Who is On Running?

by Sportitude
21 Dec 2021

Over the past decade, On Running has been one of the top running shoe brands to watch, rising from humble roots to instant fame after winning the ISPO award in 2010 for innovative engineering, to topping the winner's podium in the 2016 Rio Olympics.

From there, this Swiss running shoe brand has designed a running shoe to cater for virtually every single road warrior, trail blazer or racer while prioritising a mission of greater sustainability in their manufacturing processes and packaging.

Whether you're a casual runner looking to clock up some slow, easy miles in the ultra-cushioned On Cloudstratus, weighing up trail running shoes vs road running shoes to fly off-road and soak in nature with the On Cloudventure family, or are a competitive athlete looking to catch some serious PBs in the On Cloudflash or On Cloudboom - there's an On Running shoe for you.

On Running's adaptable CloudTec pods set this brand apart from the pack with an innovative marriage of ideas and a quirky origin story that had its co-founder and triathlete Olivier Bernhard looking at foot-to-ground impact in a new way, as Josh explains below. This technology transforms the force of vertical compression into snappy, forward momentum for a responsive and effortless-feeling run.

Check out the brand overview with full transcript below.

Hey guys, Josh here from Sportitude Running and we're doing an overview review today. We wanted to go deep into a very exciting brand that's only been on the market now for just over a decade and the demand has been hot. It's coming in from emails and comments on our Sportitude YouTube reviews.

People want to know more about the brand On Running so in today's review we're going to dive deep into the history, the tech and an overview of the brand and how it's positioned in the market. Without further ado let's get stuck in.

History of On Running

Take yourself back to the year 2010 because that was the year that On Running was founded. It started off with an elite athlete, Olivier Bernhard and he was well-known in that triathlon, Ironman distance and also was internationally recognised for the duathlon event.

Olivier was a Swiss athlete and when he was coming towards the twilight of his career he had a conversation with a like-minded engineer in Switzerland and they were talking about how potentially to improve vertical compression and horizontal force within running shoes.

The funny thing about this is that the conversation then went to a garden hose and a Nike Pegasus. They joined the two, manufactured a new cushioning system on the bottom of a Nike running shoe and from there the brand or the concept phase of the brand was then formed.

Olivier then reached out to his former manager, Casper Coppetti. Casper had another friend in the business game called David Allemann and the three of them as a tripod then went and founded On Running.

There’s two years to remember in the early days for On Running with the first being 2010. That year they won the ISPO award which is an award given away to companies that have up-and-coming engineering innovation. This award was given to On Running off of the concept around the On Cloudracer.

This award has been won by GoPro, Nixon and other internationally recognised brands so for them to win this award within the first 12 months of being registered was huge. The funny thing about this is they won the award on a running shoe that hadn't even gone into production yet. Within that first week after winning this gold medal ISPO award, they had to then obviously scale up their production pretty quickly which is amazing for a young team of three.

2016 was the other year that turned heads for On Running. Nicola Spirig, a Swiss athlete, won a gold medal at the Rio Olympics. For an elite athlete to top the podium in a performance-based shoe was fantastic and then the orders started to flow in internationally for On Running. They were very well-known through Europe and especially Switzerland but this put them on the global map. 

Since 2016 On Running has been experiencing steady growth year on year. They've been very clever and strategic about the way they've rolled the brand out. Having gone big and bold early, they've been very selective about how they've introduced their brand to new markets and it's a key take away message because the brand is so unique with their technology. They don't want to roll out to everybody and for the consumers not to really understand what the tech is all about.

What has really established On Running on the global scene has been the introduction of Roger Federer in 2019 as a shareholder of the company, obviously with Roger being extremely recognised in the world of tennis and probably one of the top 5 most notable and recognisable athletes across the globe.

When he came on board with Roger being a Swiss athlete and On Running being a Swiss company, the match was one made in heaven. Since then On Running has really gone from strength to strength and where we stand today in 2021 with a really exciting product offering, not only here at Sportitude Running but what On Running do across a multiple amount of running events and running categories. They're here and they're here to stay.

The great thing about On Running is of course they have a stable of elite athletes and every brand has elite athletes that they sponsor, but I just want to touch on one thing. On Running hasn't had the marketing dollars to spend like your Nike, New Balance and Adidas of the world. They've had to be really selective about who they've got into their brand.

On Running products sing true. An elite athlete who is looking to take their game to the next level, be it triathlon, road running or track and field that’s jumping into On Running, you're doing it for the right reasons. You're doing because you believe in the product, you're not doing it because you're getting a big pay check which is a really notable point with On Running.

The other cool thing about the brand isn't necessarily the product, the elite athletes and what they're doing in the world running and triathlon scenes, it's more to do with the sustainability message that they roll out across the whole company. Everything from their boxes are 100% recycled right through to the fact they're going to be launching a shoe in 2022 called the On Cloudneo, a 100% recycled shoe.

They have a very cool On Running Self Sustainable Mountain Hut which is based in the Swiss alps. You won't find that hut on Airbnb. I would be very surprised if all of you didn't want to stay in this hut, it looks super cool.

CloudTec midsole

We touched on the history and how the company was founded back in 2010. Let's get into the fun part of today's review and it's all about the unique engineering philosophies that On Running have established themselves for and are recognised for over the last decade.

The first piece of technology we're going to talk about is the Cloud technology. This is the technology that came off of that concept of the garden hose and the Nike Pegasus.

I have the On Cloudsurfer in my hand and you can see underneath the shoe we have strategically placed CloudTec pods on the lateral and medial side. When I hold it upside down you can see that resemblance to a garden hose, being cut to pieces and stuck on the bottom of the outsole of a running shoe.

Why this technology exists in the first place was to do with that conversation between Olivier and the like-minded engineer in Switzerland. It was all about compressing that vertical force and also generating a nice, responsive horizontal feel underneath the body.

With that vertical force coming down on contact, how do we transition that compression of vertical forces to then generate a snappy propulsive feel? That's when CloudTec starts working on that horizontal plane in conjunction with the speedboard which we'll get to in two ticks.

The Cloud technology is in every single On Running shoe. It doesn't matter if they're trail running shoes, road running shoes, racing shoes, sneakers or hiking shoes. Whatever it is, On Running have strategically placed their CloudTec to absorb that vertical impact and generate a really responsive, snappy ride through the forefoot.

The biggest, noticeable change came recently with the On Cloudstratus version 2. You can see underneath the foot those strategically placed Cloud technology pods. However, this is the first year they decided to do dual layered CloudTec pods on their patented Helion technology which we'll get into in two ticks.

The dual layering CloudTec provides a really soft, plush feel right underneath the foot, but having that really consistent feel from entry right through to release on that toe-off phase of your gait cycle.


The next piece of On Running engineering we're going to discuss today is the speedboard. The speedboard sits between your foot and the midsole and it is a liquid injected plate of thermoplastic polymer. It addresses four areas:

  1. Flexion - how much the foot flexes through the shoe
  2. Torsional stability - the midstance stability of your speedboard
  3. The distribution of shock
  4. Spiral dynamics - how the shoe performs on the lateral side and medial side through the whole transition of your gait cycle

When we're talking about speedboards, we're having the conversation around energy. We’re looking at the loss of energy or decreasing what we call the loss of kinetic energy through your entire gait cycle.

Helion superfoam

The final piece of On engineering we're going to address today is the Helion superfoam. The Helion foam has been around for a couple of seasons now but essentially On Running addressed a key discussion point in the market. What we tend to find in conversations we have here at Sportitude Running and clearly every single running shop around the world has the same conversations with their consumers, is that they want the midsole of their shoe to be light, cushioned, responsive and durable.

It’s really hard for a brand to address all those four areas and put it into one midsole but On Running have done it and they've done it in regards to their philosophy from day one which is the Cloud technology.

I hold the On Cloudstratus version 2 in my hand with the dual layered CloudTec pods. However, the really key component of this midsole is the Helion foam. The Helion foam has a really unique point of difference. It performs exactly the same no matter what climate, so you can be running in sub-zero temperatures in the Swiss alps and also down here in a 30-plus degree Celsius day on an Australian hot summer and the midsole will perform exactly the same.

You may not know this at home, but your traditional EVA foams will perform differently in hot conditions as they do in cold conditions. The cold will make them stiffer and the heat will obviously make them softer. However, the Helion superfoam performs exactly the same which is phenomenal.

Summary of the technology behind On Running

In summary of the technology we've touched on today let's talk about the CloudTec. The CloudTec is the unique and strategically placed Cloud technology pods underneath the foot and they work on that vertical compression to absorb impact or decrease the impact. Also looking at that horizontal plane, it aids in the compression of the pods and then to reduce ground contact time to produce a really snappy toe-off.

That's a great segue into what the speedboard delivers. The speedboard is all about decreasing that impact but creating a very snappy toe-off on your forefoot.

The thing that really encapsulates everything about the midsole is the Helion superfoam. It's almost like a sandwich - a speedboard, your CloudTec and everything in between is your Helion foam which is now rolled out in all of On Running shoes.

