Running On Clouds

I love to run and have done so for years. It’s my favourite leg (no pun intended) in a tri and has been my go-to, ‘me time’ for as long as I can remember. That said, over the years I’ve run in a variety of running shoes – different styles, different brands. And, I won’t lie, I’ve settled on one particular brand and have avoided steering away from it because, well, if it ain’t broke, why fix it right? But when I heard about On-Running shoes I was instantly intrigued but with a healthy dose of scepticism. So, when the opportunity came to try out their latest offering, the Cloudflow Performance Running Shoe – my hand went up immediately (I volunteer as tribute – ha!). I was keen to give them a go and oh-so curious about this whole ‘running on clouds’ experience.

I’ve said this in the past – aside from how the shoe looks and fits, one of the most important things I look for when choosing a new running shoe is, comfort. I want the shoe to feel good, to be secure – I don’t want any unnecessary movement when running because this can lead to chaffing and blisters – no thanks! I want the shoe to be firm yet flexible; to hold my foot in place while giving me enough room at the front to allow my toes to spread out when my feet get hot; I don’t want chaffing or blisters and I want the shoe to be responsive. I look for bounce, breathability and grip. If I’m spending big bucks on a shoe I want it to run well on most surfaces (my run sessions vary – I’ll run on and off road and everything in between) and I want the shoe to last. So, did the Cloudflow Performance Running Shoe meet all my demands?

The first thing that I noticed when the shoes arrived at the AT office was the attention to detail – On-Running has that down to an art. The shoes came in a black box, which made the shoes pop. The luxury of the shoe was clearly on show – this was not just going to be any running show. The Cloudflow shoes in almond and grey are sleek and clean with a premium design. But wait, there’s more! Inside the box were not only the shoes themselves but also a personal owner ID card, with an invitation to: ‘Join the Cloud’. How exclusive and new age does that sound? I almost felt like your own personal welcome to the exclusive Cloud Club. Yes! I’m in.

Time to run.

On first wear, around the office initially – I couldn’t help myself, I was as excited as a kid on Christmas morning, the shoes were comfortable but they did feel a little different compared to other shoes I’ve worn. The body of the shoe felt a little stiffer but this wasn’t significant or a problem. In fact, I found that this actually helped shoes hold my feet comfortably in place, limiting unnecessary movement or sliding, particularly in the back of the heel. The tongue was also very comfortable, stitched in and held down on both sides, meaning no extra movement or potential chaffing.

The main point of difference of On-Running shoes is the cloud pods on the soles of the shoes. To put it simply, when you run or walk in the shoes you’re essentially landing on compressible clouds, which compress to effectively give you the feeling of running on clouds. Sounds pretty cool, right? But what’s the purpose of these clouds? On-Running says – ‘More Clouds. Zero Gravity.’ So, what they’re trying to achieve here is an independent cushion effect that propels your every step. The aim is that with the clouds, made of On-Running’s Zero-Gravity EVA foam, said to be positioned precisely where you need them, you hit the ground perfectly and then get the extra bounce off the ground for a more efficient run. I can confidently attest to this. From my very first run in the shoes (a 16-kilometre, aerobic run) I felt this effect. It was incredible. The shoes felt light, they fit well and I felt the responsiveness and bounce back of the clouds. I felt like my technique improved almost instantly and it felt like I was running faster with ease. The clouds also allow the shoe to be more flexible so you get the natural foot roll, again allowing a more efficient run.

 

I’ll admit, I was a little unsure about wearing brand new shoes for the first time during a long run (the aforementioned 16-kilometre run) – this can lead to all sorts of issues from blisters to injury. But I decided to run in them anyway. And, despite the fact that they were brand new, I had no issues. My feet felt secure and there was no unnecessary movement or rubbing. The shoes felt light – I soon forgot I was wearing new shoes, and the new generation upper mesh-weave increased the breathability of the shoe without compromising support. When running long distances there’s nothing worse than running in sweaty, uncomfortable shoes because this can often lead to chaffing and blisters. So, tick! On-Running have certainly achieved what they’ve set out to here – breathability. Another feature adding extra comfort to the Cloudflow running shoes is the ‘first-layer, inbuilt sock’. It was tricky to know if this truly made a difference as I didn’t wear the shoes without socks during my road test runs, so only time will tell with this feature but overall there was no issue with comfort – tick!

My only real gripe with the shoes has been the laces. I found them to be longer than normal and perhaps because they seem to be thinner than other laces, they tend to come undone easily (definitely double knot). But really, this is only a minor issue and not a reason to not try these shoes. I also did find the shoes to be a little unstable off-road, on gravel and on uneven surfaces. And also small rocks can get stuck in between the cloud pods, which isn’t ideal. But again, this isn’t a deal-breaker. Also, in speaking with On-Running directly, the Cloudflow aren’t designed for off-road – they’re designed for a faster road run. They have certainly achieved that without issue. And for those who love off-road running – On-Running do have shoes that cater specifically for that.

Ultimately, Cloudflow Performance Running Shoes are a great neutral runner. They feel fast; they open up nicely at the front, giving your toes plenty of room to move, while the heel is a little more narrow, holding your foot in place. They also look great both on and off the road or track. I’d be happy to wear them both during training/racing and casually with, say jeans – I know, I can hear you gasp! With … JEANS? Yep, Seinfeld, eat your heart out – ha! NB: I may have done this when putting my bike in transition at Challenge Melbourne a few months ago and also when I went on a movie date with my mum recently … don’t judge me.

And the big question: would I spend my own money on these shoes? Yes, I can confidently say that I would. Because really, why wouldn’t you want to be running on clouds?

Cloudflow Performance Running Shoe
Almond and Grey

Weight:
230g / 8.1oz (US M 8.5)
190g / 6.7oz (US W 7)
Heel-toe offset
6mm / 0.23in

RRP: $229.95AUD
on-running.com

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Margaret Mielczarek

Margaret Mielczarek is the deputy editor at Australian Triathlete Magazine and writes the web series 'Shenanigans of a Deputy 2.0'. She is a passionate age-group triathlete and four-time Ironman finisher - currently in training for Ironman number five!

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