Shoe Review: On Cloudsurfer
Surf through smooth strides in the all-new, redesigned On Cloudsurfer. Thanks to increased cushioning, a new midsole technology and a cushy, padded upper, the latest version of the Cloudsurfer lives up to its name.
What the original On Cloudsurfer may have lacked in cushioning and support, it made up for in aesthetics. Now, you don’t have to decide between style and comfort – the new Cloudsurfer does it all.
Boasting new tech with a cushioning system that On running shoe designers liken to a set of falling dominoes, this shoe turned Fleet Feet reviewers’ expectations on its head. But what exactly does this tech do and what does it mean for your run? Read on to find out.
|Weight||7.2 oz (W), 8.6 oz (M)|
|Heel-to-toe drop||10 mm|
|Stack height||32 mm/22 mm|
|Comparable to...||Brooks Ghost 15, New Balance Rebel v3|
New CloudTec Phase Midsole Creates a Unique Ride
It’s the age of technology, and, believe it or not, running shoes are not immune. The new On Cloudsurfer uses a brand-new CloudTech Phase midsole construction that was created using a computer-based simulation technology called Finite Element Analysis (FEA) simulation, which we'll dig into below.
One of the first things Fleet Feet reviewers noticed about the new On Cloudsurfer is the redesigned pods in the midsole. The pods are designed to collapse upon landings and spring open during takeoffs. The pods in the new Cloudsurfer are smaller and embedded within the midsole, rather than the larger, separated pods used in previous versions of the shoe.
“When I opened my shoe box, I had to double check that it was an On shoe since it looks so different from previous models,” Mandy says. “Gone are the individual pods. The shoe is lightweight and looks amazing.”
The new midsole construction is called CloudTec Phase technology, and it supports you through each phase of the gait cycle. On gathered data from over a thousand different runners to analyze their biomechanics, gait patterns and stride frequencies, enabling shoe designers to predict the impact between the foot and the ground while running. They then used their FEA simulation to play around with different sizes, patterns and configuration of the pods to optimize the ride and cushioning of the new Cloudsurfer. Ben Lane, On’s Simulation Engineer, said in a video that the new pods act as dominoes. When one collapses, it falls into the next, creating a rolling sensation that encourages quick and easy heel-to-toe transitions.
“The Cloudsurfer has got a nice spring and bounce to it that gently pushes me forward,” Caroline says. “It doesn't feel overly snappy or propulsive, but more like a gentle nudge urging me to keep going.”
The CloudTec Phase technology is constructed with On’s proprietary midsole foam, Helion Superfoam. It’s the same midsole foam used in the bestselling On Cloudmonster, only now it’s shaped differently to maximize the ride and comfort of the Cloudsurfer. Reviewers noticed the difference right away.
“I took the On Cloudsurfer on a run to the ocean pier in Charleston, South Carolina,” Max says. “After the first mile, I could confidently say that the Cloudsurfer is the softest pair of On running shoes I’ve ever run in.”
On also did away with the Speedboard (a thermoplastic polymer plate in the midsole) used in the previous versions of the Cloudsurfer to create a softer and lighter ride.
“I felt like I was floating throughout my lunchtime 5K in the Cloudsurfer,” Mandy says. “The shoe is light and cushioned. I love the slight roll forward and how each landing feels cushioned and each take-off explosive.”
A rubber outsole adds extra durability to the heel and forefoot of the shoe, the areas which typically see the most wear and tear. Reviewers noticed the Cloudsurfer offered surprisingly good traction on unpredictable terrain.
“I ended up running through some snow and ice during my test run,” says Nate. “I wasn't trying to push my luck, but the Cloudsurfer does have a very grippy outsole. It feels like a softer compound rubber that feels tacky, almost like a trail shoe.”
While we recommend sticking to the pavement in the Cloudsurfer, it’s good to know that this shoe can step up during a late-winter or early-spring snowstorm.
Comfort versus Sustainability: No Longer a Trade
Not only does the upper in the On Cloudsurfer offer a soft, smooth step-in feel, it’s made with sustainability in mind. The engineered-mesh material is colored using a process called dope-dyeing, a water-saving dying process. Dope-dyeing involves dyeing the raw materials before they’re made into garments (or, in this case, the shoe’s upper), rather than dipping materials into the dye after they’re made, which often wastes water and uses harmful chemicals.
On claims that sustainability doesn’t have to take a backseat to comfort, and our reviewers have to agree. Reviewer Mandy says the Cloudsurfer “feels as if it’s giving my foot a motherly hug.”
A thick, soft tongue sits atop your foot while a padded heel collar holds you in place. The eyelets are reinforced with extra stitching, and bonus eyelets near the ankles allow you to tie the marathon loop if you need to reduce heel slippage.
“The new On Cloudsurfer fits really well,” Max says. “I have a narrow foot, as told to me by an outfitter at Fleet Feet Orlando, and the width feels great. The upper is soft but has enough structure that my foot feels stable and locked into place, especially combined with the padded heel counter.”
