On Cloudracer Review

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The On Cloudracer is a relatively lightweight shoe with a novel cushioning technique called CloudTec. I don't think CloudTec is much better than the more usual foam, but it works better than I expected. The Cloudracer is not a bad shoe, but it's not a great one either. (I use The Science of Running Shoes as the basis of how I test running shoes and what you should look for in a running shoe.)

On CloudRacer top
On CloudRacer bottom
On CloudRacer inside
On CloudRacer outside

1 CloudTec Cushioning

The Cloudracer uses a novel approach to cushioning. Instead of using foam, the Cloudracer uses CloudTec bumps of outsole material. Apparently inspired by standing on a garden hose, the idea is that the bumps collapse and act as cushions as they do. The most surprising thing about the Cloudracer is that it feels remarkably similar to a conventional foam shoe. There are some issues however.

  • The biggest problem is that for its weight, the Cloudracer is not as well cushioned at the best shoes. For instance, the Cloudracer has similar cushioning to the Nike Zoom Streak LT, but is quite a bit heavier. Looking at it the other way, the Cloudracer weighs the same the Hoka Clifton that is massively more cushioned.
  • The cushioning is not quite even as pressure increases; it seems like the initial touchdown is softer, and then firms up. I think the initial softness is when the CloudTec bumps collapse, then the firmness is the underlying foam.
  • Unlike foam which provides even cushioning along the length of the shoe, the Cloudracer has cushioning in the bumps. This is most noticeable at the extreme rear of the shoe where there is no bump at all. Runners should not be landing with an extreme heel strike, but it is an issue for anyone walking, which naturally has an extreme heel strike.
  • The CloudTec could last longer than traditional foam, but I'm a little concerned that runners who have uneven wear on their soles may have problems. A wear patch on the outsole of a foam based shoe will not cause undue problems, but with CloudTec it will impair cushioning in that spot.
This view of the heel shoes the gap between the strips of outsole that can catch stones. You can also see the gap from the last CloudTec bump to the rear of the shoe.
Here's a close up of the bumps. You can see they have "teeth" to prevent the outsole slipping.

1.1 CloudTec Research

A study shows that CloudTec shoes had a lower average heart rate and lactate level than conventional shoes[1]. The lower heart rate was small (2 beats/minute), as was the drop in lactate. There was no difference in Running Economy, and one third of the subjects had reduced HR and two thirds had no change. The subjects used their normal running shoes as the control condition, suggesting that CloudTec results in a slightly lower HR than some shoes, but not others. (There was no correlation in HR change with shoe weight.) My personal conclusion from this single study is that CloudTec is as good as most other running shoes, and possibly better than some.

2 Characteristics

  • Why you’d buy it. The main reason for buying the Cloudracer is probably novelty and possibly the promise of longevity.
  • Cushioning . As noted above, the Cloudracer works surprisingly well, and it's comparable with some of the firmer shoes I've tested. However, the cushioning to weight ratio keeps it from being considered as one of the better shoes. It's possible that the CloudTec bumps may allow the Cloudracer to last longer than conventional foam shoes.
  • Drop. The Cloudracer has an 8mm drop when unloaded, but thankfully this drop to 5mm when it's worn. That's still more than I'd like, and far from ideal.
  • Structure. There's no structure in the usual sense; no variations in cushioning to prevent the natural movement of the foot. Overall I found the Cloudracer didn't interfere with my running at all. The CloudTec bumps can act as stone traps, though so far they've been between the strips of outsole and easy to remove. If you got a stone inside the bump, I think you'd have some real problems getting it out without tools.
  • Flexibility. The Cloudracer is nicely flexible, and I didn't find the CloudTec bumps to interfere or cause creases in the sole.
  • Outsole. Because of the CloudTec, the Cloudracer has outsole over the entire contact patch. This should give good wear characteristics.
  • Shape. The Cloudracer is shaped like many traditional shoes rather than being designed to fit the human foot. I had to cut open the toe box for my feet to move naturally. (I recommend cutting open the toe box of virtually all running shoes, with the exception of a few shoes like some Altra shoes. When you have some worn out shoes, you should try cutting open the toe box. I've found that it's a big improvement, allowing my toes to move naturally and engage for toe off, as well as reducing the possibility of blisters.)
  • Upper. The upper is quite thin, and what you'd expect from a lighter shoe. You can see where they've saved weight to try to offset the heavier CloudTec cushioning. The upper is mostly seamless, with a bit of padding at the rear of the foot.
  • Tongue. The Cloudracer has a traditional tongue that is has a tab to attach it to the laces. The tongue is unpadded and thin, and I found it tended to crease unless I was careful when I put it on.
  • Lacing. The Cloudracer has thin flat laces that stayed tied reasonably well.
  • Heel Counter. The Cloudracer has a surprisingly strong heel counter that I didn't like much.
helping-hand.jpg

