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On Cloudsurfer Trail Review
By Matthew Klein

The On Cloudsurfer 7 was one of the first well-cushioned On models. Since that time, their models have been continually refined, improved and closing in on their "running on clouds" tagline. Unexpectedly, On has decided to release a trail version, although this is not uncommon among popular companies. Although often fairly good shoes, this is always surprising coming from companies that have excellent trail shoes. What is most surprising is that the On Cloudsurfer Trail is almost a better road shoe than its road counterpart. A hybrid road/trail shoe that leans more road than trail, the Cloudsurfer trail is for those who run mostly run with an occasional venture onto softer, well-groomed surfaces.

On Cloudsurfer Trail
Price: $159.95 at Running Warehouse
Weight: 9.7 oz, 275 g (men's size 9/women's size 10.50
Stack Height: Not Provided
Drop: 8 mm
Shoe Purpose: Road/Trail Hybrid

Pros: Durable, smooth cushioned ride, extremely comfortable upper
Cons: Not for anything but groomed trails and road


The On Cloudsurfer Trail is the trial version of the Cloudsurfer, making for a comfortable, softer, well-cushioned hybrid trail shoe that leans more toward the road than the trail. The same CloudTec Phase creates a softer midsole that is stabilized slightly by a stiffer, more durable trail outsole. A comfortable upper provides a relaxed but normal width fit up front with an easy-to-secure midfoot. Best for the runner who wants a more durable Cloudsurfer or those who want to occasionally venture on to well groomed softer surfaces, the On Cloudsurfer Trail is a great alternative to the road version for those who want a little more sturdiness.

: Reebok Floatride Energy Adventure
PAST MODEL: On Cloudsurfer 7

(To learn how a shoe should fit, check out our full podcast on fit by Matt Klein.)

The On Cloudsurfer Trail fits me true to size in my normal men's size 10. The upper is a comfortable engineered mesh with some gentle stretch, especially in the forefoot. The overall fit is normal in width with a normal volume with some flexibility due to the upper. The forefoot is normal width width with a slightly tapered toe box. The toe guard is not obtrusive and with the upper stretch, this has not been an issue. The midfoot fits normally with a moderately padded and well-gusseted tongue. The gusseted tongue and laces work well to create a secure fit. I only had to tighten the laces a little for security and had no heel slippage. The heel fits normal with width with a normal amount of heel collar padding. There is is a mild to moderately flexible heel counter in the rearfoot. This did not bother me and should only be an issue for those with highly sensitive heel bones (calcanei). The overall security of the upper is good for a road shoe but can cause some mild translation as a trail shoe.

Although this is a hybrid shoe, I have taken it on trail runs, during which I have had sliding on uneven terrain. On stable, smooth trails it is fine, but any angled foot positions immediately causes some sliding in the shoe. On these occasions, I did tie down the laces tighter, which solved 75% of the problem. This makes this not the best option for any technical trails and something that will work better on smooth surfaces. When on smooth surfaces, in inner aspect of the upper is incredibly comfortable against bare skin. I have worn this shoe extensively without socks and not had any issues. I do prefer socks as going sockless sometimes makes the shoe feel slightly long. However, those who want the rare hybrid shoe that can handle sockless running, as long as you are on smooth surfaces this is a solid option. 

Typical Size: Men's US Size 10
Shoes that have fit Matt well: Saucony Guide 17, ASICS Kayano 30, Hoka Gaviota 5, Saucony Endorphin Elite, Nike Ultrafly
Shoes that have fit snug: Hoka Arahi 7, Saucony Kinvara 14
Shoes that have fit large: Salomon S/Lab Phantasm 2, Altra Timp 5

Doctors of Running Checklist

Is This a Good Shoe for Walking: Yes
Is This a Good Shoe for Standing: Yes
Is the Forefoot Flexible: Slight to Moderate
How Flexible is the Shoe: Slight to Moderate
Is This a Good Heel Bevel: Yes
Recommended for Haglunds: Somewhat
Recommended for Sockless: Yes
Durability Expectation: Average


