On Cloudmonster Review: Wow, We Finally Love an On Running Shoe
9.7 oz. (275 g) for a US M8.5,
8.1 oz. (230 g) for a US W7
30 mm heel, 26 mm forefoot (4 mm drop)
Daily trainer/long run
Softest iteration of Helion foam so far (and by far)
Finally, an On that doesn’t feel like an On
ROBBE: Sasquatch. Godzilla. King Kong. Lochness. Goblin. Ghoul. A zombie with no conscience. Question– what do these things all have in common? Everybody knows they wear the On Cloudmonster.
Jay-Z cameo bars aside, the newest shoe from On is here. And like a werewolf under the light of a full moon in a cloudless sky, it has transformed my thoughts on On.
A little history lesson first– On was one of the first brands I genuinely hated. Not because of the looks (indeed, I’ve always loved their design, which has only gotten exponentially better over the last couple years), but because of their cheap-toy feel on the run. In fact, the On Cloudswift of 2019 may be one of the worst shoes made in the last five years, second only to the original Brooks Hyperion Elite. It felt like a two-by-four lodged in a brick, wrapped in a shoe, and sold to suckers.
Since then, I’ve run in the Cloudflow, the Cloudflyer, the Cloudace, the Cloudventure, and the Cloudvista. And they’ve mostly been a Cloud-clunk (the new Cloudvista is a pretty nice trail shoe though). So it should go without saying that I had low expectations for the On Cloudmonster, and may or may not have scoffed at the marketing of a “max cushion” shoe. Because let’s face it– On shoes are firm AF, and if you disagree, I hate to tell you this, but– you’ve been bluepilled by a local running store employee.
Anyway, enough trashing of On, because this review is going to flip the script. On actually delivered something that put a smile on our face. Maybe that’s just from sucking in a hot air balloon’s worth of Helion. Maybe it’s ‘cause we really loved this shoe.
THOMAS: In the past, On shoes scared me. Almost every pair I tried left me afraid to put in more miles. On claimed their shoes would have you feeling like you were running on clouds with a patented CloudTec midsole. In reality, the shoes were firm and heavy. Even shorter runs felt like a vampire sucked the blood from my veins. I liked how the shoes looked, but they weren’t for me when it came to running. Eventually, Robbe joined the team, and I started funneling the On shoe reviews to him. He wasn’t a fan either, but he carried the weight of On reviews (literally). They improved slightly over the last couple years, and I even mildly liked the Cloudstratus, Cloudboom, and the Cloudboom Echo. But never would they be my first choice for running.
So, when I heard that their max cushion trainer was named the Cloudmonster, I figured it probably would be another fright night at the local drive-in. Turns out, these are more like the loveable, furry Grover than Frankenstein’s monster.
MERCER: I am the resident On lover for BITR putting over 400 miles into the Cloudstratus and 200 miles in the Cloudflyer. If you saw my DMs with Robbe you’d think I would have an addiction (I don’t have an addiction I can stop whenever I want, stop judging me). Originally I wasn’t slated to get this shoe but I weaseled my way in because I’m super annoying (editor’s note in italics). Since my persistence paid off, I’ve put in over 75 miles into the Cloudmonster in a few short weeks.
This is a brand new shoe from On and everyone I have shown it to has said something along the lines of “Interesting, looks like shit” and of course it drew a few stares from the crowd but the most important thing is that it (spoiler alert) didn’t feel like shit.
ROBBE: First things first– I eat your brains. Just kidding, I will neither be doing that or rocking gold teeth with fangs. (In case you haven’t picked it up, this review is going to be weird as hell if you’re not a fan of Kanye’s MBDTF.)
For real though, I’ve written ‘The Good’ sections of On reviews in the past that were about three sentences total. However, this one will be several verses long, so settle into your listening chair.
Let’s start with the upper– it’s actually not my favorite upper from On, and maybe one of my least favorite, but it’s still decent. Upper construction is a thing that On has always excelled at. This one is a bit less built up than most On shoes. It’s essentially a simple, recycled polyester upper that’s pretty breathable and that’s about it. The tongue is gusseted and thin, no issues there. Lockdown is adequate, though I wouldn’t say the best implementation for a great lockdown. No heel slippage, so that’s always a good thing. Fit-wise, well, I’ll probably put most of this in the bad section, but it’s not bad. It’s just not the same lockdown you’ll get from shoes like the Cloudstratus, which is probably the best On upper out there.
