The On Cloudracer is one of the most uniquely designed running shoes available. Engineered in Switzerland, its unmistakable, bubbly looking bottom is sure to catch people’s attention whether they’re competitive athletes or recreational runners. But do those tiny outsole rings work as advertised – that the Cloudracer can “fly you to the finish line”? And does the Cloudracer’s performance justify its $129.00 price tag? Find out below as I put this shoe to a test over the past few months.
Disclaimer: I received one pair of On Cloudracer for free as a media sample for testing and reviewing purposes. All statements below are expressed as my honest, personal opinion.
The Cloudracer looks heavier than it is. Dubbed as a “racer”, this shoe merely weighs 8.64 oz for USM 8.5 (7.94 oz for USW 7). The bulk of Cloudracer’s weight is concentrated in the the midsole, which gives the shoe a 6 mm heel-to-toe drop (24 mm heel and 18 mm forefoot). The upper is largely made with a very light-weight mesh. This mesh is extremely thin; in fact, it’s so thin that I can see my finger through it when I stick my hand in the shoe! There are reflective logos on the medial side, lateral side, and on the heel. While the shoe tongue is thin, light, porous, and smooth, it isn’t plush or padded – the rounded shoe lace can be felt through the tongue. There is a hard heel counter that lies beneath the orange band which hugs around the heel. The ankle collar is lightly padded. The removable insole is made of a dense, springy foam material.
Obviously the most striking and distinguishing feature of the Cloudracer is its outsole. The 18 orange Cloudtec Elements at the bottom of the shoe remind me of delicious penne alla vodka every time I look at the shoe! Perhaps that’s a sign I should ease down on my carb-loading. These oval extrusions are made of solid rubber that can be squished onto the grey midsole foam. Although these miniature half-pipe-looking outsole structures seemed soft and weak under the Cloudracer at first, to my surprise they’ve held up their hollow shape quite well when I pressed the entire shoe on the ground. The Cloudtec Elements returned their original shape and form as soon as I let go any force.
To be honest, my initial reaction when holding this shoe for the first time was that the Cloudtec Elements were gimmicky. I expected it to break or deform quickly before the rest of the shoe – but I couldn’t be more wrong.
Let me give you the bad news first. After logging 121 miles in the Cloudracer, I was slightly disappointed in a surprising way – the medial side of the upper on right Cloudracer was torn. As I consider 121 a relatively low mileage, I thought the upper mesh was a bit flimsy. Although many racing flats are not built to last for hundreds of miles of running, I didn’t anticipate a hole to appear on the upper so soon.
Another issue I had with the Cloudracer is its fit. The toebox of this shoe is quite large compared to all my other running shoes – the interior is both wide and long. This wasn’t too problematic as I like to run in wide shoes in general. But the point I’m trying to make is that the Cloudracer is roomy in comparison – so roomy I had to double check to see if I didn’t get one size too large.
On the plus side, though, the Cloudracer’s upper is very breathable. It kept my feet cool and dry throughout the hottest, most intense runs. The lacing system and renforcement straps under the upper mesh were able to provide sufficient structural support and lock down my foot in the Cloudracer – even with its overly generous sizing.
The midsole of this shoe is quite pleasing. It is rigid, springy and responsive, yet light-weight and low in height. The Cloudracer is almost as thin as my favorite shoe thus far – the Saucony Kinvara 3 (23 mm high). In terms of flexibility, the Cloudracer isn’t the most spectacular shoe in this department. Not that the midsole is completely inflexible – just don’t expect the Cloudracer to bend like the Nike Free 3.0 V4. There is no significant arch post in the midsole; this is another plus for me personally.
The thumb-sized rubber bulges that make up the outsole weren’t noticeable when I tried to feel them. No, they don’t bounce you back up when you land – like Nike wants you to believe in its Shox technology. In fact, I noticed that some of them completely collapsed onto the midsole even as I was just standing in place. The only time these structures got my attention was when I was running in wet conditions. The Cloudtec elements made some squeaky noise that rivaled the noise I observed from the Nike Free 3.0 V4. Other than the noise, I have not much to complain about the outsole because it works well with the midsole to provide a quick and comfortable ride for road running. In addition, there is plenty of grip and traction on the outsole. And what really shocked me the most about the outsole was its durability. There was only a slight bit of wear in the high-abrasion areas after 121 miles.
The On Cloudracer is a new minimalist(ish) running shoe that leaves me with mixed feelings. While I enjoyed its light-weight, responsive midsole that works together with its eye-catching outsole design, I wasn’t entirely satisfied with Cloudracer’s upper mesh material. Perhaps the tear on the upper was a premature anomaly (only on my right shoe; the left one was perfectly okay) in my case – but I still wish the upper was more substantial. It is, after all, a running shoe with a hefty price tag ($129.00); so it’s reasonable for me to expect a little more in durability. On the whole, if you can overlook these minor shortcomings of the Cloudracer, you’ll find that this is a competent road racing shoe for runners who have enjoy a springy, low ride. The Cloudracer is large and roomy compared to other brands – going 1/2 size down would be my suggestion.
Have you seen or heard of the On Cloudracer? What do you prefer to wear in races? What other shoes would you like me to review? Please share with us in the comment section below.