Created On: 20 February 2012

Running is big business. Sportswear brands invest billions of dollars on the quest to develop the perfect running shoe. Despite this, styles and overall technology design of today's running shoes are broadly similar to those of a decade ago. Moreover, incidents of injuries remain high: it's estimated that more than 60 percent of all runners suffer at least one injury per year.

But now an innovative new shoe looks set to give the conventional running shoe design a run for its money. Built on patented CloudTec™ elements, the On shoe claims not only to protect the body against the stresses of running, but also to activate your body and "put the fun back" into the exper-ience. And with world-class athletes and coaches raving about the On's training and performance benefits, it has all the makings of a running revolution.

Why the On is different

On's edge over traditional running shoes can be explained by simple physics: running exposes our feet to both vertical and horizontal forces. Traditional running shoes only absorb the vertical impact (typically by compressing some form of rubber or air pad), but leave the athlete exposed to the horizontal - or forward-pushing - impact, causing increased muscular breakdown and associated injuries. The On's CloudTec™ system absorbs both vertical and horizontal forces by a radical new design: three-dimensional elements made of highly flexible circular pieces of rubber.

During the foot strike phase, these 3D elements fold back and cushion the landing by allowing the foot to softly glide into the step. Put in physics terms: The On is using travel (or "way") to slow down the impact shock. Once on the ground, the elements become interlocked, providing a solid surface and stability for the push-off phase. So while traditional running shoes are either soft and slow or fast and hard, the On is soft and fast.

The 3D flexibility has another positive effect on the runner's body: the postural muscles - which can become lazy and can degenerate when runners wear over-supportive running shoes are actually activated and strengthened by the flexibility of the system.

World-class genesis

The driving force behind this innovation was six-time Ironman Winner and World Champion duathlete Olivier Bernhard. Bernhard, who was recovering from injury, wanted to find a shoe that would protect his body from the impact of long-distance running - without compromising on speed. His sponsors were all focused on cushioned running shoes for the mass market, and could not deliver his vision. So he worked with a Swiss engineer to develop and perfect a technology, which would match his professional needs.

Bernhard ran thousands of miles in prototypes before giving the final design the ultimate seal of approval: he started the company On to bring the new technology to market - initially selling 2,000 pairs himself out of the back of his car. And very soon it became clear that the On shoe had a wider appeal than just professionals like Bernhard. It answered every runner's dream: pain and in-jury-free running that does not impede performance.

"I was very excited by the On shoe, as I felt that it delivered all of the things that were missing in the market," explains Bernhard. "It allows you to land softly and to push-off hard - so you can go very fast and very long." Before the On, soft shoes equalled poor performance. The excellent cushioning also allowed Bernhard to build his shoe in line with the latest research on the movement of the foot: the On features an extremely flexible sole and a low heel. The result is almost a 'rolling' experience that gives you extra forward momentum for a faster run. "And, over time, your foot muscles are trained to get better by themselves, rather than depending on cushioning and support. It's not the shoes that lift you, it is you," says Bernhard.

We're currently testing both the On Cloudsurfers and On Cloudrunners so will let you know our thoughts in our review soon.

 

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