The running industry is lagging behind outdoor companies in terms of sustainability. While Patagonia and others are going full B-Corp, showing their commitment to the environment, most running shoes are still made from synthetic fabrics and rubber, which, admittedly, isn't great for the planet, considering runners get a new pair every few months. On's Cloudneo running shoes offer a solution to this problem, and more importantly, they feel soft as butter on the feet.
On is going from strength to strength these past few years – they recently opened their first European flagship store in London. The Swiss company's meteoric rise is due to the cool factor of its shoes: they look the part without sacrificing performance. That said, On's shoes have been known to be notoriously firm underfoot. Although peppy, the peculiar, loopy design of the CloudTec midsole takes some time to get used to.
The brand tried to address this issue by applying multiple stacks of CloudTec layers on its shoes. The result of this tinkering was the On Cloudmonster high-stack running trainer – the shoes won numerous awards, including the T3 Awards 2022 in the best running shoe category. I gave the shoes five stars in my On Cloudmonster review, too. However, the Cloudmonster isn't a fully-sustainable shoe (it has high recycled material content).
Enter the On Cloudneo. I was sent a pair last year before the launch and promptly forgot about it, not least because I didn't quite understand how it worked. Not how the shoes worked – I'd like to think I know a thing or two about running shoes at this point – but what the deal is with the On Cyclon system, which the Cloudneo is part of.
You see, you'll never own the Cloudneo; you can only lease it (in need of a better word here). The Cyclon is a subscription-based system where you pay a monthly fee in exchange for the shoes. Once the shoes start falling apart, you send them back to On, and they send you a replacement. It's like having Playstation Plus or Netflix. As long as you pay the price, you get the service.
The Cyclon is an effort from On to create a circular ecosystem for its shoes, where the lifecycle of the product doesn't end in a landfill. The Cloudneo is 100% recyclable and is made from fewer than 10 components, all from the same material family. This includes the upper and Speedboard – On's propulsion plate – made from a 100% bio-based material derived from castor beans. The upper also uses undyed yarns to reduce the environmental impact of the shoes even more.
But the On Cloudneo isn't just about sustainability. The brand claims the shoe is "made for speed," and its design is "inspired by elite racing shoes." The midsole has a lovely rocker shape that helps you transition from landing to toe-off easier. The hidden Speedboard and the dual-stack CloudTec foam make this transition even smoother – the foam reduces impact force, and the snappy Speedboard puts a spring in your stride.
The upper is also comfortable, albeit a bit narrow, and I found the heel looser than how I like my running shoes. For this reason, I wouldn't use the Cloudneo for anything too fast, which is a shame, as the bottom part of the shoes feels ready to go. But I assume On will update the shoes as they go along, the same way Whoop frequently updates its band (more info here: Whoop 4.0 review).
I love the shoes as sneakers for walking and the occasional running. The all-white colourway makes the shoes go with basically any outfit, but you have to be careful not to get them dirty, which is, sadly, not hard to do (getting them dirty; not keeping them box fresh). If you're interested in learning more about the On Cloudneo or the On Cyclon subscription, visit On today (opens in new tab).