Top end technology comes with a top end price. Does the Cloudflow 4 make it worth paying?
On Cloudflow 4 – Bringing balance to the world
On’s latest version of the Cloudflow 4 adds a new, solid contender to the light-weight road trainer lineup. This fourth iteration is tailored towards faster paces, offering up top end technology for a fraction of the price.
Previously, the Cloudflow lineup has been one of On’s main shoes. Boasting a responsive feel and enticing you to pick up the paces, while still being usable as a work-horse shoe and plod through easy daily miles. This shoe is great for the avid runner looking for a new tempo or threshold shoe. On the other hand, it is for the recreational runner looking for a great all-round shoe to use for easy runs but can also be used for race day and interval runs. Well balanced shoes like this don’t come around often.
Weight in On’s sample size: 235g (8.28oz)
Stack: Heel 31mm – Toe 23mm (8mm drop)
Upper – Seamless, snazzy comfort
My initial impressions of the zesty, fresh colourway of the On Cloudflow 4’s was that this is definitely not a shoe made for the rainy, wet autumnal months in England. Nonetheless, the Cloudflow 4 is undeniably a clean, smart looking shoe. The light-weight dual layer upper allows ample airflow within the roomy toe-box without being excessively open. This is great for training in all months.
The first thing I noticed when putting the shoe on was how comfortable it felt and how roomy the toe box was. This came as a surprise to me. I usually find that shoes that are designed to handle faster paces are much narrower to avoid lateral movement. However, I didn’t find this to be an issue. The midfoot lockdown of the shoes is impeccable when laced up and running at my tempo pace (roughly 3:20 per km).
Light cushioning round the heel makes for a snug fit but keeps the weight of the shoe down. This cushioning paired with the thin gusseted tongue and secure lacing system means that there is great heel lockdown in the shoe. Additionally, despite having an extremely thin tongue, I have found there to be no pressure points on the shoes. When they are laced tight, even when wearing thin socks I felt no pressure. The pairing of the secure heel and midfoot lockdown and the roomy toe box make the Cloudflow 4 one of the most comfortable speed shoes I have run in.
The luxury Swiss brand is well known for their attention to detail and manufacturing quality. One of the main reasons why they can charge a premium for their shoes. And the Cloudflow 4 is no exception. Boasting a sleek, minimalist design with what appears to be one continuous piece of engineered fabric wrapping the whole shoe. These shoes look as good as they perform. The material choice wasn’t just aesthetic however. I have used these shoes for many wet grass tempo sessions, running through mud and puddles. Initially I was worried that the light citrus colourway would instantly be ruined. However, the dirt washes away very well and leaves the shoes looking just as good as before.
Speaking of water, I’ve found these shoes to hold water for a while. This has been frustrating when trying to dry them out after a wet run. I wouldn’t say that this is a deal breaker but it is definitely something to keep in mind if you live somewhere that is extremely wet.
As Josh said, these are a very pretty shoe. With the gloopy months approaching, I too was a bit wary of the super light colour. I fear it will go a lovely shade of brown when the weather breaks. Thankfully, that has not happened yet and the shoe has kept my feet cool in the unseasonably warm weather we have been having.
Lockdown has also been easy to achieve here, no fussing needed with the laces or runners knots. Initial step in comfort was outstanding and the upper wraps the foot and holds it secure in all the right places. To reiterate Josh’s point about the tongue, I did fear pressure on the top of my foot but, surprisingly, none was to be found. Instead, the tongue wraps the foot well and causes no fuss.
The step in comfort continues throughout the run. They have been one of the easiest shoes I have tried recently to just put on and run. Unlike Josh, I have yet to run them in the worst of the weather so I can’t comment on their water retention.
Overall, I have no real gripes with the upper and lockdown of the shoe at all. Simple, smart and effective. Good job On!
Helion SF – Poppy, responsive and surprisingly soft
The midsole of the Cloudflow 4 is made entirely of On’s Helion foam and, like many of On’s shoes, it features their infamous CloudTec. The midsole consists of two densities of foam. The firmer of the two is just under the foot, giving the shoes that snappy, responsive feel. The CloudTec below this is made up of a lower density version of the same foam, giving it the soft, cushioned feel.
The spoon-shaped TPU plate is sandwiched between the two layers of foam, keeping the advantages of a plated shoe while not making it feel too stiff or rigid underfoot compared to if you had the plate higher in the midsole.
With 31mm of stack height in the heel and 23mm in the front, the shoe has an aggressive 8mm of drop from the heel to the forefoot. This adds to the shoes ability to be used at faster paces. Underfoot the shoes feel stable and handle sharp, fast turns and cambered paths well. The transition from midfoot to forefoot is very smooth due to the gradual rocker, and toe off feels snappy in the shoe. Initially I was able to feel the curved shape of the plate especially under the forefoot, giving a sense of instability. This was especially evident at calmer paces, however this feeling seemed to go away after the first few runs and the plate plays a key role in the comfortable ride.
