test dummy than a malfunctioning printer, but it’s still dope. It easily tops your average whited-out race-day shoe. I dig the mint hits and the oversized branding — the not-a-Q looks way cooler than a gigantic swoosh.
Robbe is also right when he says this is a shoe that shines at race pace. I mean, of course it is — it’s a $290 race day shoe — but the Cloudboom Echo 3 seems to reward speed more than many others. It didn’t feel great when I took the shoe for a few easy miles just to get a sense of the ride ahead of a track 5k, but it felt brilliant once I picked up the pace to just under 8:00 miles. Maybe it was a result of taking my mind off my form and focusing on keeping up with the rest of the Faster Bastards, ’cause it certainly wasn’t the weather.Shop On Cloudboom Echo 3 - Men Shop On Cloudboom Echo 3 - Women
MEAGHAN: Look, $250 is hard enough to justify, but adding another $39 makes it brutal. Yes, the shoes look and perform great, but that price point is hard to fathom.
100-mile update: The rubber in the heel just came off mid-run during my last workout. Not exactly what you want from a $290 shoe.
THOMAS: The shoe’s platform is narrow. This one feels like you’re riding on a rail. I am surprised Robbe’s ankles remain intact after running in this shoe. That won’t be a negative for every runner, but it was noticeable. The shoe also had a negative drop, depending on where I landed. I don’t dislike it, but it could cause Achilles issues if it is sinking in the heel.
One last comment I know Robbe will address, the shoe may run long. I noticed it when Robbe asked me about it. There is more than a thumbnail between the big toe and the end of the shoe. You’ll want to try these on to ensure you get the optimum fit.
ROBBE: I did have to give my first pair to Ryan as they definitely ran long. I went a half size down and that fit perfectly. I’m at the lower end of the spectrum with a US M7.5, but it does seem they run a bit long overall.
The shoe isn’t the lightest race day shoe on the market. In fact, it’s one of the heaviest, coming just a touch lighter than the Alphafly 2. I feel like it runs a lot faster than its weight, so not much of an issue, and I’d take the more structured heel counter than a lower weight. But thought I should point it out.
I may be in the minority on this, but… I don’t think this is a marathon shoe, at all. I mean, certainly you can run a marathon in it. But I’m pretty sure your legs are gonna be thrashed the next day. Like, there’s no way I would choose this for a marathon over the Adios Pro 3 or Hoka Rocket X 2 or Nike Vaporfly 3. It’s light years ahead of the hard plate comfort of the Cloudboom Echo 1 and 2, but I’m just not seeing myself taking it for 26.2. Now, maybe a half marathon, and certainly anything 10k and under. But that long-distance stuff scares me a bit.
Supposedly this HF midsole is recyclable (good), but I literally have no idea how it’s supposed to be separated and end up in a place that recycles it (bad). Maybe On lets you send it back to the same place as the Cloud Neo? No idea. Let’s be real, it may be recyclable, but show me more than 10 people who send back their $290 racing shoes to get recycled.
Speaking of price, I try to generally keep price points out of the review, but $290 is wild. The Vaporfly has managed to stay at $250 for the last five years. With a nearly identical performance benefit as that shoe and most other shoes in the $250 range, let’s just admit it– if you’re buying the Cloudboom Echo 3, you’re paying a “Cloud Clout” tax.
RYAN: Once again, I agree with Robbe. There’s no way I’d tackle a marathon in the Cloudboom Echo 3. Call me a pillow princess (I know, wrong context), but the HF foam just isn’t soft enough for me to pound out 26.2 miles in this shoe. The carbon fiber Speedboard is great, there’s plenty of pop and response, but I don’t feel like the cushion is really what I’m looking for on a super long effort.
I won’t complain about the sizing of the Cloudboom Echo 3, but only because the extra length is what got me into the review in the first place. However, it’s not great to drop the cash on a shoe this expensive ($290 is insane) only to find out that it’s a half-size too big.
Also, how on earth is this shoe $290? Sure, it’s a good shoe, but I’m not going to tell anyone to shell out that kind of cash when you can get other very good shoes for $250. Call me crazy, but I don’t think Meg would be as high on this one if she had to pick it up herself.Shop On Cloudboom Echo 3 - Men Shop On Cloudboom Echo 3 - Women
MEAGHAN: Trust me I am as shocked as you are about this one, but the On Cloudboom Echo 3 has become my number one choice for any race under the half marathon distance. I would say it’s on the same playing field as the Vaporfly, but add in the aesthetics, and I’ll take the On shoe all day long. I have another 10k lined up next week, and this one will, again, be on my feet at the starting line.
THOMAS: While I’m not ranking the Cloudboom Echo 3 as high as Meg, I’d call the shoe a top-five race day contender. The price would be my biggest knock. The performance can be matched or surpassed in shoes at a lower price point, so you’re basically paying extra for the branding. Don’t get me twisted. I’ll pay extra for branding occasionally. However, performance is the driver for race day shoes. I will give kudos to On for another shoe in its lineup that slaps. I love what the team is spitting out. If I return to the baseball analogy from earlier in the review, the Cloudboom Echo 3 landed on third base.
ROBBE: If you’ve already fallen in love with this shoe (many of you have), then I don’t think you’re going to be let down once you have it on your feet. It’s snappy, it’s fast, it’s meant for speed. If you have it in your legs, you’ll get it underfoot.
If you’re new to On, or you’ve been burned in the past and are looking to hook up again because you’re lonely and even your aunt is telling you how much she loves her “Q” shoes, then maybe now is the time to be turned back… on.
RYAN: Boy, we’re really going wild with the metaphors today. Thomas has baseball on the brain, and Robbe is trying to get intimate with an ex, I guess. I’ll skip the fancy flair and just say that the On Cloudboom Echo 3 is a bright spot at the end of a long and stormy lineup. Oops, that’s a weather metaphor. Anyway, this is one of the best-looking race shoes in my collection of too many race shoes, but I’m glad I didn’t have to spend the money on it. Nearly $300 is more than most people should spend, especially if you’re not cranking out faster than 8:00 miles on race day.
You can pick up the On Cloudboom Echo 3 on July 6 for $289 (seriously) from the On Running website using the buttons below.
Meaghan signed up for her first marathon three weeks before the race, because it was $10 more than the half she planned to run. She learned everything in running the hard way. Now a USATF & UESCA certified run coach, she loves encouraging friends to go for big goals as she continues to chase faster times. She enjoys a hot cup of coffee, a cold martini, and making bagels for friends and family.More from Meaghan
Robbe is the senior editor of Believe in the Run. He loves going on weird routes through Baltimore, finding trash on the ground, and running with the Faster Bastards. At home in the city, but country at heart. Loves his two boys more than anything. Has the weakest ankles in the game.More from Robbe
Ryan is kind of like Robbe’s Igor behind the scenes. He helps to compile and clean up everyone’s reviews, and finds time to get in a few miles of his own. When he’s not running or editing, Ryan writes and reviews for Android Authority, spending time with the latest tech and complaining when things don’t work quite right. If he’s not doing any of that, maybe you’ll find him nose-deep in a crossword puzzle or trying to catch up on an endless backlog of shows to stream.More from Ryan