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On Running Cloudstratus 2.0 Multiple Tester Review
By Chief Editor Matt Klein and Guest Reviewer Ryan Flugaur


On Running is known for developing high quality shoes and apparel with very unique designs. Their cloud based cushioning technology is on the firmer side, which when paired with their speedboards/plates makes for snappier shoes with great ground feel. The previous version of the Cloudstratus was a shoe we did not review, but tried in store. It had a very firm ride for such a high stack height shoe. The 2021 version of the On Cloudstratus returns with a reworked Helion foam that provides the softest ride of any On shoe we have tried thus far. Still a firmer max stack height shoe, the On Cloudstratus 2.0 blends the firmer riding clouds with slightly softer ride while retaining the incredibly well done upper seen for years. 

On Cloudstratus 2 in hand. A dark blue upper with a red external heel counter. Pods through midsole highlight the helion foam. The 2021 version of the shoe features a redialing of the foam which has us excited.

Specifications for the On Running Cloudstratus 2.0 (per Running Warehouse)
Weight: 10.4 oz / 295g (men's size 9) 8.6 oz / 244g (women's size 8)
Stack Height: 36 mm / 28 mm
Drop: 8 mm
Classification: Maximal Daily Trainer

Medial side of the On Cloudstratus 2. A bit of flexibility seen in the upper of the forefoot where there's slight wrinkling.

RUNNING SHOE SUMMARY

Matt: The On Cloudstratus 2.0 returns as a max stack height training shoe for long miles on the road. Featuring a reworked Helion foam that runs firm, but softer than the previous version, the rockered ride and speed board provide an efficient ride. The upper is incredibly comfortable, featuring plenty of room in the toebox and more volume throughout the length of the shoe. My go to sockless shoe right now for both running and casual wear, the On Cloudstratus is best for those who want a comfortable upper combined with solid protection while retaining good ground feel.

Ryan: A Stratus cloud is characterized by its flat, hazy, and gray appearance and typically seen at low altitude. The word stratus comes from the Latin word strato meaning layer. This is an accurate name for the On Cloudstratus 2.0, as it features two layers of Helion enriched CloudTec foam for maximum cushioning.

The On Cloudstratus 2.0 is a highly cushioned, long distance, neutral shoe made for five mile runs all the way up to marathon distance. I was pleasantly surprised with the ride as it was much softer than expected and I had no problems knocking out a 16 mile run in this highly cushioned shoe.  The fit is much wider than many of the shoes I have run in this year which sometimes resulted in more motion in the forefoot than I would have preferred. I enjoyed the subtle details On added with its unique star-lacing system, sock liner, and high quality materials. The Cloudstratus 2.0 is one of my favorite looking running shoes and upon further examination, it is apparent that On workmanship is top of the line.

Top down view of the Cloudstratus upper. A star lacing system seen which helps tighten the lockdown well.

FIT (LENGTH / WIDTH / COMFORT)

Matt: The On Cloudstratus 2.0 fits me true to size in my normal US men's size 10. The On Cloudstratus is a fairly high volume shoe. The heel fits normal to slightly wide, the midfoot fits wider and the forefoot is on the wider side. I had to really tighten the laces down at the midfoot to lock the shoe in, but had no heel slippage as the high heel collar and external heel counter locked my heel in well. Tightening the laces down in the midfoot works well as the star lacing system wraps that area well. The lace connections at the forefoot respond less well as they pull and cause the forefoot upper to crease. This created some abnormal bending points at the upper that fortunately did not bother me. The heel counter did not bother me at all as it is more external and there is plenty of padding. It did lock my heel in very well and stabilized the rearfoot. The inner liner of the upper is very soft and is comfortable against bare skin. I have worn this shoe sockless for up to 8 miles without issue. Overall the upper fits  comfortably with a higher volume/wider fit while still providing security.

