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Finlay McAndrew  •  Running Gear •  23.04.2021 •  15 min read

On running clothing – Swiss engineered to elevate your run

On was founded in 2010 in Zurich and quickly made headlines in the running world with their revolutionary cushioning system, CloudTec. The unique design, appropriately coined “run on clouds”, works seamlessly with the foot to deliver soft landings and explosive take-offs. It’s no surprise that the brand took-off and created fans of On’s innovative footwear all over the world. On continued from strength to strength over the following years and launched their Performance Running Gear range in 2016. While they’re potentially better known for their footwear, On have applied the same high-end Swiss engineering processes to their clothing range and have created some of the most outstanding running kit on the market. Their philosophy of creating clothing that has no “redundant features”, lives true with every piece and performance is amplified.

Sustainability at On

Sustainability is at the centre of a lot of conversations right now, particularly in the running industry. There is no shying away from the fact that some running clothing is being produced in a way which is both harmful to the environment and is unsustainable. So what’s the reverse of this and what does sustainable production look like? On have committed to producing products in a responsible manner and are clearly searching for ways to continuously improve their working practices. The materials and techniques used to produce their clothing range is innovative and at the forefront of sustainability.

By way of example, they are working towards the elimination of virgin polyester and only using 100% recycled polyester and polyamide. They’re also trying to move away from using petrol-based materials and towards using biosynthetic fibres. The benefit being that fewer greenhouse gases are produced over the lifetime of the product in comparison to products made from fossil fuels.

Man running in ON shorts
On Lightweight Shorts

Man-made cellulosics materials, and other similar materials, are exciting because they can be produced from renewable resources. On are investigating the application of such materials to make production more sustainable. In addition to this, they made the decision to only use vegan leather for reasons relating to preventing animal cruelty. When they do use animal products, like wool, they make sure it meets their high standards. They work hard to ensure their wool is 100% certified as mulesing-free and complies with Responsible Wool Standards. They’re also aiming to use only 100% organic certified cotton and some products are already made from that alone.

On’s passion to deliver exceptional running products in a responsible way is encompassed perfectly by this vision statement:

“We don’t believe that performance and sustainability are exclusive. We believe they are two complementary concepts. We combine them through innovations to find more efficient solutions”.

Clothing that delivers, whatever the run or conditions

Finlay and Will from the Run4It team have been trying some of the On running clothing range at Run4It and finding out what makes it so special. Being based in Edinburgh, they end up running in a variety of conditions. Finlay tends to train on the road and Will ventures into the trails. It might be warm one day, pouring with rain the day after and then cold and windy the next. As they both follow training programmes and run pretty much every day, they’ll be out in all conditions. Having the right kit that can cope with ever changing conditions plays a key part in enabling them to achieve their goals. High functioning running apparel that performs to the best level reduces another point of stress in a demanding environment.

On Weather Jacket

In a nutshell: Ultra-light packable protection ideal for changeable conditions.

Finlay said:

“Living in Scotland, it seems appropriate to start off with the Weather Jacket. I have run in a lot of jackets over the years, so my standards are pretty high when it comes to this piece of apparel in particular. I’m looking for a jacket to be as light as possible, protective yet breathable, functional and to fit well. That’s not asking a lot right? Well it’s very hard to do as balancing protection with ventilation is always hard and ensuring good functionality while keeping a jacket as lightweight as possible is not easy either. Fortunately the On Weather Jacket excels on every front.

Made from lightweight Japanese fabrics, it’s ultra light and it barely feels like you’ve got a jacket on. It’s quite something. These fabrics, coupled with vents on the front and back, offer amazing breathability. It’s hard to overheat in the conditions you’d wear this in. Despite being so light and breathable, it delivers a great level of protection. This isn’t a waterproof jacket. Instead it delivers water and wind resistance in key areas to ensure you don’t feel the harshness of the elements.

As mentioned earlier, conditions are forever changing and this can even be the case during a run. The Weather Jacket design is capable of coping with a wide range of conditions but is perfect for wet and windy days. If the weather did suddenly turn warm, the jacket folds away into the chest pocket for easy storage. There’s nothing more frustrating than a hood that doesn’t stay on your head in the wind or falls down over your face. The Weather Jacket features a cap design which means it stays fixed in position. It’s details like this which really make it stand out.

