On is a relatively new company out of Switzerland that has been quickly breaking into the international running scene. Incorporated in Zurich, they were only born in 2010, but already they have opened a second headquarters in Portland, Oregon and it's no wonder they have seen such expansion. On is the project of retired running champions and engineers looking to create the ultimate running experience. It's true that all companies seek to do exactly that, but they have created a truly unique product in the Cloud X, delivering a lighter, sexier, and more natural ride than other top competitors like the Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 34, with its thick, firm stack. These kicks kicked so hard that they landed themselves at the very top of our cohort, earning them the Editors' Choice.
On Cloud X ReviewPrice: $140 List | $139.95 at Backcountry Pros: Responsive, supportive fit, roomy toebox, flashy, lightweight, springy
Cons: Outsole picks up rocks and gravel, toebox can be too flexible, tongue can rub
Bottom line: A fast, high performance shoe best suited to mid-distance.
Toe to Heel Drop: 6 mm
Style (Traditional,minimalist,etc.): Neutral
Manufacturer: On Footwear
RELATED REVIEW: Best Running Shoes for Men of 2018
Our Analysis and Test Results
Speedy and fly, the On Cloud X are among the latest offerings from On's Performance selection. On notes in its description of the model that the comfort is not apparent on first look, but they're right in asserting that it can be felt. It's all in the sculpted form-fit, smooth lining, and firm foam padding along the collar. Their new tongue is seamless, drastically improving on the models from its popular active selection, like the Cloud. The sockliner covers the entirety of the shoe, offering a layer of cushion throughout, making for a much more comfortable ride. They combine a narrow neck and low profile to cradle the foot for support and control without sacrificing speed and agility. Read on to see how they do against other top models in each of our measures.
The review that follows highlights the reasons why the Cloud X earned its top place as our brand new Editors' Choice winner.
On hit upon a solution to racing flat responsiveness that is unique in the running shoe industry. Responsiveness typically requires a good deal of foam or other firm, springy material, which can compromise the flexibility and quick feel characteristic of racing flats, not to mention the added weight and bulk needed to get that responsiveness. To achieve this, they developed their CloudTec midsole, made up of hollow EVA cuboids, which are called Cloud Elements.
The X uses a stronger speedboard in its sole, which peps up its responsiveness enough to noticeably reduce the sink on strike and add a little more return at toe-off. This excellent give and return tops the previous Cloud, whose Cloud Element midsole also delivered excellent response, but didn't quite have the same stiffness to charge as hard as the X.
The X's innovative Cloud Element midsole, stiff speedboard, and gripping fit turn out a racing flat with superior responsiveness, ranking alongside plush high-stack stability shoes like the Top Pick for Stability HOKA ONE ONE Arahi, renowned by ultra marathoners for their forgiving cushion and return. Each shoe arrives at its exceptional performance by different means, but both tested equally as well. If you're having trouble determining which shoe is better suited to you, consider the type of running you do. If you are happy with a 10K, stick with the X. If you tend toward needing more cushion across your stride and skew toward the marathon distances, take a closer look at the Arahi.
At first, the articulation of the pods under the forefoot and toes can distract or feel unstable, but after a few minutes that dissipates and you adjust to the unique landing and come to appreciate what it's doing for your stride. What's remarkable about these trainers is that they don't sacrifice responsiveness by offering their high degree of landing comfort. That's largely owed to their use of a new, more rigid speedboard that helps provide the return and the tough, reflexive pods whose hollowness allows for a natural-feeling compression and kick-back.
Landing comfort is an area where these perform well, owing in large part to their CloudTec midsole with its EVA Cloud Elements. This design delivers the right mix of spring and cushion to push them up to the top of the category, rivaled only by the Nike Air Zoom and the HOKA ONE ONE Arahi, the go-to shoe for ultra-marathoners. This can be a tough choice, but for those looking for a fast racing flat, we highly suggest trying out the Cloud X. For those looking for a more stable, cushioned shoe, take a look at the Arahi. If you want a relatively standard style with excellent cushioning, look to the tried-and-true Nike model.