3 Comparisons

Here are some direct comparisons with its potential competition.

3.1 On Cloudracer and Asics Gel Hyper Speed

The Asics Gel Hyper Speed is a truly great running shoes, and the Cloudracer suffers by comparison. The only advantage the Cloudracer might have is in longevity, but even that's not necessarily the case. I've had good life out of the Hyper Speed, and if you have uneven wear on your sole, it will impact the cushioning on the Cloudracer. I'd choose the Hyper Speed every time.

On CloudRacer top
On CloudRacer bottom
On CloudRacer inside
On CloudRacer outside
Asics Gel Hyper Speed 6 top
Asics Gel Hyper Speed 6 bottom
Asics Gel Hyper Speed 6 inside
Asics Gel Hyper Speed 6 outside
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3.2 On Cloudracer and New Balance RC5000

The Cloudracer is reasonably light weight, but the New Balance RC5000 is quite stunningly light. The RC5000 is less than half the weight of the Cloudracer, but nearly as well cushioned. Of course, the bare bones RC5000 is not for everyone as it provides just enough cushioning to improve Running Economy, but no more. The RC5000 is a fast shoe, but the minimal cushioning my not be sufficient for you. However, if the RC5000 lacks sufficient cushioning, then the Cloudracer may not be enough either. The Cloudracer has slightly more rear cushioning, but less in the forefoot.

On CloudRacer top
On CloudRacer bottom
On CloudRacer inside
On CloudRacer outside
New Balance MRC 5000 top
New Balance MRC 5000 bottom
New Balance MRC 5000 inside
New Balance MRC 5000 outside
helping-hand.jpg

3.3 On Cloudracer and Hoka Clifton

The On Cloudracer and the Hoka Clifton are almost exactly the same weight, but the Clifton is vastly better cushioned. While this might be too much cushioning for some, it shows just how good conventional foam cushioning can be. The Clifton is less flexible than the Cloudracer, and neither of them have a shape that matches the human foot. In choosing between the two, I'd choose the Clifton pretty much every time. If I wanted less cushioning than the Clifton, then the Cloudracer would not be where I would look.

On CloudRacer top
On CloudRacer bottom
On CloudRacer inside
On CloudRacer outside
Hoka OneOne Clifton top
Hoka OneOne Clifton bottom
Hoka OneOne Clifton inside
Hoka OneOne Clifton outside
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3.4 On Cloudracer and Brooks PureConnect

The On Cloudracer and the Brooks PureConnect are similar shoes. The PureConnect is a little heavier, a little better cushioned in the forefoot but slightly less cushioned in the rear, closer to zero drop, and both are quite flexible. It would be tough to choose between the two, but I'd probably go for the PureConnect due to the lower drop.

