Men’s Journal aims to feature only the best products and services. If you buy something via one of our links, we may earn a commission.
It's hard to believe, given how popular its shoes are, that On was only founded in 2010. wadays the Swiss company's trademark pod-soled shoes are spotted on jogging paths and podiums alike—most recently at the 2023 Boston and New York City marathons, both won by Hellen Obiri wearing a pair of On Cloudboom Echo 3s.
The company's rapid propulsion is best attributed to CloudTec, the design feature that gives On shoes their signature look and feel. CloudTec's and the company's origins go back to when triathlete Olivier Bernhard cut up a garden hose and used it to create his first prototype. Although the idea was rejected by Bernhard's then-sponsor Nike, On has since earned the backing of Roger Federer and the Swiss Olympic team—and racked up nearly $2 billion in revenue.
What matters more to runners is how On shoes have evolved over the years. Recently, the brand has proven that it's willing to tinker with CloudTec, which remains the core feature that every pair is built upon, by introducing a new version called CloudTec Phase. The result is the best batch of On running shoes to date, which includes our pick for the brand's best, the Cloudsurfer.
Related: The Best Marathon Shoes to Run Your Next PR
Best Overall On Running Shoe: Cloudsurfer
The Cloudsurfer is On's anti-specialist. It's for short runs, long runs, recovery runs, and tempo runs. If you're a one-shoe runner who enjoys a variety of workouts, the Cloudsurfer is what you want to pull from On's shelf. If you're familiar with past iterations of this shoe, know that the current version is a total overhaul that features CloudTec Phase, On's latest Speedboard-free shoe platform. It gives the Cloudsurfer a more traditional feel (particularly with that 10 mm drop), but it's definitely still an On with a midsole that feels simultaneously soft and responsive.
- Comfortable fit.
- A little stiff to start.
WEIGHT: 8.64 oz
HEEL-TOE DROP: 10 mm
Best On Running Shoe for Beginners: Cloudrunner
On has never aimed to be a conventional running company, but the Cloudrunner is about as traditional as a shoe gets. With a 9mm heel-toe drop and moderate stability-encouraging features, it's a solid choice for runners who are still getting a feel for form. The shoe doesn't go overkill on the stability side but its design does offer extra support and we found in testing that it seems to want to move forward thanks to a little bit of rocker and the Speedboard plus CloudTec midsole stack. The current version of the Cloudrunner still has On's older Zero Gravity foam and doesn't feel super soft, so we'd save it for shorter distances (another reason why it's suited to beginner or infrequent runners). It'll make a great walking shoe, too.
- Encourages forward momentum.
- Doesn't go overkill on stability features.
- t great for long runs.
WEIGHT: 10.58 oz
HEEL-TOE DROP: 9 mm
Best On Racing Shoe: Cloudboom Echo 3
Cloudboom Echo 3
The Cloudboom Echo 3 is On's race-ready super shoe. Like others in this class, it's stacked with a carbon fiber plate for pop and plenty of foam (Helion Hyper Foam, in this case) for cushioned support. Plus, it has a super light and minimalist upper. On made it for fast marathons—its box proclaims a four-marathon lifespan—and Hellen Obiri proved it works with wins at the 2023 Boston and New York City Marathons. Some have noted its relatively narrow platform as a potential con, but during our race pace testing, we didn't note any precarious wobbling. In fact, it's one of the best super shoes we've tried.
- Very stable.
WEIGHT: 7.58 oz (size 8.5)
HEEL-TOE DROP: 9 mm
More On Running Shoes We Love
Best On Running Shoe for Long Runs: Cloudmonster
Even though maximalist running shoes are standard fare these days, the Cloudmonster still looks big, with the largest version of CloudTec On has cooked up yet. It doesn't feel so large on the run though—the form factor provides ample cushion but no awkward wobble. We were pleased to discover that the foam doesn't dampen this shoe's responsive feel too, and it doesn't feel overly squishy at all. This effect is greatly aided by an exaggerated rocker profile that propels you through your pace, creating a max-cushion shoe that can handle a variety of types of runs—particularly long runs. Thanks to all that cushion, my feet and ankles still felt good after the 10-mile mark and made recovery more pleasant.
- Very comfortable.
- Rocking profile propels your runs.
- Could use a thicker tongue to prevent lace pressure.
