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The On Cloudstratus is a great stability running shoe for people looking for extra heel cushioning and who can live with a few design quirks, but I’d still recommend the On Cloudflyer for most people.

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On Cloudstratus Running Shoe Review

The time came recently to replace my beloved Cloudflyer running shoes. While not perfect – sometimes I felt they were a little too snug for comfort, and the heel strike was a bit more impactful than I would have liked – overall I was pleased with their performance. So I had a decision to make – re-up on my Cloudflyers, or begin the search anew to find something even better? Of course, being me – I chose option B.

The Search for the Cloudflyer Replacement

I did set myself a few criteria up front to ensure that the search would not be endless and would be relatively short – I noticed that I was really feeling the pounding of the pavement in a new and not pleasant way. First, liking the On brand, it would be ideal to find a similar shoe they might offer with a slightly different emphasis in some way, so why not start there?

Second, though I love my Adidas Ultraboost, there had been two generations released – Ultraboost 19 and Ultraboost 20 – since I bought mine, and I had already decided that while I loved them as a walking shoe, I wasn’t going to pursue them as a speciality running shoe – but of course, did the research anyway to reconfirm my suspicions.

Third, should I look outside those two proven shoes entirely? Perhaps return to the Mizuno Wave Runner as an old standby? Or look at perennial fan favorites from Nike or New Balance? It was certainly possible, but would have lengthened my search considerably. In the words of TLC, “Don’t go chasing waterfalls / Please stick to the rivers and the lakes that you’re used to.”

Staying On Target

After poking around the interwebs and reading up on the top picks for running shoes across a variety of sources, I decided there wasn’t enough compelling reasons to switch from On. When you find something you like that works for you, it doesn’t necessarily make sense to switch just for the sake of novelty. So, when it came to my next On shoe – it made sense to start with the one that was most similar to the Cloudflyer, compare the differences, and evaluate if switching really made sense.

Enter the On Cloudstratus

When using the helpful interactive comparison tool, I was quick to discover that the On Cloudstratus had the most similar profile to the Cloudflyer: a road-based stability shoe with soft cushioning made for training, classified as “wide width”. Ok, looked like we’re in business. So if the profile was literally identical, what are the actual differences?

  • 2 layers of foam: Cloudstratus uses two layers of the next generation of On’s CloudTec® foam in the heel and midsole for some extra cushioning. Cloudflyer only has 1 layer of clouds.
  • Weight: nearly 2oz heavier, the Cloudstratus’ increase in foam comes at the expense of weight (there’s no such thing as a free lunch).
  • Heel to toe drop: those two stacks of CloudTec® means that there’s a little more of a ramp, which could be good or bad depending on your situation. Check out this helpful explanation of what heel drop is.
  • Star lacing system: touted as a benefit / upgraded design, I have thoughts on this (and they aren’t happy thoughts).
  • Wider fit: both shoes are recommended for wide feet.
  • Ankle padding: I noticed there is significantly less padding at the shoe opening near the ankle.
  • Different tread pattern and sole design

Let’s now look at each difference in turn.

Cloudstratus: Two layers of Helion™ CloudTec® Foam

I have found that the added foam in the Cloudstratus makes a difference when my heel strikes the pavement. There’s definitely less of a hard pounding sensation, which I appreciate. There’s a bit more springy rebound as well – a difference that matters over longer runs.

Cloudstratus Added Weight

The added foam is nice, but comes at a price. While seemingly small, the added weight does make a difference in terms of speed work. I can tell that there’s a slight extra effort involved in each stride, and slightly less of an experience of running on clouds when sprinting. It’s not a huge difference, but it is noticeable.

Cloudstratus Heel Drop

Going from 7 to 8mm is not going to make a huge difference, and it’s probably better for me personally since I’ve had achilles issues in the past, but nothing to write home about here.

Cloudstratus Star Lacing System

It’s taken me a long time, perhaps too long, to realize that my satisfaction with a given running shoe has so much to do with how snug I’m able to lace it up. Not too snug – I don’t want to feel clostrophobed – but fairly snug, so my foot isn’t able to move around much and every part of the shoe makes contact where its supposed to. I also value speed when it comes to lacing – I’d rather not lace at all, if I can help it, but I seem to keep buying high maintenance shoes. 

Anyways, I’m not thanking my lucky stars for this star lacing system. I clearly didn’t play enough string games as a child (Jacob’s Ladder, anyone?), because I struggle to figure out where to tighten what to achieve a given outcome. And even when I feel like I’ve got it as tight as I want it, lacing in the top part of the tongue fails me, leaving my foot banging around the inside of the shoe instead of that feeling of oneness with the shoe that the Cloudflyer brings me (again, to the point of almost being too snug, but I digress). 

Cloudstratus Wide Fit

I appreciate that shoes are made for people of all different size and shape feet. And I lot of the time I do think my feet tend toward the wider side. But this is like throwing a bowling ball down the middle of the Grand Canyon. Ok, I’m being dramatic. It’s just a bit tough when, again, according to the comparison, both the Cloudstratus and Cloudflyer are considered wide fit, there’s just a fairly big delta between the two, in my opinion. Wide feet people, rejoice! 

Cloudstratus Ankle Padding

As a burly, strapping man (why are you laughing?), I must admit I also have some more delicate aspects to myself. One are my tiny, tiny wrists. The others are my bony ankles and heel bones. That’s why I was so thrilled with the Cloudflyer’s beefy amount of padding in this area, which has pretty much set the standard for me in terms of comfort. Unfortunately the Cloudstratus is very light in padding around the opening where the ankle makes contact, and yes, my ankle does seem to make contact in a not very pleasing way. To be fair, this is most noticeable when going around curves vs. running straight, where the physics bring the two in contact, but that caveat aside, I do miss the extra padding of the Cloudflyer in this area. 

Cloudstratus Outsole Design

If the Cloudflyer has one major critique from the masses, it’s the way the treads are designed, such that pretty much anything and everything can get stuck in-between the clouds. I run in a wooded area on a gravel trail, so I was pretty much constantly picking stuff out of various crevices. On took that feedback to heart somewhat – it’s now a bit more difficult for most things to get stuck. But there’s still a big ole’ gully down the middle, which as you can see, is a magnet for paw paws and rocks. 

Who is the Cloudstratus for? 

I largely agree with the marketing claims on the website for the Cloudstratus. I do believe it’s for “heavier” runners (a fairly subjective pronouncement, who presumably would benefit more from the double layer of foam) and for those with wider feet (and just all around larger feet). I do think it’s also for anyone looking for a bit more cushioning in the heel than many other running shoes will offer you, that still try to keep speed in the forefront, and not just comfort or style. 

I also think it’s better for runners who pursue longer distances vs. speedwork – the advantages of the Cloudstratus shine as the miles stack up, but isn’t nearly as responsive for quick sprints. 

Is this Stuff Adam Likes? 

The Cloudflyers left some big shoes to fill (well, ok, size 11.5). How does the Cloudstratus measure up? In the category of best stability running shoe – I still have to give it to the Cloudflyer. I like the extra cushioning the Cloudstratus provides, but not at the expense of so many other aspects I don’t enjoy as much. The experience of running in Cloudflyer is like my shoe and foot have become one, whereas the Cloudstratus lets me know that it remains separate, though the comfort helps make up for it. 

Tl;dr – The On Cloudstratus is a great stability running shoe for people looking for extra heel cushioning and who can live with a few design quirks, but I’d still recommend the On Cloudflyer for most people.

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