On CloudRacer top
On CloudRacer bottom
On CloudRacer inside
On CloudRacer outside
Brooks PureConnect 3 top
Brooks PureConnect 3 bottom
Brooks PureConnect 3 inside
Brooks PureConnect 3 outside
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3.5 On Cloudracer and Asics GT 2000

I tend to compare shoes against my benchmark "normal running shoe", the Asics GT 2000. The GT 2000 weights about a third again more than the Cloudracer, but you do get some extra forefoot cushioning for the weight. You also get a much softer, padded upper in the GT 2000. However, a lot of the excess weight is from over engineered features that are more likely to cause problems than solve them. The Cloudracer won't attempt to interfere with your stride, or encourage you to heel strike like the GT 2000. The GT 2000 helps show how much worse the Cloudracer could have been. When compared with the GT 2000, the Cloudracer starts to look like a real winner.

On CloudRacer top
On CloudRacer bottom
On CloudRacer inside
On CloudRacer outside
Asics GT2000 top
Asics GT2000 bottom
Asics GT2000 inside
Asics GT2000 outside

4 Cushioning and Shoes

It's intuitively obvious that the cushioning in a shoe will reduce the impact on your body when running. However, The Science of Running Shoes indicates that the reality is rather more complex. While slight cushioning may reduce the effort needed to run by improving your Running Economy, most scientific research indicates that more cushioning does further improve Running Economy. In addition, cushioning does not generally reduce impact and may actually increase it. This is counterintuitive, but is likely to be due to the way a runners mind and body adapts to softer cushioning. Unfortunately, the scientific evidence is far from complete and it's hard to give clear recommendations. I believe that some runners will prefer more cushioning, while others prefer less, and typically those running further have a fondness for greater cushioning. I also believe that a shoe should be as light as possible, and a shoe should justify its weight with the cushioning it provides. My advice is to decide what level of cushioning you're looking for, and then find the lightest shoes that also fit well and are comfortable.

5 Visualizing the Attributes of the On Cloudracer

How On Cloudracer compares showing rearfoot cushioning against the performance penalty of its weight. Upper right is better.
How On Cloudracer compares showing forefoot cushioning against the performance penalty of its weight. Upper right is better.
How On Cloudracer compares showing the price against the benefit (cushioning/performance penalty). Upper left is better.
How On Cloudracer compares showing the loaded drop against the benefit (cushioning/performance penalty). Upper left is better.

6 A Comparison with other Recommended Shoes

For a more detailed comparison of these shoes see the Recommendations for Best Running Shoes. This table lists the key attributes of What to Look for in Running Shoes. For more detailed information, on the shoes see detailed shoe comparison.

