In this ON Cloudultra review, I'll try to explain why this amazingly smart trail running shoe packed full of features should be on top of your shopping list. Aimed to provide impressive cushioning and traction, the Cloudultra is an excellent choice if you’re planning on taking on some long challenges on the trails.
The ON Cloudultra is the first off-road shoe that contains ON’s Helion foam. Add in the company's new FlipRelease system, providing you with the option of loosening the fit of the shoe as your feet expand, and you’re getting some impressive features – this is definitely gunning to be one of the best trail running shoes, and is priced like it, too.
A lot of tech is packed into this new trail offering from Switzerland's ON. Coupled with a shoe that feels versatile when you run, works well on all distances and gives great cushioning, it feels like you could take these shoes to any race and feel confident they will perform to your highest expectations.
ON Cloudultra review – Features, tech and feel
ON loves new tech, and the Cloudultra features a new FlipRelease system on the toe end of the laces. Designed to release pressure on your foot, by flipping the toggle, you’re essentially opening up the shoe, giving you the option of getting a closer or looser fit mid-run.
During warmer runs, as your feet expand, this could help relieve pressure, though it’s probably not something you’re going to be changing over and over. With this new system, you may find you will use it straight away at the beginning of a run if you prefer a more roomy fit or at a certain point in a race where you’re feet have expanded and your shoe feels less comfortable. Whether you choose to use it or not, it’s there, and it’s innovative. I didn’t need to use it for space, and it’s definitely not very warm testing shoes in March!
Cushioning comes from ON’s Helion superfoam in a double layer of their signature clouds, built-in under the outsole. This shoe also features a Speedboard, which will give you an extra layer of protection when you’re running over rocks and tree roots.
With the Missiongrip outsole, there’s a significant change from the usual ON outsole, with no more of the stone-catching channels. As I run a lot of my off-road on shingle, getting stones stuck and having to flick them out when back on paths (or listen to them tapping away with each footfall) was annoying – this is an improvement. The multi-directional lugs provide good traction as you’re moving through mud, and they work just as well on paths or tarmac.
The double-layered upper has a fine engineered mesh made from 100 per cent polyester, that works well with the inner sock. There are also added perforations to improve breathability. The internal sock has an integrated tongue, which definitely helps with keeping your foot secure and locked in.
I can see that some people will be instantly put off with the sock as it extends above your ankle and is tight. So it does take a tiny bit of effort to get securely into the shoe as the sock is quite sturdy. However, it’s worth it as this extended sock will prevent any tiny stones or debris getting into your shoe.
There’s a tab on the tongue to help you put the shoe on – one on the back of the heel collar would make this even easier. On the first couple of outings, you may get some minor rubbing at the top of this sock on the front of your foot; for the first run, I was aware of it as my foot wasn’t used to a higher, firmer sock.
Wearing ankle socks will help. It’s good at keeping out debris, so it’s a case of getting used to this feature, and it doesn’t detract from the overall running experience.
ON Cloudultra review – Design
White trail shoes don’t seem to make sense, but they are definitely on trend. A lot of the upper is black, so technically you aren’t going to spoil these on your first muddy run, but they are going to show the dirt.
ON doesn’t make ugly shoes, and these ooze as much style as every other model in their road and trail range. They’re going to be a big hit with walkers, too – and the beauty of them is that however far you go in them on the trails, you’re still going to want to slip them on for dog walks and every-day life. This is definitely an area where ON excels. These shoes will look as good with leggings or jeans as they do on the trails.
ON Cloudultra review – Verdict
These feel light, supportive and have a snug, firm fit from heel to toe. It may be worth sizing up an extra half size if you prefer a more roomy shoe, though remember, the FlipRelease allows the shoe to open up as your feet expand, too.
Even though lockdown has limited the extend we can test them, they have performed really well on local trails and are easy to run in. If it’s muddy underfoot, you may find that mud collects in the channels of the outsole, making these a shoe more for summer ultras where you know you won’t have to deal with this.