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. These kicks kicked so hard that they landed themselves at the very top of our cohort, earning a high score overall.
On Cloud X Review
Cons: Outsole picks up rocks and gravel, toebox can be too flexible, tongue can rub
Manufacturer: On Footwear
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On Cloud X
|Price||$139.95 at Backcountry||$99.97 at Backcountry|
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|$149.65 at Amazon|
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|$89.95 at Amazon||$129.95 at Backcountry|
|Pros||Responsive, supportive fit, roomy toebox, flashy, lightweight, springy||Flashy, fast, extra comfortable upper and landing||Stable, super comfortable upper, breathable, stylish||Affordable racing flats, more comfortable updated design, light||Lightweight, cushioned forefoot, supportive, responsive, really comfortable stability model|
|Cons||Outsole picks up rocks and gravel, toebox can be too flexible, tongue can rub||On the heavier side, can feel too stiff, premium price||Clunky, may wear down quickly, pricey||Limited durability, less attractive, less responsive||Slightly pricey, bulky, glue may fail prematurely, limited arch support, may feel stiff to some runners|
|Bottom Line||A fast, high performance shoe best suited to mid-distance.||It doesn’t get much better than these plush speedsters.||Best choice for a comfortable, stable distance shoe.||Fast racing flats that will get you across the line in comfort.||High cushion, low weight, excellent support, and great responsiveness makes this one of the best stability models out there.|
|Rating Categories||On Cloud X||Nike Air Zoom Vomero 14||Brooks Glycerin 17||Brooks PureFlow 7||HOKA ONE ONE Arahi 3|
|Landing Comfort (25%)|
|Upper Comfort (10%)|
|Specs||On Cloud X||Nike Air Zoom...||Brooks Glycerin 17||Brooks PureFlow 7||HOKA ONE ONE Arahi 3|
|Weight (oz per pair for size 11)||17.8 oz||22.3 oz||23.2 oz||20.8 oz||21.2 oz|
|Toe to Heel Drop||6 mm||10 mm||10 mm||4 mm||5 mm|
|Width Options||Regular||Regular, Wide, Extra Wide||Regular, Wide||Regular||Regular|
|Style (Traditional, Minimalist, etc.)||Neutral||Traditional||Neutral||Neutral||Stability/Maximal|
|Sizes Available||7-13||6 - 15||7 - 15||7 - 14||7 - 15|
|Upper Material||Synthetic||Mesh||Synethetic||Stretch weave||4-way stretch mesh/polyurethane|
|Midsole Material||EVA||Nike React||DNA Loft||BioMoGo DNA||EVA|
|Sole Rubber||Rubber||Rubber||Rubber||Blown carbon||EVA/rubber|
Our Analysis and Test Results
Speedy and fly, the On Cloud X is 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. 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 a top score in our fleet.
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 speed board 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 baseline Cloud model 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 speed board, and gripping fit turn out a racing flat with superior responsiveness.
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 speed board 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 Pegasus. This can be a tough choice, but for those looking for a fast racing flat, we highly suggest trying out the Cloud X. If you want a relatively standard style with excellent cushioning, look to the tried-and-true Nike model, the Pegasus or Vomero.
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 speed board, 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.
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. 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, 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.
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 Brooks Glycerin 17, a heavily padded stability model. They come in just behind the previous Editors' Choice, the Brooks PureFlow 7, 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 Brooks Glycerin 17.
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 come at a bit of a premium, but we think their price 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 earned one of the highest scores 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.
— Ryan Baham