Years ago, a shoe was sold that was a delight for natural heel-strikers such as I. That was the classic Nike Air Pegasus with the rugged polyurethane heel. The "poly" heel was virtually indestructible and ensured a solid heel plant with every step; it offered a consistent reward for a certain type of runner. That shoe was also blessed with an extremely flexible, blown rubber forefoot.
Running shoe construction is different these days and heel striking is something that is going out of favor. Thus, we have lowered heel running shoes and seemingly softer, and less durable, materials in the rear. Some running shoe companies seem to have adopted a goal of transforming heel strikers into mid-foot and forefoot landers.
With this as background, it was a surprise to run in this year's edition of the On Cloudrunner, a shoe "[e]ngineered in Switzerland." It's a different type of running shoe, as is apparent when you look at the 15 Cloud Tec elements – or lugs, on the outsole. These lugs (smaller and softer in front, larger and firmer in the rear) are meant to absorb both vertical and horizontal shock. Despite the hollowness of the construction, the lugs offer Nike Air-like (or Zoom Air-like) protection against external forces – forces like concrete and asphalt.
My test pair, provided by On, came in an Anthracite and Methyl color combination, one that I would describe as dark gray and turquoise. Perhaps because of its Swiss roots, the shoe presents a message of being seriously functional rather than frivolous. No doubt, some will find it to be too European/industrial-looking – like an athletic shoe you would find at Ikea, if they sold such things. However, On does offer a striking 7.9 ounce Cloudracer flat for those who desire a flashy shoe.
The Cloudrunner is a mid-weight shoe at 11.5 ounces and despite being a neutral shoe, it offers some stability. I found the fit (a half-size up from walking shoe size) to be somewhere between medium and narrow with a uniquely-angled toe box that provides plenty of room for toe wiggling. The toe box is exemplary in being extremely flexible.