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On Cloudpulse Performance Review

Arune Singh
On Cloudpulse

Despite the On Cloud X 3 being promoted as a training shoe, the company is positioning the new On Cloudpulse as its first training shoe meant only for the “gym” (and with our professional marketer backgrounds, we are betting this is technically correct).

It remains impressive to see how On has continued to grow as a powerful force in the sometimes-impenetrable shoe market. You can’t visit a major city, airport, or even comic convention without seeing loads of On shoes on the feet of people across all demographics.

With On on a huge hot streak in their running shoe releases, will that momentum continue with the Cloudpulse? Drew and Arune are about to get right…on that one (Editor’s Note: WHY).

Please note that while On sent us pairs of the On Cloudpulse, the company had no involvement in this review, didn’t receive an advance look at it, and has not attempted to influence it.

On Cloudpulse

Price: $150

Drop: 8mm

Fit: True to size

How do the Authors Train?

Arune Singh (age 42, 5’11”, 220lbs): Trains daily with functional fitness programming from Deadboys Fitness, founded by Colby “Seth Rollins” Lopez and Josh Gallegos, along with logging 30-40 miles of running per week. He also has a medical history of Sleep Apnea and Myasthenia Gravis, meaning Arune’s focus is on lean muscle mass.

Drew Whitcomb (age 42, 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 due to testing needs and his growing affinity for long-distance races. His strength training and mobility regimen center around maintaining flexibility and lifting heavy to build power as a counterbalance to all the running he’s doing. His number one focus is staying injury-free so he can keep up the sweet gig of reviewing shoes.

On Cloudpulse lateral view

What is the On Cloudpulse?

On describes it as:

Our first-ever training shoe. Designed to give you total stability and flexibility – from HIIT to cardio.

On Cloudpulse outsole traction


Arune: Off the bat, let’s be clear about the On Cloudpulse – it’s not meant for heavy lifting and it’s not going to be the shoe you take to your CrossFit sessions.

It is, however, really great for someone going through a solid HIIT workout or – like the aforementioned X 3 – taking it on the road to a hotel gym where it’s more about a solid base than lifting the heaviest weights.

While there are major differences, the performance actually reminds me a lot of that X 3 – the CloudTec cushioning is incredibly comfortable but the Helion foam compresses in a way that creates instability with heavier weights. I went over 200lbs with kettlebell front rack squats and found that either my heels rolled inward or I felt the shoe pushing me onto my toes.

Some might say that’s the 8mm drop, but I’ve been training in shoes with higher drops that haven’t rolled my feet around this much.

At the same time, there are a lot of positives – the On Cloudpulse is a good shoe for HIIT workouts and cardio where you need a flexible shoe that does everything well but isn’t going to be a standout for any of those things.

Is this the shoe I choose for my functional fitness training? No. But if you’re a more casual gym goer or in some fitness classes, I have a feeling you’ll enjoy the performance of the On Cloudpulse.

Drew: I think Arune has this exactly right. Using the On Cloudpulse as a training shoe when training is complementary to your main sport or you’re attending the occasional HIIT session, you’ll be happy with its performance.

But once you try doing olympic style lifts you’ll come up against the On Cloudpulse’s limitations. It’s stable and there’s not much give in the cushioning, so you’d think it could handle big overhead lifts, but in practice my feet didn’t stay planted like they should. Even lacing tight there was just too much movement inside the shoe to trust myself putting up PR level weight.

One of the culprits here is the Speedboard. While On doesn’t say the length, it feels like a three-fourths length plate that starts at the ball of the foot and extends into a heel counter at the rear of the shoe. The speedboard made me feel disconnected from the ground.

That disconnection also made the On Cloudpulse feel bulky for agile movements like jumping rope, quick feet drills, box jump circuits, and the agility ladder. That, combined with a cushioning setup that’s barely enough for plyometrics, and it feels overbuilt. On didn’t exercise enough discretion at what they threw into this shoe and the result is too much bulk and a disconnect between internal and external movement.

On Cloudpulse heel cushion and speedboard


Arune: While I’ve never found an On daily runner that I loved, I will say that the On Cloudpulse – like the X 3 – benefits from the responsiveness of the Helion midsole. Combined with the comfort of the CloudTec and the Speedboard (plastic plate in the midsole), this is a shoe that makes you wanna move and that you’ll enjoy moving in.

I did some half-mile sprints and mostly (more to come) enjoyed the ride, even if I did wish I was wearing more dedicated running shoes – these are miles more comfortable for running than, let’s say, the Nike Metcon 9.

