It’s a very good time for On, as not only have their shoes seemingly become ubiquitous across America but the recent revenue reports show that indeed we aren’t imagining their cultural ascendency. While the Swiss superstar company has developed a reputation for its running shoes, they’ve also been generating buzz with the latest iteration of its training shoe, the On Cloud X 3.
We reviewed the original On Cloud X in 2020 in the midst of a pandemic. That test didn’t involve a lot of gym time (for obvious reasons), so we’re happy we can take version three into the gym without issue.
Given the popularity of On’s other models, we were excited to put the On Cloud X 3 on our feet and even more excited when On offered to send us pairs to try out.
Please note that while On did provide these shoes for review, they have no involvement in this review, didn’t receive an advance look at it, and have not attempted to influence this review.
On Cloud X 3
Release Date: June 2023
Weight: Men’s 8.6oz., Women’s 7.1oz.
Sizing: True to size
- Rundown: The On Cloud X 3 is a versatile cross trainer meant to do a little bit of everything both inside and outside the gym.
How do the Authors Train?
Arune Singh (age 41, 5’11”, 215lbs): Trains daily with functional fitness programming provided by Deadboys Fitness, founded by Colby “Seth Rollins” Lopez and Josh Gallegos. He also runs five times a week, averaging 15.5 miles per week, and will be participating in multiple 5K races this year. He also has a medical history of Sleep Apnea and Myasthenia Gravis, meaning Arune’s focus is on lean muscle mass.
Drew Whitcomb (age 41, 6’6″ 195lbs): Trains daily with a focus on running, strength training, and mobility. He writes the majority of our running shoe reviews and runs a lot of miles both due to testing needs and his growing affinity for long-distance races. He recently completed the London Marathon. More marathons, half-marathons, 10k, and 5k races are in his future. His strength training and mobility regimen centered around maintaining flexibility and lifting heavy to build power as a counterbalance to all the long-distance running he’s doing. His number one focus is staying injury free so he can keep up the sweet gig of reviewing shoes for a living.
What is the On Cloud X 3?
Let’s go straight to On for their description:
Ultralight, highly reactive, with better fit and breathability. It’s born from running, but made for everything.
The shoe has an 8 mm drop, weighs 8.57 oz in a US Men’s size 9, and is made with 35% recycled content.
First Impressions are On Point
Arune: This is my first pair of On shoes that I’ve put any time into – I had the Cloudflow 3 for a minute and while it was nice, it didn’t feel like it really replaced anything else in my rotation (though now I kinda want to order one again).
But before I put the On Cloud X 3 on my feet, I was kinda shocked by two things – how flexible they are in hand (you can fold these things over in a way second only to some barefoot shoes) and how light they are despite a not-insignificant midsole.
And then on feet, the On Cloud X 3 is absolutely as comfortable as it looks thanks to the aforementioned flex from the Speedboard (a plastic plate in the midsole) and the CloudTec cushioning, which is shockingly comfortable. That comfort and responsiveness can be a bit of an issue (as we’ll discuss later), but I think this is actually how a lot of folks want their training shoes to feel from the jump.
The even better news? That comfort only increases the more time you put in and really mold this shoe to your foot.
Drew, you’ve got a lot more experience with On than me. Did the comfort surprise you or have I really been missing out on this secret sauce for years?
Drew: I’m fairly certain the midsole and outsole are the exact same unit used three years ago for the On Cloud X. Its softness and comfort are in a range that works well for workouts, some treadmill running, or spending all day on your feet. It’s a similar feel to most On running shoes such as the On Cloudswift.
On’s cushioning (Helion Cloudtec here) is very polarizing among runners. Some love it, some hate it. But the general public loves the On cushion, comfort, and looks. For cross training, it hasn’t really caught on but I think it works well…at least underfoot.
Keep it On for a Bit of Everything
Arune: Oh did you think the “On” in the headlines was just a coincidence?