From a fit point of view, it’s relatively form fitting. I’m a huge fan of this as the closer a jacket fits the more breathable it is because sweat vapor can escape more easily. At the same time, I don’t want to feel restricted. On make the Weather Jacket with a combination of highly flexible and stretchy fabrics. This means it fits as it should but doesn’t feel restrictive in any way. You don’t need to worry about it not being durable as the material is a ripstop fabric. If you’re looking for a versatile jacket that will cater for pretty much any condition, or you just want a jacket that looks unbelievably stylish, the On Weather Jacket is hard to beat.”

On Weather Shirt

In a nutshell: A workhorse layer ideal for cold weather training.

Finlay said:

“Next on the list is the On Weather Shirt. Another staple of any runner’s wardrobe, the long sleeve running top is one of the hardest workers in the kit drawer and it has to cope with a lot. We expect it to be breathable yet offer some warmth, last 5 days of running without smelling and fit well. Now like running jackets, I’ve also worn a lot of long sleeve running tops and I’ve always found a flaw. However, the On Weather Shirt is the first one I can’t fault and is without doubt the best long sleeve running top I’ve ever worn. Why is it so good?

The fabric is amazing. Made from a blend of polyester and Lyocell (a hypoallergenic fabric made from cellulose fibre that feels ultra soft and lightweight), it feels incredibly comfortable against the skin and dries ridiculously fast. The sustainably produced Lyocell fabric reduces any odours. I wore this on a 30km run that was done in under 2 hours and not only was it bone dry at the end, it didn’t smell the next morning and I could wear it again.

The fabric is designed with a channel construction so it traps air that is then warmed by the body to protect against the cold. The adaptability of the fabric, and quality of design, ensures this can be worn in a range of temperatures and works effectively. The pièce de résistance is the cuff design. I’m a data geek and I love seeing my pace and heart rate during a run. You can still see your watch screen with the thumb loops pulled over, thanks to the cuff split design. This is a game changer for me as I can pull the thumb loops on and off as the weather changes and always see my watch. At £100, the Weather Shirt is at the more expensive end of the price curve but it’s worth every penny. This will be your best running companion and won’t let you down.”

Women's Weather Shirt

The women’s model features a wool-blend panel on the front. On discovered that women lose a lot of body heat from the torso so this adds more insulation for a little extra warmth.

On Performance T

In a nutshell: A weightless layer ideal for all workouts.

Finlay said:

“I’m going to start with the elephant in the room, as I know some will look at the price of this tee and question why you would pay £70 for a short sleeved top. From a performance point of view, this short sleeved top is one of the best I've ever run in. The irony is it costs more to make something feel lighter and stripped back because you have to use premium construction techniques and high quality fabrics.

The high-tech knit fabric is so light you barely notice it on and the level of breathability is unrivaled. Sweat is pulled away from the skin at an exceptional rate. The fabric doesn’t hold onto sweat so it feels exactly the same at the end of a run as it does at the start. I sweat a lot (you’ll sweat more as you become better heat adapted) and I get really uncomfortable at the end of runs if a running tee starts to become heavy with sweat and then chaffs. This problem is eliminated with the On Performance T.

To enhance comfort even more, On tape all the seams so there’s no stitching to cause friction and irritation. This level of craftsmanship is the difference between a good running top and an exceptional one. Similar to the Weather Jacket, the front is made from a tear-proof fabric so offers incredible durability despite being so light. The back of the female version is designed with back yoke construction with back pleat for better comfort. Swiss engineering at its finest, the On Performance T will see you through the toughest workouts or simply feel weightless so you have nothing to distract you from the run.”

The Performance T is also ranged in long for women.

Will said:

“On cooler days, there is also a long sleeve version featuring all the same great technology. Having tested the performance long sleeve tee through a Scottish winter it really holds its own. For a top that has a barely there feel it provides an excellent level of insulation without adding any bulk. It also works great for layering as it fits closely, next to the skin, allowing the material to wick away moisture and dry very quickly. It has quickly become a go to top for early morning runs.”

On Lightweight Shorts

In a nutshell: Light-as-air shorts that move effortlessly.