WEIGHT: 9.7 oz (size 8.5)
HEEL-TOE DROP: 6 mm
Best Max Cushion On Running Shoe: Cloudeclipse
The Cloudeclipse is On's newest model. It's a max-cushion behemoth that includes CloudTec Phase, the company's latest midsole system. That's the biggest difference between this shoe and the Cloudmonster, as the two models each have a 6 mm drop and weigh roughly the same. Fans of thick-soled shoes for all types of runs will enjoy both, but in our testing, we found the Cloudeclipse to be slightly more versatile. While the Cloudmonster made me want to speed up, the Cloudeclipse was great for running slow, which makes it great for recovery runs. It'll go long when you want to, though.
- Roomy toebox.
- Forgiving fit with good heel hold.
- Large section of exposed Speedboard hits gravel.
WEIGHT: 10.05 oz (size 8.5)
HEEL-TOE DROP: 6 mm
Best Minimalist On Running Shoe: Cloudflow 4
On trimmed the fat for the recently revamped Cloudflow. With a low stack underfoot and the same engineered woven upper as the marathon-winning Cloudboom Echo 3, the shoe only tilts the scale to a paltry 8.3 ounces. The new update also fixes what the Cloudflow has been maligned for in the past: it no longer collect chunks of gravel underfoot. It also has a slight rocker roll to keep the pace moving. In a lot of ways, the Cloudflow 4 feels like the tempo shoes of yore, when fat outsoles weren't so prominent. Some will like that firm feel, some won't. Yet the Cloudflow can handle slower paces as well as it does intervals, making it a versatile shoe for all kinds of runs. If more cushion is what you're looking for, check out the similar, but beefier, Cloudsurfer.
- Low cushion makes it feel firm.
WEIGHT: 8.29 oz (size 8.5)
HEEL-TOE DROP: 8 mm
Best On Running Shoe for Wide Feet: Cloudstratus 3
The Cloudstratus, a mainstay in On's lineup, distinguishes itself with the most accommodating fit of any On shoe we tested. The toe box is particularly nice and roomy, making it ideal for runners with wider feet. The recently reworked upper includes a lacing system that provides plenty of security and additional comfort with a plush, cushioned tongue. On doesn't advertise the Cloudstratus as a stability shoe, but it definitely has more structure to it than other shoes in the lineup. During a run, it sticks to the middle lane, providing a balance of spring and cushion. All of these ingredients make it another solid choice for short to mid-length runs. It'll pick up a fast-paced run if you want it to, but if you're regularly doing speed workouts, you might prefer a different model.
- Lacing system provides great lock-in.
- Good grip.
- Heavy for a daily trainer.
WEIGHT: 10.23 oz
HEEL-TOE DROP: 6 mm
Best Run/Hike Crossover On Shoe: Cloudvista
On made the Cloudvista versatile, and our testing on pavement, rutted-out dirt roads, and proper trail proved that the shoe can indeed handle it all—though it's on the less-rugged end of the spectrum. It's pretty light, and the ride is neither plush nor springy but instead more dialed and controlled. The fit plays a role in that too — this shoe is narrower in the toebox than other trail models, making for a close fit (you might even compare a half size up at try-on). Still, we found that the Cloudvista can handle sections of pavement well, and its Missiongrip outsole took on dirt, mud, gravel (and frozen versions of them all) just fine. While it's by no means a stability-oriented shoe, we'll happily pull this one on for day hikes in addition to shorter, non-technical trail runs.
- Handles many terrains.
- Built-in lace loop
- A little stiff.
WEIGHT: 9.88 oz (size 8.5)
HEEL-TOE DROP: 9 mm
Most Versatile Trail Running On Shoe: Cloudultra 2
The Cloudultra comes with a unique little feature called FlipRelease, a small plastic piece that lets runners loosen or tighten their laces just a smidge without untying any knots. The idea is that it can relieve lace pressure when feet get swollen on long, long runs. It's a hint at where this shoe wants to go: everywhere. Gimmick or not—I never needed to use it—the Cloudultra is a great shoe for long days, but that's more thanks to a soft base of Helion foam and a comfy knit upper that allows plenty of room for toes to spread. It's not so plush that you'll lose out on trail feel though, and it strikes a great balance between flexibility and stiffness thanks to the built-in Speedboard. And even though it can go the distance, we found ourselves lacing it up for short runs, too.
- Comfy for long distances.
- t great in mud.
