The Echo is On’s best carbon shoe yet by a country mile, largely because the extra cushioning and rocker makes it more comfortable. It still falls short of the best carbon racers, but is a fast option for those who prefer a firmer ride.
- Rocker creates an efficient ride
- More stable than most carbon shoes
- Good ground feel
- Firmer than many will like for longer events
- Midsole foams less impressive than other brands
- High price puts it up against better shoes
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Swiss brand On released two running shoes with carbon-infused plates in 2020: the Cloudboom and the Cloudflash. The Cloudboom was built for longer events like the marathon, while the Cloudflash was a lightweight option for shorter races.
Neither shoe really hit the mark. Both offered a far firmer ride than most of the best carbon plate shoes, and lacked the bounce and efficiency gains you get from the likes of the Nike Vaporfly. For my money, the Cloudboom was only really suitable for shorter events, while the Cloudflash was so firm that even short track sessions in the shoe would leave my legs wrecked the following day.
On has taken the new Cloudboom Echo in a different direction. Its higher stack not only increases the comfort of the ride but allows more room for the carbon-infused plate in the midsole to curve. This creates more of a rocker that helps you transition through your footstrike efficiently and adds more pop to your toe-off.
However, I’ll chalk up that so-so first impression to breaking in the shoe, because since then I have loved using it. It’s at its best when running at faster paces, when the rocker and plate produce a smooth ride that felt almost effortless when I was in the groove.
I’ve used the Echo for more than 100km of running, doing a mix of shorter speedwork and longer sessions of up to 25km. It felt best on a progression run when I increased the pace from the halfway mark in a half marathon to finish in 1hr 15min. The Echo certainly felt like it was protecting my legs on that run so I could finish feeling strong, a far cry from longer runs in the original Cloudboom where around the 15km mark, my legs would begin to protest at the battering they were taking.
The Echo also has the speed for shorter stuff as well and the firmer ride makes it more stable than many carbon shoes, so it would work well for 5K or 10K events on twisty courses. I’d say it has the protection for a half marathon at full race pace as well, and is a marathon option for runners who find high-stack shoes unstable and disconnected from the ground.
As with all On shoes I’ve tried, the upper is excellent, offering a comfortable and secure fit in my usual size. The shoe is pretty flexible around the midfoot, bending far more easily than other carbon shoes, but the plate is less flexible in the forefoot to add that pop to your toe-off.
The Echo uses the usual On midsole materials, with a layer of its Helion foam plus the distinctive pods that feature on all the brand’s shoes. This cushioning is firmer and less bouncy than the foams used by other brands, like Nike’s ZoomX or New Balance’s FuelCell, but the Echo doesn’t feel unpleasantly harsh.
Part of that is down to simply adding more cushioning, but I think the crucial difference is the extra curve on the plate and the enhanced rocker in the shoe, which mitigate the firmer foam and make the ride smoother. It’s similar on that front to the Saucony Endorphin Pro 2, another relatively firm carbon racer.
Despite having more cushioning than the original Cloudboom, my size 9 Echo came in lighter, at 227g compared with 240g. That brings the Echo into line with most carbon shoes like the Alphafly, Endorphin Pro 2 and New Balance RC Elite v2, although some like the Vaporfly and Asics Metaspeed Sky are closer to or even under 200g.
The Cloudboom Echo is a major step up from On’s previous carbon offerings, providing the increased efficiency and comfort runners have come to expect from racing shoes. However, there is a sticking point here, which is the £210 price.
While I rate the Echo highly, I’d still have several carbon shoes ahead of it, including the Nike Vaporfly NEXT% 2 and New Balance RC Elite 2 at the same price, plus the Asics Metaspeed Sky at £225. The Saucony Endorphin Pro 2 has a similarly firm, smooth ride, and it costs £190.
I have seen the Echo crop up at £195 from some retailers, but even at that price I’d be picking up one of the other shoes mentioned, particularly the Vaporfly which is so well established as a carbon racer that has worked for runners of all levels.
If you have found other racing shoes too soft and unstable, the Echo is worth considering although I’d still give the Endorphin Pro 2 the nod. On has made an excellent shoe in the Cloudboom Echo, and if you’re someone who loves splashing the cash on exciting shoes it won’t disappoint, but the competition is very strong right now among the best running shoes, and the Echo is just a little short of the standards set by other shoes at the same price.
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.