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While the weight of a running shoe is undoubtedly important, we’d caution against dismissing a shoe that looks heavy on paper without actually experiencing what it feels like. Some shoes can clock in as real heavyweights but feel far lighter on the foot, while others give the appearance of being speedsters and end up being clunkers.
The On Cloudsurfer is very much a shoe that falls into the first category, tipping the scales at 330g (men’s size 7.5 UK) but feeling positively sprightly when you’re running. The heft is unusual for the Swiss company, which prides itself on how lightweight the distinctive pod cushioning on its shoes is. In the past, however, I’ve found these pods a trifle too firm for my taste, with even On’s everyday training shoes like the Cloud lacking in softness. As a result I’ve tended to only use them for short or speedy runs when the responsive feel is appreciated.
The Cloudsurfer is a different beast. It’s the most comfortable On shoe I’ve tried by a wide margin, largely thanks to the extra cushioning that has been added to the sole, especially at the heel. It’s still not as soft as something like the Brooks Glycerin 16 or the Adidas UltraBoost 19, but heel strikers in particular will benefit from the extra EVA foam On has added to the shoe.
That cushioning comes at a cost in terms of weight, but you really don’t feel this when running in the Cloudsurfer. It’s soft on landing but the fast transition from heel-to-toe moves you to the firmer forefoot quickly, so you can pick up the pace when you want to.
The mesh upper on the shoe does everything you really want from an upper, in that you don’t really notice it’s there even as it holds the foot in place. I’m also going to say that the jungle/lime colourway, which, like the weight, looks disagreeable horrendous on paper, is really rather nice and understated in practice.
I took the Cloudsurfer out for several easy and steady runs of various lengths and speeds and it impressed throughout, so I thought I’d up the ante with a track session running 400m repeats at around 5K pace. And sure, the Cloudsurfer wasn’t the perfect shoe for this, but it still made a good impression by not being a clunking monster, which by rights it should be at its weight. When running faster in it I found I lost the soft feel of the landing, with the ride feeling a bit flat – not terrible, but not particularly responsive either.
So maybe it’s not one for the track or 5K blasts, but the Cloudsurfer is more versatile than its weight suggests, and it could be a strong option for half marathons or longer races. It’s at its best, however, during steady and easy training runs.
Nick Harris-Fry is a journalist who has been covering health and fitness since 2015. Nick is an avid runner, covering 70-110km a week, which gives him ample opportunity to test a wide range of running shoes and running gear. He is also the chief tester for fitness trackers and running watches, treadmills and exercise bikes, and workout headphones.