On Cloudsurfer Review: We’ll Ride This Wave
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9.1 oz. (258 g) for a USM9/ 6.9 oz. (194 g) for a US W7.5
32 mm in heel, 22 mm in forefoot (10 mm drop)
Daily training with some uptempo
No more Speedboard, new Cloudtec Phase design in Helion midsole, plush upper
🟢 Comfortable upper
🟢 Soft-yet-responsive midsole
🔴 Limited outsole rubber
MEAGHAN: It’s been at least 5 years since I’ve written an On running shoe review. Like some wild paradox, I found it hard to understand why they kept naming their shoes clouds and also designing them with stiff speedboards. The disconnect had me opting out of testing them until recently.
Not only does the Cloudsurfer come sans Speedboard, but the Cloudtec technology has been updated. Cloudtec is On’s cushioning system; they call it “running on clouds.” I call it… something else. All that to say, the Cloudsurfer is designed with the next generation of this technology called Cloudtec Phase. The idea being each “cloud” compresses and interlocks perfectly one after the other, like a domino. It looks and feels a lot less gimmicky and more like a traditional trainer.
This CloudTec is paired with On’s Helion foam that provides a soft bounce underfoot. The Cloudsurfer is now a 10mm drop (previously 11 mm) with 32 mm in the heel and 22 mm in the forefoot. My W7.5 came in at 6.9 oz.
ROBBE: If you’ve followed Believe in the Run for any time at all, you know my relationship with On has been mostly… off. When I first started, shit shoes rolled downhill to the rookie reviewers, and I was hanging with Jack and Jill right at the bottom. Which meant I had to run in early-era On. They looked cool, the details and construction were on point, but they ran like a wooden board stricken with fibrodysplasia. I’m not going to harp on about it, because I’ve beaten the point into the ground in past reviews.
But when the On Cloudmonster came out last year, I knew On was heading in the right direction. It still had a Speedboard, which is an oxymoron, but the Helion foam was bouncier and the ride was pretty decent. Same thing with the surprisingly-good On Cloudgo. So when we saw the On Cloudsurfer at The Running Event last December, and knew it was going to be the first version sans Speedboard, we were definitely excited to get it on our feet.
And let me tell you, as the president and CEO of the 12-Step (that’s all I could manage in past versions of the shoe) On Recovery Group, I may be in a full-blown relapse. The Cloudsurfer is legit.
THOMAS: I love it when a brand turns it around and spits fire. While On has had commercial success, the past offerings were pretty shitty to run in. As Robbe mentioned, we started seeing some hope as On changed up its formula last year. We saw better foams and the beginning of the end for the Speedboard. The Cloudsurfer is On’s flagship shoe, and if this is the shoe that signals the new direction for On, our team is here for it. If you were looking for an On pun: our team is On it. However, I’ll leave the remainder of the clever writing to Robbe for your sake.
MEAGHAN: Per usual, On nailed the aesthetics of this shoe. I love the mint green colorway and bright orange accents near the lace eyelets. The upper itself is extremely comfortable. There is quite a bit of padding around the collar and heel for a plush step-in feel. The shoes fit true to size and accommodate my wider foot just fine. The lacing system is simple, but works well and provides a comfortable, secure fit. It honestly might be one of my favorite uppers right now.
The Cloudtec Phase technology beneath the foot is an interesting sensation. The Helion foam feels super soft, but the “clouds” compress and pop back to create a pretty responsive ride. There is some light rubber coverage in the heel and forefoot for added traction and durability, but the shoes are still very light. It’s not everyday you can get a plush upper in a daily trainer and still keep it under 7oz!
ROBBE: I’ve always thought On shoes looked great, even if they’ve been co-opted by soccer moms and microbrew dads the world over. The Cloudsurfer continues that trend, and dare I say the new Cloudtec Phase midsole, with less pronounced clouds, looks better than ever.
Moving on to the upper, it’s surprisingly plush and comfortable. Meg kind of covered what that entails, and though I feel like it is a bit wide, I had no problems with slippage or movement, even with my narrow foot.
On the run, I’m gonna be real– I loved this shoe. It’s crazy lightweight for how much comfort is in the upper, and freeing the shoe from its Speedboard shackles is a game changer. I’m usually not a big fan of soft or unstable shoes, and, when standing, the Helion foam with the empty cloud cavities ensures the midsole is both of those things. However, on the run, I feel like it’s a huge positive. The softness of the midsole provides comfort, while the Cloudtec Phase combined with the rocker geometry really does feel like it provides solid energy return and responsiveness on toe-off.