WEIGHT: 10.41 oz (size 8.5)
HEEL-TOE DROP: 5 mm
Best Minimalist Trail Running On Shoe: Cloudventure Peak 3
Take a look at the Cloudventure Peak 3 and you'll notice it's lacking something: the cloud pods. Well, technically there are a few in the heel, but they don't extend down into the outsole as CloudTec typically does, leaving a very traditional mix of 3 mm lugs and sticky Missiongrip rubber. The Cloudventure Peak is also different from the rest of On's trail catalog in how minimal it is, with an ultralight upper with mesh panels that surprised us in how breathable they are, and a very low stack that keeps your feet close to the ground, feeling the trail.
The upper does have some toe protection via overlays, but overall the feel of the Cloudventure Peak is spare. It's nimble, responsive, and made for spee—aided by a 30-percent carbon Speedboard. If you're used to running on broad platforms, you might find the narrow heel a tad unstable at times, however. And if you opt for the light uppers, prepare to get them dirty (quickly).
- Very responsive.
- Good balance of lightweight and protective.
- Laces are way too long.
- Get dirty quickly.
- Narrow heel.
WEIGHT: 8.11 oz (size 8.5)
HEEL-TOE DROP: 4 mm
Related: We Tested Every Hoka Running Shoe—These Are the Best
Why You Should Trust Me
I've been running since middle school, and running half and full marathons since 2017. I've run five marathons and managed to snag a 2:56 PR at the 2023 Tokyo Marathon. My trail pursuits include a run of the Presidential Traverse and a circumnavigation of Torres del Paine National Park. I've been writing about running—training, nutrition, races, and gear—for over a decade. I constantly talk to athletes and industry pros about shoes and have tested multiple earlier iterations of the Ons on this list.
For this guide, I also spoke with Fan Zhou, general manager of running and footwear at REI. Beyond his role at REI, Zhou has been running for over 15 years, has completed 13 Boston Marathons, and recently ran CIM. "The rhythm of my life is dictated by running," he told Men's Journal.
I tried numerous On running shoes to pick the very best the brand has to offer.
What We Look for When Choosing the Best On Running Shoes
We know from our own professional experience—testing and evaluating running shoes and working closely with athletes and industry pros—that the perfect running shoe for one person might be the worst running shoe for another. Zhou agrees: "It depends on who, where they are in their own personal running journey, and what they want to accomplish while wearing that product." As such, we've evaluated the shoes in this guide based on the quality of the features and build of each one, keeping in mind their potential intended use for any individual
We tested each shoe included in this list—and numerous others—across a range of surfaces and distances. Knowing that all runners have different feet, gaits, and styles of running, we also take into account outside reviews and experiences.
Remember: It's always a good idea to try on a shoe before you commit to it. When shopping for a new pair of running shoes, Zhou recommends noting the "step-in feel" at try-on. "A good running shoe is one that when you take your first steps and you walk around it should just feel comfortable, supportive, and then get you excited to start running in it," he says.
Key Features of On Running Shoes
CloudTec is On's signature cushioning design. It's foundational to the brand and makes On shoes different from any others—in both look and feel. Look at an On and notice those quirky hollow pods underfoot, which On calls "clouds." That's CloudTec. The idea is that with each footfall, these pods compress, cushioning impact and creating a firm platform for the subsequent push-off, returning energy into the next step. On claims that because these pods function separately from each other, the overall cushioning system adapts to how different runners move.
On has been tinkering with how CloudTec appears. Some shoes have two layers of pods, for instance. There's also CloudTec Phase, a recent innovation that does away with the pod design, but keeps the midsole holes to produce the same collapsing cushioning system. CloudTec Phase also doesn't require On's signature Speedboard (more on that below).
On's signature Speedboard is a plate component positioned between the midsole and upper. The Speedboard's material, shape, thickness, and curve change from shoe to shoe but the idea behind it, is that it connects CloudTec's independent pods into a unified structure to allow for smooth transitions. By tweaking the Speedboard design, On can tweak specific characteristics for every shoe, like adding extra pop for speed workouts, for instance.
Proprietary Foam and Grip
Helion is On's latest proprietary midsole "super" foam. It's made of a blend that combines EVA (ethylene-vinyl acetate) and OBC (olefin block copolymer) to create zones of rigidity and flexibility when needed. Helion is used for most of On's performance shoes now with a few exceptions, while the company's older Zero Gravity (EVA only) foam is still used for lifestyle and walking shoes.
Another piece of jargon you may encounter is Missiongrip, which refers to the rubber compound On uses to provide grip to its trail running shoes. Visually, On often denotes Missiongrip's presence with a pattern of tiny triangles on the outsole, in addition to traditional lugs.
Related: The Best Nike Running Shoes