The Helion in this is the midrange of On’s proprietary foam, SF (Super Foam). Softer than the regular version but not quite the top end flavour of the HF. When I looked at the midsole with it’s (comparatively) low stack height, I was expecting quite a firm ride. With not much stack and a Speedboard in the mix, it had all the making of a stiff show. However, when I put it on, I was very pleasantly surprised.
Jack of all trades
A toe-off and pop which makes paces seem easy to achieve is the result of the midsole recipe. During my testing period so far, I have used the shoe for some faster reps, daily running and some time at my marathon pace. They’ve taken me from around 2:40/km with strides and 200s through to 5:30/km on tired, chatty easy runs. At each pace, I have found the shoe to be capable, comfortable and just easy to run in. It is not a shoe which I have found makes me try to run in a specific style, I can just let me legs and feet do their thing and the shoe pays me back.
I can’t really comment on the roll through of the shoe as I am a very forefoot striker but I found the toe off to be very enjoyable indeed. Picking up the pace was no issue as the midsole mix was very responsive. As soon as I put more power through the shoe, I found my paces following instantly.
Although, On claim that the Cloudflow 4 can be used up to marathon distance. I am sure that it can be used for that, but I would prefer something with a thicker midsole for the purpose.
Minimalism in the outsole
There’s not much to say about the outsole on the Cloudflow 4. First of all, there isn’t much of it. In typical On fashion there is a rubber outsole on both the front and rear of the shoe, applied to the bottom of the CloudTec “lugs” to protect them from excessive degradation. However the majority of the bottom of the shoe is exposed Helion foam which I have found to be quite hardy and not degrade too significantly with excessive wear. So far I have run more than 70 km in the shoes and I haven’t found there to be excessive wear on the outsole.
Traction wise the outsole of the shoe performs very well. Having used them on wet tarmac, grass, mud and light trails they have managed to handle everything I have thrown at them and leave me feeling confident running in them at a fast pace.
As Josh says, I have no issues with what outsole there is on the Cloudflow 4. It does the job, it has caused me nmo issues when cornering or passing through areas with less than optimal surface conditions. I have also noticed no significant wear so far after about 60km on assorted ashphalt and concrete,
On Cloudflow 4 – Simplicity done well
If I had to describe the Cloudflow 4s in a few words it would be “simplicity done well”. These are sure to be a lasting shoe in my current shoe rotation and I look forward to doing many more tempo runs in them. I enjoy the slightly lower, close to the ground feel of the stack that you get in the heel while still getting amazing cushioning with the CloudTec. I have found them to make running at faster paces feel much easier due to that rocker and the spoon-shaped plate.
This shoe has something for everyone. I would recommend these shoes to anyone looking for a new tempo or threshold shoe. The plush cushioning paired with the snappy, responsive and lightweight feel makes them a great training option in my opinion. This is also a shoe which I would recommend to someone looking for a do-it-all shoe. If you were someone who recently got into running and you’re thinking of starting to incorporate speed specific running sessions into your training but you can’t get a shoe just for this sole purpose then this is the shoe for you. It will be a great training companion for easy runs when you want to drop the pace down but will feel at home and encourage you to run faster when you decide to pick up the pace for an interval session or on race day.
Advertised on On’s website for £150/€170 these shoes are well above the price of all other shoes already on the market. I find these shoes are very similar to the Adios 8s which you can pick up for less than £100. While these are an amazing pair of shoes I think that On should reduce the price for them to be appealing to the majority of runners. This being said, if price is not an issue for you or you are able to find a good deal on them in the future then I would recommend picking these up as for me they are a must-have shoe and I have fallen in love with the way they feel underfoot.
I have loved the ease of the Cloudflow 4. Much like the Rebel V2, they are a shoe which I find I can put on and do anything in. As with Josh, I have really enjoyed the surprising amount of softness with the low stack height which hugs the road. The plate and rocker make all paces feel effortless and the shoe vanishes on my feet with the unfussy upper.
I will continue to use the Cloudflow 4 in my rotation for as long as it lasts. From the track to the roads it can serve a multitude of purposes. It’s friendly nature will make it a good choice for both novice and experienced runners alike. Especially with it’s Swiss Army Knife like qualities, it will make a good addition to any rotation.
The only bugbear, as is the norm with On shoes, is that the quality comes at a price. There are shoes which are very similar which can be had for a mush smaller dent in the wallet. However, as Josh said, they can take the place of a couple of shoes in a rotation so it increases their value somewhat.
I have also fallen for the feel and flow of the shoe. I genuinely look forward to putting it on and heading out on the roads.
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