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Road Running Shoes • August 1, 2019

On Cloudstratus Performance Review

On Cloudstratus feature

What You Need To Know

  • Max cushion, mild stability shoe 
  • Weighs 11.1 oz. for a men’s size 9
  • Dual-layer CloudTec® outsole
  • Get the black version and throw on a piano key necktie for your next “run friend” wedding

Blue Steel. Ferrari. Le Tigre. They’re all the same thing.

Like Mogatu’s disbelief at the media fawning over Derek Zoolander’s runway look, I too feel like I’m taking crazy pills.

I don’t get On.

For the unfamiliar, On is the Swiss creator of Helion foam and cloud pods for outsoles (made of their proprietary CloudTec® technology). While their product is no piano key necktie, it is a shoe that certain people love— namely rich jetsetters, triathletes, and Rich Roll listeners. Some runners too.

This is my fourth On shoe I’ve reviewed over the last year and in my opinion, it goes beyond a piano key necktie. It’s on the same gimmick level as a keytar necktie. My prediction? Once knowledge of the product catches up to the slick marketing, eye-catching creative, and sleek Euro design, On will fall back down to earth.

Of course, if they get rid of their awful cloud outsole, they could turn their dirigible airship around and sail for cirrus skies. Then again, maybe I’m the crazy one— one of their sponsored athletes just won the Badwater 135 and destroyed the course record in the process.

In any case, the Cloudstratus is their newest shoe, meant for an ultimate cushioning experience. It offers double layers of CloudTec®, which is a bit different than the rest of their shoes that have just one larger layer. The engineered mesh upper has a star lacing system with almost endless options (there’s actually 20 different eyelets on each shoe). While not a pure stability shoe, it does offer some mild stability with an anatomically designed heel counter, and a sock liner that’s ribbed under the arch.

You can probably guess I didn’t love this shoe; however, to-date it is the best On shoe I’ve tried.

On Cloudstratus back


The Good

I’ll go with what I always feel is the good with On shoes. I like the upper design. It’s certainly polarizing, but I’m on board with their style choices. I get why people buy them. They’re different and they have that uniquely European look that says “I know something you don’t know.” They’re the Helly Hansen of the shoe world.

As always, On isn’t afraid to try new things with their uppers. I like this, even though it’s to the shoe’s detriment at times (see the rubber side pieces on the Cloudswift). This shoe is no different. While the lacing system gives you a ton of options (I like this), I also can’t tell if the lace loops up front are just a gimmick or are useful. Whatever, they look kind of cool.

Overall, the upper is certainly well-constructed and comfortable, if not a little stiff. However, this is how most On shoes are made; they need a good amount of breaking in, but will hold up for a long time.

Out of all the On road shoes I’ve reviewed, I probably liked this one the most. I like the dual-layer of CloudTec that transitions to a single layer in the forefoot for a more firm pushoff. It has the cushioning of the Cloudace, but weighs a half-ounce less. It’s a much more comfortable ride than the Cloudswift, but it should be since it’s a high-cushion shoe.

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On Cloudstratus front

The Bad

I noted this in my review of the Cloudswift (a shoe experience that felt like running on plywood)– I hate the Speedboard in the midsole. It’s just a hard piece of plastic that needs to be thrown out. I don’t know for sure, but I suspect the CloudTec® pods need this platform to exist. If so, get rid of everything.

While I enjoyed the upper, it felt too roomy for me. For reference I have a narrow foot , but I felt like I was sliding around, even with the laces secured tightly. Nike is my ideal fit, so take that as you will. I imagine the lacing system was designed to mitigate this in some way, and maybe I should’ve taken more time to dial this in, but out of the box it wasn’t great.

My shoe weighed 10.6 oz. for a size 7.5. This is pretty average for a stability shoe; the Brooks Adrenaline 19 and ASICS Gel Kayano 26 weigh the same. However, this is more of an everyday trainer/mild stability shoe, and other shoes I’ve worn in this weight range have a much lighter feeling ride. I’ve experienced the same thing with the Cloudace and Cloudventure as well. The outsole is just so heavy, with the pod structure and added rubber pads.

Lastly, my legs just felt beat up, even after 4 or 5-mile runs. I’m reviewing the new Skechers Max Road 4 Hyper, and it was a glorious relief from my runs in the Cloudstratus. (I know, the Max Road isn’t a stability shoe, but still, the cushioning was way better). My consensus? While this is a cushioned shoe in the On world, and honestly their best overall shoe, it is still not a comfortable ride when compared to the myriad of other options out there.

Which brings me to my next point– those other options can be had for much cheaper. While the Cloudstratus isn’t as eye-poppingly expensive as the Cloudace (at a wtf $199.99), it still comes in at $169.99. I thought ASICS had jokes charging $159.99 for the Kayano; with these prices, On’s got the headlining gig at the Comedy Cellar’s open mic night.

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On Cloudstratus outsole

On Cloudstratus Conclusion

I’ll continue to say it— I want to love On. This is literally the only reason I keep asking for their shoes for review (probably much to On’s chagrin). But I’m now fully convinced that their Helion cushioning and CloudTec® pods, combined with their Speedboard, is just a bad recipe preventing good running.