Drew: Oh my. You know you don’t need a gimmick for every review, right? Plus, you already peaked with the James Bond themed On Cloudboom Echo 3 review.
Arune: Message received, boss. Next time I’ll go bigger.
Drew: That was definitely not the message. But let’s continue before people stop reading.
Arune: But really, I was impressed how seamlessly the On Cloud X 3 transitioned from HIIT training to a variety of cardio (rowing, air bike, short runs) and even functional fitness training at home.
Because that midsole is so responsive, you’ve really got a lot more comfort in these shoes than so many other trainers and I, surprisingly, never felt like I had to break these in to work through any pressure points. That also makes them really fun for anything with bouncing – burpees, jumping jacks and even jumping lunges.
However, with weight training, I found the heel-to-toe drop took a while to adjust to – it’s twice what I experience from most training shoes – especially with any lower body workouts where balance is key.
Still, if you want one pair of shoes for the gym to handle a bit of everything – but maybe not replace a set of specialized shoes like lifters or runners – then you’ll find the On Cloud X 3 handles things quite well.
Drew: As Arune mentioned, the On Cloud X 3’s drop is a bit higher than I prefer. On does 4mm and 6mm drops for some running shoe models and I would have much preferred that here. The 8mm drop makes it feel like a casual shoe that can also do some workout stuff. However, that versatility is its number one attribute. Let’s talk more about it.
On(e) Pair for the Day
Arune: When I look at the On aesthetic, it actually reminds me a lot of the Nike Shox, which I mean as a compliment – those were the first name brand shoes I ever owned, specifically the Nike Shox VC 2 in 2003.
These shoes not only look killer in the gym but could transition to drinks with friends or even some work environment given the current casual workplace aesthetic.
I know you travel more than me, Drew, but I feel like I see these all the time in every airport around the country. Do you see the same thing?
Drew: Yes, On shoes are all over the place on lots of feet. Their popularity is growing at an insane clip. They embody the “one shoe to do it all” mantra and that’s what’s happening here.
Arune: Most training shoes look like training shoes but these look like On shoes – and that aesthetic may not be the hotness forever, but I actually think they’re ingrained in current fashion trends enough that a whole generation will grow up with this as their idea of the ideal casual show aesthetic.
We’re in a world where the Asics Gel Kayano 14 (a personal favorite) and the New Balance 990 are couture – I don’t think it’s insane to think that On may have made itself as acceptable across situations as a Patagonia vest.
Drew: The Patagonia vest is a great comparison. I can totally see a venture capitalist rocking a pair of On shoes with his or her Patagonia vest. They’re trendy, but deservedly so. They look so good. On shoes have such a clean look and the On Cloud X 3 is no different. Clean lines, splashes of color, colors that can be worn with various outfits and looks, On style is the total package.
A Bit of Everything
Arune: Yup, we’re doing away with the On puns but, I guess “On” is part of “Cons”, right?
Drew: Let me say this as sarcastically as possible, I’m absolutely devastated we’re not getting more puns.
Arune: I know this was a pro, but it’s also a con because while the On Could X 3 does a bit of everything well enough to be versatile, it also doesn’t feel like a shoe that can replace some of more specialized shoes for those more intense training sessions.
Specifically, I’ve found the shoe to be hit or miss with some of my heavier lifting sessions especially when it comes to compound movements like cleans or snatches. The shoe naturally wants to roll forward onto the toes – not surprising for a shoe from a running company – and can feel a bit unstable as a result. That bounce from the CloudTec is great for plyometrics but can be too much for what I want in a shoe when I’m focusing on a deep squat or coming down from being on my toes with a clean.
For someone like me, I don’t think I’m going heavy enough that I’m in trouble but if I was going for heavier squats or movements requiring a more delicate balance then I’d have to switch to a more traditional lifting shoe like the Under Armour Project Rock 5 or the Reebok Nano 2.
Drew: On sacrifices specialization for versatility. The On Cloud X 3 isn’t for people that always want to lift heavy, do complicated lifting moves, or are doing daily metcons. It’s a shoe built for someone that wants to do a little bit of everything…go to the office, a quick 45-minute lift in the company gym, then out to dinner with friends.
