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Review: “On” Running Shoes

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In 2010 two Swiss entrepreneurs Caspar Coppetti and David Allemann collaborated with retired athlete Olivier Bernhard to create On Running Shoes. What started as shoe experimentation using garden hoses for the outer sole quickly grew into an international company, receiving the prestigious ISPO Brandnew award in March 2010. As On Running Shoes have had a meteoric rise in the sports and running community fueled by a loyal fanbase it’s important to closely examine the effects these shoes have on the musculoskeletal system of the runners wearing them. Here’s the On Running Shoes review. 

On Running Shoe Technology

What On Running Shoes explains sets them apart from traditional running shoes is their use of CloudTec (pictured on the image on the left below). CloudTec utilizes Cloud elements composed of Helion beneath On Running Shoes which collapse during initial contact with the ground. Each individual “cloud” operates independently, therefore if a runner contacts the ground in heel strike the “clouds” at the heel of the shoe will collapse and take the impact prior to the “clouds” in the mid and forefoot. Additionally, each of these independent clouds can respond to vertical and horizontal forces which On Running Shoes states on their website helps to improve comfort while running. Two additional aspects of On Running Shoe technology are the Speedboard (pictured in red in the image on the right) and Missiongrip (not pictured). The Speedboard is sandwiched between the upper and midsole of the shoe. The On Running Shoe website explains that potential energy is released from the Speedboard during the toe off stage of the gait cycle making for increased “spring” while running. The spring in the runners step is created when the runner lands on the ground which puts tension on the Speedboard and helps spring the runner forward. Lastly, The Missiongrip is On Running Shoe’s proprietary rubber that helps keep traction while running.


Why Are On Running Shoes Popular Among Runners?

On Running Shoes have built a cult following among runners and many runners report positive feedback after running in On Shoes. What your low mileage runners will tell you is that they enjoy running in On Runnings Shoes because they are lightweight, cushiony, comfortable, springy and stylish. Additionally, many casual runners share how they can use On shoes to cross train with gym workouts of weightlifting and plyometrics. High mileage distance runners have also weighed in with feedback for On Running Shoes. Many endurance runners find the On brand to be useful for their low mileage, slower paced runs but find they lack stability and support for their longer runs. Also, several runners shared that the construction of the shoe deteriorates quicker than some of their other running shoes. 

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Bottomline On Running Shoes: CloudTec

While each running shoe has a different impact on each individual runner due to running gait biomechanics, anatomical makeup and risk factors to injury we can draw several correlations between On Running Shoes and musculoskeletal health. As we discussed in the previous blog article High Cushion Running Shoes Increase Impact high cushion shoes increase the stress from the ground’s impact into the lower extremities by sustaining higher levels of ground reaction forces at initial contact. Therefore the On Brand’s CloudTec sole draws concern from the sports medicine community due to its claim that running in On Shoes provides a higher level of cushion than other running shoes. However, when compared to running shoes with high absorption (cushion) On Running Shoes actually provide moderate cushion. However, the CloudTec “clouds” on the bottom of the sole of the shoe do provide both vertical and horizontal cushion for the runner in addition to independent compression of each area of the shoe. Therefore, providers have expressed hesitation to the stability these shoes provide runners, especially high mileage runners. Since each individual cloud can be compressed multiple directions On Shoes potentially lack the sole rigidity and stability needed for long distance runs.


Bottomline On Running Shoes: Speedboard and Missiongrip

On Shoes also implement the Speedboard technology in each shoe, this thermoplastic material sandwiched between the upper and midsole of the shoe acts like a bow, accepting tension during initial contact and releasing it upon toe off to propel the runner forward. While in theory this innovative shoe design could help a runner improve their running speed, attention should be given to the impacts these Speedboards may take upon the musculoskeletal system. While many runners are indeed heel strikers, a midfoot and forefoot striker would not put as much tension upon the Speedboard during running and utilize its full capability of energy release. Additionally, the while the Speedboard may help release energy in the toe off stage of gait it’s important to remember that the same Speedboard that is providing a more powerful toe off also robbing the runner of energy during initial contact and actually slowed the runner down, during this phase of gait the Speedboard is putting more stress on the runner’s lower extremities by increasing the ground reaction forces to “wind up” the Speedboard. Lastly, the Missiongrip technology on the outer sole of each shoe provides additional grip and traction for runners. At this point in time practitioners have not noted it to be a benefit or risk factor to runners. 


The Bottomline For On Running Shoes

On Shoes have integrated innovative technology in a stylish shoe that has understandably earned its cult following amongst runners and sports enthusiasts. While the technology that has been integrated into each shoe does have potential upsides of being lightweight, perceivably cushiony and springy on toe off there are some glaring downsides to these shoes.  One downside is that the shoes don’t provide enough natural stability through the soles of the shoe causing an unstable, potentially harmful base of support. Additionally, the shoes patented Speedboard technology may improve the rigidity of the sole of the shoe making for a more “springy” toe off but it potentially increases stress on the lower extremities due to braking forces sustained during initial contact.  The bottomline is that additional research is needed to get a better understanding of how runners’ musculoskeletal systems respond to On Running Shoes. However, emerging data shows that these shoes could potentially benefit short distance runners but lack the stability to support long distance endurance runners. 

How To Become More Confident In Your Running Gait Analysis

Performing a running gait analysis can be intimidating for many clinicians. If you are interested in learning more about providing a running gait analysis and starting your own running gait analysis clinic check out our continuing education course “The Essentials of Running Gait Analysis”. In this course you will learn how to analyze running gait and start your own gait analysis clinic . Lastly, if you have questions about this content or the course feel free to reach out to us to discuss and we will personally respond to your questions. 

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If you haven’t done so already grab the “Running Shoe Reference Guide” to prescribe better shoes for your runners.