The general design of the Cloudmonster is really simple and clean in the best way possible. If you’re an On wearer, by now you’re probably blending in with every Disney dad and school pickup mom in all your other On shoes. As anyone with eyes knows, On is dangerously close to reaching peak ubiquity in suburbia and beyond. But the large ‘O’ on the side of the Cloudmonster allows it to stand apart from the more “lifestyle” On shoes. It just looks great.
Okay, let’s get into the blood and guts of this thing. The Helion foam is the softest iteration yet (by far) and it’s a sizable stack of it, 30mm in the heel and 24mm in the forefoot (6mm drop). In reality, it’s not that high of a stack compared to some other max cushion shoes. It looks much higher when looking at the sidewalls, but those extend above the waterline where the foot sits. Inside the shoe, your foot is essentially sitting atop the cloud pods.
On the run is where things get fun. I have to say, this is the first On shoe where I actually felt what On is trying to do with its Cloudtec design. The individual cloud pod compression and release is felt throughout the stride, which is completely different than any other shoe out there, On or otherwise. On pitched this shoe as “instant fun,” and they’re not lying– it really is a joy to feel on the run. It provides a somewhat bouncy and dare I say– comfortable– ride. An exaggerated rocker in the forefoot creates a snappy transition as the clouds evaporate underneath the toes.
Quick aside– when we use the terms comfort, cushion, bounce– take all of these and put them within the realm of the On universe. Across the running board, this shoe is still on the firmer side when compared to max cushion shoes and how they feel on the run. But it’s not a bad thing. And one more thing– beware of the insole compression after 20 miles or so. This is pure speculation, but I feel that internally, On probably knows that the insole is the secret sauce to their step-in feel, but it loses its magic early on.
I should also note that the outsole grip on this shoe is exceptional. I believe it’s the same rubber as the Cloudstratus and other models, but it really provides one of the better grips out there. (Though I have to admit, I didn’t get in any rain runs in this shoe, which can change things.)
THOMAS: With Robbe nailing down all the tech and stats, I can write freely about the experience in the On Cloudmonster. We eat with our eyes first, and when I pulled these out of the box, I had a lovely feast. On has consistently designed good-looking shoes and used color palletes that stand out from the other shoe companies’ trends. The upper of the Cloudmonster is smooth and sleek, hiding the complexity of the construction. The tongue of the trainer sits under offset lacing and acts as a second layer extending through the vamp and covering the toebox. Welded seams and a large reflective logo on the side finish off the upper design.
Getting down to the good stuff, the Helion foam on this shoe is softer and more responsive than in previous models. The sensation is finally what I have been hoping for from On. Running through the stride, you experience a cushioned crash phase, a spring-like mid-phase, and a smooth roll-off of the toes in the final stage. The usually harsh Speedboard that holds the Cloudtec disappears in the Cloudmonster. When you put all this together with the solid grip of the outsole rubber, you find yourself cruising along in comfort. For a big chunky shoe, I was able to drop the paces into tempo speed without feeling too taxed. Additionally, the Cloudmonster weighs 10.5 oz./300 grams for my size US M10.5, which is very nice for this much cushioning.
MERCER: The modus operandi of brands right now is to have a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde situation for every possible run. On has hit the nail into Dracula’s coffin. The Cloudstratus was a perfect blend of everything but was a master at nothing; when I wanted to really slow it down there wasn’t enough to keep my feet fresh. The Cloudmonster on the other hand… well, let’s get into it.
Of course, with every On shoe, your eyeballs go straight to the sole like a zombie ready to feast on some internal organs. The Helion foam is the best it has ever been, providing a softness that is only felt in shoes like the Invincible and PrimeX, at least in the On world. The geometry and positioning of the pods allow for a seamless transition between heel and toe. Frankenstein’s monster could down a bottle of mezcal and still run smoothly in these things. Unlike the Cloudstratus, you aren’t really going to be picking it up in this shoe, so stick to easy running with it.
I believe that On has always had some of the best uppers in the game (along with brands like ASICS), and this is no different. Sticking with that higher cut and more boot-like collar, the ankle is held in nicely while still maintaining a nice amount of mobility. The recycled polyester provides a soft feel on foot and maintains mediocre breathability, basically the polar opposite of the scratchy openness of the Cloudstratus.
