On Running Shoes - Innovation and Performance

Posted by Whole Earth | 07.28.2021

On Cloudventure trail running shoes put to the test on a rocky mountain slope.



On Running Shoes - Innovation and Performance


When the Swiss put their minds to improving something, you can rest assured that the result will be something special. Direct from Zurich, meet On running shoes, born of the founder's desire to revolutionize the running experience with shoes that combine innovation, performance, comfort and a concern for the environment.


Olivier Bernhard - Founder of On running shoesAfter retiring from professional competition, three-time world duathlon champion and multiple Ironman winner Olivier Bernhard began the search for a running shoe that would give him the perfect running experience. Early in his quest he met a Swiss engineer who had an idea for a new kind of running shoe. Combining Bernhard's running experience with the engineer's expertise led to the development of dozens of prototypes, all based on the concept of a cushioned landing and a firm takeoff.


In January 2010, Bernhard, joined by his friends Caspar Coppetti and David Allemann, created On in Zurich. Just a month later their prototype running shoe won the ISPO BrandNew Award, honoring the most promising sports startups. Test runners were enthusiastic and described their experience as running on clouds. And then in July 2010, the first On running shoes appeared on store shelves. Over the past decade On has continued to innovate as it added new lines of running shoes for all sorts of conditions. Their running shoes are also known for their subtle colorways. 


So what sets On running shoes apart from the competition? There are four technical advancements that are fundamental to On's success.



CloudTec Clouds on the sole of an On running shoeThe sole of an On shoe is made up of Clouds - cloud-shaped cushions that compress when the runner lands forming a flat surface. The Clouds then rapidly expand as the foot lifts off, allowing the downward force of the stride to boost forward motion. The Clouds cushion both vertically and horizontally, adapting to a runner's foot strike for added speed and comfort.  The Clouds and the spaces between them are finely tuned to the millimeter taking into consideration gender, shoe size and model. What may work for one may not work another. The larger Clouds are located at the heel for added cushioning while the Clouds towards the toe are smaller.




Speedboard on the sole of a pair of On running shoesThe Cloud's partner in On running shoes is the Speedboard.  Made of a thermoplastic polymer, the Speedboard sits between the midsole and the upper. Look between the Cloud elements on the sole of any On shoe and you’ll see the underside of its Speedboard. Every time the runner's foot strikes the ground, the Cloud elements compress to soften the landing. At the same time, the Speedboard flexes, loading with energy from the impact like an archer drawing a bow. That energy is released during the push-off giving the runner a boost in forward momentum.




Missiongrip clouds on the sole of a Cloudventure On trail running shoeThe Missiongrip sole was engineered for trail running.  It combines enhanced traction patterns and a specially selected grip-rubber compound to keep runners sure-footed on the trail. The sticky grip of the specially developed Missiongrip rubber is further enhanced by the traction pattern. Zig zag channels and flatter details prevent slipping on smooth surfaces. Going uphill the solid rubber grip studs in the forefoot provide traction for a push off, while the square cloud elements serve as downhill cushioning.



Helion superfoam

Helion superfoam is Swiss-engineered specifically as cushioning that is lightweight yet durable, combining rebound with temperature resistance. Using advanced production processes, the foam combines rigid, stable sections with more flexible foam elements, striking a balance between soft landings and responsive road feel. Temperature changes can degrade foam and reduce the life of a running shoe. In hot weather, foam tends to lose its resilience and in cold weather, it stiffens. Helion resists these hot and cold temperature challenges, offering year round running comfort.


Here are a few of our favorite On running shoes.


On Women's Cloudswift Running Shoes

On Women's Cloudswift Running Shoes

The Cloudswift is made for urban runs. Lightweight with impact protection, it features Helion superfoam, CloudTec and the Speedboard.  The CloudTec Clouds are positioned in Helion offering increased forefoot cushioning and the larger Clouds at the rear dampen heel strikes, protecting the runner from tough surfaces. There are durable rubber reinforcements covering the Cloud elements that also improve traction, even on wet roads. The Cloudswift slips on easily and stays firmly on the foot. Available for men and women.



On Men's Cloudventure Trail Running Shoes

On Men's Cloudventure Trail Running Shoes

The Cloudventure is a lightweight trail running shoe featuring CloudTec, Speedboard and Missiongrip technologies. The Cloudventure has the tech and traction for uphill running, and the cushioning for the downhill. The updated Speedboard is narrower at the center and flexes with the foot over uneven ground. The two-layer mesh upper provides optimal ventilation for cooling. While the inner layer offers a soft-step in and support, the outer layer provides breathable, lightweight protection. Available for menwomen and waterproofed.



On Women's Cloud X Running Shoes

On Women's Cloud X Running ShoesCloud X offers stability, agility and versatility and features CloudTec, Helion superfoam and Speedboard technologies. This lightweight shoe was made for both running and for mixed sports workouts.  Molded cushion pads in the heel offer gentle security and the raised sidewalls add stability and agility. The mesh upper combines durability and breathability, and the no sew designs maintains a perfect fit on the street, the track, the gym or at home. Available for men and women.



On Men's Cloud Running Shoes

On Men's Cloud Running ShoesThe Cloud launched in 2014 and remains an On favorite. This latest version offers a ripstop upper along with CloudTec and Speedboard technologies. Designed to be the lightest fully cushioned running shoe, the Cloud is a now classic running shoe and the perfect performance shoe for all-day, everyday wear. The signature speed-lacing system lets the foot slip in and out with ease, and keeps the shoe firmly in place while on the move. Available for men and women.



An important consideration these days when purchasing almost any item is a company's record for sustainability and ethical sourcing. Shoe manufacturers have a special challenge using high tech manmade materials. On has accepted the challenge and is working toward Circularity: the goal is when their running shoes are worn out, they will be returned to the company, the materials recycled and new products made with no compromises made to quality and performance. This process is a work in progress but On is fully engaged in decarbonization and decoupling their growth from the resources they use.


If you haven't tried On and you need of some new running shoes, give them a try. We think you'll be pleased. The combination of innovation, performance and comfort along with a commitment to sustainability, makes On a company you'll want to support.



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