The On Cloudsurfer Trail is a hybrid running shoe meant for both road and trail surfaces. It is similar to the road version but features a more extensive and lugged outsole. The On CloudTec Phase provides a similar moderately soft ride from heel to toe with a little bit of bounce. The midsole is Helion but still compresses well and feels lighter, particularly for a shoe with trail tendencies. It is heavier than its road counterpart, so feels more like a trainer than a lightweight trainer. The heel transition is smooth thanks to a bevel that is posterior lateral. This transitions into a narrow midfoot but it moves through here quickly thanks to the rockered sole. The forefoot is mildly flexible but stiffer than the road version and the entire shoe has a smooth transition from heel to toe. Those needing a stiffer ride will not find it in this shoe, although it is not ultra flexible. There is no internal rock plate, so all rocks and obstacles on the trail will be felt. This is offset somewhat by the relative height of the midsole, but the amount of midsole compression allows any sharp or large objects to be felt underfoot.

Purpose-wise the On Cloudsurfer Trail works best for daily training and uptempo runs on road and well groomed trails. I have used this shoe up to 10 miles and for a few fartlek workouts. While not the lightest shoe, it still turns over decently for a trainer. The traction is good on road and smooth trails. The durability is mixed. The outsole itself has almost no wear after 30 miles on my pair. However, I wore down the lugs in the posterior lateral heel really quickly (after 1-2 runs), so I am even more convinced that I should keep this on smooth solid surfaces. I do expect to get a high number of miles out of these but only on road. The narrow midfoot makes this shoe not feel stable on technical terrain and the legs do not dig deep enough for anything but smooth, flat, dry trails. However, the thicker outsole adds some nice stiffness that slightly offsets the narrow midfoot, allowing for a better transition compared to its pure road version (Cloudsurfer Trail). For those reasons, I would not use the On Cloudsurfer on anything but really smooth dirt and mostly road. 

(Learn more about stability in our full guide)

The On Cloudsurfer Trail is a neutral shoe. There are some guidance elements that offset some unstable elements and create a solidly neutral ride. There are decent-sized side walls that peak at the anterior heel transition on both the medial and lateral sides of the shoe. The heel bevel is angled posterior lateral, which combined with the sidewalls create a good centered if slightly lateral leaning heel transition. There is also a guidance line that runs from the heel to the midfoot, allowing the lateral and medial sides of the sole to compress separately. The CloudTec Phase elements are larger on the lateral side of the shoe, allowing for some extra compression laterally than medially. However, the midfoot and heel width of the sole are fairly narrow, especially at the midfoot. This brings those elements above that would normally make for a stable ride into a more neutral ride. This further makes this shoe best for stable road surfaces and well-groomed, smooth trails.

Thoughts as a DPT: How An Outsole Can Impact Ride and Stability
By Matthew Klein

While we talk extensively about how midsole geometry, foam types, plates (or lack thereof) and other materials can impact the ride and stability of a shoe, we do not mention the outsole often enough. An outsole refers to the additional rubber on the bottom of a shoe that is often used for additional protection and durability. This is not always present on road shoes but is important in trail shoes. They are often thicker, stiffer and have additional projections on them (called lugs) to add additional traction and durability. 

Any time you add additional material or stiffness to a sole, it will impact how the shoe feels. Adding more durable or stiffer materials adds more resistance to deformation in a variety of directions. This adds to the stiffness of a ride, although how much will depend on how thick or stiff the additional material added is. When the midsole material remains the same, adding a stiffer outsole can also make the shoe feel slightly firmer. Any additional firmness or stiffness, given that it provides additional resistance, can also make the shoe feel slightly more stable. This is why often the "trail" version of road shoes will feel a little firmer, stiffer and often slightly more stable. 