In the past, I’ve noticed that On shoes quickly– and I mean quickly– lose that step-in magic. I took the shoe on a couple 8 mile runs and a half-marathon long run, and it felt great every step of the way. In fact, my paces were much faster on all of them than I had originally intended. I was having fun, and picking it up felt great. Now, will the song remain the same at 100 or 200 miles? I can’t say. But so far, so good.
THOMAS: On threw out the hard foams and rigid Speedboard. That fact alone might be all I need to say. The pleasant feeling of putting this shoe on and feeling soft, bouncy Helion foam underfoot was a shocker. I’m used to a hard, bumpy underfoot platform from On shoes.
The cool thing is that with the new Cloudtec Phase, On keeps the aesthetic fans like while providing a better cloud-like compression experience. The Cloudtec Phase holes act like shock absorbers now. They collapse and rebound as your stride impacts them. This creates a unique running feel. The rocker shape of the midsole helps the shoe glide as you run.
The shoe is also suprisingly light for having substantial cushioning and a solid upper. Overall, it fits true to size (length-wise, anyway), and the upper was highly comfortable.Shop On Running - Men Shop On Running - Women
MEAGHAN: I don’t know if it’s the lack of structure and support underfoot, or if the foam is almost too soft, but the ride is missing something for me. My first few runs in this shoe felt amazing, but the more miles I’ve logged, the more I crave just a little something more. It could also just be that my legs are really tired from marathon training.
ROBBE: If I had to give one ding, it’d just be the lack of outsole rubber. I question the durability in that case. But… I’d rather not have it then add a ton of weight, so I think I’m okay with it.
Just remembered one more thing– I absolutely hate the “stitched in” lace eyelets, namely because mine broke out in the last shoe that tried this, the New Balance SC Elite v3. If they break, the shoe is useless. While not common, the nature of the design means it can happen.
I just don’t understand the decision to do this, though I’m sure there’s some “running performance” angle that the designers will use in justifying it. Fortunately, there is an extra eyelet at the top so you can still get a heel-lock lacing, even with the stitched-in design.
THOMAS: This first knock is bad for me but may be good for you. I have a narrow foot, and the Cloudsurfer is built on a wider last. I would have liked it to be more snug around my foot.
The next gripe doesn’t bother me but is a warning for pronators. The Cloudsurfer is beyond just being neutral. It is squishy AF. If you pronate even a little, the shoe will be very squirrely under your weight.
Finally, the rubber on the outsole is fine, but it isn’t tacky enough for my liking. I want toe-off grip. I want to feel sticky as I corner. This rubber didn’t have that bite.Shop On Running - Men Shop On Running - Women
MEAGHAN: The On Cloudsurfer is easily my favorite running shoe from the brand. The upper is comfortable, the shoes are light and the cushioning is soft and bouncy. I’m so happy to see that On left the stiff Speedboard behind and traded it in for a soft, cushioned daily ride. Anyone who requires stability underfoot may struggle with this model, but I think most will really love this new offering. You can snag a pair March 23 for $160.
ROBBE: I think you already know, but this is my favorite On shoe to date, and one that runners will fall in love with. Past versions of the Cloudsurfer were marketed as anything from racing flat to half-marathon shoe. While I wouldn’t go so far as that, I would say that this is a great daily trainer that can go a little bit faster, and would even be a potentially solid first-time marathon shoe.
Certainly On has changed their ways and is intent on offering legitimate running shoes that really do blend comfort and performance with their distinctive styling. And from what we’ve seen coming for the rest of 2023, it’s only going to get better. For now, the Cloudsurfer is certainly good enough.
THOMAS: I like the Cloudsurfer a lot. I can’t tell if I like it so much because of where On has come from or if it’s just a great shoe. The fact that all three of us like the shoe has me leaning toward the conclusion that this is a solid shoe, regardless of who made it.
If this review were memed, it would be Leonardo DiCaprio raising the champagne glass in The Great Gatsby. Cheers, On. Thank you for taking the risk to improve your product. You didn’t have to. People were buying it as it was.
You can pick up the On Cloudsurfer on March 23 for $160 at Running Warehouse by using the shop link below.
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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.
All-time favorite shoes: Nike Alphafly Next%, New Balance SC Trainer, Asics Superblast.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.
All-time favorite shoes: Nike Epic React, Saucony Endorphin Speed 2 Runshield, Asics Metaspeed Edge+More from Robbe
As the founder of Believe in the Run, Thomas’ goal is to help runners pick the shoes and gear that will make their running experience the best that it can be.
All-time favorite shoes: Saucony Kinvara 2, Hoka Clifton 1, Nike Alphafly Next%More from Thomas