There’s a moment in Casino Royale when Vesper tells Bond “There are dinner jackets and there are dinner jackets – this is the latter” and, like everything about that film, it’s a wonderful moment. That also applies to running shoes – and, like that James Bond couture, the On Cloudboom Echo 3 is the latter.
This is the latest “super shoe” from On, the Swiss company’s competitor to shoes like the Nike Alphafly, Asics Metaspeed Series, Saucony Endorphin Pro, and more of those shoes designed for those serious runners in marathon settings.
The On Cloudboom Echo 3 has become the talk of the running world over the last month – but is this a shoe that will, ahem, echo throughout eternity or is it (wait for it) more bust than its titular boom?
To find out, WearTesters assembled two runners who couldn’t be more different – one who is an experienced marathon runner (Drew) and one who just became halfway-competent at running a 5K (Arune).
Please note that On did provide both Drew and Arune with the On Cloudboom Echo 3 for review but the company had no involvement in this review, didn’t receive an advance look at it, and has not attempted to influence this review.
Because if anyone could influence the review, they’d have found a way to prevent all the James Bond puns you’re about to experience (Editor’s Note: Apologies in advance).
On Cloudboom Echo 3
Release Date: July 2023
Weight: Men’s 7.5 oz., Women’s 6.6 oz.
Sizing: True to size
- Rundown: The On Cloudboom Echo 3 is a fast and fun high-performing race day shoe with a high price and questionable durability.
What is the On Cloudboom Echo 3?
On describes the On Cloudboom Echo 3 as:
A fusion of CloudTec® and Helion™ HF for our fastest race-day shoe. Get ready to outrun your echo.
The Cloudboom Echo 3 has a 9.5mm drop and weighs 7.5 ounces in a Men’s size 9.
License to Thrill
Arune: We teased this above, but I’m no marathon runner, and getting to the point where I can run a 5K without sucking wind is a real accomplishment for me, so I don’t have a ton of experience with racing shoes. I’ve tried on quite a few – the Adidas Adizero Adios Pro 3 was either too big or too short, the Saucony Endorphin Pro 3 was too snug for my Hobbit feet and I loved the Metaspeed Sky+ but I had no legitimate reason to spend that much on a running shoe.
So, I approached the On Cloudboom Echo 3 with a pretty open mind and didn’t know what to expect, other than the fact it would be very different from my daily trainer (the Asics Superblast).
And the On Cloudboom Echo 3 does not disappoint.
This is a shoe designed for going fast. I tried the shoe at easy run speeds and found it didn’t really pop the way I expected, but my first speed session with the shoe was a revelation.
The more you put in, the more the shoe returns – likely due a lot to the carbon Speedboard, which is the rare carbon plate that doesn’t feel too firm for my feet.
But Drew, you’re the experienced runner here – what’s this like for folks at your level who actually do run at sub 8:00/mile paces and put in real long-distance runs?
Drew: While the On Cloudboom Echo 3 is firmer than some of our other favorite marathon running shoes, I’m glad you mentioned the energy return and pop when running at speed. It’s a shoe that doesn’t want to go slow, which, as you might have guessed, is perfect for race day.
Any time I would try and slow down, like on the easy portions of a fartlek workout, the Cloudboom Echo 3 was slow to transition through the footstrike from heel to toe. It feels infinitely better when you’re up on your toes or landing on your midfoot and quickly transitioning to the forefoot to push off. It feels best when you’re putting in hard work.
Everything I put into the On Cloudboom Echo 3 came right back. The Helion HF doesn’t feel squishy but offers a nice bounce. And the sweet spot is large. Whether you push off with your lateral, mid, or medial forefoot, you’ll get the same bounce.
And while it may be a little light on impact protection for a bigger guy like myself, I think the On Cloudboom Echo 3 may be the perfect 5k, 10k, and track workout shoe. If you’re a lighter, more efficient runner, then it will also handle the half marathon and marathon where various pros are using it to win big races. So regardless of your size, it’s a useful shoe for going fast.
Arune: I’d love to offer some meaningful feedback, but the mere thought of running over 26 miles just made my muscles fatigue.
I think we’re in agreement here, this shoe is fun and it makes running fast feel really fun, whether the person has competitive speeds (like yourself) or is just moving their legs as fast as they can (like me).
The shoe really rewards effort over skill, which is a really nice maiden experience in a super shoe for me.
No (Break In) Time to Die
Arune: My least favorite thing about running shoes is the break-in time.
