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Road Running Shoes • May 6, 2019

On Cloudswift Performance Review

On Cloudswift feature

Robbe: I can’t tell you how much I want to love On shoes. I think their design is some of the nicest in the running shoe industry. The cloud pod sole is a head-turner at first, but they somehow made it look cool. Their uppers always look exceptional and are made of quality materials. This is my third experience with On. I’ve previously reviewed the stability (and heavy AF) Cloudace, the trail-running (and heavy AF) Cloudventure, and now the lightweight (highly debatable) Cloudswift. I had high expectations for this shoe.

West Coast Meghan: I keep waiting for the next ‘must have’ lightweight trainer to land on my doorstep. The one that saves your legs from the wear and tear of the road, and yet has the right amount of energy return and lightness to make even the sloggiest of miles feel springy. With the words ‘cloud’ and ‘swift’ in the name of the shoe, I was super excited to give these a go.

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On Cloudswift Upper

The Good

Robbe: This a really nice-looking shoe. I really do think On’s design and branding is on point, some of the best in the industry. This shoe is no different. They definitely have nailed down that Swiss/European look to make it appealing across the board. The upper is made of mesh with a seamless tongue and inner-sock construction.

I don’t mind the actual design of the sole, in theory. The rocker-style sole was nice for transitioning through my stride, and I kind of liked the wider base of the outsole in the heel area, as it offered a bit of extra stability.

West Coast Meghan: Out of the box, the design of the Cloudswift was definitely eye-catching. The varying shades of the same color, paired with the different textures of the mesh upper and rubber sideband, is an appealing aesthetic without being flashy. Slipping my foot into the shoe, I appreciated the feel of the engineered mesh sock. It gave the Cloudswift a snug, slipper-like feel. Most notably, I liked the combination of a V-shaped heel collar and an integrated tongue. It made for an unobtrusive and secure fit around the opening of the shoe.

The shoe itself isn’t particularly light for a training shoe, weighing in at 9 oz for my size 8.5, but I didn’t notice the extra weight on the run. The shoe neither felt light nor heavy which makes it fairly average in terms of a training shoe.

The only other thing to note, for me particularly, is the drop. At 7mm, this might be my lower threshold for a training shoe. My calves tend to aggravate easily with lower drops so I try to wear shoes that have a drop from 8-10mm. After wearing these on a few runs, I had no issues with my calves. For someone who constantly struggles with tight posterior tibialis, I can tell pretty quickly if a shoe isn’t going to work. The On Cloudswift get a pass on this account.


On Cloudswift Action
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The Bad

Robbe: You know you’re in for a rough review cycle when a shoe has heel-lift just walking around, and no option for heel-locking lacing because of a side lacing rubber overlay that looks great but is functionally useless. The collar/opening is much too long in these shoes and I ended up having non-stop heel-lift.

You know you’re in for a really rough review cycle when you wear the shoes for a short time at a standing desk (with a mat) and your feet already hurt. This shoe is marketed as an urban running shoe. No idea what that means, but if it’s meant to run on sidewalks, I can’t imagine a worse terrain for it.

The Helion foam wasn’t noticeable, as in, I felt no comfort or energy return. The Speedboard in the midsole certainly lives up to the board part. I took out the insole and tapped on it and it literally sounded like a hollow block of wood. The shoe feels like the firmest racing flat one could find, but 4 ounces heavier.

I did several 6-7 mile runs in these and my feet and legs felt trashed after every run. For reference, I typically run in Brooks Launch or Epic React, shoes with cushion but not exactly HOKAs.

I should stop, but I’m like Larry David at a funeral, so I’m going to continue.

On contends the outsole is meant to hold up on sidewalks. I don’t disagree with that. The rubber is so hard I guarantee it’ll be around for hundreds of miles.

Also, you’re gonna get hop-ons. That gapped outsole will pick up rocks. You will have to stop and pick them out.