Ryan: The Cloudstratus 2.0 fits me true to size length wise, however, I found the width of the mid and forefoot to be much wider than normal. I typically enjoy a wider toe box but even the Cloudstratus 2.0 felt as though it offered too much space. On occasion, my toes would slip around the toe box, especially at faster paces. The Cloudstratus 2.0 offers a unique star-lacing system which may help to snug up the toe box for some runners. This system provides loops over the dorsum of the foot and when the laces are tightened, the upper is pulled taught over the toe box providing a more conforming fit. This allows the fit to become personalized for the runner and may benefit individuals that may have slightly different foot sizes or widths as they would be able to tighten up one shoe while keeping the other loose. I found the star-lacing system to be intuitive and had no complaints with it. The tongue is attached to the shoe by an inner sock that I found extremely comfortable. The heel felt secure with the help of an external heel counter that wraps around the posterior of the shoe and anchors into the sidewall to add guidance without feeling too restrictive.

Heel of the Cloudstraus. Helion written on foam. Minor On logo on red heel counter.

PERFORMANCE (RIDE / SPEED)

Matt: The On Cloudstratus 2.0 is a max stack height in theory, but performs as a firmer shoe in typical On Running fashion. Rather than a solid midsole, the On Cloudstratus 2.0 uses 2 layers of their "clouds", which provide a unique cushioning experience. There is a significant guidance line that runs through the center of the midsole from the heel through the midfoot. This splits the clouds into two separate layers of cloud with each one on the medial and lateral sides separately. The heel is beveled, with more of the curve on the lateral row of "clouds." The forefoot does not have a split and has smaller clouds.

The Helion used is softer than previous, but with the design and less midsole present with the split, the ride is still firmer than other shoes with this much stack height. There is toe spring at the forefoot, which combined with the heel bevel and Speedboard creates a rockered sole. The Speed Board sits under the foot, adding to the firmer feel. It has some stiffness to it, but is not rigid. There is still some flex through the forefoot, although the midsole thickness and Speedboard stiffen up the heel and midfoot a decent amount. The rockered ride made me not notice the 8 mm heel drop and even makes the shoe feel slightly lower than that. Use wise this shoe is best for road miles and well groomed trails for medium length runs for most.

The Cloudstratus 2.0 is still not appropriate for rocky trails as rocks continue to get stuck in the guidance line. Those who like firmer rides will have no trouble using this shoe for long miles, recovery runs and getting miles in. The ride is rockered as mentioned and feels best when you get into a rhythm working with the rocker and Speed Board. It is not great for trying to pick up the pace as it is a little heavy for fast efforts. Instead, it works better on normal pace runs as a daily trainer or as an efficient firmer shoe for long runs. The durability is decent with some initial wear only at the posterior lateral heel. I have not worn through the outsole yet, so am expecting a fairly average number of miles out of these. 

Ryan
:
The Cloudstratus 2.0 performs well when transitioning from initial contact to midfoot and feels smooth when adding up miles on my longer runs. I will admit that when picking up the pace during a tempo or workout run, the Cloudstatus 2.0 felt a bit clunky as the Helion foam compressed on impact and noticeably slowed the natural progression from the heel to ankle rocker. This was not an issue on slower runs which this shoe is best designed for. The midsole is attached to what On calls the Speedboard which I will discuss in detail later. The Speedboard is a fairly flexible plastic material plate that offers a small amount of flex from transition of initial contact to toe off. Despite the toe spring and the speed board, I never felt the Cloudstratus 2.0 propel me forward like with other rocker shoes as in the Asics guidsole technology. This may be due to the fact that the Helion foam compresses and flexes a significant amount each step.

When running and walking in the Cloudstratus 2.0 I was able to visually see the Helion foam compress foam as the holes in the foam collapsed. This never led to any feeling of instability which I was a bit worried about when looking over the construction of the shoe. The tread on the outsole provides good traction on a variety of running surfaces ranging from dry and wet pavement to gravel trails. I have around 80 miles on the Cloudstratus and they continue to display very little wear. I anticipate these shoes will last well over 250 miles for most runners.