Full Review Name Rating Recommended
price
Benefit Weight
(oz)
Penalty
(sec/mile)
Forefoot
Thickness
Heel
Thickness
Loaded Drop
mm
Cushioning Flexibility
Asics 33-DFA Review 33-DFA Worth considering $90 5.7 10.6 16.5 27 27 0 6.1 6
Saucony Type A6 Review A6 Highly Recommended $100 8.2 6.1 9.5 17 21 4 5.0 8
Adidas Adios Boost 2 Review Adios Worth considering $140 4.7 8.6 13.4 17 27 11 4.0 7
Hoka Bondi Review Bondi Highly Recommended $150 8.0 10.9 17.0 41 45 5 8.8 0
Hoka Bondi 5 Review Bondi Review Pending $150 6.1 11.6 18.1 38 42 5 7.1 4
Hoka Clayton Review Clayton Best of the Best $150 8.8 8.3 12.9 26 30 3 7.3 5
Hoka Clifton 3 Review Clifton3 Best of the Best $130 9.1 9.8 15.3 34 38 3 8.9 6
On Cloudracer Review Cloudracer Worth considering $130 5.7 8.2 12.8 19 27 5 4.7 8
Hoka Conquest Review Conquest Worth considering $170 5.0 11.9 18.5 28 34 5 6.0 3
Saucony Cortana 4 Review Cortana Worth considering $150 4.4 9.9 18.7 22 28 5 4.3 5
Mizuno Wave Cruise Review Cruise Worth considering $120 6.6 5.9 12.5 17 20 7 3.9 7
Newton Distance IV Review Distance Worth considering $155 7.5 9.1 14.2 26 31 3 6.8 6
Asics Gel DS Racer 10 Review DS Racer Worth considering $110 8.2 7.0 10.9 21 26 6 5.8 6
Mizuno Wave Ekiden 8 Review Ekiden Worth considering $115 5.7 5.7 14.6 13 18 6 3.2 8
Saucony Endorphin Review Endorphin Highly Recommended $125 11.1 4.1 6.4 14 13 -1 4.5 9
Adidas Energy Boost Review Energy Worth considering $160 7.2 10.0 15.6 20 30 7 7.2 6
Altra Escalante Review Escalante Review Pending $130 9.1 8.7 13.5 28 25 -1 7.9 7
Puma Faas 100 R Review Faas 100 Highly Recommended $90 8.4 6.1 9.4 15 20 1 5.1 9
Saucony Fastwitch Review Fastwitch Highly Recommended $90 9.5 7.1 11.1 20 22 4 6.8 8
Topo Fli-Lyte Review Fli-Lyte Highly Recommended $100 6.0 9.4 14.6 23 24 4 5.6 6
Nike Free 4.0 Review Free Recommended $120 5.3 8.2 13.6 24 30 6 4.4 6
Saucony Freedom Review Freedom Recommended $160 5.4 10.7 16.6 25 29 3 5.8 7
Asics Gel Lyte 33 3 Review Gel Lyte Not recommended $90 8.0 7.3 11.4 17 24 4 5.8 9
Skechers GOmeb Speed 3 Review GOmeb 3 Worth considering $120 6.9 8.1 12.6 20 24 4 5.5 8
Skechers GORun 4 Review GORun Not recommended $100 6.1 7.5 11.7 15 23 3 4.5 7
Skechers GOrun Ultra 2 Review GRU Worth considering $90 7.5 10.0 15.6 28 34 8 7.5 5
Skechers GOrun Ultra Road Review GRU-R Worth considering $105 6.5 11.3 17.6 30 40 6 7.4 7
Asics GT 2000 Review GT 2000 Not recommended $120 4.8 11.2 17.4 28 35 5 5.4 4
Hoka Hupana Review Hupana Recommended $115 6.1 8.9 13.9 31 36 7 5.4 5
Asics Gel Hyper Speed 7 Review Hyper Speed Highly Recommended $75 10.9 6.3 9.8 22 26 5 6.8 7
Altra Instinct 3.5 Review Instinct 3.5 Recommended $115 4.9 9.3 15.2 24 23 0 4.5 6
Altra Instinct 4.0 Review Instinct 4.0 Review Pending $120 6.0 9.8 15.3 29 25 -1 5.9 6
Asics Tarther Kainos 3 Review Kainos Worth considering $130 10.0 6.9 10.7 17 27 9 6.8 7
Saucony Kinvara 7 Review Kinvara Best of the Best $110 7.4 8.2 12.8 23 27 3 6.1 6
Nike LunaRacer 4 Review LunaRacer Recommended $90 9.9 7.0 10.9 22 30 7 6.9 6
Nike LunarSpider R5 Review LunarSpider Recommended $125 6.9 6.7 10.4 17 21 3 4.6 7