Weight-wise, it’s a bold move to advertise these as lightweight at 10.2 oz. for a men’s size 8.5. That’s above-average weight, at best. It’s bad for a shoe that essentially has no cushion.

I don’t understand the allure of these shoes, on a purely objective basis. There is no way this is the best option out there. I’m going to chalk it up to the fact that they have great marketing and they look cool because otherwise, I’m at a loss.

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On Cloudswift Upper Above

West Coast Meghan: If you couldn’t tell from the minuscule ‘good’ portion of this review, I had way more in my ‘bad’ bucket for the Cloudswift.

Let’s start with the fact that they simply beat up my feet. With the brand touting that their Helion™ superfoam is “cushioning that could do it all” and marketing the Cloudswift as a shoe to handle those “urban environments” (aka roads), I was expecting a lot.

Further, the description of the Helion™ superfoam on the On website states it as the fusing of “stiffer foam elements with softer sections” making it “light on weight but big on energy return, responsive yet protective.” Based on all of this, I was expecting something to match the cushioning and responsiveness of the Nike Varporfly 4%. Maybe that’s a big ask, but it’s in the name!

Needless to say, the Cloudswift fell way short of my expectations. Now, it’s not hard as nails. There is some cushion. I did a head-to-head comparison with my go-to daily trainers, the Brooks Launch 6, and the Cloudswift still makes for a stiffer and harder ride. Without any noticeable benefits. I never felt like these shoes made me fast on my feet.

Aside from a harder ride, there’s the point of ‘beating up my feet’. I’m not sure if it was the Helion™ superfoam, the polymer Speedboard in between, or the sole design, On’s CloudTec® tube technology, or maybe some combination of everything, but after every run I had pain between my second and big toe. I thought it was just generalized pain from my mileage, but when I swapped these shoes out for the Brooks Launch 6, the pain immediately went away. Rather than guess at where the problem stems from, I simply chose to stop wearing the shoe and let my aggravated nerve calm down.

Other nitpicky details that I’d categorize into this section are:

  • The mechanical side bands that hold your laces and give a bit of structure to your midfoot make it difficult to cinch your laces down. Over time, I’m sure this rubberized piece would wear down and give a little more, but every time I tried to tie my laces, they would release a tad. It was hard to get it snug on the first tug of the laces.
  • If you’re like me and run mostly road but dabble on soft surfaces to keep the legs fresh, the gaps between the lugs on the sole of the shoe will catch rocks. On my last run I came away with 4 larger stones stuck in my shoe.
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On Cloudswift Outsole

On Cloudswift Conclusion

Robbe: Like I said, I wanted so bad to love this shoe. But I can’t with good conscience give this a good review. There are so many better mid-weight options out there. But hey, if you’re a max-10K runner who loves to get compliments and comments on your shoe and you don’t care about comfort and also feel like it’s worth $150 to pay for that experience, then go for it. If you go with these, make sure you go a half-size down. I wear 7.5 in almost every shoe, across the board I wear a 7 in On shoes.

West Coast Meghan: Like I said in the beginning, I had high hopes for this shoe. The name led me astray. Although the shoe is a looker in my book, it’s simply not the shoe for me. It’s a deal breaker if, at any point, I walk away with something hurting that didn’t hurt before. That said, I’ve read nothing but rave reviews from other folks and if you’ve worn other On shoes before, it might just be your next trainer. You can pick up the shoe for $149.99 at Running Warehouse by using the shop link below.

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Have something to say? Leave a Comment

  1. Alex says:

    Finally an honest review that is exactly what I felt about these shoes.

  2. Nick says:

    I don’t mind these shoes as much as the reviews indicate, but one thing that I will say is that one of them has a severe hot spot on the front balls of my feet, and it’s legit decently uncomfortable to wear them.

    I think in the end they absolutely amazing looking shoes, but not as nice as other running shoes from Brooks, etc. I’d take my Brooks Ghost or Revel over these 100/100 times.

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