Outsole of the On Cloudstratus held to a wall. Large groove seen from heel to midfoot showing speed board. Strategic rubber around parameter of the shoe. Medial side exposed.

STABILITY 

Matt: The On Cloudstratus 2.0 is technically a neutral shoe, but there are many elements intentionally added for stability. The heel counter is asymmetrical, with a slightly larger and farther forward reaching medial side. This provides gentle guidance at heel strike, working with the posterior lateral bevel that guides the foot in laterally at that contact (if you land there). The Speedboard sitting under the foot firms up the ride and adds mild resistance to motion side to side. The guidance line through the heel and midfoot keep motion more centered from initial contact through midstance. There are also mild midsole elevations/guiderails in the posterior midfoot and anterior heel that may provide some subtle guidance forward. The wider last/shape, particularly in the forefoot provides inherent stability particularly with toe off. Overall, there are many subtle methods for stability, but none are overt enough to cause problems. This shoe will work well for those with neutral to mild stability needs over long mileage or anyone who wants a stable shoe without typical methods of stability. 

Ryan:
For being a neutral trainer, the Cloudstratus 2.0, felt stable throughout my runs despite the unique Helion foam hole construction which I was expecting to be more unstable. This may be due to a couple reasons. First, the holes are engineered in a way that places more dense foam over the midline of the shoe, where there is likely to be more body weight, thus helping to limit the compression. The second reason is that the surface area of the Speedboard resting on top of the foam may better help disperse the load of impact throughout the entire shoe.

Forefoot of the On Cloudstratus. OC logo on midfoot.Open mesh upper seen.

THOUGHTS AS A DPT / FOOTWEAR SCIENCE

Ryan
:
On states that the speedboard used in the Cloudstratus 2.0 results in “big energy return”. By this statement, I assume On is meaning that upon initial contact, energy will be transferred to the speedboard and then returned back to the runner with push off, similar to how a diving board works. Can this speedboard truly accomplish this goal? From previous studies we know that running economy can be altered by a range of shoe characteristics including, shoe mass, cushioning, comfort and shoe stiffness. The speedboard, like other plates, helps to stiffen the sole with the goal of storing energy from initial contact and returning it back during toe off. It is difficult to quantify something such as ,“big energy return” and is typically performed by measuring secondary factors such as running economy. From other studies by Ortega et al. (2021) and Roy Et al. (2006), we understand that even a small increase in energy return , around 1%, from the plate itself would be a generous assumption to make. We also know that the placement of the plate may affect the individual's running economy and that it may be individualized for the runner. Another thing to consider when discussing plate efficiency is the speed of the runner. Earlier, I mentioned how the Cloudstratus 2.0 performed best at slower paced runs. Research done by McLeod et al, (2019) showed that a high stiffness shoe displayed optimal performance at faster running rates. This would mean the speedboard would give minimal energy return to some runners while offering no assistance to others based on their weight, running style, speed, and other factors not related to the shoe itself.

Another claim that On makes with the speedboard is that it offers increased durability of the shoe. The Cloudstratus 2.0 is designed with a gap in the Helion foam from the heel throughout the midfoot. The speedboard sits on top of that foam helping to disperse the landing forces throughout the entire surface of the foam. In theory, this may help to improve the durability of the shoe but again this is a very difficult thing to objectively measure.

As of right now, we are still unsure of how plates truly impact different runners but we do know that the plate itself is likely not the only factor that improves energy return. This likely comes from a variety of shoe factors which may vary between different runners and different shoes.

