THOMAS: I am always leery when a brand ties its wagon to one technology. Gimmicks can work as a novelty but, in the long run, it always leads to stifling creativity and development. How many ways can On incorporate clouds pods in a shoe and claim that it provides the most modern and efficient running shoe platform? On has been around for a while now and their stock doing well (for now), so maybe I am wrong. Or maybe, I am too focused on running and the consumer buying this shoe could be purchasing it for activities other than running. I will let you know upfront that I have not been a fan of On in the past. Sure, I have found shoes that work okay, but nothing that I would reach for after my review miles are in.
MERCER: Will it be an average day for On in the BITR HQ, or will the Swiss company finally peek over the mountains and be deemed runnable? We’ve put in the miles to help you decide if you should buy the shoe or save your paycheck.
ROBBE: I’ve had my struggles with On in the past, namely that the ubiquitous use of the world ‘Cloud’ defies the actual feel of the shoe, but I’m always looking for a good redemption story. You can’t get much worse than the wooden board that was the original On Cloudswift, so from inside of that framework I had a feeling that it’d be good vibes mostly with this shoe.
MERCER: Things have been coming around for On in the running world, whether you like it or not. With the CloudBoom Echo sneaking onto podiums everywhere and more and more runners signing with the OAC team, within the next few years, we might be seeing a powerhouse of a brand. And just like everyone else, they needed a fresh update to their “max cushion” shoe, the Cloudstratus.
When this review comes out, I’ll probably have over 200 miles in this shoe. I’ve used it from smaller workouts like five by one minute at 5K pace up to a half marathon long run and even those baby easy runs. I have been pulling this shoe without even thinking about it, and let me tell you — it just keeps working.
The engineered mesh upper is everything that I love in a shoe — very thin in the toe box and getting a bit fuller towards the back of the shoe. I did get a little bit of puckering in the toe box just because of how wide the shoe is (more on that later), but the shoe stays breathable and light.
The plastic heel counter and the shape of the shoe work really well, and it’s been a hot minute since we’ve seen a shoe like this. The Cloudstratus hugs the ankle tight with a taller boot-like shape, which is greatly appreciated considering every company has decided to go all elf heel on us.
And getting to the circus that is On midsoles, it is safe to say that we no longer have a crappy birthday party clown but now the Circus Olay underfoot. On is finally figuring out their Helion foam, and I am excited to see what they come up with next. Call me crazy, but I like the ride of this shoe better than the New Balance Rebel. The Helion foam combined with the speed board provided a smooth ride with a little bit of pop that didn’t get too mushy through the footstrike at any pace imaginable.
THOMAS: Mercer and I used this shoe a little differently. I kept the Cloudstratus strictly as an easy day shoe where I wanted to have more cushioning on my feet regardless of weight. Close to 11 oz. puts the shoe in my heavy daily trainer category. That is where the shoe shines. This is the most cushioned On that I have tried. The Helion foam does a nice job of giving the runner a nice landing. The sensation of rolling through your stride is the defining sensation in this shoe. A soft landing, a little energy return, and a smooth roll through the gait are the characteristics of this shoe that made it one of my favorite On running shoes yet. The mesh upper is very comfortable and fits my narrow foot well enough, but if you like a wider toe box, the shoe accommodates. I did have a little puckering in the toe box, but overall, no hot spots, no rubbing, no heel lift. The upper breathes well. While I only put around 40-miles in on the Cloudstratus for this review, the shoe still looks practically brand new. Durability isn’t a concern here.
ROBBE: Since Mercer has close over 200 miles in this shoe, while I have barely over 20, I’m gonna default to him for the in-depth analysis. From a surface level, I’d say that this is the best On shoe I’ve tried yet. There is definitely a more standard daily trainer feel that can hold up for more than two miles without destroying your feet. The slight rockered geometry provides a nice roll through the stride and of course, there’s plenty of ground feel.
