Founded in 2010, On was born out of a desire to create a shoe that would deliver the perfect Goldilocks running sensation with every step: a soft landing followed by a firm toe-off. The Swiss company began in Zürich when Ironman champion Olivier Bernhard teamed up with his friends David Allemann and Caspar Coppetti to engineer a better running shoe. Success came quickly. Just a month after they founded the company, their prototype won an ISPO Brandnew Award for innovation among athletic startups, and later that year, On shoes were in running stores.

Best On Running Shoes

    The Expert: I became a runner in middle school and have covered running and outdoor gear for years, both on-staff at Runner’s World and as a freelance journalist. Running shoes is the category of gear I’ve written about the most, and I have firsthand experience with models from a range of brands. To write articles like this, I talk with brand reps about the company’s latest shoes and tech, consult RW tester feedback, and draw on my own experience with the running shoe industry. With direction from RW editors, I combine all that info to choose what shoes make it onto this page.

    Growing the Lineup

    In 2012, On released its flagship shoe, the Cloudracer. Designed for competitive running, it’s been on the feet of Swiss Olympic runners like Nicola Spirig and 2014 Ironman World Champion Frederik Van Lierde. The more cushioned Cloudsurfer is the favorite training shoe of underdog Jake Riley, who snagged 2nd place at the 2020 Olympic Marathon Trials and now is an On-sponsored athlete. More recently, On has announced several new models, including the ultra-cushioned Cloudmonster and the Cloudvista trail shoe.

    Running on Clouds

    The secret to On’s success lies in the unique technologies it builds into its shoes. First, there’s CloudTec, which is the company’s patented cushioning construction. Open tubes of rubber or foam form the lower part of the sole. They’re designed to compress with each stride and absorb vertical and horizontal impact forces and then lock in place to create a firm platform for an explosive takeoff. The open construction also saves weight, so you get plenty of cushion without a clunky feel. In the midsole, On uses its patented Speedboard, a thin and snappy (typically) thermoplastic layer designed to support and direct the motion of your feet.

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    The Cloudflow has full-length CloudTec cushioning.
    Lakota Gambill
    on cloudswift
    On’s Speedboard helps deliver a quick, propulsive feeling on toe off. 
    Trevor Raab

    On’s latest proprietary cushioning material is called Helion. It’s made from a blend of EVA and OBC (olefin block copolymer) foams—essentially a mixture of stiffer and softer materials in one compound. The resulting cushion is lighter, increases energy return, and is more temperature-resistant so it performs better year-round.

    To balance that cushioning on its trail shoes, On released a new outsole compound, Missiongrip, on the Cloudventure in fall 2018. It’s a sticky rubber formulation molded into diamond grooves and thin lines. Together, the compound and outsole textures provide excellent bite in muck and on hard-packed terrain.

    A More Sustainable Run

    On is also a big innovator in sustainability. Its flagship shoe in that department is the eco-friendly Cloudneo, which is slated to launch this summer. This new shoe is completely recyclable, made partially from castor beans, and it’s available only through a subscription service called Cyclon. The idea is to create a shoe that’s manufactured, used, and then remade into a new product, with nothing going to waste. Subscribers will get a pair, run in them until they wear out, and then return them to On for recycling and get a new pair in exchange. (On estimates the shoes will last about six months or 600 kilometers before they need to be replaced.)

    The Cloudneo achieves such a high level of sustainability thanks to some high-performance materials and innovative manufacturing. First is a polyamide called PA11, a recyclable material made from castor bean oil. It’s not new—PA11 was introduced in the 1950s—but On figured out a way to turn PA11 into a yarn and make the Cloudneo’s knit upper exclusively from the substance. In addition, the entire upper is produced as a single unit to eliminate waste material during manufacturing. The second material is Pebax, an exceptionally bouncy, lightweight foam that’s also fully recyclable (other brands are using Pebax as well). It forms the midsole of the Cloudneo and makes it lively, fast, and responsive. Once it’s worn out, the entire shoe can be recycled into something new.

