I had some expectations regarding softness before I decided to test the On Cloudswift running shoes. From a shoe that has little clouds embossed on the sole and sporting a technology branded as Cloudtec, you'd expect a soft ride. Well, you couldn't be further away from the truth.
The Cloudswift is a firm shoe, but in a good way. As soon as you slip them on, you are startled by the duality of these shoes: the top feels cosy like winter socks all the while the sole feels firm and bouncy. If you train on softer, gel-soled shoes, running with the Cloudswift will be a very different experience.
In a market saturated with foam, On's shoes offer something unique. From stride to stride, the On Speedboard will make your landing softer and your takeoffs all the more explosive. Excellent energy return all-round.
On Cloudswift review: the Tech
The On Cloudswift is powered by the Helion foam that's been engineered for urban running environments. The sole design makes these shoes tailor-made for hard surfaces like concrete, which can have a really bad effect on your joints on the long run (pun intended).
The Helion provides great energy return and durability whilst also being light and since the foam is firm, you won't slump into the ground when you turn either. You'll really feel the benefits of the firmness of the sole on longer runs. Runners can lose a lot of kinetic energy if the sole is not firm enough, something that definitely won't be the case with the Cloudswift.
Whilst it is all firm at the bottom, the mesh upper fabric is soft and provides plenty of room in the toebox. The midfoot area is supported by a TPU mechanical side band and holds the foot firmly.
On recommends the Cloudswift for training on hard surfaces and it is definitely not a race day shoe, weighing just a bit under 300 grams. The 7 mm drop sits right in the middle of the ideal running shoe heel-toe drop range.
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On Cloudswift review: the Ergonomics
Once you slipped your feet into the shoes, you will feel the difference straight away. The mouth of the shoe holds your ankle firmly and without obstructing the bones. The heels are sitting comfortably in the heel counters and there is no sensation of rubbing or chafing, the cushioning feels non-obtrusive and the materials soft.
The midfoot area is supported by the TPU side band and this is where the lacing holds the shoes the most firmly. The laces have an elastic feel to them but thanks to the well-padded tongue, they won't dig into the bridge of your feet.
The toebox is where the Cloudswift's mesh upper fabric really shines. It feels like wearing one of those thick winter socks; you can wriggle your toes around yet your feet won't slide around in the shoes when you run. Super comfortable to sit at your desk in the office, too.
There is a slight issue with the soft upper, though: the eyelets run from the bridge into the toebox-area of the shoe, but it holds your feet more firmly in the midfoot region thanks to the side bands. This can cause slight discomfort for people with high-bridged foot, especially on longer runs.
The firmness of the soles is pronounced more prominently during the heel-to-toe transition. For midfoot strikers (such as me), the firm sole means you will slam your feet against the ground sometimes. I guess, once you broke the Cloudswift in, this issue will subside significantly.
On Cloudswift review: the Aesthetics
The first thing you (or anyone) will notice when you open the box are the rectangular tubes that make up the sole of the Cloudswift. This feature dominates the shoe and gives it a very distinctive look.
On nailed the urban look with the Cloudswift: it feels rugged yet sleek, a piece of designer footwear, a source of envy in others. The four different colourways cater for a range of personalities: the rust/rock version will appeal for extroverts whilst the sand/grey will blend in a bit more, as well as being less likely to be visibly stained.
A nice touch is the 'On' logo on the heels: the two letters are divided between the two shoes, giving it a more quirky feel.
This isn't a Saucony or Brooks, people won't give you the 'so you think you are a serious runner' look when they see you in the Cloudswift. It will go just as well with a t-shirt and a pair of jeans as it would with running tights and vests.
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On Cloudswift review: Verdict
The On Cloudswift was Swiss-engineered for urban runners. The Helion soles, combined with the On Speedboard, make the shoes fast as lighting whilst it absorbs most of the negative energy on impact. The soft mesh upper is comfortable but not loose, and the TPU side bands will hold your feet well during your city runs.
If we were to split hairs here, we could say that the two main issues are the relative tightness around the bridge area and the lack of curvature around the midsole. The former could be improved by extending the side band to the toebox region and the latter by adding a bit more roundness in the middle of the sole to help you transition your weight more efficiently from the heels to the toes.
None of this chips away too much from the running experience, though. Not to mention the fact that the Cloudswift just looks good and would complement a lot of different outfit styles. Recommended for all manners of runs in the city, the On Cloudswift will serve you well and straighten out the cobbled side streets to make running fun again.
On Cloudswift review: Also consider
The Hoka Mach 5 is a brilliant update over the fan-favourite Mach 4. It inherited the softer and more responsive PROFLY+ foam from the Mach Supersonic and added a stripped-back creel mesh upper, a lay-flat tongue and a rubberised EVA underfoot to provide runners with an agile yet stable ride. Read our full Hoka Mach 5 review and our On Cloudswift vs Hoka Mach 4 comparison.