As always, the upper construction is top-notch. The design is always on point and this may be the best-looking On shoe yet. It’s also fairly accomodating, so wide-footers may be able to sneak into these. You’re not gonna get that slim jim Nike fit.
Overall, I found this to be a fairly enjoyable experience and would recommend this shoe first to anyone who’s trying to jump on the On hype train.Shop On Cloudstratus – Men Shop On Cloudstratus – Women
MERCER: Have you been to a trampoline park recently? If not, you might want to go just to get a pair of grippy socks to wear with this shoe because it is sloppy as all get out. On tried to give you the option of fixing it, but the star system just doesn’t work at all to narrow the toe box.
Further, On is dookie at advertising, or maybe I’m easily confused. First, with the OG Cloudboom as a “marathon shoe,” and now this as a maximum cushion shoe. This isn’t a max cushion and is far from it, so don’t go from the Bondi X thinking this is comparable at all.
It’s also $170, but yeah, On is gonna On.
THOMAS: While the shoe is trying to play in the max cushioned park, it falls into a weird no man’s land between daily trainer level cush and max cushioning shoe weight. There are some heavier max cush shoes that are worth the extra weight. To name a few, Hoka Bondi, New Balance More v3, Asics Glideride, but the cushioning on the Cloudstratus just doesn’t measure up to those shoes. I also agree with Mercer that the lacing system goes for style over functionality.
It’s funny, On shoes seemed expensive compared to the market. Now all running shoes seem to be getting more expensive. The $170 doesn’t give the sticker shock it used to, but for a daily trainer, there are better options at a lower price point. I might recommend you read the Novablast 2 review or the Pegasus 38 review, both are well under $140.
ROBBE: As always, you’re not gonna get the “cloud” feeling that On hangs its hat on, namely because the midsole/outsole is glued to the polypropylene Speedboard which is just going to give you a firm ride no matter what. It’s a corner that On has painted themselves into with the cloud pods and they’re either gonna have to let it go or get super creative if they ever want to create a legitimately cushioned shoe. All that to say, this is not a max cushion shoe in the real world, no matter what On will tell you.
Again, I don’t have a problem with a firm shoe; plenty of people love that feeling. But every novice runner who is intrigued by On thinks they’re getting some super cush and comfortable ride, which– they’re just not. I just don’t like the deception and On can ride the hype swell for now, but that wave is gonna crash in a couple years once people experience the ride and realize they can get a much better and comfortable ride in something as traditional as a Brooks Glycerin.
Finally, as Mercer said, the upper can be a bit sloppy.Shop On Cloudstratus – Men Shop On Cloudstratus – Women
MERCER: This is a step forward for On, and it is going to be great seeing what they come up with in the future. Hopefully, this isn’t the only On shoe we will ever like here at HQ, but it’s always a possibility. You could probably compare the On Cloudstratus to the Hoka Mach 4 and the Mizuno Wave Rider.
THOMAS: The best daily trainer from On is still a middle of the pack daily trainer. It is solid, but it doesn’t excel in any particular area. okay upper, okay fit, okay through the gait, okay cushioning, okay energy return. The shoe is just “okay”. If you’re set on the brand, then this is the shoe I would go with.
ROBBE: For sure this is the best On running shoe right now. I actually wear it quite often for casual wear because it’s a great-looking shoe, which is always nice, especially if you’re dropping this kind of coin on a daily trainer. Is this going to be my first choice in a daily trainer? No, because there are just better comparable daily trainers out there, like the ASICS Novablast 2, or even something as simple as the Nike Pegasus 38. I’m not even gonna compare it to real max cushion shoes, because this just isn’t one. If you are looking for an actual max cushion shoe, though, then check out the New Balance More v3, HOKA Clifton 8, or the Skechers Maxroad 5.
You can pick up the On Cloudstratus for $170 at Running Warehouse (featuring free 2-day shipping and 90-day returns) by using the shop link below.Shop On Cloudstratus – Men Shop On Cloudstratus – Women