I always wanted to be the kind of runner who could rock a pair of On running shoes. Those quirky hollowed-out soles look so Euro chic. And what could sound more appealing than running on something called CloudTec®?
The problem: My feet hate firm running shoes, and despite the literal airiness of the material, I always felt landings in On designs to be surprisingly stiff and clunky.
The brand's newest model, however, finally delivers something that feels close to "running on clouds." Entering the ever-growing maximalist trend, the Swiss company has launched the Cloudmonster, which offers more vertical and horizontal cushioning by expanding the brand's signature "clouds." And to avoid that feeling of sinking into the shoe with each step, the design features a steep upward angle under the toes that makes for a decisively bouncy push-off.
"We were interested to see how far we could take the technology, and add more comfort, more cushion," says On footwear design lead Olli Hirvonen. He adds that the six millimeter drop allowed his team to bring more cushion to the forefoot in particular, and the extended rocker makes for an aggressive transition from the metatarsals to the toes to give you that kick as you roll through the foot.
My experience trying the On Cloudmonster
The company describes it as a "playful sensation," and they're not wrong. Heading out for a run in the shoes, I definitely feel like I'm further away from the ground, but I don't really mind it because there's an easy snap to my stride. A few miles in, I notice my calves haven't tired as quickly they sometimes do—my feet just keep turning over, one step rolling into the next.
I'd ordered the recommended half size up, which felt like the right call: There's plenty of room, without any sliding around. And between the soft upper and cushy sole, the shoes just feel exceptionally...comfortable.
But my paranoid brain can't help wondering—is so much cushion healthy?
As with most things when it comes to our health, the answer varies. "It depends on the person, their applications, foot type, and what they're used to," says podiatrist Suzanne Fuchs, DPM, of LuxePodiatry in Jupiter, Florida. Of course, the surfaces you're running on matter too, she adds; a softer track or trail might not call for so much shoe because there's already more give on the ground.
But because the extra cushioning in maximalist designs helps to absorb the shock going into your foot, these shoes can be a lifesaver for those with painful foot issues like plantar fasciitis, neuromas, metatarsalgia, bunions, or arthritis in the big toe joint. And you don't have to be a runner to get the benefit: Dr. Fuchs also recommends super-cushioned pairs for people who walk a lot, or who stand on their feet all day, like healthcare providers or restaurant workers.
For runners without any foot problems, however, Dr. Fuchs warns against using them on every run. "From my experience, if you're always wearing very cushioned shoes, the foot and ankle muscles could weaken or atrophy," she says. "If you're younger and your feet are healthier, it's beneficial to do most of your runs in more minimal shoes if you can safely."
That doesn't mean there's no place for maximalist shoes if you have healthy feet. Dr. Fuchs simply recommends saving them for long runs when that diminished stress and strain on the joints will really come in handy.
That advice falls pretty much right in line with the aim of On's design. "We wanted to build something for long runs to take out the impact, but we wanted to make it a runner's shoe in the sense that if you picked up the pace you'd be able to do that," says Hirvonen.
While I do see how it logically makes sense to set them aside for long runs, I have to admit the comfort of the Cloudmonster is so enticing it has me wanting to lace them up for easy runs, too—especially now that I can finally rock that holey design. But I'll do my best to restrain myself.
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