And the responsiveness transferred to rowing, which was mostly (again, more to come) incredibly comfortable and incredibly flexible.

Like I said, this shoe does a bit of everything and it does it well – that is especially apparent on the cardio side of things.

Drew: The On Cloudpulse can work for some short treadmill cardio but it’s bulk and the heel’s clompiness (due to the Speedboard) make this a no go for me for anything above a short sprint (though Arune’s correct that it’s better than the Metcon 9). I think a couple small tweaks would have made a difference and made this runnable. As it is, I wouldn’t want to wear the Cloudpulse for a day of standing up or walking. It just doesn’t feel natural enough. 

On needs to get some of its running shoe designers into the room to help tweak the geometry of future Cloudpulse models so they lose some of the bulk and feel smoother on foot.

On Cloudpulse forefoot support piece


Arune: On will never be accused of not making comfy shoes.

We’ve kind of covered this earlier and I’ve been hinting at an issue.

Drew: It’s the laces.

Arune: No, it’s not! For me, the On Cloudpulse has the same problem as the X 3, namely that there’s heel slip no matter how I try to lock it down,

I know that there’s probably some complicated lacing solve here, but it’s another reason I wouldn’t trust this shoe for getting up on my toes with olympic lifts.

Drew: Well for me it is the laces. (Editor’s Note: Wait, is this a Freaky Friday situation?) They’re way too long. Otherwise, the upper features the typically impressive On build quality and high end On looks (though some people have told me the midsole on the Cloudpulse is ugly). And yes, the Cloupulse is comfy, if a bit bulky and over engineered towards the heel.

On Cloudpulse both shoes from three quarters view


Arune: On is one of the most consistently sized brands for shoes – I wear 9.5 in nearly everything and that was the case here.

The little plastic on the pinkie toe era threatened to crush my toe like the Air Jordan 4 (which feels like a design inspiration) but overall I have no complaints.

If anything, anyone with small feet might find this shoe way too big because it’s made to accommodate wider feet like mine.

Drew: I was worried about the little plastic support feature at the forefoot but On managed to ensure it didn’t press into my foot, a feat many shoe companies fail at when using similarly placed hard support features. I agree with Arune, the On Cloudpulse fits true to size and there’s plenty of room for wide footers. And enough lace to accommodate any foot size (Editor’s Note: you know sarcasm doesn’t work well in text right?)

On Cloudpulse upper


Arune: This looks like the lovechild of the Nike Air Max 95 and the Air Jordan 4 (mostly because of the plastic piece near the toe).

At first, I didn’t like the look of this shoe – it felt big and chunky with some odd color choices in the rock/chili colorway I was sent.

But the more I’ve worn them, the more I’ve come to embrace the Air Max feel of them and while I don’t see myself wearing them outside the gym unless I’m traveling in athleisure or setting up at a convention.

Drew: The On Cloudpulse looks good…but there’s just a slight deviation from the typical On formula. The midsole. It’s going to be polarizing. Some, like Arune, will enjoy its more chunky retro styling while others will think the extra bulk looks ugly. I have days I think they look good and other days where I think it’s On’s ugliest shoe ever. Just depends on how I’m feeling that day.

On Cloudpulse lateral in foreground and medial in background

Is the On Cloudpulse worth $150?

Arune: At $150, this is in line with the typical cost of training shoes these days and that feels fair for a shoe that many people will use to do it all.

That’s impressive given how much we’ve discussed the On “tax” where it feels like you end up paying a bit more given the design, aesthetic, and overall perceived brand value.

No complaints about the price.

Drew: I’m impressed there’s no On up charge with this one and it’s in line with high end training shoes. That said, the performance does not quite match with the high end training shoe segment so recommending these above other $140-$150 cross training shoes just isn’t going to happen.

On Cloudpulse verdict

On Cloudpulse Summary

Arune: It’s been a banner year for training shoes and it’s exciting to see brands like On bringing new shoes to the training category.

While the On Cloudpulse isn’t going to be a daily training shoe for me, this is still a very solid shoe that those in HIIT classes or those who have less Olympic lifting focus will enjoy. 

Drew: The On Cloudpulse is a solid shoe but we won’t put it on our Best Cross Training Shoes or Best Weightlifting Shoes lists. The Cloudpulse can’t reach those heights due to lack of versatility, lockdown, and cushion. It’s a good start for On and promises good things in the future, but the bulky on foot feel, disjointed heel/forefoot, and Speedboard need to be tweaked in order to upgrade the Cloudpulse to an A+ training shoe.

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