These come in at 17.8 ounces in men's 11, slightly more than their Cloud cousins in the Active lineup. This is owed to a little more padding in the upper, the added speedboard, and a full-length sockliner. Despite the extra weight, they are still objectively very light, and on a slightly less objective note, they still feel fast. This is another area where their crazy design is also surprisingly functional. The sole kicks out a good deal of responsiveness and lays out perfect cushion without needing to throw in slabs of foam.
These do very well in the lineup, especially for the comfort and response they provide. They come in just behind the 17.6 ounce Saucony Kinvara 8, which could nearly qualify as a maximalist model and the 17.3 ounce Cloud. At the very top of the group is the Minimus 10v1, a minimalist model at just 17.2 ounces.
The high performance X improves on some of the other popular On models like the Cloud by removing damage liabilities like the decorative heel strap and narrowing the openings around its Cloud Elements, improving the longevity of the shoe. It still has the vulnerabilities you would expect in any lightweight, high-performance racing flat; its mesh is thin and might wear down faster than clunkier models, its light outsole might wear faster with its judicious placement of tough carbon rubber, and its finer features like the smooth sockliner and padding could break down faster than is desirable.
This isn't typically a category dominated by lightweight racing flats and we can see that the X is sitting in that tranche near the bottom. The models that excelled here were the tank-like designs with tons of tough rubber on their outsole, coarse upper mesh and reinforced superstructures like what's seen in the New Balance 1540v2 and ASICS GT-2000 5. They top out the measure and might last for years and withstand all sorts of physical abuse, but they aren't going to be speedy or flashy. The exception to this can be seen in the minimalist New Balance Minimus 10v1, which are the lightest shoes in the cohort and achieve their durability with coarse mesh, lots of carbon rubber on the outsole, and serious superstructural framing.
Our favorite feature was the smooth, seamless sockliner throughout the upper. This makes a huge difference after the endorphins wear off from the first few miles and rubbing starts becoming a thing and the chafe begins to sting. The toe box is nice and roomy, but they lock down for a snug ride if so desired. The sleek vamp (front and sides) and streamlined quarter (heel cup area) feel more like a velvety, reinforced canvas, allowing more freedom of movement than might be seen in sturdier models like the Nike Pegasus 34.
They were one of the cushiest, most forgiving pairs in the lineup and that put them around the top of the comfort category next to the Saucony Hurricane ISO 3, a heavily padded stability model. They come in just behind the previous Editors' Choice, the Brooks PureFlow 6, whose liberal padding and light design propelled them to the top.
If you're looking for a kick that balances speed with cushion and comfort, we think you'll be happy with the Cloud X. If you need a little more support and prefer something more traditional, take a look at the Hurricane ISO 3. If you are in the market for a more traditional flat with lots of padding, give the PureFlow 6 a go.
Balancing comfort with breathability can be a difficult act, but On navigates it well. Comfort often comes in the form of padding and sock liners, and breathability often comes in the form of limited padding and thinner sock liners with less coverage. The Cloud X uses firm foam padding that allows the heel to air out without hugging too tightly and overheating or holding moisture. The liner along the vamp tends to hold a bit more moisture than is ideal, but the wide gauged upper mesh does help wick away some of the excess heat and damp collected by the felt-like liner.
These sweet racers come in near some of the other popular models like the Kinvara 8 and Adidas Adizero Boston 6 for this measure. For most running, this middle ranking shouldn't be enough to dissuade you from trying them out. For those who do need the ventilation and wicking, we suggest looking at the previous Editors' Choice, the PureFlow 6. For those willing to go even further, we recommend the minimalist Minimus 10v1.
These are versatile shoes, best suited to cross-training, sprints, and mid-distance up to 10Ks. They will do just fine at longer distances, depending on your running style, but they excel at short- and mid-distance.
These come at a bit of a premium, but we think $139 is a fair ask. They superbly balance response, comfort, and weight to create a fantastic, unique product that many runners would be delighted to own.
We selected these as our new Editors' Choice Award Winner for a reason. The theme we have to keep returning to is balance. The X is a masterpiece of balance. It offers the right mix of cushioning, breathability, style, weight, stability, and speedy-feel to keep us reaching for them when it came time to go out for the elective runs. Keep in mind this is a high performance model and you're paying for that quality. If you're looking for something to beat up and take out in the rain and mixed terrain, you might want to move down the spectrum a bit and keep these on the top shelf for race day and lead-up training.
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Most recent review: May 8, 2018
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