Although this Swiss brand of shoes has only been in the U.S. for a few years, it’s made a big impression with its unique CloudTec cushioning system that extends from the outsole of the shoe. Four firmer-density rubber bumpers (called “clouds”) in the rearfoot absorb impact in conjunction with the softer middle layer midsole foam. As the foot rolls forward, nine softer and more resilient clouds energize the shoe for the toe-off phase with help of the slightly firmer and more responsive midsole foam in the the forefoot. Our testers were pleasantly surprised with the performance of the updated Cloudster and unanimously remarked about the semi-firm but very “springy” and “energetic” ride. It’s not as light as some other neutral cushioned trainers and it’s a tad less flexible than most, although that’s barely noticed with the unique rolling and spongy ride served up by this shoe. Our wear-test team loved this shoe for long runs and tempo runs, but weren’t as excited about it for shorter, faster workouts like fartleks or mile repeats. Several testers remarked about the unique upper design and materials, most notably the breathable perforated tongue and a stretchy mesh in the forefoot that—along with a slightly more volume in the forefoot—accommodates foot flex and toe splay. It’s definitely a unique sensation, but one that was generally liked by all of our testers.  “Amazing shoe! It makes me feel like the shoes are springs, making steps effortless,” reported wear-tester Denise Benjes. Wear-tester Amber Allen also raved about the Cloudster: “I almost felt like I was cheating by wearing these. The amount of energy return is ridiculous! Makes you feel super-human!”

This is the shoe for you if … you’re looking for a soft, accommodating ride that it versatile enough for long runs, recovery runs, tempo runs.

Price: $130
Weights: 10.7 oz. (men’s), 9.5 oz. (women’s)
Heel-toe offset: 7mm; 27mm (heel)/20mm (forefoot)
Info: www.on-running.com

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