Whilst I spend much of my time on trails, COVID-19 has presented a new opportunity for me to get out on the road a bit more and finally work on two running goals I have had in the pipeline for a while, a sub 20 5km time, and a 3hrs 15 marathon target. For the latter I feel I need race conditions to actually execute the race portion of the plan, but for the 5km, and all the marathon training, they will be solo local efforts on the road. As such I was super excited to get the chance to try out the new On Running Cloudboom road shoes. The shoes bill themselves as a race shoe for up to marathon distance. Boasting a weight of only 225g with 9mm of drop, and a new carbon-fibre infused Speedboard for explosivity and speed! How can I not be excited!!! The shoes also include 2 elements of the Cloudtec Helion Superfoam, one layer above the Speedboard, and one below.
The uppers are made of an engineered mesh rather than fabric. I’m unsure on whether the practicality of this outweighs the natural flexibility you would have with fabric. Having a slightly wider foot, the shoes do not look as if they will have much give, but time will tell. In terms of look, the colour patterns are stark and look fantastic. At first, I thought they resembled a golf shoe, but the distinctive look has really grown on me. Fit wise, they are true to size, but perhaps for slightly narrower feet. I also found that the Speedboard, which has a natural curve actually seem to curve my toes up a little, and actually catch on the top of the shoe. Not uncomfortable, just an odd sensation. The heel has an additional foam insert, which definitely made the grip on the heel comfier than without. One distinctive feature is the thin tongue and wide lace block running up the front of the shoe. The tongue is super thin and lightweight, which is a real bonus, but you do need to adjust the tongue as it naturally tries to fold under itself at the edges.
But the real question, is how are they to run in? I have taken them out for a few longer runs (10-12km) and a few shorter runs so far, and I am definitely a fan. I am a natural heel striker, and at the heel there is plenty of cushion and absorbency. The shoe states its good for up to marathon distance racing, but I did feel at the end of the longer runs a slight pressure on the underneath of the ball of my foot, where the Helion foam is at its thinnest. As such I would definitely use the shoe for racing, but would probably limit racing to half marathon distance. A forefoot striker may find the cushioning at the front is a little on the thin side. The Speedboard and shape of the shoe naturally propel you forwards on each stride, giving a real spring in your step. The mesh upper is super breathable, and I found my foot stayed cooler than any other shoe I’ve ever run in. It will be interesting to see how they wear over time. Once the tongue was positioned correctly, it didn’t really move around either, so that concern was misplaced. The shoe feels really light, in my size (women’s UK 7.5), each shoe weighed in at just 209g. I have only run the shoes on road so far, but it would be interesting to test out whether much road or path debris can get stuck in the numerous openings for the Helion foam. I can see small stones getting wedged in perhaps, but hopefully they would dislodge themselves just as easily. As I said, it wasn’t a problem I actually came across myself, but something to think about.
Overall a great, lightweight racing shoe for up to half marathon distance. Striking look and with some clever technology.
Reviewed by Karin Voller, Run the Wild