With a focus on long-distance trails, the On Cloudultra is a shoe built to offer versatility and cushioning when hitting varied terrain.
The shoe combines a heap of On's most popular technologies, from both road and trail, to deliver an experience that ticks a lot of boxes for runners, whether that's hitting technical surfaces or heading out for some high mileage efforts on less severe terrain.
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Amongst its standout features is the addition of a double layer of Helion superfoam, designed to add a high level of cushioning and comfort over long distance sessions, and a generous covering of Missiongrip outsole rubber to provide traction.
We've spent the past few weeks putting the On Cloudultra through its paces to see if it's worth including in your trail shoe collection.
Price: $179.99 | Weight: Men 295g/10.4oz (Men), 245g/8.6oz (Women) | Type: Trail | Stability: Neutral | Heel to toe drop: 8mm | Sizing: True to size | Alternatives: Hoka One One Speedgoat 4, Inov-8 Parkclaw 275, Brooks Cascadia 15, Merrel Rubato
As trail running specialisms grow in popularity, the range of shoes tailoring towards subsections of the sports are becoming increasingly prevalent. The Cloudultra is far from On's first foray into the world of trail running, however, it's the first shoe focused on cushioning and comfort over ultra distances.
It's a shoe that still holds many of the hallmarks of On's historical lineup, from its familiar aesthetic to the underlying technology used throughout. But, it's also a shoe that shows how On is taking steps forward in how it approaches performance across its range.
The most noticeable evidence of this is the outsole design of the Cloudultra. Instead of the usual deep groove that features across On's shoes, there's a subtler forked rift that runs across the whole length. It's a welcome update, especially for trail runners, as it's a design feature that has been a bugbear when collecting rocks and debris in previous shoes.
The Missiongrip rubber outsole offers a healthy level of protection across the length of the shoe, with different sized lugs positioned for versatility across multiple terrains.
It's also the first time On has used it's Helion midsole foam in a trail shoe. The proprietory material was introduced back in early 2019 to deliver durability and cushioning, whilst still being responsive, and is built to be resistant to temperature changes.
The Cloudultra features a two-layer Helion CloudTec design, visible as open tubes which run across the width of the shoe. The idea here is that the lower layer absorbs impact whilst the second layer adds a second layer of cushioning when hitting the ground with more force.
The upper is made from a two-layer, durable and breathable sandwich mesh created from 100% recycled Polyester. This combination offers rigid, reinforced sections around the base of the upper and a lighter, more breathable section across the mid and fore-foot. The tongue is also gusseted to ensure a secure, sock-like fit which aims to help stability and lock-down, as well as stop rocks and debris falling into the shoe when running.
Finally, On has added something called a FlipRelease tool – a small device on the laces that can be adjusted quickly to instantly add some additional room when your feet swell. You'll also find On's Speedboard technology for efficiency and comfort.
From the first time we put the Cloudultra on we were instantly impressed with the level of comfort. The mesh upper manages to offer a snug fit without feeling too tight or restrictive, and the gusseted tongue slips around the foot perfectly.
That comfortable locked-down fit continues as you increase the mileage, and after running in the shoe for endurance training they consistently feel supportive and stable.
It's clear when you first head out that there's a good level of cushioning throughout the midsole but it doesn't feel spongy in any way. Instead, it's a subtler level of foam that really only becomes noticeable when you're hitting higher mileage.
The shoe excels when it comes to harder trails, whether that's gravel paths, rocky surfaces or hard frozen ground. On this sort of terrain, it delivers an impressive balance between minimising impact whilst also feeling responsive and stable. In addition, the Missiongrip outsole handles wet, shiny services very well.
That Missiongrip outsole also appears to be a durable addition. We saw no signs of wear and tear across the 80km of running we did in the shoe.
When it comes to softer ground it does a competent job, unless the terrain is across wet or claggy mud. In these cases, the shoe's outsole offers little in way of traction and tends to hold onto the mud in chunks, causing the shoes to become heavy and slippy.
The Cloudutlra is an impressive entry into On's trail selection and offers some impressive features for anyone focussed on endurance running. Like many shoes designed for ultra-distance training, the benefits are most evident when hitting harder, rockier trails as opposed to softer ground, and the combination of a beautifully made upper and a responsive, cushioned midsole deliver an enjoyable experience during high mileage efforts.