An underrated feature of this was the lacing system, getting rid of the star system and eyelets On opted for little loops that gave me a perfect lockdown. The width on this one gives you just enough room if you accidentally go out on a night run with a full moon.Shop On Running - Men Shop On Running - Women
ROBBE: As I alluded to in ‘The Good,’ the upper is usually the strongest point of On construction, but in the Cloudmonster, I think it’s the weakest (sorry Mercer, we disagree on this one). The toe box is shallow (probably due in part to the exaggerated toe rocker) and the fit and quality just aren’t exceptional in the way that On is known for. In the past, On has always run big on me, so I went a half-size down and had to send it back because it was too tight. When I received it in my normal size, it actually felt almost too big. It just fits weird, but it’s not the end of the world and it’s certainly not the worst fitting upper I’ve ever had.
I also had a bit of a quality issue with the construction of the upper, as the heat-welded ‘Cloudtec’ NASCAR advertisement on the lateral side of the shoe began peeling off within 20 miles of wear. Probably not what you want from a $170 shoe. A simple glue-job can fix it, but who wants to be busting out the Elmer’s two weeks into wear?
And just because someone’s gonna say it, and because– yes, it always happens– you will get rocks stuck in the gap of the outsole/midsole.
THOMAS: The Cloudmonster won’t be a good choice for the wide foot or high volume foot family out there. The trainer is narrow, and the toebox is shallow. If you are between sizes in your running shoes, err on going up a half size. Usually, I can go 10-10.5. In these, I need the 10.5, and it fits perfectly. While I was able to run tempo paces in the Cloudmonster, I struggled to maintain faster race paces sprinkled into a 14-mile training run. The shoe’s weight began to be more evident at more challenging efforts. To be fair, speed work is not the intended use for the Cloudmonster. Finally, improving the lacing would help the trainer fit more securely.
Also, as Robbe said, there are some construction issues with the upper. I had the same issues with the heat-welded tape peeling off. So either get King Kong-level Gorilla Glue or throw that shit away in the next version.
MERCER: My left pod right under the toes has lost a lot of foam after 75 miles. I’ll definitely be taking this shoe as far as it’ll go, so I’ll update this review if I tear open a pod.
The rubber on this shoe just isn’t grippy enough. If Slimer starts wreaking havoc on your run route, you’re gonna be the ghost that’s busted.Shop On Running - Men Shop On Running - Women
ROBBE: Holy shit, we’re at the end of an On review and I didn’t trash it. Honestly, I never thought this day would come. I had serious doubts that On would ever overcome its “hard cloud pods attached to a hard speedboard” problem, but it seems like they’ve done it. Granted, I haven’t taken this shoe to 300 miles, but our boy Mercer has 75 in it, and he seems pretty pleased so far, which is a good sign.
If you are already an On fan, your mind will probably be blown by the comfort level of this shoe. If you’re looking to enter into the On cloud world, Mario-up-the-vine style, then this shoe is going to be your Princess Peach.
No lie, On just put up a triple-double, no assist. Mix that Goose and Malibu and call it Mali-booyah.
THOMAS: Three words sum up the Cloudmonster: Best. On. Yet. Finally, a fun shoe to run in from On! The Cloudmonster won’t haunt you if you’re looking for a well-cushioned trainer with style. On the contrary, it will have you floating above the earth.
MERCER: I’ll definitely be taking the Cloudmonster out as my go-to shoe for the foreseeable future, so expect a 300-mile report in the coming months. Adding this to your rotation of Cloudtratus and Cloudboom Echo definitely means you’re in a higher tax bracket than me, but this will definitely complete the set. If you’re not convinced and you’re looking for some other brand to give you that cushion for the pushin’, I’d take a look at the Nike Invincible or the Hoka Bondi X.
You can pick up the On Cloudmonster for $170 at Holabirds Sports on March 31 by using the shop link below.Shop On Running - Men Shop On Running - Women
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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.
All-time favorite shoes: Nike Epic React, Saucony Endorphin Speed 2 Runshield, Asics Metaspeed Edge+More from Robbe
Mercer is a collegiate athlete at the University Of Lynchburg, majoring in being awesome. He’s also extremely talented at folding shirts during GRIT packing at the Believe in the Run HQ.
All-time favorite shoes: Asics Gel-Kayano Lite, Hoka Clifton 6, On CloudmonsterMore from Mercer