The Cloudnova is positioned as an all-day sneaker that borrows technology from On’s mainline running shoes, blending performance with comfort. Do they live up to the hype? We put them to the test to see if the cloud-infused footwear could become our new everyday pair.

On is a Swiss company primarily known for producing high performance running shoes, many of which are vegan friendly and made with recycled materials. For years the brand has been included in the conversation when discussing elite running gear, alongside others such as Altra, Brooks and Asics (the trio also produce vegan-friendly footwear). Increasingly, the company has been branching out into the athleisure market with its line of active wear clothing and shoes designed for casual running. Their entry-level option, the famous Cloud shoe ($129USD) also appeals to a more casual audience thanks to its lower price point and availability in an assortment of fun colours. The more serious runners and trail hikers will be interested in the Cloudboom Echo and Cloudrock Edge Raw (made with 40% recycled materials) respectively.

Running On Clouds

Don’t let the name fool you, these are some seriously comfy (and high-tech) shoes.

Regardless of the activity, all On shoes share the ‘Cloud’ moniker. But don’t let the name fool you, these are some seriously comfy (and high-tech) shoes. The company prides itself on patented CloudTec® technology, which is engineered to provide both a soft cushioning and explosive take-off via its unique sole design. In theory, the sole protects the wearer against foot-strike impact through its unique cushion elements, tensing when contracted then releasing to provide spring when pushing off the ground. Think of it like a pillowy coil beneath your feet that adapts to your foot’s positioning, pressure and movement. Each pair of On’s feature a variation of the CloudTec® sole, depending on the type and use; running shoes tend to be more springing whilst trail shoes are firmer.

On the comfort side, On’s comprehensively protect your feet with a mixture of padding, mesh and inner supports. This holds true across the different range of footwear and will again vary in sturdiness and weight depending on the type of shoe. The company categorises the shoes according to intended activity, making it easier for consumers to choose the right shoe for the right use case, including road, trail running and hiking. You can then drill down even further into racing, supportive or active subcategories.

Unique Yet Familiar

The Cloudnova’s fill a particular void that was apparent in the company’s range of purpose-built shoes. Flush with options for marathon runners, weekend warriors and adventurous hikers, the brand was missing an all-rounder, something to wear for the times in between arduous physical activities. Importantly, an everyday-sneaker also needs to check the boxes for comfort and style, if it is to live up to its name. Previously the brand had attempted to positions its entry-level road running shoe, the Cloud, as a solution, which was somewhat of an overreach. Whilst supportive and comfortable, it was definitely a running shoe first and looked it.

The company imaged a shoe that was equal parts supportive, stylish and performant, choosing to redesign instead of re-release. The result is the Cloudnova, a brand-new shoe that hits all the right notes, yet sings a very familiar tune.

To address this shortfall, On didn’t just bring back an older model with a new colourway and call it a day, as many other big name footwear brands have been guilty of in the past. Instead, the company imagined a shoe that was equal parts supportive, stylish and performant, choosing to redesign instead of re-release. The result is the Cloudnova, a brand-new shoe that hits all the right notes, yet sings a very familiar tune. This is due in part to the company leveraging all it has learned from its years making comfortable, high-performance footwear. The tried and tested CloudTec® soles are here, re-engineered for daily urban use and spontaneous adventures. The introduction of rubber reinforcements also provide extra grip without compromising on the shoe’s bounce and On’s signature ability to protect against impact whilst delivering a spring in your step when you need it. This is helped by the Speedboard®, an additional piece of performance technology residing between the CloudTec® midsole and the upper section. This hidden platform is designed to transfer stored energy from the compressed sole to the wearer as they push-off, releasing as their foot lifts up, whilst rolling and flexing with the natural movement of your feet.

Performance is half of the story, as the unique design is where the Cloudnova stands apart, both inside and out. Featuring a mid-top profile, inner sock-like lining, wide-toe box and minimal yet contemporary form, the shoe not only looks good but also feels great to wear all day long. Compared to lower profile runners which lack ankle support, the Cloud Nova’s higher heel also has some tricks up its sleeve. The design team ensured the padded heal unit was asymmetrical, a decision made to favour the fact that our two main ankle bones, the medial malleolus and lateral malleolus, naturally sit at different heights. Mimicking the human body meant both areas of the ankle were provided with maximum support. All of this comfort and performance is delivered in an overall package that does not look out of place when comparing the shoe against other all-day sneakers.

Test Driving The Shoe

When taking the Cloudnova’s out for a spin, we wanted to cover off every situation that you could reasonably expect to find yourself in when wearing an everyday sneaker. This meant multiple ten-hour sessions wearing the shoe, walks of various length, light running, gym sessions and the occasional kick of a football. Regardless of the type of surface, the Cloudnova’s felt springy yet soft, with plenty of ankle support to prevent accidental rolling. Grass, turf, carpet, floorboards, dirt paths, roads and sidewalk all offered a similar experience. When striking a ball, the toe area always felt protected from impact, though you could tell when the ball made contact with the shoe. Training in the gym was also a pleasure, as the soles firmly gripped the ground providing stability and confidence when lifting.

Getting the shoe on and off is relatively easy, as though it is a snug fit, it relaxes when unlaced. In fact, that would be the only complaint with this first version; the mid-band feels slightly compressed and there is a small yet noticeable pressure around the mid-top of the foot, though this is somewhat alleviated with thinner socks and looser lacing. Another sticking point is that when putting on the shoe the top-portion of the heel area has a tendency to crush inward if accidentally pushed forward. It would be nice to see some firmer material used here, though that may lead to inflexibility and unwanted chaffing of the ankle. As it stands now, wearing low profile socks did not cause any ankle irritation which was surprisingly absent when breaking in a new shoe.

Final Verdict

The Cloudnova is a great, multi-purpose, all-day sneaker that both looks good and keeps your feet feeling comfortable no matter what you throw at them. We also love the fact that it is also comprised of recycled content (including 30% recycled polyester) as it is always great to see products being made with sustainability in mind. If you are looking for a shoe that you can easily wear for hours on end yet deliver performance when you need it, then the Cloudnova’s have got you covered. ■


On Cloudnova

Good Stuff

  • Comfortable, can be worn for hours
  • Suits multi-purpose activities
  • Features recycled content
  • Light weight yet supportive
  • Stylish design

Bad Stuff

  • Narrow bridge
  • Crushable heel

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