What do running shoes by On and tennis ace Roger Federer have in common? They are both stylish, svelte, technically superior and rather sexy. And they love each other – so much so they’ve recently teamed up. The Swiss company that created On 10 years ago spotted fellow countryman Roger wearing their running shoes. They approached him to join the team and now he’s on the On board, helping to shape its footwear, sportswear and ‘athlete spirit’.
I, too, have been converted to ‘running on clouds’ – the sensation On running shoes were designed to make you feel when you wear them. And even if you don’t want to run in them, these lightweight shoes make walking on hard city pavements a dream. And they look incredibly good on too.
On was founded in the Swiss Alps 10 years ago by three friends, the former professional athlete Oliver Bernhard, David Allemann and Caspar Coppetti. They wanted to ‘revolutionise the sensation of running’ – to engineer a shoe that would offer ‘soft landings and firm take-offs’. They did that, and On is now one of the fastest-growing running shoe brands in the world, serving more than 7 million runners in 50 countries. Priding itself for its cutting edge of design innovation it has since won two gold awards for best performance from ISPO (which recognises excellence in sports). I see them as the Apple of sports footwear.
So what’s so special about them?
First the ‘cloud’ soles: each shoe has 18 cushion ‘clouds’ on its sole, which add cushioning (Helion foam) to disperse pressure. They can move laterally as well as vertically, so the sole can bend every which way as your foot moves. The seamless uppers are made of strong mesh that’s breathable and antimicrobial and are reinforced with taping in key points for a secure, supported feel. They are extremely comfortable and light (just under 9oz or 230g) and the ‘heel-toe’ drop is 6mm (I did say they take the technical details seriously).
To test On’s promises, I trial a pair of women’s Cloudflow shoes, the performance shoe for every day (from £120). On’s range also includes Cloudswift (an urban shoe with extra cushioning); and Cloud Terry, their fastest-selling shoe. On retails at London sportswear stores such as Runner’s Need, Cycle Surgery and Up and Running and now also includes lightweight trail shoes, and performance running gear.
My Clouds are black and white but they come in gorgeous colours such as pretty Rose/Sand, or the oceanic hues of Spray/Sea. On the On website, Roger is wearing the men’s Cloudflow in Rust/Limelight, while the women’s Cloudflow Violet/Tide is gorgeous too.
On Cloud is perfect for my slimmer foot, and yet are roomy in the ‘toe box’, so my feet don’t feel squished. They also fit snugly around the heel, and stay securely on during walking or running. Although they come with an easy-entry lacing system, so you can slip them on and off in a trice, I prefer the conventional laces that every pair comes with too, as that keeps them securely on.
I go out for a quick job around the park and intersperse it with walking. I immediately feel the difference between these On Cloud shoes and my usual running shoes: they really are super lightweight, and the tread – if walking, or the ‘landing’ if running – feels softer yet secure. They are indeed like running on clouds. The best bonus is their sleek stylishness and their adaptability. Like a Little Black Dress that can take you through the day with the right accessories, my Cloud shoes are infinitely adaptable. I wear them for a Saturday morning Parkrun, then a lunchtime dash down to Westbourne Grove, and I still have them on for a trip to the Royal Opera House Covent Garden in the evening. They worked each event perfectly.
The ultimate sign I find these On running shoes indispensable? I never want to take them off, I prefer to keep them On, On, On… on-running.com
The only drawback of the design is that the sole sometimes retains small stones, owing to the empty central line (designed so to minimise the weight). Anything picked up is immediately noticeable (shows how light and compact they are). However, the designers are modifying the sole to address this fault.