References:

McLeod, Aubree & Hunter, Iain & Bruening, Dustin & Johnson, Aaron & Remund, Kirk. (2019). Running shoe optimal stiffness and speed. Footwear Science. 11. S207-S208. 10.1080/19424280.2019.1606336

Ortega, J.A., Healey, L.A., Swinnen, W. et al. Energetics and Biomechanics of Running Footwear with Increased Longitudinal Bending Stiffness: A Narrative Review. Sports Med 51, 873–894 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40279-020-01406-5

Roy JP, Stefanyshyn DJ. Shoe midsole longitudinal bending stiffness and running economy, joint energy, and EMG. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2006 Mar;38(3):562-9. doi: 10.1249/01.mss.0000193562.22001.e8. PMID: 16540846.


Lateral heel side of the Cloudstratus. Moderately tall, modestly padded heel seen. Lightly padded tongue.

RECOMMENDATIONS

Matt: I appreciate all the unique methods added to create a stable shoe. However, for what this shoe is billed as, ie a maximal daily trainer, the ride could be much softer. Even for me, the ride is a little firm for long miles and can be a bit harsh during warm up. Once my body gets moving it is fine, but starts to feel a little harsh after 12-15 miles. I would suggest softening the durometer of the midsole to provide a little more sense of cushioning just to take the edge off. The shoe may also feel softer if the speed board was lowered a bit more into the midsole so it is easier to feel the Helion foam. 

Ryan
: The Cloudstratus 2.0 offers a significant amount of space throughout the mid and forefoot. When looking over On’s website, it clearly states that it was designed for individuals with wider feet. My only recommendation would be to decrease the toe box volume. However, seeing as On clearly states who the target audience for the shoe is, I feel that the width of the shoe was On’s goal and it should be used to help benefit those runners that prefer a wider shoe.


On Cloudstratus 2 hiding in a bush.

WHO THIS SHOE IS FOR (Conclusion)

Matt: The On Cloudstratus 2.0 is a firmer maximal shoe for those wanting an efficient ride with a wider/higher volume fit for long miles. The upper is incredibly comfortable, with a well designed external heel counter and a comfortable inner liner that works well for sockless running. The fit is on the wider/higher volume side, although the laces do tighten up the midfoot well if needed. The double layer of Cloudtec provide protection, although the ride is still on the firmer side for such a high stack height shoe. The rocker combined with the Speedboard creates an efficient roll through the gait cycle, so once you get into a rhythm the shoe is comfortable. There are many subtle methods of stability that create a stable shoe here that will work well for those sensitive to traditional stability methods or anything too overt. Overall the On Cloudstratus 2.0 will work as a protective daily trainer for those wanting to get a large number of miles in a higher volume shoe with a firmer ride. 

Ryan
: The On Cloudstratus is a maximum cushioned neutral shoe made for longer distance runs or more time on your feet. The width of the shoe makes the Cloudstratus 2.0 best suited for runners that have wider feet and prefer more room. This was my first time running in an On shoe and I really enjoyed the ride. The Cloudstratus reminds us that marketing may not be representative of all runners and we must continue to follow the research and what we truly know. I will continue to run in On footwear as I enjoy the fine details On adds to their footwear as they redesign footwear using their CloudTec technology.

Wide lens look at the lateral side of the On Cloudstratus 2

GRADING (SHOE CATEGORY)

Matt
Fit: A- (Great fit with adjustable, but higher volume. Tightening down laces does crease the forefoot though)
Performance: 
B- (Firmer, efficient ride. Decent rocker while maintaining some flexibility in the forefoot. Firmer than expected for so much stack height. Best for mileage for those who want protection but like a firmer ride)
Stability: A (Stable ride for a neutral shoe. A variety of well executed, but subtle methods)
DPT/Footwear Science: A- (Excellent design in regards to asymmetrical heel counter, guidance line, heel bevel geometry and Speedboard. However, the ride is firmer than expected, particularly with initial step which may turn people away). 
Personal:  B (I love wearing this shoe in clinic and for shorter sockless runs. However, the firmer ride, lower responsiveness and weight make it difficult for me to reach for this shoe for the majority of my miles)
Overall: B+ (A protective, rockered, firmer maximal shoe for those who want to still maintain some ground feel with a higher volume fit. 

