Friday, 3 May 2013

On Running Cloudsurfer review

For the last few weeks I've been testing out a pair of Cloudsurfer trainers made by Swiss company On Running. It is not yet a well known brand here in the UK though it has built quite a following in Switzerland, Germany and the US.

If you have seen a pair your first reaction was probably similar to mine: "they look weird, that outsole must be a crazy gimic". What strikes you is the series of rubber hoops which make up the outsole and are known as clouds by the guys who designed the shoes. Different models have a different number of these clouds and the Cloudsurfer sports 13 of them.

So what made me overcome intial scepticism and give these a try ? Well at the UK 100km championships my team mate Dave Mitchinson ran the whole race in the stripeed down Cloudracer version of the shoe and had no blisters, blackened toe nails or other foot problems. With that in mind I figured there must be something in the shoes worth finding out about. So when the opportunity came to stop by the On office on a recent trip to Zurich I took it out of sheer curiosity.

Lacing the shoes up the first thing I noticed was the fit which was relatively broad and suits my feet nicely. I've struggled a bit with narrower Japanese shoes and these felt right for european feet. Sizing is similar to normal shoes and I slipped nicely into a UK8.5 and would probably also be fine in a UK8. Take care if buying off US sizes though because my UK8.5 is marked as a US9 and I would usually take a US9.5 in Saucony and Adidas.

First impressions. After walking carefully down the stairs and out of the office expecting to fall off the 'clouds' at any moment I went for a short run up the street with founder Olivier Bernhard. And I have to say the shoes felt pretty good. The biggest thing I noticed on that first short run was how bouncy the shoe felt and while flexible my feet didn't feel out of control or unstable. On top of that, they definitely seemed to push my hips a little bit further forward and helped me to run 'taller' than usual.

Back home I've given them the full treatment including off road, grass, tarmac and whatever the best of Somerset can throw at the them. I've yet to find a surface that they struggle on though some people report the clouds filling with mud when it is really dirty under foot. So far they have done just under 200 miles without any obvious signs of wear and tear (above left) and I'm curious to see how long they retain their dynamic feel before starting to feel crushed and flat.

The biggest thing to keep in mind when you start running in a shoe like the Cloudsurfer is that it will allow your foot and lower leg to move more naturally than when in a normal shoe. So you should transition carefully over a period of weeks and pay attention to where the muscles are working a bit harder i.e. stretch them out afterwards. While not as drastic as going to a zero drop 'minimal' type of shoe, these will give you some of the benefits without many of the risks. I've certainly noticed my right calf feeling different and as a result the hamstrings and glutes working more effectively.

In summary: a good shoe if you are looking for something to help you run more naturally and with better posture but don't want the lottery of going to a barefoot/minimal shoe. Full product details

No comments: