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Finlay McAndrew  •  Running Gear •  31.07.2023 •  6 min read

On Cloudstratus 3 Running Shoes Review

Ahead of the launch of the On Cloudstratus 3, On sent us a pair of the new running shoes to test out. I’ve run 126 kilometres in them to see how they fit, feel and compare to the previous version.

On are now starting to make models that feel very different from one another. While their tagline continues to be ‘run on clouds’, there’s no doubt the underfoot experience can vary massively from shoe to shoe. Hopefully this review gives you an insight into whether or not the Cloudstratus 3 is right for your running shoe rotation.

A pair of white On running shoes propped against a wall

Shop the On Cloudstratus

What's changed?

New midsole construction

While the Cloudstratus 3 running shoes still feature a double layer of CloudTec Helion superfoam cushioning and On’s signature Speedboard, there are some key changes.

The bottom of the midsole is now closed off. This has two specific benefits. Firstly, stones won’t get stuck in the bottom. Let’s be honest, a lot of us get a bit frustrated by this. Secondly, this increases the amount of cushioning under your feet. Ultimately delivering a slightly softer and more padded underfoot feel. 

Outsole of On running shoe perched on box

It also features an updated Speedboard. Yes, there’s still a full-length Speedboard in the Cloudstratus 3. However, a new nylon blend should improve energy return to greater levels than the previous version. In true On style, the Cloudstratus should provide soft landings and explosive take-offs.

The final bottom unit update includes altered outsole rubber pads. The reason for this is to improve grip and durability in wet and dry conditions. 

New upper

Even though there are a lot of similarities between the updated upper and the last version, there are some subtle differences. 

The biggest change is around the ankle and tongue area. With better lining materials, the heel collar and tongue should feel more premium and comfortable than before. If you’re wondering, the pods on the outside of the heel counter don’t do anything, they just look cool.

On Cloudstratus 3 running shoe perched atop electric box in street

Small tweaks have been made to the midfoot-lock down wings, which were a big hit in the Cloudstratus 2. The observant amongst you may notice the star-lacing system has gone. Even though this seemed to be a hit in the previous version, On have decided to take this away. 

Finally, the upper features more recycled material. 100% of the engineered mesh base material is from recycled materials. The total recycled content of the Cloudstratus 3 is 23%. 

How the Cloudstratus 3 cushioning feels

Out on a run, the midsole felt pretty different depending on what pace I was running at. To explain further - at slower efforts, the midsole feels really protective, but the Speedboard is very obvious. This means it doesn’t necessarily feel as comfortable as some softer feeling alternatives, such as the On Cloudsurfer running shoes. However, my legs feel really fresh at the end of slower paced runs in them. Ultimately meaning the cushioning was doing its job.

As soon as I picked up the pace and did some steadier effort runs, the Cloudstratus 3 came alive. The underfoot sensation was in stark contrast to what it felt like at slower efforts. Even though the cushioning felt equally as protective, the midsole was so much more propulsive. It’s not the easiest to articulate this sensation, but the midsole made running at set pace feel very sustainable.

The images below show some of the runs I’ve done in the Cloudstratus 3.

Screenshots of Cloudstratus Strava runsThe ‘Long Steady Base’ run highlights what I’ve just described. Running at 4.05-4.15 min/km pace in a ‘soft’ running shoe wouldn’t feel great for me, as I’d be losing a lot of energy through the cushioning. However, the balance of protection and energy return made this type of effort feel easier. Hopefully this shows that the Cloudstratus 3 running shoes perform over longer distances too. 

For those who have run in the Cloudstratus before, you’ll definitely find the updated midsole familiar. They’re definitely softer than the previous model, but they’ve stayed true to their original heritage - protective and responsive. 

Lastly, the midsole feels slightly more stable than the previous version. I’m not overly sure why this is the case, but it feels like an improvement. 

How they fit

With regards to the updated upper, it’s very likely that a lot of runners will enjoy the fit around the heel collar and tongue. The premium materials On have used are exceptionally comfortable and the fit is great. I found the fit very accommodating across the midfoot and forefoot area. At the same time, it’s easy to lock your feet into place with the supportive midfoot cage.

Heel view of On Cloudstratus 3 running shoes perched atop electric box in streetIt’s clear when you look at the upper how much thought and attention has gone into the construction. On are experts in technical design, and this upper demonstrates that. Whilst a specific model can never fit every foot, I can’t imagine many foot shapes that won’t suit these. 

How can the On Cloudstratus 3 improve your run?

We position the Cloudstratus 3 running shoes in our Connected Experience category, because they feel protective and yet responsive. 

The Cloudstratus 3 definitely feels best when you’re trying to run at a steady pace. By steady, I mean not hard and not easy. Just a focused, but very sustainable effort, where you’re moving with purpose. At the same time, the cushioning feels really protective at slower paced efforts. The midsole also responds to some shorter, faster-paced runs.

As a result, they can be regarded as a true all-rounder. If you’re looking for one pair of running shoes to cover all your bases, the Cloudstratus 3 are a strong contender. Additionally, if you’re doing a lot of miles and require a protective option for your steady aerobic runs, these would work perfectly alongside a softer recovery shoe and plated racing shoe. 

Furthermore, some runners simply don’t enjoy a very soft underfoot experience - irrespective of pace or distance. Although, many are still seeking protection and don’t want their legs to feel sore the next day. If this is you, the Cloudstratus 3 should be a great choice. 

Hopefully it’s clear that the Cloustratus 3 running shoes fill a certain space that many struggle to. They bridge the best of both worlds - protection and performance for everyday miles. Going back to the point raised in the opening paragraph, On running shoes are all very different from one another. This is great, as it creates choice and means you can find the right experience. 

If you’re looking for a soft underfoot feel, you should choose the On Cloudsurfer or On Cloudgo. Alternatively, you may want maximum bounce and energy return. In this case, the On Cloudmonster running shoes are likely to suit you best.

They’re definitely softer than the previous model, but they’ve stayed true to their original heritage - protective and responsive.

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