ON On Cloudflow 4 Introduction
On is a Swiss shoe company that has gained a lot of popularity in the past few years. They are famous for the their “cloud pods” and “Cloudtec” for their cushioning. This creates a distinctive look that is very easy to pick out on anyone’s feet. They have developed some great options for those who have great mechanics and log fast miles. Known for stiff, and supportive cushion, the Ons can make any runner feel like they are flying on their faster runs. However, due to that same type of ride, they can be harsh for many other runners.
The Cloudflow is a trainer designed for taking on any type of run, with enough cushion to handle longer runners, and the type of cushioning and transition technology to really dial in on tempo and track workouts.
On the market, and based on price, the Cloudflows compete against Saucony Triumph, New Balance 1080, Brooks Glycerin, adidas Boston, asics Gel Nimbus, Hoka Clifton, and more–including another On offering in the Cloudswift.
However, the difference in these will be the type and feel of the cushion.
ON On Cloudflow 4 First Impressions
When these shoes showed up, I was very pleased by the design. It is sleek and minimal, which looks great on the feet.
There are five different colorways that are offered in this; I bought the navy blue color which is vibrant and pure in color. However, this colorway also limits matching capabilities with other clothing.
When I put them on for the first time, I was incredibly satisfied with the initial feel on the feet. They were great for walking around, and withstood full days of teaching with no issue.
My first run in the shoe showed off the strengths of the On technology as I did a 5k tempo run (1M warm up, 5k at tempo, 1M cool down) and they were great.
They pawed at the ground and seemed to propel me forward for a quick tempo that felt light and bouncy. However, once the tempo was done and I slowed to the cool down phase, they seemed a bit harsh.
Overall, I was happy with the first run, but wary about the long slow miles I’d need to log.
ON On Cloudflow 4 Upper
On kept things simple with the Cloudflow upper, as they use a single-piece engineered mesh with a tight weave for support, breathability, and adaptability. The upper moves well with your feet as you go through your gait and transition to toe-off. Starting with a tight-to-normal heel cup that locks in the heel, then normal widths in the midfoot and toebox. This shoe will not be described as either roomy or cramped.
The upper really shines with its ability to allow your feet to cool off, with supreme breathability. This however, also was a hard thing to deal with when I went on a run in 20F (-7C) weather. My feet got very cold, very quickly. To the point where I returned home to put on a second layer of socks.
The lacing system on the upper does a very good job of locking the feet in. This is especially true in the heel of the upper, using some rigid molding to help lock the heel in. I absolutely loved the heel of the upper.
Unfortunately, one more aspect of the upper let me down personally, the tongue. The material is very thin, which goes in line with the rest of the upper, allowing for great flexibility and breathability. However, it is so thin that on longer runs the laces can create extra pressure on the upper foot.
ON On Cloudflow 4 Sole Unit
On is known for their CloudTec and “cloud pods” on the midsole of their shoes. The Cloudflow 4 is no exception to this, as the cloud pods are predominant on the sole unit. In this case On uses 32mm of Helion foam cushion under the heel dropping 8mm to 24mm under the toes in a manner that is true to size.. This is a cushion level that allows for the shoe to have cushion, yet feel nimble on turns and on the track.
The design of the cloud pods is so that the cushion has an area in which to compress and–in theory–create a softer landing. Although I have not noticed the softer landing, one place where this technology shines is in the transition and toe-off.
The cloud pods are designed in a way, coupled with an aggressive toe rocker to push your transition forward. This means that you can feel the shoe helping you to move towards your toes. And then as you get to that point, the Speedboard technology under the toe helps spring you into your toe-off. This especially shines when you pick up the pace.
Under the midsole, On put CloudTec rubber pads on the bottom of the cloud pods to increase the traction on road surfaces. You’ll find these rubber pads on the toe and heel of the shoe, but under the midfoot On uses abrasive foam with grooves cut to force grip. This is one place I found the shoe very lacking for my personal running style.
ON On Cloudflow 4 Conclusions
On has created some amazing-looking shoes, and shoes that feel great on the feet. The Cloudflow 4 is not an exception. They look and feel great. The technology is advanced and on some runs they really hit the mark. However, these just don’t find the bulls-eye.
For some runners, this shoe is going to be great, and absolutely what they are looking for. For the most part, that runner will be an experienced, lightweight runner with good mechanics. When you put good mechanics and a faster pace together, these shoes shine. However, when I was going slower they just didn’t feel like what I wanted on my feet.
Beyond the cushion being a little harsh for my particular form of running, the other issue I had with these was their lack of traction on landing during adverse conditions. When I focused on letting my heel hit first, I had no issues, and when I was leaning forward and running on my toes (high pace) they were fine. However, the majority of my running I land on my midfoot.
When I landed midfoot on wet cement, I could feel the shoe slip under me. It’s winter in Nebraska, and we have snow and ice on the ground. No shoe fully handles these types of conditions, but the Cloudflow handled them particularly worse than the other shoes in which I ran during the same timeframe (Saucony Triumph RFG & 21s, and Brooks Glycerin 20s).
I tried four different shoes with these conditions to see if I was overblowing the feel on the cement. I wasn’t. These performed markedly worse, and then I was thinking about it on every landing.
This meant that, for me, this shoe was relegated away from being an everyday shoe. Again, that doesn’t mean it can’t be for someone else who fits the shoe’s profile better. But where it shined was when I wanted to pick up the pace.
The tempo and track workouts with these shoes were fantastic. When I wanted to put the foot to the ground and push myself, these shoes responded.
In my mind, that is where these shoes should live for most runners. If you’re in the market for a great tempo and track companion, these are great no matter who you are.
Otherwise, I’d make sure I fit the profile of the correct runner type before I put down $160 for this shoe as an everyday trainer.