The On Cloud Ultra is a good door-to-trail shoe built for hard trails
Weight 295g (M) 245g (W)
Buy now – men’s
Buy now – women’s
A great mix of durability, responsiveness and comfort but a shoe best kept for hard trails.
While swiss shoe brand On is known for the excellence and quality of its road running shoes, it’s had a harder time working out how to transpose its cushioning pods (‘clouds’) on to the trail. Previous versions picked up stones and mud and clung to them like a miser to a £5 note. Happily, this problem has been fixed and this is a shoe that will give you a fun ride.
Better at shedding mud
The channels between the clouds have been closed off, and the clouds themselves made shallower. The result is a shoe that doesn’t pick up weight as you go, and which offers a delightfully bouncy but controlled experience.
Testers loved flying downhill and picking their way through tricky single-track pathways in these. What was noticeable was the shoes dual capabilities: it’s rugged and cushioned enough to do the job for those looking for a long run or ultra-distance partner – but also nifty enough to help you pick up the pace or navigate through testing sections where foot placement is key.
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If you’re going long your feet are going to swell as they get hot. On the trail, it’s not as easy to stop and adjust your lacing so On has added something it calls the Flip Release: a small plastic device attached to the bottom rung of the lace on each shoe. A simple flip of it will release the pressure across the wide part of the forefoot allowing you a few extra precious millimetres of space.
There isn’t much to say about this other than it’s perfectly decent. For the lightweight feel of the shoe, the Ultra is surprisingly sturdy and offers cushioning, underfoot protection and toe protection that is quietly effective without being outstanding.
One of the things that On consistently gets right is the fit of a shoe. Sometimes brands can produce a model where the fit across the heel, midfoot and forefoot sections are out of sync with each other, or where it seems fine on the first wear but quickly sags with further use. The Cloud Ultra will suit the masses, which is to say people with normal width feet, neither narrow nor wide. The secure fit around the heel is snug without you feeling that your heel has been clamped in place, and the mesh upper not only offers excellent breathability but moves well with your feet as they shift about on uneven terrain.
Slippery when wet
The one issue On needs to get to grips with here is…the grip. Our testers found that the shoe was great on any dry surface, and also fine in the rain on tarmac (the outsole isn’t so aggressive that it can’t be used for shorter road runs), but as soon as it encountered any sort of meaningful sludge, the Ultra struggled and more than one runner reported some precarious skating when trying to plough through any seamy stuff.
A trail shoe that can’t cope with mud is a bit of a disappointment – and yet if you only ever run in the dry then these slim-fitting, fast and sturdy shoes are well worth your consideration as a door-to-trail option for many a mile.
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