I know, the opportunity for a shoe to mold to your foot is always worth it, but for a new runner like me, it can also be a bit of a deterrent. I’m on my second pair of the Asics Superblast and while I love the renewed feeling of comfort versus my other pair with 200+ miles (look, us “heavy” runners really wreck midsoles quickly), I feel like I’ve hit a weird puberty phase of the shoe with it’s readjusting to my foot one last time before I cross the 50-mile threshold.
And while I’ve only put in 15 miles on the On Cloudboom Echo 3, I gotta say that this shoe has felt magical from the minute I put it on to every step of my runs. Even during the ill-advised easy miles run with this shoe, my feet never felt anything but cushioned even as my Hobbit feet stretched the shoe a little bit more than it probably wanted (which we’ll touch on in the Cons).
Even more impressive, I didn’t have to adjust my gait or even think about how to run in these shoes – something that’s been an issue with super cushioned shoes like the Asics Novablast 3 and GlideRide 3. Despite their large appearance, these shoes made me feel close to the ground and supported with each step.
That’s not been the case for me when I’ve run in On shoes like the Cloud, where they almost felt like a flatter, less exciting version of a Nike Pegasus.
Instead, I get excited for my speed workouts where the On Cloudboom Echo 3 grips incredibly well and comfortably propels me forward with each step. I can’t believe I haven’t been running longer in the shoe.
Drew, you know the tech side of this game far better than me, I love me some Pebax, but is it the Helion HF material that’s making this shoe so comfortable? It’s not as bouncy as the Asics Metaspeed series or the Adidas Adios Pro 3, but the comfort was as good – if not better – than both those shoes right out of the box.
Drew: While I think the Helion HF is slightly firmer than some other super shoes, the geometry of the On Cloudboom Echo 3 is very similar to the Asics Metaspeed Sky+. The aggressive forefoot curve is similar to but more sharply curved than the On Cloudsurfer (one of On’s best shoes to date), plus it’s paired with a stiff carbon plate. That makes the toe spring on the bouncier side and makes me feel like my foot spends very little time on the ground. I think the overall geometry of the shoe just makes it feel fast on the first run.
I also think the upper plays a huge part in the shoe feeling ready to go out of the box. It’s a very lightweight, thin microfiber upper, but On makes it feel just as good as the thicker engineered mesh uppers they use on the daily trainers. But we’ll get more into the upper in the next section.
Arune: LOL, SuperCena Wins, Vin Diesel says “family” and an On shoe features design work that puts its competitors to shame.
Look, the Cloudboom Echo 3 is absolutely gorgeous from the choices of colors to the minimalistic design that feels like Virgil (RIP) could’ve designed this for an Off White x On (On White?) collab. That kinda deconstructed look is so incredibly of this moment but doesn’t feel like a hype beast aesthetic – I could see my 70-something parents appreciating this shoe just as much as the younger members of my extended family.
Some folks don’t like On shoes, but given the growth of the brand and how much you see these shoes on feet across demographics and environments, it’s inarguable that the Swiss have conquered army knives, chocolate, and now shoes.
Drew: As Arune mentioned, On’s design language is consistent and always on point. The On Cloudboom Echo 3 is no exception. It’s a more minimal look but looks like an On shoe even without huge clouds dotting the midsole.
The microfiber upper is barely there, but sits nicely over the foot and is reinforced in all the right places to provide extra stability. It’s efficient, feels great, and is functional. It’s one of the more perfect race day uppers I’ve encountered…both in terms of looks and performance. On’s design and engineering teams are firing on all cylinders with this shoe.
This Shoe is Not Forever
Arune: Racing shoes aren’t meant to last forever like, for example, the Brooks Ghost, that much I know and accept.
I’m also well aware that as a “heavy” runner (IE: weighing over 200lbs), I will wear out midsoles of running shoes faster than most and that skews what I expect to be a strong lifecycle for a shoe.
Even then, the Cloudboom Echo 3 box specifically says it’s built for only four marathons, so it means we’re just getting 105 miles out of this shoe.
Neither Drew nor I are light guys, but I’ve got a good 20 lbs on him and I don’t expect this shoe would last me all those 100+ miles. That’s simply not enough for me, especially given I’d need to train in these shoes a little bit before I ever attempted a marathon.
Am I overthinking this one, Drew?
Drew: According to what On has told both myself and other media, the four marathons include some training runs in each cycle. So maybe a 16-20ish mile long run and a speed workout each training cycle. That extends the usable life of the On Cloudboom Echo 3 to around 200ish miles.
