For as long as I can remember I’ve rotated my running shoes between all the traditional “big brands”, looking for something that fits my running style and events I’m focusing on at the time. Whether it was racing flats for short distance triathlons, or trail shoes for a winter season of trail running, I’d always default to one of the big three. So when the opportunity came up to test On Running's Cloudventure Trail Running Shoes during my training for a 100km ultra marathon, I jumped at the chance.
I decided to put the Swiss shoe experts, premium trail running shoe to the test on a number of multi surface, long distance trail runs, from gravel to mud and heavily tree rooted paths to grassy fields.
A sole with a difference
When choosing a trail running shoe, most people immediately look at the grip offered by the outer sole, but when you first glance at any On Running shoe, you’re immediately confronted by a different feature, “The Cloud”. Running across the bottom of the shoe, these rubber “stability balls” are the key differentiator, both visually and in terms of running experience.
On every surface you immediately feel the difference on impact with the ground. The enhanced cushioning combines perfectly with a noticeable release phase where the ball's rebound back into shape as the foot releases from the ground. On long runs, on a moderately technical trail, I noticed a reduction of impact fatigue when I compared with running the same route on a traditional soled shoe. The sole design also supports both horizontal and vertical stability which helped to reduce muscle soreness over time, perfect for those looking to minimise their recovery time between runs.
It goes without saying, grip on a trail running shoe is fundamental to its success. The On Running Cloudventure was designed and tested in the Swiss Alps, by runners who take on the toughest mountain trails as part of their daily training routine. So expectations were high as I took the shoe onto a moderately technical section of the North Downs Way, that changes from gravel, to heavily tree rooted muddy climbs and descents.
As I pushed the shoe to accelerate down some challenging descents, I felt my confidence improving with every step. Even during multiple direction contact with the ground, to avoid roots and rocks, the sole seemed to adapt, with the stability balls increasing the surface area reaching the ground. I’ve had a few questions from fellow runners about how the “air pockets” would cope in really muddy sections, and would they get filled with trail debris. I didn’t experience any of this on my first few outings with the shoes, and this included some gravel sections, that being said, it’s early in the trail season, so we’ll update the blog when we’ve started on the really muddy stuff!
Durability and comfort
The shoe’s construction is as solid as you’d expect from any high quality trail shoe. The upper is breathable, but copes well with puddles and muddy sections, while the profile keeps debris from entering in the ankle area. Opinions on shoe comfort usually differs from individual to individual, after all everyone’s feet are different. I found the transition to the On Running Cloudventure from a traditional big brand easy, there was no significant comfort issues on the first test run, or on subsequent longer runs. I’ve always worn a 43 size trail shoe, and the On Running size seems true to that, with no need to go up or down a size.
Overall, I was hugely impressed with the On Running Cloudventure, having tried most of the major brand trail shoe offerings, I felt this was up there with the best of them, the cloud sole and grip were substantially better than any I’ve tried so far, and the comfort and durability are exactly what you’d expect from a premium trail shoe. This is an ideal choice for anyone looking to take on long distance trail runs this winter.