Wednesday, February 1, 2017

What I've Tried Wednesday: Review of the On Cloudflow

Disclaimer - I was given a pair of the On Cloudflows in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.  All opinions are my own.

In a market saturated with choice,  many running shoe companies are thinking outside the box to develop a trademarked technology.  One that brings consumers a better or unique running experience and that is immediately associated with their brand.  Newton comes to mind with their lug sole technology.   Adidas with their ultra boost technology.   When I think of these brands, that's what comes to mind.  

With new technology, especially something that is not quite traditional (like Newton's lugs) there always seems to be extra scrutiny because these things are almost always seen as gimmicky.  That was definitely the case when I first saw On running shoes.  I originally saw these shoes on instagram back in early 2015.  They were being worn by several Australian triathletes that I follow.   The shoes reminded me of the old Reebok Zigtech shoes that came out in 2010.   Not as garish but definitely different.  

I never wore the Zigtechs so I can't really speak to their performance.   That being said, I'm never one to shy away from trying something different (after I've done a bit of research of course).   So when I had the opportunity to purchase a pair of ON Cloudsurfers at a heavily discounted price, I jumped at the chance.   There's nothing I hate more than paying full price for something (like a shoe) and I end up not liking it.  

Suffice to say, that didn't happen.   But I'm getting ahead of myself.  Let me fill you in on the technology behind the On brand.

On is a Swiss company that was founded in 2010 by friends Olivier Bernhard, David Allemann and Caspar Coppetti.  Olivier was a 3 time World Duathlon Champion and a multiple Ironman winner who, when he retired from the sport, devoted his time to "finding a running shoe that would give him the perfect running sensation".    The concept that drove the creation of this brand was all about a cushioned landing and firm take off.   That is what the pods (or Clouds as they are called) on the bottom of the shoe provide.

From the On website:

When you hit the ground, the highly adaptive rubber elements cushion both vertical and horizontal forces (there is a great demo of this in on the website) for a soft landing.  Once on the ground, the Clouds lock firm to provide a solid foundation for a natural and powerful take off.  The Clouds act like tiny stability balls, responding to every movement of your foot.  They activate your postural muscles and enable you to stabilize your foot strike without artificial support.

I ran in the Cloudsurfer and loved them.  Shortly thereafter, I got the opportunity to test out On's new racing shoe, the Cloudflow.   I figured if it was anything like the Cloudsurfer, I'd probably really like it.

Like is an understatement.

I will boldly say that the Cloudflows are THE best shoes I've worn in a very long time, and I've worn a LOT of different shoes over my almost 20 years of running.

When I took it out of the box, I was a little concerned that it wouldn't fit as it looked quite narrow.  I have a neuroma in my left foot that gets aggravated when my toes are squished together, which is what seems to happen in most traditional running shoes.   So a narrow toe box would not be good for me.   I put my orthotic in and slipped my foot into the shoe.  It actually felt really good.  Taking a closer look at the shape of the shoe I noticed that the toe box is slightly squared which is probably what contributes to giving the shoe some more room.

My first run in them was 6km and it was fast.  The shoes felt great.  I didn't notice the clouds underfoot at all.  All I felt was support and excellent energy return.  I then decided to wear them on a long run.  Again, they felt fantastic.  And, to top it off, I had no blisters, no hot spots, no foot pain, nothing.   I'm chalking that up to what I feel is the best part of the shoe:  the upper.  Yes, the cloud technology is amazing but the upper is incredible.  According to the ON website, the upper of this shoe is "in a league of it's own".    It's made of an adaptive engineered mesh that uses the latest weave technology to blend breathability with support.   It's like wearing a supportive sock because it hugs your foot just like a sock would.  I haven't tested them without socks yet but plan to do so now that I'll be integrating some brick workouts into my training.

The clouds on the bottom of the shoe feature On's patented Speedboard technology that is built with a responsive flex and rocker that promotes "flow-motion".  According to the folks at On, it "encourages the natural rolling process promotes explosive take offs".  I definitely felt this when I was running.  I had no problem do an easy long run and a hard interval run in these shoes.  I also took them off road onto dirt and gravel trails with no issues.  They do lose their grip a bit on wet surfaces but other than that the grip is quite good.  The clouds occasionally get rocks stuck in them which is a bit annoying but they are relatively easy to remove.

If you've been reading this blog for the last few years, you'll know that I've struggled with knee issues.  Patella Femoral pain to be exact.  I worked at changing my gait, strengthening my gluts and getting them to fire etc but I was still experiencing some pain after my runs.  Even after switching to a highly cushioned shoe (Hokas).  I couldn't figure it out.  I started to suspect that it was due to impact.  I'm not terribly light on my feet so I figured that was part of the problem.  Since switching to these shoes, my post run knee pain has almost stopped completely.  I'm chalking that up to the energy return these shoes provide.   These shoes seem to keep me from landing too hard and they assist with push off.   Whatever the case may be, all I know is that I don't hurt like I used to and I've been increasing my mileage significantly over the last 2 months.  I've run almost 200km in these shoes and my knees still feel great.

As much as I love these shoes, they aren't perfect.  The one major issue I have with them are the laces.  They are ridiculously long and very skinny, which makes it difficult to tie the shoes well.  I also have to quadruple knot the laces to make sure they 1) don't undo and 2) become short enough that they don't hang over the top of the shoe.  I'm not sure why On has done this with their laces.  I'm going to try to replace the laces with my Nathan speed laces to make these shoes triathlon friendly.  The lace holes are quite small so it may be a challenge.  I'll let you know how that goes!

For those of you that like shoe specs, here ya go:

Specs:  Womens 7
weight:  6.7oz
heel to toe offset:  6mm <----  a good option for folks like me who can't wear zero drop shoes due to less than ideal ankle mobility!

At $170 Cdn ($140 US) the shoe is in the moderate to high price range.   I would have no qualms about spending that money for another pair, that's how much I love them.

If you're looking for a speedy shoe with a smooth, fast ride, then I highly recommend checking out the On Cloudflows.

What's your go to shoe brand?  Have you tried a shoe specifically because of the technology behind it?

Coach PK

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