That’s still not a lot. I’d expect many athletes to see that and opt for a different shoe because that’ll make it hard to justify the price. Now, do other super shoes really last much longer? I don’t think so. Maybe you get 250 miles versus 200.
All the super shoes (marathon race day shoes) use newer foams with carbon plates and don’t put much rubber on the outsole to save weight. They’re just not built to last. That’ll change as the brands continue to improve. But, for now, the Cloudboom Echo 3’s lifecycle isn’t abnormal.
A Quantum of Foot Space
Arune: Like my previous Con, this one may well be the result of my newness to running and racing shoes, but this felt like a narrow shoe underfoot.
I don’t have the kind of wide midfoot that requires going with the 2E size of most shoes but I definitely could feel the difference between this and my regular everyday runners, from the Nike Pegasus 39 to the Saucony Triumph 20 to the aforementioned Asics Superblast.
But the platform here is very narrow – more so than any of the super shoes I’ve tried on before – and while I enjoyed the speed sessions, the idea of doing marathons in the Echo 3 is already causing ankle pain.
Drew: Like most marathon race day shoes, the On Cloudboom Echo 3 is built on a narrow last. The fit is more like a track spike than a traditional running shoe. This is going to work for some wide footers but others may not love the fit. Going up a half size may work so go try this on at your local running store before making a decision. It’s wider in the forefoot than the midfoot and heel, so where your foot is the widest will play a big part in whether you enjoy the fit.
I can also tell you that you’ll have plenty of shoelace no matter your foot size. As often happens with On shoes, the laces are long. They weren’t long enough to bug me, but I mention it because some runners vociferously hate long laces.
The Shoe with the Golden Price
Arune: This shoe is $289.99 USD.
Like all of you, I’m a sneakerhead and I’ve definitely paid that much for a pair of Air Jordans that definitely had questionable QC and didn’t offer the kind of performance that would justify the price. I spent the money because of perceived value to me, either because of the aesthetic, collector mentality, or (as happened during the height of the pandemic) being kind of bored late at night when I watched too many sneaker reviews from Chris “Nightwing2303” Chase.
So, with that in mind, I gotta say that the price of these shoes is nuts for most people.
With competitors ranging from $225-$275, this is the most expensive race day shoe I’ve come across in a while, and no matter how much I like it, I can’t justify the price for my running style.
While I could see either of the Asics Metaspeed shoes being distance trainers for me given their durability, I don’t feel like the On Couldboom Echo 3 is really meant for that or a good investment for my running habits.
But perhaps Drew has a different perspective.
Drew: Among super shoes, only the adidas Prime X Strung and a recycled version of the Nike Alphafly are more expensive at $300. So asking people to pay $290 is tough when they’ve got a bunch of solid race day options from $225-250. Some running shoe geeks will do it. Some competitive athletes will do it.
On running shoes are typically priced higher than the competition, but for the Cloudboom Echo 3, I expect the price point will limit it to a niche audience.
Is the On Cloudboom Echo 3 for You?
Arune: If you love the beauty of On running shoes (seriously, who doesn’t?) then this is probably going to pique your interest.
I think it all comes down to how much you’re investing in running – if you’re running marathons, this is on the expensive end of a shoe but it’s not so far beyond something like the $275 Nike Alphafly that it’s a non-starter.
I can’t imagine this is what you want to run in for more than a half marathon, but I’ve never run more than a 10k so maybe listen to Drew.
Drew: No matter your size, this is a good shoe for going fast. Bigger runners like myself will use this shoe on the track, for 5ks and 10ks, and maybe a half marathon. Smaller, more efficient runners will be able to use it for everything including a marathon.
But I agree with Arune, this is a very very good shoe. Whether it’s for you will ultimately depend on your running shoe budget.
On Cloudboom Echo 3 Summary
Arune: The On Cloudboom Echo 3 is an absolute joy on foot and the beauty is unrivaled by its competitors, but this a shoe for two people: On die-hards or hardcore runners who want to spice up their super shoe rotation.
I plan to keep using this for speed days but I can’t see this finding another place in my rotation.
Drew: Although I’ll list price as a con, it typically doesn’t affect a shoe’s score. Because if you have the money, the On Cloudboom Echo 3 is high performing shoe that’s fast and fun. And that’s what everyone wants out of a race day shoe.
The big question is, are you ok with the price and durability? If you are, grab it and enjoy running in it. If you’re not, you’ve got other options.