Stories from Running

The Sneakers That Consistently Get Compared to ‘Walking on Clouds’

Rachel Lapidos

Rachel LapidosFebruary 7, 2020

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Photo: On; Graphics: Well+Good Creative

Walking on sunshine, walking on clouds. This is the stuff dreams are made of. It’s the stuff songs are written about. And thanks to the sneaker brand On, it’s now a reality in the day-to-day lives of runners around the globe. The brand’s radically different approach to how shoes should fit, feel, and perform has won over runners who were long loyal to other brands.

While many other running sneaker brands create either neutral, cushioned shoes, or stability shoes, On took a different approach. Using patented CloudTec soles, the brand aimed to rethink how it feels when the foot strikes the pavement. Founder David Alleman collaborated with two of his friends—co-founders Olivier Bernhard, an elite runner, and Caspar Coppetti—to create a streamlined sneaker that works with a runner’s natural gait as opposed to manipulating it like so many other running shoes do. “On has some of the only shoes that adapt to a runner’s stride instead of correcting the runner’s movement, while still providing ample support,” says Allemann.

You can recognize On Cloud running sneakers by the distinct design: The sole of each shoe has small “clouds” or hollow bubbles that line it, which are partially responsible for why it feels like you’re actually running on clouds. “Our first prototypes were made from a chopped-up garden hose,” says Allemann of how the design came to be. On then added a force-transition plate—dubbed the “On Speedboard”—that supports how your foot naturally rolls off of the ground. Together, the two elements give your foot cushioned support and an “explosive takeoff,” while remaining very lightweight. “The unique thing about CloudTec is that there are 15 independent Cloud elements on the outsole, which cushions only where and when you need it,” says Allemann.

Photo: On

I’ve been testing the On Cloudlow shoe ($140) for several months now, and I can vouch for the fact that they are different than any other running shoe. Usually, I need a lot of cushioning in a sneaker, so I initially thought the On design would be too pared-down for my gait. However, I’ve found that the shoe is actually fairly springy in its own right. “It cleverly takes the first heavy blow off the street and then lets the runner transition naturally to the forefoot, where the Cloud elements become firm for a stable stance and an explosive take-off,” says Allemann. My feet feel light in them, and I’ve been running even better.

Since perfecting the running sneaker design, On has since branched out into other categories, like trail running and more fashion-forward options in the line. At a time when sneakers are dominating the footwear industry and launching countless innovations—like rockers and using plant-based materials—On is remaining true to its brand, and we’re all running on clouds because of it.

For a shoe that’s going to help you stabilize in a plank, read up on the new Nike Air Zoom Superrep. And these are podiatrist-approved tips on how to know when to replace your sneakers with a new pair. 

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