Hoka Mafate Speed Review Mafate Best of the Best $170 7.6 11.9 18.5 39 40 4 9.0 3
Pearl Izumi EM Road N0 v2 Review N0 Highly Recommended $100 7.9 6.5 10.1 14 20 4 5.2 8
Saucony Nomad Review Nomad Review Pending $110 4.3 10.5 17.2 25 27 2 4.5 5
Hoka Odyssey Review Odyssey Highly Recommended $130 8.5 9.4 14.6 37 45 5 8.0 4
Altra Olympus Review Olympus Highly Recommended $130 5.4 11.8 18.4 27 27 3 6.4 4
Altra One 2.5 Review One Highly Recommended $100 8.5 7.1 11.1 22 25 2 6.0 8
Altra Paradigm Review Paradigm Highly Recommended $130 6.4 9.9 15.4 25 25 1 6.4 4
Asics Piranha SP 5 Review Piranha Recommended $100 10.1 4.2 6.5 11 15 3 4.2 9
Brooks PureFlow 5 Review PureFlow Worth considering $110 6.0 9.7 15.1 26 29 5 5.8 8
Salming Race Review Race Worth considering $130 6.9 6.5 10.1 16 19 4 4.5 7
New Balance RC1600 v2 Review RC1600 Highly Recommended $110 8.8 5.6 8.7 15 21 5 4.9 8
New Balance RC5000 Review RC5000 Best of the Best $125 12.2 3.4 5.3 13 17 3 4.2 8
New Balance RC5000v2 Review RC5000v2 Best of the Best $125 14.2 4.0 6.2 13 21 6 5.7 8
Skechers GoRun Ride 3 Review Ride Worth considering $85 5.9 8.5 13.2 18 28 6 5.0 9
Inov-8 RoadXTreme 220 Review RXT-220 Worth considering $120 5.2 8.0 18.2 14 17 3 4.2 9
Topo ST-2 ST-2 Highly Recommended $90 8.2 7.3 11.4 20 18 0 6.0 8
Hoka Stinson Lite Review Stinson Highly Recommended $160 7.3 11.6 18.1 35 40 6 8.5 2
Nike Zoom Streak LT 3 Review Streak LT Best of the Best $80 8.8 5.4 8.4 16 21 4 4.8 6
Adidas Takumi Sen 3 Review Takumi Sen 3 Highly Recommended $160 7.7 6.6 10.2 17 21 4 5.1 6
Altra Torin 2.0 Review Torin Worth considering $125 5.8 9.6 14.9 28 25 -1 5.5 5
Hoka Tracer Review Tracer Recommended $130 7.2 7.4 11.5 21 24 2 5.3 6
Merrell Trail Glove 3 Review Trail Glove Best of the Best $100 2.9 6.9 24.7 11 11 0 2.0 9
Topo Tribute Review Tribute Recommended $100 5.9 7.3 11.4 20 18 -1 4.3 7
Mizuno Wave Universe 5 Review Universe Highly Recommended $125 10.7 3.1 10.6 9 12 1 3.3 9
Merrell Vapor Glove 2 Review Vapor Glove Highly Recommended $85 2.1 6.1 27.6 6 5 0 1.3 10
New Balance Vazee Pace Review Vazee Pace Worth considering $110 6.0 8.6 13.4 18 24 6 5.2 6
Asics TartherZeal 3 Review Zeal Worth considering $140 10.9 6.3 9.8 17 27 9 6.8 7

It's not a running shoe, but I love the Hoka Tor Ultra hiking boot and I've tested the Altra Lone Peak Boot.
Older shoe reviews: Saucony Hattori Review, Mizuno Cursoris Review, Skechers GO Bionic 2 Review, Hoka Clifton Review, Saucony Virrata 2 Review, Brooks PureCadence 3 Review, Brooks PureConnect 3 Review, Brooks PureFlow 3 Review, Skechers GO Bionic 2 Review, New Balance 980 Review, Brooks Transcend 2 Review.
Reviews of shoes that are not worth including on the table: Hoka Huaka Review, Patagonia EVERlong Review.

7 References

  1. Claudia Knoepfli-Lenzin, Jennifer Carole Waech, Turgut Gülay, Florian Schellenberg, Silvio Lorenzetti, The influence of a new sole geometry while running, Journal of Sports Sciences, volume 32, issue 18, 2014, pages 1671–1679, ISSN 0264-0414, doi 10.1080/02640414.2014.915421