If you have wide feet, don’t fret. Our wide-footed reviewer Nate felt that the Cloudsurfer was roomy enough for him, too. And if you’re not sure if you have wide feet, narrow feet or are somewhere in the middle, be sure to head into your local Fleet Feet for an expert one-on-one outfitting. Fleet Feet outfitters use 3D fit id® foot scanning technology to gather information about your feet and the support they need.
On Offers Complete Reinvention of Legacy Model
Because On doesn’t follow standard naming conventions, the latest model of the On Cloudsurfer is just that – the On Cloudsurfer – with no number indicating its iteration in the lineup. It’s hard to convey just how different the Cloudsurfer is to its predecessor based solely on tech specs. On even said to us in an email that they don’t consider the Cloudsurfer to be an update to the previous version, but more so a shoe that displays their innovation and how they’re evolving as a company. Whatever you want to call it, the new On Cloudsurfer is a welcome change.
“I wore an older model of the Cloudsurfer back in 2019, and this feels like a completely different shoe,” Caroline says. “While the original Cloudsurfer did have somewhat of a rocker shape designed to push you forward, the shoe was pretty flat and the rocker sensation was completely lost on the harsh pavement…but not so with the new Cloudsurfer. I’m a runner who loves soft, cushy shoes and the Cloudsurfer answers that call.”
While the On Cloudsurfer is far more soft and cushioned than its predecessor, it’s not marshmallowy soft like some other brands are. Thanks to On’s Helion Superfoam, it offers a nice, balanced ride that skirts the line between soft and rigid.
“I don’t know what alchemy this is, but as soft as the Cloudsurfer is, it also feels very springy and peppy,” Nate says. “I cruised almost 7 miles to work on a mix of pavement and dirt road, and I simply loved how easy and delightful these miles felt.”
The other main differences are the reconfigured pods, thanks to On’s CloudTec Phase technology mentioned above, and the removal of the plastic Speedboard. More padding around the heel and tongue round out the plush feel of the new Cloudsurfer.
“The Cloudsurfer feels like a departure from the sharply angled, highly contrasted Swiss engineering we’re used to seeing,” Nate says. “The shoes have a really dreamy vibe to them. From the curved midsole to the light blue upper, I feel just a little more zen about life.”
How Does the On Cloudsurfer Compare?
We took a look at some comparable shoes and how they stack up against the new On Cloudsurfer. Here’s what we found.
Brooks Ghost 15
New Balance Rebel v3
7.2 oz (W), 8.6 oz (M)
8.8 oz (W), 9.8 oz (M)
5.8 oz (W), 7.4 oz (M)
Daily training, speed work
While the On Cloudsurfer looks decidedly different from the Brooks Ghost or New Balance Rebel, these two shoes immediately popped into our reviewer’s heads when thinking about comparable options.
“The Cloudsurfer really reminds me of last year's Brooks Ghost, especially in terms of the plushness in the midsole and softness of the heel collar,” Max says. The Ghost and the Cloudsurfer both offer a moderate amount of cushioning in the midsole and a ride that feels soft without requiring you to dig your feet out of the cushioning.
Mandy and Caroline immediately thought of the New Balance Rebel v3, which offers a lightweight, springy ride that feels similar to the Cloudsurfer. While the Rebel is marketed as a speed work shoe that can crush intervals and tempo runs, the Cloudsurfer struck reviewers as more of a daily trainer with enough pep to pick up the pace during strides. New Balance’s FuelCell cushioning feels more responsive than On’s Helion Superfoam, but it’s the shape of the Cloudsurfer and the construction of the midsole pods that give it a springy feeling, not necessarily the midsole foam itself.
Reviewers agreed that, out of the three aforementioned shoes, the Cloudsurfer is definitely the most visually appealing, perhaps due to their classic Swiss engineering.
Who is the On Cloudsurfer Best For?
The On Cloudsurfer is a great option for runners seeking a moderately cushioned, neutral shoe with a subtle springiness that doesn't feel overly propulsive. It’s great for the runner who doesn’t want a ton of bells and whistles but does want a little bit of pep in their step. And if you’re environmentally conscious, the Cloudsurfer is a sustainable shoe that you can feel good about purchasing.
“The Cloudsufer feels like a solid, bread-and-butter daily trainer for those who want something soft yet responsive and don’t need too much support,” Nate says. “I can see this shoe handling different types of runs for those looking for just one shoe to use for training.”
Another thing the On Cloudsurfer does remarkably well? It’s got style! Our reviewers were enamored with the sleek appearance and stylish colorways – so much so that some of us didn’t even want to run in them.
“These shoes are so pretty, I didn’t want to run in them, but I compromised and took them for a 6-mile treadmill run so I wouldn’t get them dirty,” Caroline says.
“I love that the shoes are stylish enough to wear with jeans or a casual dress, but feel like a performance shoe,” says Mandy.