The prettiest shoe I’ve seen of the year is the Cloudflow 4 from On. It’s iridescent. On, founded by a Swiss Ironman champion, has been making shoes since 2010 and has come from seemingly out of nowhere to becoming a major staple at large races, and cool spots on the town (the later, so we’ve heard). The company is based in Zurich and looks that way. Among others, On is a sponsor of Roger Federer, who owns shares. In Canada, Ben Flanagan wears On shoes and Ben holds the fastest road times in Canadian history in the 5 and 10K.
Flanagan once told me: “I want to break records, man,” and while he’s happy with what he’s done, he’s eying the marathon record and wants to take on Cam. “I want to rewrite the record book.” The point is: On shoes are pretty, but they’re also worn by serious racers who don’t just attend races to post Instagram pictures. They’re worn by people who set out to win.
The shoes immediately look different than anything else. With a stacked heel height, On is disrupting like Hoka and the result is a different kind of ride. Your foot almost feels cocked when putting on the shoe and it takes some time to get used to: like having starting blocks under your toes.
The $199 neutral pronating sneaker has an 8mm heel to toe drop and “forward rolling” road running style. It’s designed like Swiss clockwork to move, and does. The fourth iteration of the Cloudflow is the lightest yet from the company and weighs just 235 grams. It’s like fancy foot wrapping paper, except it’s also stable. The Cloudflow 4 is comfortable, and feels good out of the box, and is exceedingly form fitting. There’s a Spanx element to the fit, and this is a good thing. I found it responsive on a long run and able to perform during repeated attempts at post-marathon speed work, where there really wasn’t much pop in my legs. The shoes are propulsive.
Helion super foam is laced beneath the treaded sole, and it’s responsive. You can feel the springiness in the foot falls. This aerodynamic design is a natural ease, even in the cold November rain, and there’s a thin layer between the Cloudflow 4’s two midsoles, called the Springboard, which is spoon-like, and that helps creates a forward-rolling ride.
The shoe won’t make you run like Ben Flanagan, winning the 10K Canadian Championships at Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend in 2022, above, or serve like Roger Federer.
But wearing them, one delusional runner might be prone to dream. The Cloudflow 4 feels engineered to try hard things.
And the results speak for themselves. There’s maximum return from the sum of its parts and, priced a hair beneath $200—and elegant to the eye—there’s reason to grasp why On is a fast-rising company. Last spring, the company announced a 92% jump in fourth quarter revenue and sales receipts surpassed one-billion-dollars. Meanwhile, in Canada, the shoe is being promoted at independent running shops and chains, like Running Room and BlackToe, which recently hosted a Midnight Mile event for the company (pictured below).
Over the past decade, there’s been many innovations in sneakers. Lululemon launched a shoe, HOKA and maximalism blew up, the carbon plate revolution was launched in 2017 by Eliud Kipchoge and Nike, and now—the latest revolution—On shoes have washed over from the Swiss Alps to take over our shores. The Cloudflow 4 is sturdy, lightweight, pioneering and stylish. It runs fast and so can cover different workouts for each day of the week. As more brands get into the shoe game and new athletes come to our sport, companies like On are providing the footwear.
The Cloudflow 4 will appear natural to a new runner. For an old runner like me, it feels like a star.