You can trust Coach We give honest reviews and recommendations based on in-depth knowledge and real-world experience. Find out more about how we review and recommend products.
It’s all about the foam in running shoes at the moment, whether it’s long-term favourites like Adidas’s Boost or record-setting innovations like Nike’s ZoomX, and everyone wants to get in on the act. And On is no exception, launching its Cloudswift shoe with a fanfare proclaiming the unrivalled benefits of the new Helion foam in the midsole. Sorry, superfoam, as On calls it.
According to On, this Helion foam delivers both “durability and rebound at a previously impossible level”, owing to a special structure. It’s also described as lightweight, although with the men’s size 7.5 Cloudswift weighing 290g it’s pretty squarely in the middle of the pack of shoes we’ve tried weight-wise – by no means a clunker to run in, but nothing out of the ordinary.
On’s stated purpose for the shoe is urban running, but after taking the Cloudswift out for a variety of runs I reckon it’ll serve well as an all-rounder option for runners who prefer a firmer ride.
I’ve found On shoes to be too firm for my taste in the past, only really enjoying the feel on faster tempo runs or even in races. The Helion promises a softer ride when you pull it on, but that first impression is mostly down to the sensational upper, more on which later. When you actually head out the door for a run, the ride delivered by the signature pods on the sole is still quite hard.
- The Best Running Shoes Of 2021
- On Cloudsurfer Running Shoe Review
- On Cloud Waterproof Running Shoe Review
The Helion does break in a little over time, but that firmness remains, and on my easiest efforts I’d rather be wearing something more cushioned like the Adidas UltraBoost 19 or Nike Epic React, both of which are almost as responsive as the Cloudswift but feel a little plusher at slow paces.
However, the Cloudswift does impress more when you step up the pace for steady or tempo runs. The heel-to-toe transition is smooth and while I didn’t really feel the promised massive energy return from the Helion foam, I did enjoy the fast, responsive ride of the shoe. I also took the Cloudswift to the track for a series of 1km reps and I was pretty impressed with how good it felt at higher paces, even if it’s not an all-out speedster or even as solid at race paces as my current favourite all-rounders, the Nike Zoom Pegasus Turbo and Brooks Launch 6.
None of the other shoes I’ve mentioned can match the upper of the Cloudswift, however, which is probably my favourite ever. It’s outrageously comfortable without feeling over-padded or hot. The mesh sits snugly against your foot and the plastic midfoot cage is very flexible, holding your foot in place without being intrusive at all.
The upper shouldn’t be the reason you buy a running shoe, but the Cloudswift’s is backed up by a solid platform as well. The Helion cushioning still lacks a little softness, enough to prevent the shoe being a truly great all-round option, but it is a little more soft than On’s other shoes without losing much in the way of speed and responsiveness when you up the pace. If you prefer a firmer feel to your running shoes this is a solid all-rounder that also boasts street-smart looks as a bonus.
Buy from On Running (opens in new tab) | £135
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.