You may be able to pull this over on casual runners for a while with good marketing. Which, by the way, On has the best website design, creative shots, etc., so kudos to them. It looks like a company to love.

I actually have a friend who started running and went with On right off the bat. He thought they were great and ran in them for months. But he had zero knowledge of running shoes. Once he started getting more serious, I pointed him to some other lighter, more comfortable, and more responsive options that I thought would fit his marathon training better. He hasn’t gone back.

If you’re an On fan, and you want to stick with them, by all means, go right ahead. I’m sure they’re great for some people. Like I said, it’s the best out of all the On shoes I’ve reviewed. If that’s the case, I think you’ll love this shoe and you can pick it up at Running Warehouse for $169.99.

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Have something to say? Leave a Comment

  1. Demian Sims says:

    Always appreciate an honest review!

    1. Robbe Reddinger says:

      You know it, my man.

  2. Steve says:

    On’s Cloud X was a huge upgrade over the couch, but Adidas, Altra, and Nike all have some (very reasonably priced) shoes that are on an entirely different planet. (Epic React!!) Love the marketing, upper design, Tim Don story, etc. but even in my extremely humble opinion their shoes are an expensive disaster. So heavy and hard!

    Now the two-piece On shorts I have? Incredible. So I still love ’em, but there’s no reason to burn money on the shoes.

  3. Walshy says:

    Totally agree, cannot understand why nobody else is saying this. The speedboard is so hard. It is like running in work shoes. I cannot understand all the hype about cushioning. Plywood- spot on description. I will be looking for another shoe for running and these will be house shoes.

  4. DGL says:

    I think they are definitely meant for a fuller foot, they are an everyday trainer for the bigger runners, but a solid option for long runs for runners who need stability. The board is not hard at all! Not with all that cushioning which is very soft – run in a pair of Kayanos to see what I mean. It’s not even really a board. If you take it out, you can fold it. Perhaps, stronger feet would help? The weight compares to the top end stability shoes on the market, although these do not provide as much stability as some (ex. Asics Kayano). This is their heaviest shoe, so it’s lame to say you are pointing someone to a lighter shoe. Check out their light shoes, which are some of the lightest on the market. I run in many different shoes from different shoe. companies and I can’t say this one is any better or worse than the others. Not a ON cult member, but would definitely keep their shoes in my rotation.

  5. GRunner says:

    I love u your honest and helpful reviews, with a lil humor!!! I completely agree, On are not running shoes, but they look different for a cool few pennies. I purchased 2 pairs over the past few years, 1st one is a everyday shoe, then On promised a real running shoe – 2nd everyday show. Sorry On, no more pennies from me. Buy real running shoes!

  6. Jason Ferguson says:

    Like the review. I have a pair of ON’s and i love/hate them. The uppers fit my foot so dang good, i love it but these choose are too stiff and hurt my feet on medium/long runs. Using them during 5k races have worked for me.

    I need max cusion and use NB Fresh Foam 1080’s. Although the cushion is amazing for long runs, the uppers lost their elasticity before i hit 100 miles so my heel slips.

    If there is a shoe that would have an ON upper and cushion like the NB lowers i would drop everything to buy them immediately.

  7. Robby C. says:

    I wish I had read this before I bought the CloudAtlas shoes. After two 7-mile runs, one on the track and one on the trail/road, I am sorely disappointed! The style is great, but the upper is actually bad for wide feet, too! The length is perfect in 11.5 for me as always, but the shoe is too snug around both my pinky toe and the knuckle on my big toe and the sock-like stitching snags and makes the tongue painful in random places at times.

    It’s a completely different feel from other max cushion shoes I’ve tried (regretting not buying another pair of Altras, although they have their issues since the buy-out as well). This is a downgrade in my opinion. There’s spring in the heel, which would be great if I ever struck heel first in my stride but I tend to strike in the middle of the midsole so I’m not feeling any propulsion from the three different marketed gimmicks. Also, even though there’s plenty of mesh around the upper, it is still somehow one of the hottest shoes I’ve tried despite me wearing really thin mesh synthetic socks to try to prevent that.

    This will definitely be my last pair of On shoes even though I like the style a lot. I’m also now reluctant to buy a pair of Hoka One One shoes as well because these pricy stylish running shoes seem to be mostly media hype (which is not fair as I’ve never tried them and I’m still interested in a carbon plate at some point). People were talking up this shoe and an Ultra runner in Boulder has ridiculous success with the CloudBoom and CloudX, but I now admit my research led me to the wrong conclusion.

    Guess I have to hope the spring line of Altras fixes some of the recent issues because my wide feet won’t let me spend any more money on narrow, expensive, uncomfortable shoes (yes, I’ve tried Nike, Brooks, Adidas, NB, Reebok, and Salomon and only Nike wide width and an occasional wide foot box design from the others is acceptable for someone with my foot shape (111-mm last). Anybody wanna buy a pair of On CloudAtlas with 15 miles on them?

  8. A. Carpenter says:

    I realize ON shoes may not be a good fit for every runner, but I run with my dog, which means I need the stiffer cushioning from the Helion to prevent his occasional pulling me forward from causing shin splints and knee injuries. I had some pretty serious knee pain when I ran in Asics just from the added impact of holding back a gung-ho 70 pound Labrador. ON has helped me stay pain free for months now!

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