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Switzerland has always been known as the land of chocolates and cheese. Now, the country is also becoming known for its running shoes. On is a Swiss brand that has gone from strength to strength and has even recently signed mega star Roger Federer to be a brand ambassador.
On was born in Zurich, Switzerland in 2010 when three friends had the idea for a new type of running shoe with a unique sensation. Today, On running shoes are sold in over 6500 stores in over 50 countries.
The technology that delivers the unique sensation associated with On shoes is Cloudtec. On’s signature Cloudtec was first developed when one of the founders, Oliver Bernard cut up a garden hose and attached the sections to the bottom of a shoe. On still uses this technology on most of their running shoes to this day.
The original Cloudflow was launched in November 2016 and featured a record 18 Clouds. It was designed for fast training such as tempo runs and interval sessions, as well as 10 K races, half marathons and full marathons.
On has an interesting way of naming their shoes. On their website, the newest version of the Cloudflow is not named the Cloudflow 2, it’s still called the Cloudflow which can be confusing for newbies not familiar with On’s Cloudflow series. For the sake of simplicity, we’ll call this newest version the Cloudflow 2.
So what’s new on the Cloudflow 2? It has a Helion super foam midsole compared to a Zero-Gravity EVA foam. Helion is supposed to provide more cushioning and increased durability. The Cloud elements on the outsole are also placed differently; version 2 has a narrower groove down the middle of the Clouds which is designed to trap less stones.
There are very few shoes on the market that have a better upper than the Cloudflow 2 when it comes to execution of fit, comfort and overall foot lockdown. The Cloudflow 2’s upper has a premium, luxury finish that feels streamlined and reminiscent of an expensive European sports car.
The fitted engineered mesh is not the most breathable of materials and it doesn’t stretch much but it has a smooth, seamless inside lining which is a treat for any runner who loves running without socks or uber thin socks.
There are thin, synthetic “tape-like” reinforcements around the toe box and over where the big toe is positioned inside the shoe to add extra durability on the forefoot. The eyestay is also reinforced with thin overlays that sit flush against the mesh for a very aerodynamic, racing feel.
The tongue of the Cloudflow 2 is attached to an inner sleeve so tongue slide is non-existent. The bottom three quarters of the tongue is lightly padded and there is no lacing pressure that can be felt over the top of the foot. A piece of elastic is attached over the tongue for a uniform stretch.
The heel tab and the collar are generously padded with foam while the medial and lateral sides of the collar cut lower than the heel tab to not irritate the sides of the ankle. There is a stout internal heel counter which adds a lot of structure and support to the heel area. Heel hold is very secure and there is no heel slippage in the Cloudflow 2. There are also double last row eyelets for you to tie a runner’s lock if you need it.
The fit of the Cloudflow 2 is true to size with a full thumb’s width in front of the big toe. The forefoot fit is however on the narrow side. The snug, racing fit of the Cloudflow 2 is perfect for racing and speed workouts when you need a secure hold and you don’t want your foot sliding around.
Helion is the name of On’s midsole foam which they call a superfoam and while it doesn’t have the energetic bounce or featherlight weight of other superfoams on the market, it does have very unique ride characteristics.
The Cloudtec midsole claims to reduce muscle fatigue and lower heart rates. What makes On’s cushioning system so unique is that it delivers soft landings by compressing not only vertically but also horizontally. This horizontal compression provides forward propulsion that other cushioning systems don't.
At first glance, it may look as though there are two separate foam pieces that make up the Cloudflow 2’s midsole but the blue and the white parts are actually one piece of single-density Helion foam.
The midsole stack measures 22mm of stack height in the heel and 16mm in the forefoot so the Cloudflow 2 is a low-profile trainer perfect for speed runs. The 6mm drop allows you to easily get onto your forefoot when increasing the pace.
The Speedboard is the firm layer between the midsole and the outsole which evenly balances the pressure for greater comfort. It's designed to convert the energy from landings to propulsive take-offs.
The thick insole of the Cloudflow 2 has a unique design. The main, green piece tapers at the midfoot and rearfoot and it has an extra soft foam piece attached to the underside which adds even more padding. The insole delivers a plush step in feel with a pleasant, squishy quality every time your feet sink down into the thick foam.
The outsole is the most unique aspect of the Cloudflow 2 because of the Cloudtec technology. There are still 18 “Clouds” like on the first version which are the rubber tube-like pieces that are attached to the Speedboard. The “Clouds” on the rearfoot are wider than the ones on the midfoot and the forefoot, where more flexibility is needed.
Extra layers of blown rubber are attached onto the Clouds in the high wear areas which are the heel and the forefoot. These extra rubber layers increase durability.
Traction is surprisingly good even though there aren't any protruding lugs on the outsole of the Cloudflow 2. The rubber that the clouds are made of are soft which allows them to grip onto surfaces. When the Clouds are loaded during foot strikes, they deform and spread across a larger surface area so more of the outsole is touching the ground. The thin horizontal lines etched onto the Clouds also help with traction.
With all this speak of “Clouds” and “Cloudflows”, don't let the names fool you. The Cloudflow 2 doesn't have a plush, cloud-like ride.
At slow paces above 5 minutes per kilometre, the ride of the Cloudflow 2 feels firm and unresponsive. However as soon as you go under 5 minutes per kilometre, the clouds on the outsole activate and you can feel them compress with each foot strike.
The Cloudflow 2 comes alive when going at tempo paces or faster and its ride feels much more responsive, springy and fun. It shines on interval speed workouts, tempo and threshold runs where you can tap into its speed.
With only 16mm of foam in the forefoot, there isn't much cushioning so it's best to keep the Cloudflow 2 to distances below 21 kilometres. If you're a runner with very good biomechanics and resilient feet you could technically run a marathon in the Cloudflow but most of us mortals wouldn't be able to.
The Cloudflow 2 has great ground feel because of how thin the midsole is, so runs feel very engaging- you feel more connected to the road than in shoes with thick midsoles.
Stability in the Cloudflow is very good. Your foot sits low to the ground and the midsole is relatively firm so there isn't much lean bias. When turning sharp corners you don't need to reduce speed.
If you enjoy the feeling of racing in flats but you crave a little bit more cushioning and responsiveness, the Cloudflow 2 would be perfect for you because it has a flexible, natural ride.
It may not be the most versatile shoe because it lacks the cushioning for easy and long runs but the Cloudflow 2 wasn’t designed for that. It was designed for speed: intervals, tempo runs and races- and that’s what it does best.
Most new running shoes these days are trending towards massive, thick-stack midsoles with excessive cushioning and bounce. It’s refreshing for a brand like On to go against the grain and produce low-profile shoes with a high level of ground feel that feel very engaging on runs.
The highlight of the Coudflow 2 is its sublime upper which oozes comfort and luxury. It has a tailored, racing fit with excellent foot lockdown which is perfect for fast paces.Reviewed by Brandon Law