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    How We Test and Evaluate

    Many of the On shoes below have been through our extensive testing process. That means getting each model on the feet of our team of over 350 avid runners, who then put at least 100 miles on the shoe before providing their feedback. As our test team and staff report their on-foot impressions, we also run a battery of mechanical tests in our RW Shoe Lab, where we measure everything from the energy return of On’s Speedboard midsoles to the softness of its Helion foam. We’ve relied on our own in-depth research and experience in the running shoe industry, personal consultation with brand representatives, and nearly a decade of lab data and tester feedback to select the 10 best models below.

    Best for Speedwork


    Weight: 8.4 oz (M), 7.0 oz (W)
    Drop: 6 mm


    • Lightweight
    • Responsive, close-to-ground feel

    • Firm

    The Cloudflow serves up a combination of low weight and just enough cushioning, and that makes it well-suited to speed-training routines—it’ll keep your feet comfortable and protected without weighing you down (it’s significantly lighter than our previous speedwork pick, the Cloudswift). CloudTec pods and Helion foam soak up impact forces, and On’s signature Speedboard creates a responsive, snappy feel for faster efforts. Rubber placements on the outsole generate good grip on the track as well as the pavement.

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    Best for Cross Training


    Weight: 8.5 oz (M), 7.1 oz (W)
    Drop: 6 mm

    Cloud X

    • Versatile
    • Great for mixed workouts

    • Not suitable for longer runs

    This nimble shoe makes a great choice for workouts and gym sessions. The Cloud X is built to handle a variety of movements: A thicker, wider Helion-based sole increases stability, reinforced “sidewalls” on the upper add lateral support, and molded cushion pads arrayed around the interior of the shoe at the heel keep your foot in place. It also features an integrated tongue for a snug fit, and the engineered mesh upper has a breezy open-weave pattern to keep your foot cool when the intensity ramps up.

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    Best Cushioned Trainer


    Weight: 11.8 oz (M), 9.4 oz (W)
    Drop: 6 mm

    Cloudsurfer 6

    • Cushioned and responsive

    • Heavy

    The Cloudsurfer is a unique shoe in the On lineup—it’s the only one that eschews foam and uses CloudTec pods made completely of rubber. The result is a highly durable cushioning platform (rubber won’t compact over time like foam), and it’s a solid pick for daily training miles. Combined with a Speedboard in the midsole, the rubber pods create a highly responsive ride that compensates (at least partially) for this shoe’s heftier weight.

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    Most Cushioned


    Weight: 9.7 oz (M), 8.1 oz (W)
    Drop: 6 mm


    • Highly cushioned ride
    • Rocker sole promotes smooth transitions

    • Not designed for racing

    The Cloudmonster puts a big emphasis on softness. Extra-thick CloudTec units (the thickest On has ever made) combine with a layer of Helion foam in the midsole to deliver a cushy feel, and a polypropylene Speedboard adds a dose of energy return. The sole also features a sharply rockered forefoot shape to propel you forward through your stride, and it’s topped with a soft sockliner for a comfy step-in feel. Testers and RW staff loved this shoe. Test Editor Morgan Petruny notes that it feels soft and forgiving but also lively. “That feeling seemed to be missing in some On shoes up to this point,” she says. “It’s a really nice springy sensation.” For recovery runs or whenever you want supreme cushioning, this is the shoe to reach for.

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    Best for Sustainability


    Weight: Not yet released but claimed to be under 9.2 oz
    Drop: 8 mm


    • Fast and lightweight
    • Won’t end up in a landfill

    • Only available in white
    • Subscription service might not make sense for some runners

    First, some basic terminology: Cyclon is the subscription service you join, and Cloudneo is the shoe you get. From the way you pay to the way the shoe is built, the Cloudneo is very different from your typical running shoe. The upper is made from an undyed PA11 yarn derived from castor beans (the shoe’s laces and Speedboard are made from PA11 as well). Heat pressing on the upper creates zones of reinforcement and support, and areas of wider knit in the forefoot increase breathability; because of the lack of overlays, it’s very lightweight. The midsole is made from Pebax, an exceptionally bouncy material that has gained widespread use among running brands. The entire shoe is recyclable, and On will recycle it for you once your pair wears out (as often as every six months). But it’s not just a sustainability gimmick: With its weight-saving materials and streamlined design, it has the potential to be an excellent speedwork and racing shoe.