All the engineering is very unique, but they are addressing the fact that every single CloudTec pod is adaptable and it compresses on different planes and under different forces. When On Running address the midsole they look at who the runner is that's going to be enjoying this shoe or who they're targeting because every single Cloud technology is different and every single speedboard is different. It’s almost like that sentence, different horses for courses and that's the exact same thing with every single On Running shoe.

We remember where they started with the On Cloudracer, a very light and snappy shoe. Then they went to the On Cloudsurfer, and that was only 10 years ago. Fast forward to 2021 they have literally every single runner in mind when they are drawing up their new concept or new product line for following seasons.

They are addressing the market, they know who would like and who would not like their running shoes and let me tell you right now, if you're a runner out there, there is an On Running shoe for you. Whether it's for your slow and easy cushion days or if you're looking for something light, snappy and responsive, and everything in between. On Running have a shoe for you.

It’s not only road running shoes, they're addressing trail running shoes, hiking shoes and sneakers. They are a brand that's making a lot of noise.

Uppers on On Running shoes

The one thing we haven't really touched on in today's review is the upper. In my humble opinion and I mean this hand on heart, I don’t think any other brand can say they make an upper like On Running.

On Running have nailed their uppers across every single shoe in every single aspect that goes into making a shoe supportive, comfortable, adaptive, breathable and durable. That's what I’ve found to be the case ever since I started wearing them about five years ago.

Being a Swiss engineer company comes with high expectations and I believe that they have their uppers 100% right. You're hugged in the right areas, you have breathability in the right areas and support where you need it.

Again, a lot of the engineering call-out is in the midsole. It looks different on the wall, it looks different in hand and obviously it feels different on the foot. Having a really good executed upper only complements what you're doing underneath the foot and that's exactly what On Running do.

Try before you buy

It's important to know that On Running are a very unique brand. If you haven't run in an On Running shoe before I encourage you to have a go because that's exactly what happened when Olivier went out and started trying to sell the On Running shoes to retailers. 

Looking at an On Running shoe you're going to think that it's going to be really unique and totally different. It's a different conversation you're going to have to have with your staff and your consumers out there. What can an On Running shoe do for you?

In today's wrap up we've hopefully given you some insight into what their technology is all about, but the truth is in the pudding. You have to get it on your foot, jump on a treadmill and go out for a run on the road and experience an On Running shoe first hand.

The great thing about it as I touched on a minute ago, there is an On Running shoe for every single runner out there. If you want to have a connected feel with the ground and have a little bit of a snappy feel then you're going to have success in something like your On Cloudflow.

The other extreme is your On Cloudstratus version 2, a very cushioned and protective daily trainer. This running shoe is going to talk straight to you at home.

Which On Running shoe is right for you?

The common question we get asked at Sportitude Running is “Which On Running shoe should I be using?”.

That's a bit of a loaded question because we firmly believe that there is no On Running shoe that feels like another shoe from another brand.

Every On Running shoe has a unique difference with regards to their CloudTec, Helion foam and their speedboard. It’s a little bit like what you find with every other brand.

Why we have this conversation is because we need to get people in to talk about their running goals, what surfaces they're using, how far they're going and injury history will come into the conversation as well, then we'll guide you into the right On Running shoe.

The key take away here is you have to run in them, you have to experience how an On Running shoe feels on your foot because On Running have said the following from day one:

"We don't design shoes... we design how a runner feels".

That's a key take away for this brand.

Thank you On Running

I’d like to take this opportunity on behalf of Sportitude to thank On Running. We have been a partner of On Running for four and a half years and in that four and a half years we've seen huge innovation, an offering of footwear that is only growing year on year.

The reason I want to thank them is because they are one brand that puts their hand up and they want to help out local events and grassroot running, not only on the elite level but they are looking at the whole picture of running, be it road, trail or triathlon. It doesn't matter how far you go, where you run or how often you run, On Running is all about supporting you getting out the door and enjoying everything that the sport of running has to offer.

From our perspective being a key retailer we'd like to take this opportunity to thank On Running and we're looking forward to the next five plus years being a key partner of theirs in the future.

The wrap up

We've covered a lot in today's review so if you have any questions, queries or theories with regards to On Running engineering please contact our Sportitude shoe experts and subscribe to the Sportitude YouTube channel for the latest and greatest in running shoe reviews. If you've been an On runner please let us know what your experience has been like.

If you're thinking about getting into On Running shoes drop us a comment and we might be able to guide you into which On Running model might be appropriate for you.

Until next time stay safe, be kind to one another, happy running and we'll see you on the road. Take care. 

If you liked this, then you'll love:

On Running Cloudstratus 2 vs 1 Comparison Shoe Review

On Running Cloudflyer vs Cloudflyer Classic Comparison Shoe Review

On Running Cloudboom Racing Shoe Review

On Running YouTube Channel