Ryan
Fit: B+ (The forefoot and toe box fit on the wider side. The lacing system helps to lock the foot down but the toes on occasion may feel sloppy for runners with narrow feet)
Performance: A- (Smooth and easy rolling. A bit of the firm side, but moves so well for daily mileage)
Stability: A- (As a neutral shoe, the Cloudstratus offers a fairly stable ride thanks to smart engineering)
DPT/Footwear Science: A- (On is an innovative company working to find new ways to improve their footwear. The combination of the Helion foam with the speedboard helps to provides a stable yet highly cushioned ride)
Personal: B+ (I really enjoyed running in the Cloudstratus. I mainly used it during my long runs 8 miles plus and it held up very well. My main dislike was the large width and overall volume of the shoe that occasionally felt sloppy.)
Overall: B+ (Overall, a good daily trainer that offers a stable ride with a large amount of cushion)


SHOP | SUPPORT DOR

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FURTHER READING

Compare with Other Long Range Cruisers
Adidas Adizero Boston 10 Review - It takes some time to grow, but the Boston is a versatile trainer for those who like a firm ride
Puma Magnify Nitro Multiple Tester Review - A mix of firm and protective foam with great grip thanks to Puma's patented rubber
Saucony Endorphin Shift 2 Review - Speedroll technology mixed with a firmer formulation of PWRRUN RB makes for a unique rolling ride with a ton of stability for a non-stability shoe

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TESTER PROFILES:


Matthew Klein, PT DPT OCS FAAOMPT
Doctor of Physical Therapy
Board Certified Orthopedic Clinical Specialist
Fellow of the American Academy of Orthopedic Manual Physical Therapists

Dr. Matthew Klein is a 150 lb male with notable PRs of 14:45 for 5k and 2:32:44 for the full marathon.  He typically runs 70-100 miles per week and trains at a variety of paces from 8min per mile recovery runs to 4:40 per mile 1k repeats.  He prefers firmer and responsive shoes with snug heels and medium to wide toe boxes.  The stability guy of the group, he also prefers a little stability in his footwear. However, as a researcher, clinician and running shoe aficionado, he will run in anything. 

Ryan Flugaur, PT, DPT, TPI Certified
Doctor of Physical Therapy

Dr. Flugaur began running four years ago when he was looking for a change to his current exercise program of body building. He continues to do some light strength training but running has become his true form of exercise to stay healthy. He has met some great friends through running and loves the camaraderie that the running community brings. He typically runs 20-40 miles a week depending on his training schedule. Dr. Flugaur lives in Wisconsin with his wife Olivia and 2 kids, Lucy and Jack. When not running he enjoys mountain biking, fat biking in the snow, camping, and cheering on the badgers, brewers, and bucks. PRs Include: 5K:20:05 (2021), 10 K: 43:36 (2021), Half-Marathon 1:42:22 (2021)

***Disclaimer: These shoes were provided free of charge in exchange for a review.  We thank the  people at On Running and Running Warehouse for sending us a pair.  This in no way affected the honesty of this review. We systematically put each type of shoe through certain runs prior to review. For trainers and performance trainers, we take them on daily runs, workouts, recovery runs and a long run prior to review (often accumulating anywhere from 20-50 miles in the process). For racing flats we ensure that we have completed intervals, a tempo or steady state run run as well as a warm up and cool down in each pair prior to review. This systematic process is to ensure that we have experience with each shoe in a large variety of conditions to provide expansive and thorough reviews for the public and for companies. Our views are based on our extensive history in the footwear industry and years testing and developing footwear. If you are a footwear rep looking for footwear reviews or consultations on development, we are currently looking to partner with companies to assist, discuss and promote footwear models. Partnership will not affect the honesty of our reviews.

Please feel free to reach out, comment and ask questions!
Contact us at doctorsofrunning@gmail.com


NEXT: Enda Lapatet 2.0 Review

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