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    Best for Short Races


    Weight: 7.4 oz (M), 7.4 oz (W)
    Drop: 5 mm


    • Light and responsive
    • Rocker sole for smooth transitions

    • Firm cushioning

    The Cloudflash is geared toward shorter races (10K or less). On calls the rocker-soled Cloudflash the fastest shoe in its lineup, and several innovations back up its speedy reputation. The latest version comes with two layers of Helion-based CloudTec cushioning and a carbon-fiber-infused Speedboard that together create a snappy ride with just enough squish to take the edge off impact forces. The single-layer mesh upper saves weight and breathes well, and the shoe comes with a redesigned outsole for improved traction—even when you really start to haul. “I’d liken the Cloudflash to a track spike as it is so lightweight, slim, and formfitting,” one tester said. “But it also has a little extra cushioning for support and shock absorption. This racing flat was a minimalist runner’s dream shoe for me.”

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    Best for Trails


    Weight: 9.9 oz (M), 8.3 oz (W)
    Drop: 7 mm


    • Lightweight
    • Great for shorter, faster trail runs

    • Firm
    • Outsole tended to pick up rocks during testing

    The Cloudvista is a minimalist trail shoe and one of the lightest models in On’s trail lineup. The CloudTec units are made with Helion for a lightweight, responsive ride, and a Missiongrip outsole with multidirectional lugs bites into hard-packed terrain for dependable grip on the trail. The polyester upper is designed to save weight, and a TPU mudguard offers additional protection from the elements. The Cloudvista proved popular with RW testers. “I first tried them on a dirt road and couldn’t believe how good they felt,” one tester said. “The ride was comfortable, and the shoe was very responsive to my stride.”

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    Best for Firm Cushioning


    Weight: 10.8 oz (M), 8.8 oz (W)
    Drop: 8 mm


    • Lots of cushioning
    • Snug fit

    • Heavy

    When one row of CloudTec isn’t enough, there’s the Cloudstratus, which features two layers of Helion-based CloudTec units stacked on top of each other. The two layers work in concert to absorb impact forces, and along with the shoe’s Speedboard, they quickly bounce back for a propulsive feel. The mesh upper offers good breathability, and the wide forefoot, redesigned heel, and a star-pattern lacing system create a snug, accommodating fit. It’s not as soft as the Cloudmonster above, so it’s a good pick for runners who prefer a firmer feel in their cushioned shoes.

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    Lightweight and Stable


    Weight: 9.9 oz (M), 7.4 oz (W)
    Drop: 7 mm


    • Supportive and light

    • Not ideal for speedwork

    Significantly lighter than other On stability shoes like the Cloudace, the Cloudflyer is a good pick for runners who need support in a speedier package. The latest version of the Cloudflyer comes with Helion-based CloudTec units for a well-cushioned ride, while a molded heel clip, a wider outsole, and a stability tube located at the midfoot add extra support. It’s topped with a new mesh upper for good breathability, and it comes with an exceptionally plush tongue for a comfy feel.

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    Best for Beginners


    Weight: 10.6 oz (M), 8.8 oz (W)
    Drop: 9 mm


    • Soft and supportive

    • On the heavy side

    The Cloudrunner occupies a unique space in On’s lineup: It’s built for beginners and people just getting back into running. The priority with this shoe is comfort, and it’s designed to balance softness and support. CloudTec units made with Zero-Gravity foam (On’s older, EVA-based cushioning material) soak up impact forces, while a wider Speedboard and a cradle-like sole and upper construction ensure your foot is stable inside the shoe. To top it off, the mesh upper offers good breathability for warm weather or high-mileage efforts.

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