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On Running Cloudultra road to trail running shoes review: long-distance bounciness

The versatile and durable On Running Cloudultra trail running shoes are all-rounders with some unique, innovative features for long-distance running and ultras

On Running Cloudultra
(Image: © On Running)

Our Verdict

An unusual design with some unique and innovative features for ultra running; a little on the heavy side but presumably more robust to cope with high mileage.

For

  • • Unique front-lace quick-widening clip
  • • Elastic lace keeper
  • • Wide toe area
  • • Snug, wrap-around sock-style fit
  • • Robust
  • • Recycled content

Against

  • • High price
  • • Heavy
  • • Harder to get on
  • • Skinny laces
  • • Hard to get stones and mud out of “cloud” holes

On Running Cloudultra: first impressions

On Running Cloudultra

Running on clouds… or On Running’s signature CloudTec pockets in the sole unit, at least (Image credit: Claire Maxted)

On Running Cloudultras feel wonderfully snug and securely fitted, with a wide, rounded toe box. The website suggests going half a size up, and this is good advice to ensure the best fit. 

Most obviously, the unique feature about On Running’s shoes is their CloudTec pockets in the sole unit, which are a series of oblong holes that absorb the impact of foot strike and provide rebound. 

Having tried On Running’s earlier road running shoes back in 2017/2018, the Cloudultras really did not seem to have the same dramatic – almost illegal-feeling – bounce to them. 

They felt very much the same as all the other shoes on test for our best road to trail running shoes buying guide, despite the radically different sole unit. They are pleasantly bouncy but no more so than the rest (perhaps an indication as to how much dynamic cushioning in the midsoles of all shoes has improved), and when you’re running on trails, mud and grit finds its way into the holes and can get stuck there. 

On Running Cloudultra

On Running’s latest all-terrain running shoes were the heaviest on test for our best road to trail running shoes buying guide (Image credit: Claire Maxted)

They are also the heaviest in this test at 565g / 20oz for a women’s size UK 6.5, despite them being full of holes… 

The unique innovation we did find much more useful was the FlipRelease towards the toe end of the laces – turn this to expand the laces in this area when your feet swell during longer runs; a very useful feature, especially if you’re ultra running. Annoyingly, the extremely comfortable but non-adjustable stretchy-wrap-fit around the ankles does make the shoes harder to get on if your feet have swollen up.

Specifications

• RRP: £160 (UK) / $180 (US)
• Weight (pair UK 6.5): 565g / 20oz
• Colors: Men’s: Olive / Black / Yellow Women’s: Lavender / Black / Turquoise
• Drop: 8mm
• Compatibility: Long-distance runs on every terrain type

On Running Cloudultra: on the trails

On Running Cloudultra

The shoes are very comfortable with a wide, rounded toe box (Image credit: Claire Maxted)

I found this a wonderfully comfortable shoe, with a lovely wide, rounded toe box and great grip and cushioning for long distances on roads and trails. I was puzzled, though, by the CloudTec holes as the rebound doesn’t seem to provide superior bounce to any of the other shoes tested here. If you press down hard with your heel to test the rebound it does feel bouncy, so perhaps this is a good one for heavier heel strikers, and maybe it lasts for longer – I’ll have to do a 100-mile race in them and report back. 

Talking of weight, they certainly didn’t feel heavy on my feet as I pounded the Peak District paths, despite being the heaviest in the road-to-trail category at 565g / 20oz. Training for an ultra it’s arguably better to have a heavier and therefore presumably more robust pair to cope with the high mileage, but maybe I’d swap to a lighter pair for the race itself.

On Running Cloudultra

The FlipRelease towards the toe end of the laces means you can expand the laces at this point if your feet swell (Image credit: Claire Maxted)

I really did like the FlipRelease switch for opening up that toe box area without having to faff about loosening the whole of the laces too. I also enjoyed the handy elastic loop half way down to tuck the laces into, but I prefer a thicker lace for ease of use with running gloves on. I found the ankle area supremely comfy with no chance of the tongue lolling sideways or grit getting in due to the padded, wrap-around second sock design – however, this does mean you can’t open the shoe up fully for easy foot entry when you’re cold, wet, tired and may have swollen feet.

On Running Cloudultra

The inner second sock design has both advantages (it helps prevent grit getting in and the tongue moving) and disadvantages (it makes getting them off tricky if you have wet or swollen feet) (Image credit: Claire Maxted)

The co-founder and former editor of Trail Running magazine, Claire now runs the YouTube channel Wild Ginger Running, creating films packed with trail- and ultra-running content. An award-winning journalist, writing for outdoor and adventure sports magazines and websites, her first book The Ultimate Guide to Trail Running 5k to 50k is out in January 2021. Claire also speaks and presents at events and races.