Not Quite a Fit
Arune: If you’ve read my previous reviews, you know I have some Hobbit feet that are wider in the forefoot but more standard in the midfoot. It makes finding shoes – of any kind – a bit of a literal pain.
The good news is that the On Could X 3 fits my feet well but I don’t think true wide footers will find these to be very accommodating.
However, I definitely don’t feel like I get the toe splay I’d like and there are some issues with heel slippage any time I get up on my toes, from snatches to mountain climbers.
So, while the On Cloud X 3 did work for me from a width standpoint it was by millimeters. The other issues make this a bit of an odd one when grading the fit – it’s not a pro, so it feels like it has to be a slight con.
How did these fit for you, Drew?
Drew: I take notes after every session in a shoe I’m testing. And every session in this one I commented on the fit because it’s just a bit off. The On Cloud X 3 is a touch narrow through the midfoot but widens in the forefoot. Some wide footers will want to stay true to size but others will want to go up a half size. And some narrow footers will want to go down a half size if they want a 1:1 fit.
Complicating matters is the ridiculously long laces. I had to use the extra eyelet at the ankle so the laces wouldn’t get underneath my feet while I walked. Even then…they still felt long-ish. I’m not sure if this was an issue related to my size 12 or if it’s a problem up and down the sizing chart. But it did give me pause enough to think…did I get the right size? So while the comfort underfoot is solid, the upper needs work.
Arune: The On Cloud X 3 is $150 and that’s a tough pill to swallow when killer functional fitness shoes like the Reebok Nano 2 are $120 and the Reebok Nano X3 are $140, not to mention the ever-popular Nike Metcon 8 at $130.
This puts it in line with the Project Rock 5, which remains an underrated fitness shoe with a heavy price tag of $150, or with newcomers like the RAD One, also at $150, which has become quite the critical darling.
That price may be worth it for some – these do look REALLY great – but it’s also likely to deter some folks who see other great shoes at a (in this economy) meaningfully lower price.
Am I overthinking this, Drew?
Drew: The first On Cloud X was $140, and even three years ago I said you could find a better cross trainer for that price. Nothing has changed with the On Cloud X 3 now at $150. You’ve got a lot of great options on our Best Cross Training Shoes list that are better in the gym and lower priced.
But…very few of those shoes can compete with the On Cloud X 3 outside of the gym in terms of looks and all-day comfort. So, it really depends on what you want out of your cross trainer.
Is the On Cloud X 3 for you?
Arune: I have to applaud On for the honesty of their product description – this shoe is for a bit of everything.
For most people, this is going to be a great option based on appearance and versatility but folks looking to do hardcore lifting should look elsewhere.
Drew: The On Cloud X 3 is a versatile cross trainer meant to do a little bit of everything both inside and outside the gym. It’s a shoe positioned for the way most people approach the gym.
On Cloud X 3 Summary
Arune: The On Cloud X 3 is a very solid training shoe that I think the majority of people will like and has an aesthetic that works across nearly all areas of your life.
While I did enjoy the shoe a lot and plan to bring it with me for travel where I need something versatile for those unpredictable hotel gyms, the On Cloud X 3 isn’t replacing any other shoe in my rotation, namely the Reebok Nano 2 and Under Armour Project Rock 5.
If you have the budget and you’re not doing CrossFit or heavy lifting, I think this shoe is definitely worth trying.
Perhaps the highest compliment I can offer is that while it’s not my training shoe of choice, I’m now intensely interested in exploring the rest of the On shoe lines.
Drew: The On Cloud X 3 is a high-quality hybrid workout/casual/running shoe that feels high-end. It’s not anything special in terms of performance inside the gym, but it’ll get the job done for most people. It’s also a shoe you can wear all day or wear out for drinks after a gym session. How you view that versatility will be the deciding factor in whether or not you’ll love it.