I’ve been running for several months in On’s lightweight trail race shoe, the Cloudventure Peak. This shoe has ticked almost all of my requirements for a shoe that will take me from my front door to the local trails, through gravelly paths, muddy patches and forest trails.
The review is of the flame/shadow colourway, which has now been superseded by a newer version. However, this is still a fantastic shoe and a great option for all trail runners who want a fast, responsive shoe suitable for both the road and regular trails.
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Out of the box
When I opened the box from On, I initially wasn’t sure that I’d been sent the right shoe. The upper looked like it was made from waterproof material and I was a little confused. I don’t like waterproof shoes, as I prefer the water to drain out quickly if I happen to land in a deep puddle! Anyway, it was my mistake, these bright orange shoes were indeed correctly the non-waterproof Cloudventure Peak.
On makes some fairly hefty claims about the Cloudventure Peak. ‘You have the traction to feel in control on any surface.’ ‘One of the lightest trail running shoes on the market, yet still provides you with the grip, protection and support needed for race day.. On the whole they lived up to these claims, but with a few niggles along the way – more about the ankle-slicing tongue later!
This is indeed a lightweight pair of shoes. The woman’s version of the Cloudventure Peak comes in at around 210g, and they feel significantly lighter than any other trail shoes I’ve had in the past.
As a small, fairly light woman, I like a shoe that is responsive and I am happy to sacrifice cushioning for weight. It feels like I go faster. I probably don’t, but self-perception is important in racing. They have a drop of 6mm, meaning that the difference in height between the front of the shoe and the heel is 6mm. This is a reasonably low drop – many shoes are 10-12mm – but it is not completely flat, as a ‘zero drop’ shoe would be. This means the Cloudventure is a little more forgiving on your calves and achilles when running.
While not marketed as a shoe with a wide toe box, they seem to have a good amount of space across the toes. The women’s version is clearly designed for a female foot, having a relatively narrow heel. So many women’s shoes seems to be just smaller versions of men’s shoes when our feet are anatomically different and we need a proportionately narrower heel with a wider toe area.
The laces are easy to tie and undo on the Cloudventure Peak, and crucially they stay secure when running. I find them rather long and they have got caught in the undergrowth from time to time, but not to the extent that it has annoyed me unduly. The upper is thin and very flexible, but seems to be strong. I’ve run over a 100K in mine and they are still looking box fresh. The tongue is another area that has been stripped back, presumably to reduce weight too, so it’s thin but very flexible. It joins into the main shoe so there is no slipping around during a run.
The sole has the classic On ‘clouds’, but these are only on the outer of the sole with some traction lugs, deeper grooves in the rubber sole, at the front and back. Being so differently constructed from regular trainers means your first few steps can feel a bit hard and odd, but you really feel the spring back from the rubbery clouds with every step.
The base of the shoe doesn’t compare with pure trail shoes; the lugs are shallow and, at first inspection, I would be surprised if they gripped well in really wet and muddy conditions.
The shoe is quite aggressively cut away around the ankle area. I guess this reduces weight further and it ensures that ankle bones have no way of rubbing on the shoe, but it did concern me that mud and debris wouldn’t have far to travel to get into the shoe.
The first run
Putting the Cloudventure Peak shoes on for the first time they felt really comfortable. I’ve run in Ons before and love they way they feel. They gripped my heel securely yet left plenty of space in the toe box for my poor nerve-damaged toes to have plenty of spread and wiggle room. I generally take a size 5 in runners and these are no different. The sizing is spot on.
Out of my front door I am straight onto pavement for a couple of kilometres. The first few steps felt odd, not uncomfortable, but definitely strange, as I could feel every one of the ‘clouds’ under my feet. I guess that this is, again, due to the stripping back of the shoe to make it so lightweight. However it didn’t bother me and didn’t seem to affect my running, so I just got on with it. It may have been psychological, but I really felt like the sole structure propelled me forwards. I bounced along the path.
The next niggle with the Cloudventure Peak was more significant. The tongue. Now it could be that I am anatomically different from everyone else, but the tongue is, in my opinion, too long, and because it has no padding, the end of it rubbed into the top of my ankle and started to cause a welt on my skin. I’ve never had this with a pair of shoes before and it’s a real nuisance for me. I have solved it by folding the top of the tongue over and securing it with the laces. Recently I have had the same issue with other pairs of On shoes, so it’s not just this model. However, I have asked everyone I know who has On shoes and I seem to be the only person with this problem, so maybe it is just me…
On the trails
Anyway, I soon headed onto my favourite trail that has a bit of everything over a 10-15K loop. Up round the meadow through long grass and the shoes performed beautifully. I felt like I sprang up the hill with energy to spare. The shoes gripped well and I was able to adjust to the rutted path with ease. A brilliant start.
