We get many questions about the ON. Some people see them and ask to try on the “OC” shoe. Most, I think, see them and think they look pretty cool and then ask, “What’s up with these?”
And that’s what I thought, too, when I first saw them a few years ago. My first reaction was that this was another gimmicky shoe that really didn’t deserve much beyond a first look. Honestly, I didn’t think I’d see them around much longer, anyway.
But they’re still here, and for good reason.
ON is kind of a sleeper. They’re not flashy, they don’t make each model in eleven different colors or release them in special edition colors–ON isn’t that big yet. They look cool–Euro-cool–but they don’t have the traditional space-shuttle-super-tech look that so many of our favorite models have become. They’re subtle, both in appearance and in ride.
The ON technology–called “Clouds”–is the midsole/outsole, the rubber “bubbles” on the bottom of the shoes. There’s nothing fancy to the EVA midsole, and the Clouds don’t look particularly technical, but the feel is surprising. Upon landing–wherever you land on your foot–the feel is moderately soft and then as the foot moves through the gait cycle, the Clouds compress and deliver a welcome responsiveness.
It is a responsive feel, though I was reminded of walking in one of those bouncy houses that you see at kids’ birthday parties. It’s much more stable than that, thankfully, but there is a sense of being immune to the ground. It isn’t marshmallowy by any stretch of the imagination, and when you run in them–and the faster you run–they are much more responsive. Indeed, the first word out of a customer’s mouth once they’ve got the shoes laced up is, “Whoa.” And that’s pretty much the response across the spectrum of customers trying them for the first time. Ultimately, some like it; and of course, there are always going to be those who aren’t ready to try something new.
The fit is comfortably snug, from front to back. Those with Flintstonian feet will likely need more width than ON offers, but if your feet are of average width or narrower, the swaddled-snug fit will be right on. The uppers are almost entirely overlay free, so the foot can move unrestricted yet there is the sense that you are well supported.
ON design their shoes to allow the feet to move uncorrected. They aren’t “minimalist,”–whatever that is–but they aren’t over-engineered either. The sensation when you’re running in them is almost–almost, but not really–like being barefoot, except of course that you’ve got tiny little bouncy houses under your feet. If you can imagine that, that’s kinda what it’s like.
The one gripe I have, other than that the width thing, is that they are just a bit too heavy for what you’d expect them to feel like. They’re not brickish at all, but most go-to neutral shoes these days are well under 10 oz in a men’s size 9, and the Cloudsurfer comes in at just under 11. So they aren’t heavy, but they aren’t feathers either. Really dense clouds maybe? They’d feel heavier, I suspect, if they weren’t so responsive and if the fit were not so snug.
The more I’ve worn mine, the more I’ve liked them. And I suspect you will too. I’ve been fortunate enough to see some of the upcoming versions, and there are improvements that will certainly help to spread the ON love.