ON Running Cloudventure Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: High quality upper construction, look great, comfortable
Cons: Heavy, expensive, sloppy fit, stones easily get stuck in sole
Manufacturer: ON Running
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Our Analysis and Test Results
Lately we have seen a fair amount of people out on the trails wearing shoes made by ON Running, which inspired us to try out the Cloudventure, their signature trail running shoe. While this is the first version of the shoe that we've tried, it has been updated at least once in the past, and as far as we can tell, many of the initial complaints have been addressed and remedied in the current version. This includes an unstable heel design due to pods being placed in odd places (the heel now has average stability), as well as a propensity for the pods to rip off (might still happen, but our testers held up fine). Our overall impressions are very favorable when it comes to looks and how it feels walking around town or hiking, but we aren't super impressed with the trail running performance. In particular, the fit is sloppy and doesn't hold the foot securely in place, the compression of the Cloudtec pods is uneven leading to downhill instability, and the shoes are quite heavy.
From a foot protection standpoint, these shoes can be considered a success. Underfoot, they combine a stiff and rigid rockplate with various sized Cloudtec pods spread out over the sole of the shoe. These pods are solid in the forefoot, but in the midfoot and under the heel are hollow, so that they can compress as you land, which happens especially as you run downhill. The hollow centers are surrounded first by a layer of foam, and then completely covered by ON's Missiongrip rubber. Despite being compressible, the feel of this shoes is decidedly firm, and when the pods compress, they don't offer a comparable spring back sensation that you would expect in a pair of Hokas. The pods also have deep grooves in between them, with a very deep channel running down the middle of the shoe, exposing the rockplate, so it's still possible to land on a rock in just the right (or wrong) spot.
The upper is well constructed using welded seams. The entire shoe is rimmed with a rubber bathtub, which does a decent job of protecting your foot and the material from low to the ground abrasion. That said, the high wear spots on each side of the forefoot are not laminated, and leave perforated mesh exposed. The toe bumper is solid, covered in rubber, and does an awesome job of protecting from stubbed toes.
We aren't terribly enamored with the grip this shoe provides. The large pods do a better job of protecting the bottom of the foot, and providing cushioning, than they do at offering good grip. In particular, the pods are flat on top, and have such a large surface area that there is little to no bite into soft surfaces like mud or snow. For this reason, the shoe does a lot better on hard surfaces, where their large exposed surface area helps with creating friction. Adorning each pod, or lug, are tiny triangular protrusions that should increase grip but effectively wear off after only a couple runs. The rubber itself is made of ON's Missiongrip, which we don't find to be very sticky, especially compared to our favorite outsole rubber compound, Vibram Megagrip. Finally, the deep channels that run front to back through the shoe are amazing at trapping stones, and not a single run goes by that we don't have to reach down and pick out rocks, sometimes nearly golf ball sized, that have become stuck.
We also didn't find this shoe to be very stable. While it has a relatively moderate 6mm heel-toe drop, the large Cloudtec pods put a lot of material between the ground and your foot, and these shoes feel like they ride quite high. This in itself isn't always an issue, but this sense is combined with a relatively narrow landing platform, and a fairly sloppy fit that doesn't lock the foot in well. The upper doesn't provide enough structure to crank down and grip the foot, and we had problems with our feet sliding forward when running downhill, but also moving side to side at all times. Finally, the pods under the heel collapse as you land on them, but as these pods are unevenly distributed on the sole of the shoe, the compression is not always predictable, sometimes adding a wobbly effect. Simply put, we found this shoe capable of throwing us side to side in unexpected ways, and appreciate a more uniform landing platform better.
A large part of how comfortable a shoe is depends on the quality of construction, and there is no doubt that the upper of the Cloudventure is made to the absolute highest standards. The breathable mesh is joined to the rubber bathtub by welded seams, and the inner is nearly seamless. However, we found that while they may be as comfortable as shoes can get while walking around town, the flexible, spacious fit was not an advantage for running. The fit itself seems spot on size-wise, and the shoe runs fairly high volume, especially through the arch and heel. In our water bucket test, they were in the top third of the competitors when it came to not retaining water, so are a good choice for wet weather runs.
Our pair of men's size 11 shoes weighed in at 23.7 ounces. While this isn't infringing on hiking shoe terrain in terms of weight, it does lump these together with the heaviest shoes in our review, not with the lightest ones. It seems that every shoe will be dubbed "lightweight" by the marketing departments of their companies, but the fact is that these shoes are not super light. We aren't surprised, considering the amount of rubber it takes to cover all the pods on the sole. But when running, the added weight can be felt, and these aren't shoes that will speed you up due to their diminutive frame.
The large Cloudtec pods ensure that you feel very little of the trail that you are running upon, and in fact, we would call these some of the least sensitive shoes in this review. When you lose the intrinsic trail feel, at least you are getting back a lot of underfoot protection, so each individual runner will have to decide what sort of compromises versus advantages they are looking for. That said, this shoe doesn't give you the same springy bounce back effect that other maximally cushioned shoes, such as Hokas, tend to give.
At retail price, these are some of the more expensive trail shoes you will find these days, well above average price. While it's obvious that the production quality is there to meet the price tag, the performance doesn't quite warrant spending this much. If you are in the market for a very nice looking and comfortable hiking shoe, we would be more inclined to give our stamp of approval, but as a running shoe you are not getting the best value here.
The ON Running Cloudventure features one of the most unique outsoles you will find on a running shoe, but one that may be better suited to roads, where its cushioning effect will not lead to as uneven of a ride as it does on uneven technical trails. While we think they look great, are well made, and are comfortable to wear, their mediocre grip, sloppy fit, and added weight didn't win us over out on the trails.
— Andy Wellman