The next part of the run took me along a gravel path and down through a stony trail into the forest. I ran confidently down this trail and the shoes proved their worth at holding me steady through rocky paths. However, I could feel every lump and bump under my feet and I wouldn’t really want to be using the On Cloudventure Peaks for any long distance on a very rocky surface. On does make a more cushioned trail shoe – the Cloudventure – which may be more suitable for people who like a more luxurious feel under their feet.
Through the woods the shoes were, as with the grassy uphills, absolutely fabulous. They had the perfect amount of grip for loose leafy trails with the odd puddle and I felt confident and happy to run for miles. On landing I could feel the ‘give’ in the sole, which saved my legs from jarring. Yet I was able to spring up without feeling like I was trying to propel myself in bedroom slippers, which is an effect some very cushioned shoes have on me! I couldn’t fault them.
I became aware of the low-cut area around the ankles once I got to the bottom of the trail where the ground is very boggy and can have large muddy sections. Because the Cloudventure is so low cut I was cautious about leaping into the biggest mud sections. I really didn’t want bits of stone and mud edging their way into the shoe. If I were doing a race where this might be an issue, I would definitely use gaiters but it would not stop me from using the shoes.
How are they holding up? Do I still love them?
The real test of a new pair of shoes is once the excitement has worn off do you find yourself reaching for them when going on a run, or are you still pulling on your old ancient battered ones? The Cloudventure Peaks definitely fall into the former category. They are my trainer of choice for my regular trail running around my area. I have got used to the slightly odd feeling when using them on the road and they don’t feel like I’m running with bricks studded with iron lumps strapped to my feet, which is how other trail shoes can feel.
I was pretty ambivalent about the colourway beforehand. I’m not really into brightly coloured shoes and prefer not to stand out too much. Orange would not have been my first choice, but it was the only colour available. Surprisingly, I have got used to the colour quickly and I no longer notice it. I had thought that a few muddy runs would dull the colour, yet any rain has cleaned them off back to being pretty much as good as new.
The first question anyone asks when they see I’m wearing a pair of On shoes is ‘Do you get stones stuck in the soles?’ In the case of the Cloudventure Peaks, I’ve never got a single stone or twig stuck. The clouds are separated well enough that it really would be difficult for anything to get stuck. (On a side note, I rarely get anything stuck in the other models of On shoes that I run in. I once got a cherry pip trapped between two clouds in my On Cloud Xs, which tapped annoyingly on the pavement until I removed it, but that’s been the extent of the debris-catching soles.)
First, the tongue. As I said, this is an issue for me, but I haven’t found anyone else who has had the same problem. In fact, people look at me quite weirdly when I ask if the tongue slices their ankles. It is easily solveable by folding the tongue over. (In fact, on another pair of On shoes – my super-fast On Cloudrush trainers – I have folded and stitched it down just to be sure it won’t come loose and that has been a perfect solution.)
Second, I really think the claim that Cloudventure Peaks are suitable for any surface is stretching it a bit. They are brilliant at the front door to local trail surface. They cope very well with grass, forest paths, a bit of gravel and some mud. I would not use them in really challenging conditions, either very rocky or very muddy. The soles do not have the depth of grip for mud, nor the cushioning for rocky surfaces.
My On Cloudventure Peak have quickly become a staple in my running arsenal. Once I sorted the tongue issue out I have found them to be comfortable, fast, responsive and a really good all rounder, ideal for short and longer runs of 20-30K. The comfort they offer is fantastic and I particularly appreciate the wider toe box.
The unique sole is incredibly effective and the Cloudventure Peaks do exactly as their Swiss founders intended – you experience a cushioned landing with a firm take off. The best of both worlds. They are wearing well and I expect to be using this pair for many more hundreds of kilometres before replacing with another pair.
About On Running Brand
On was born in the Swiss alps with one goal: to revolutionise the sensation of running. It’s all based on one radical idea. Soft landings followed by explosive take-offs. Or, as we call it, running on clouds.
This relatively new Swiss brand has turned around the way that many people feel about their running shoes. Cushioned landing, firm take off. The range of shoes has grown over the past eight years and now includes a variety of high-quality clothing and accessories, as well as shoes for every surface and for every type of runner.
Take a look at the On Women’s Cloudventure Peak at Runner’s Need.