On the other hand, removing an outsole completely or having an extremely light one can make the ride feel softer, more flexible and even a little less stable. This is due to removing that stiffness/resistance to deformation, allowing more movement from the sole upon compression during the stance phase of gait. This becomes even more variable when you have partially covered soles, where only a portion of the shoe has an outsole and other parts don't. The midfoot often does not have outsole coverage to allow for a smoother transition through that point, while the heel and forefoot will have outsole material due to the need for additional durability and traction in those higher-wear areas. 

So although the outsole may not play as large a part in ride and feel as other parts of the sole (the midsole and insole play huge parts in the perception of how a shoe rides and feels), it still factors into how we perceive the things we are wearing on our feet. Knowing that may help you understand or predict how a shoe may feel when you put it on your foot and whether that will work for you or not. 


Having a "trail" version that is the same price is great. The On Cloudsurfer Trail feels like more of a regular trainer compared to the lightweight On Cloudsurfer. My suggestions for this shoe are similar for its road counterpart, but more so given the supposed flexibility onto trail. Especially on softer surfaces, a wider midfoot/heel are needed. The stiffer outsole does add some mild stiffness but it does not offset the midfoot narrowness. This can be compensated for over short to moderate distances but I really notice this on anything remotely long. So I would like to see the midfoot widened slightly to offset this. While the grip is good and the majority of the outsole has been highly durable, I have worn off the lugs fairly quickly. This is fine for road but the need for versatility onto trail and road means these need to be a bit more durable. i have not worn through the outsole rubber, just the lugs, so some extra material may be needed to reinforce the lugs to keep the mild flexibility onto trail. 


The On Cloudsurfer Trail is for those who want a comfortable hybrid shoe that works best for road and really smooth, non-technical trail. The upper will fit those with normal-width feet who want some stretch and will accommodate those with slightly wider forefeet thanks to the engineered mesh. The sole will be best for those with neutral mechanics who want a moderately soft ride in a shoe that can handle daily training and uptempo miles. I appreciate that with the small changes that the price is the same compared to the road version. With the upper comfort and relative durability (outsole not lugs), the price point is good considering how much casual and running use I have gotten out of them.

Although I like this version better than the road version, I am not exactly sure that it needs to exist given the solid trail shoes within On's line up. For how comfortable it is, I might suggest taking many of the changes in this version and adding them to the road version (outside of the lugs). I do not think this is a true trail shoe, particularly with the narrow midfoot, however those with highly stable mechanics may disagree with me. Regardless, it is a good build off of the cushioning found in the Cloudsurfer 7 and I hope On continues to integrate CloudTec Phase into its other models given that it actually feels softer underfoot.


Fit: A- (Normal, comfortable fit with stretchy forefoot. Extremely comfortable inner liner)
Performance: B+/
A- (Softer, cushioned ride with some bounce that can handle daily training and uptempo work. Best for only mild, smooth trails at most)
Stability: B [Neutral] (Sidewalls on each side and stiffness from the outsole create a neutral ride that somewhat offsets the narrow heel/midfoot sole)
Value: B+ (The fact that this is the same price as the road version is great. Solid road-leaning hybrid shoe)
Personal: B+/A- (I like this better than the road version as the slight increase in stiffness from the outsole makes it a tiny bit more stable than the road version. Still best for moderate distances for me due to the neutral ride. )
Overall Design: B+ 


On Cloudsurfer Trail
Price: $159.95 at On

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Editor's Note: As always, the views presented on this website belong to myself or the selected few who contribute to these posts. This website should not and does not serve as a replacement for seeking medical care. If you are currently injured or concerned about an injury, please see your local running physical therapist. If you are in the Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, Danbury and Stevens Point areas, we am currently taking clients for running evaluations.

***Disclaimer: These shoes were provided free of charge in exchange for a review.  We thank the people at On Running for sending us 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 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.

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