Carbon plated superboosters you’ll want to wear all the time. But do they have that race-day sparkle?
By far the most normal feeling of the carbon plate shoes, Hoka position this as a racing flat for shorter distances. Interestingly, this is an all-gender shoe (meaning there is no weight difference between men and women’s sizes. I’d put these up against the Nike Air Zoom Tempo Next %. Having tried Hoka’s Carbon X (which they suggest for longer distances), I thought they were a little aggressive in their rocker and hard underfoot (though I hear there’s a un upgrade due to drop soon). These have none of that. They are instantly comfortable. The first time I wore them was three days after a marathon PB (run in a another brand) when my legs should have been trashed but it felt like someone had taken the handbrake off. I want to wear these every day.
I know I shouldn’t train in carbon plated shoes but they are so comfortable and so much fun to run in that I can’t help it.
Much like other racers in the market the upper is very light with not much structure, though they do have more to hold your heel in place that competitors. The grip is surprisingly good. I’ve recently moved to an area with permanently muddy roads and wearing the Nike Tempo Next % would be asking for a sprained ankle, but the Rocket X handle the situation with aplomb. As with the Rincon and other shoes, Hoka use the “early stage metarocker” to help you cycle through your gait, but you really don’t notice it. The “CMEVA midsole” allows for a stable footing and absorbs impact so that unlike other carbon plate shoes it doesn’t seem to need you to run in a certain way to reap the rewards. That said, at the moment I don’t think I’d pick these for a race. I can’t put my finger on it but perhaps it’s the fact that they do feel so “normal” even though the pace says otherwise. I don’t feel that frisson when I put them on. But I want to put them on ALL the time, in fact if I want to run slow I have to make sure I don’t put them on. Aaaah I’m so torn!
Miles run in testing: 297 and they have just lost their initial “pop” but are still fine for training
Weight: 210g (all gender)
For comparison (mens weights):
Hoka ONE ONE Carbon X = 241g
Saucony Endorphin Pro = 213g
Nike Vaporfly Next = 200g
Adidas Adios Adizero Pro = 226g
Heel-toe drop: 5mm
Fast, instantly feel comfortable and just a whole bunch of fun to run in
At the cheaper end of the carbon-plated spectrum
Look very slick
Pitched as a shorter distance racer which implies some concern about wear
Maybe don’t have that race “sparkle” feeling of other ones on the market
I’m clutching at straws here - but you’ll want to train in them when really they should be race-day shoes
OnRunning’s neutral lightweight training and racing shoe the Cloudflow recently underwent a re-work and is now out as version 2.0. Having owned a pair of version 1’s I was very interested to find out what they’d changed and if I would like it. On say that the addition of Helion™ superfoam, a “more explosive speedboard” and reshaped Clouds are the key features, designed to give a softer ride than the previous edition but with an explosive toe-off for speed.
Before we talk about road performance let’s take a moment to look at the shoe. It baffles me that so few performance trainers actually manage to look nice as well as do their job. Many brands could learn from the beautiful colourways that On offer. If it wasn’t for the cost I’d be genuinely tempted to by multiple pairs in all the different options. Even the stitching is a thing of beauty and part of the look rather than a necessity. But it’s not all pretty frocks and makeup. Playing to their Swiss strengths, On’s shoes are all about attention to detail and high quality engineering. Every join is super smooth and sealed like a taped seam. The top eyelet has a metal reinforcement which is smartly fashioned in the shape of the On logo. There is an extra band that runs from the arch to the tongue to hold your foot in place which has been designed to be almost invisible and, my favourite touch, there’s a little elastic band attached to the tongue of the shoe for you to tuck the (inexplicably long) laces into so they won’t come undone and you don’t have to double knot them (yes!).
Now, enough of the ogling and onto the running.
Easy runcommute, tempo sessions, hills, treadmill and track reps - these shoes have been tested over all of them. My previous pair were a particular favourite for endurance runner style track sessions and these are no different. While other reviewers have commented that the version 2.0 is springier and has a more forgiving feel to it, I personally found them at least as firm as the earlier edition if not more so. Despite their firmness underfoot the Cloudflow are very flexible. Indulge me for a moment with a bake-off analogy: think of a swiss roll - when you score lines across the width of it you can safely roll it up into a pinwheel without breaking the sheet of sponge. In a less tasty way, this is how On’s trademark Clouds ensure that your feet get full mobility while still feeling very un sponge-like.
The Speedboard, which runs just under your foot and on top of the Clouds, is there to give the rigidity required to transfer more power onto the toe-off. Not being a sprinter, the idea of an explosive toe-off is one that I don’t naturally think about, so I had to really concentrate on whether this worked as I was testing the shoes. They didn’t give me any obvious feeling of energy return in a springy fashion, but they did feel like a minimalist racer where every little bit of contact with the ground is used for power. They do this while simultaneously providing a protective buffer from all angles, thanks again to those Clouds.
On the track and up the hills I ran some of my fastest reps in these and yet I also happily completed endurance runs in them. However, if you’re not used to firmer shoes you might not want to use the Cloudflow for mileage much longer than the low-teens. On have also addressed previous grip problems by changing the markings on the sole so that cornering, even on a wet track, is without issue.
As neutral shoes these are not aimed at people who need a lot of support and the heel lock is certainly on the minimalist end of the spectrum, with a light band running just around the back of the shoe. The ankle and tongue area are only very lightly padded which saves weight and makes them very airy to run in. It does however mean that if ankle stability is an issue for you then these won’t help you much. I found that the heel padding was the first place to wear on my last pair and that may be due to the amount of movement that they allow.
In summary, the Cloudflow 2.0 has received some minor tweaks to an already excellent shoe. They haven't fiddled with the essence of the shoe so if you like them before you'll enjoy these too. They are incredibly versatile shoes, well built and look great. They don’t provide that instant feeling of energy return of some of their rivals but they produce the goods. If you want to try the brand but like a bit more comfort you'll need to look at their “Cloud” or “CloudFlyer” editions, or if you’re after pure speed then the “CloudFlash” sounds like it would be worth checking out.
Miles run in testing: 112 (ran 665 in my version 1 pair before the heel inner wore through)
Weight: 235g / 198g
Heel-toe drop: 6mm
Loads of great design features & look great
Very versatile - can handle anything from speed to mid-long runs
Give you a strong connection to the ground despite being protective
If you want to run anywhere gravelly you WILL get a stone stuck in them
Not much heel lock & has worn there easily in the past
Can feel a bit firm
On the more pricey end of things
OnRunning make a strong effort to be an ethically sensitive and transparent company, giving lots of information about the standards they require of partners and their Athlete Refugee team on their website. It’s good to know that they are looking to switch to 100% recycled polyester in their manufacturing, though it would be even better if they specified a timeframe.
Given the current situation we find ourselves in, you may not wish to try shoes on in stores, OnRunning’s Covid-19 statement is particularly welcome: You can currently test out any On shoes or gear in your home workouts for 30 days commitment-free. If, by the time the 30 days are up, you’re not convinced, you can send the products back for a full refund, no questions asked. In addition, we’re also waiving all standard shipping costs”
OnRunning gifted these shoes for review
Review by Gill Bland