Finlay said:

“I want running shorts to feel light, unrestrictive, comfortable and offer some storage space. There’s a lot of options out there when it comes to running shorts, but the On Lightweight Shorts tick every box. The fit and comfort of the short is simply excellent. Polyamide, an ultra soft flexible material, is used to make the main body of the fabric. As a result, you barely notice them and they move effortlessly with your legs.

I love the elastic waistband as I can tailor the fit and it doesn’t press in at all. This has been making a big difference for me over my longer runs as I haven’t felt any pressure around my waist at the end. The flat waistband construction allows you to store a phone in the pouch at the back without the worry of it bouncing around. I don’t tend to run with a phone so this feature is perfect for carrying a few gels and my keys on longer sessions. By not having any zips, these are much more comfortable for doing floor work. Now I know this is a small thing, but I don’t particularly like holding a stretch for a couple of minutes with a zip digging into my lower back.

Again, On have stripped back a product to the minimum but maximised comfort, functionality, fit and performance. The On Lightweight Shorts will be amazing in warm conditions because of the high level of ventilation too. These are now my go to running shorts and I wear them all week.”

Women’s On Running Shorts

A similar model is available in the women’s range. The Women's On Running Shorts offer exceptionally lightweight performance, with a brief designed to deliver an invisible feel.

On Hybrid Shorts

In a nutshell: Distraction-free 2-in-1 shorts that stay in place on the move.

Will said:

“I’m pretty pernickety about running shorts and I have never been a fan of twin shorts really... until now.

The difficulty I often have is that the inner layer often can chafe or ride up and needs constant adjusting. This is why I mostly run in a simple 5 inch short with a brief liner. But since buying these shorts, I must say, they have opened my eyes to the world of twin shorts. In saying that though, they have set the bar very high.

The Hybrid Short is made up of two separate shorts that piece together in a modular design. The outer layer is light and airy and the fabric is super soft and flexible. There are three pockets on the outer short and also an adjustable waistband. This is a slightly longer short than I would usually wear. But thanks to the lightness and softness of the fabric you really don’t notice the added length. They sit just above the knee.

The beauty of this short for me is the inner. Now, I’d say it would take a pretty confident guy to wear the inner layer on its own but it really is hard to fault as part of a two piece. The fit is close and supportive without being restrictive. Through all the runs I’ve done in this short I can’t recall a time I’ve needed to adjust them or pull them down. They just stay put when they are on and it feels great to run in. The other time I have used the inner is as a boxer brief under a pair of tights. This works really well too. The inner layer has another two pockets which are ideal for a bank card or mobile phone.

These have quickly become one of my favourite shorts, particularly for easy runs. The other situation where they really shine is on cold mornings or evenings. The inner layer really gives a bit of added warmth which is great. When the pace picks up then I still like a shorter, split short. The On Racer short is superb for fast sessions. Not one to wear while doing the shopping though. The Hybrid short has the edge when it comes to functionality and looking good in a social setting.”

Modular System

A neat feature of the Hybrid short is that the inner and outer short button together to hold them in place. What makes this even smarter is that the On full length tights have small buttons on the waistband. This enables you to add the outer short of the Hybrid short seamlessly to them too.

Clothing that combines style, performance and sustainability

On have created a range of running clothing that has attained the pinnacle of performance, functionality and design. Not only does it feel incredible, it looks amazing. The way clothing makes you feel can have a powerful effect on your mood and therefore your desire or motivation to run. Finlay and Will are in agreement that the incredible feel and look of On running kit helps them get out the door. This might be in a similar way to how pulling on that favourite “finishers t-shirt” makes you feel.

As mentioned previously, performance and sustainability are not exclusive and they can go hand in hand. On have committed to creating running clothing in a way which is respectful and mindful of the world we live in. On clothing is more expensive than some other brands but there is a very good reason for this. It will last a long time, perform at the best level and short cuts haven’t been taken in the production process.

The men’s and women’s On running clothing range at Run4It includes pieces for warm weather running, cold days and wet and windy ones. Check out the entire range if you’re looking to enjoy the benefits of On clothing.

headshot of woman in ON apparell
The way clothing makes you feel can have a powerful effect on your mood and therefore your desire or motivation to run.

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