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So the with New Year comes the usual resolutions – some profound (appreciate what I have and remember to be thankful, not rue what I don’t, be thankful for mine and my family’s health – now cancer affects 1 in 2 people), some less so. My less profound but more practical was to find a new trainer that would address my persistent IT band tension/pain and reduce overall impact/potential injury from pounding the mean streets of SW1 to SE1 every other day on my run home. My problem is that having had a reasonably recent Achilles tear and various historic knee injuries, I wanted to find a trainer that both supported and promoted a neutral running style – mostly contrary properties in one shoe.
After doing a little research into shoes which both provide stability whilst also being light, I stumbled upon the On trainers. On is a Swiss company founded by former Swiss Ironman Champion Olivier Bernhard and his two friends David Allemann and Caspar Coppettie. Olivier’s theory was that the sole of the perfect running shoe needed to have cushioning for horizontal as well as vertical forces which worked in harmony both when the athlete lands and when they take off. The technology consists of rubber pods on the sole that they refer to as “clouds.” The clouds collapse flat on contact, providing cushioning. Once compressed they have little ridges that lock together to provide a firm base for push-off.
Or that’s the idea behind the technology. They have drawn mixed reviews from the running community – which made me all the more keen to try them. Now, most runners have commented that despite being a barefoot shoe for those of neutral gait, the Cloudsurfer really is actually quite heavy, with the podded soles holding more weight towards the heel, and being beneficial for those that heel strike by providing that extra cushioning and lift.
Bearing all of this in mind I embarked on my usual 10k run home with extra caution, expecting to strain against the urge to heel strike from my first step. Notwithstanding, my steps felt surprisingly light and my feet were comparatively bouncing off the ground to than with my old Asics Gel Super J33’s, which I love(d). Sorry Asics, I don’t think you quite give me enough of what I need. Which is significantly less effort to run at my usual sluggish pace of 4.40/km(ish). The fit is snug – which suits me and my über narrow feet well; but I will also emphasise that with the breathable, 4Way Stretch and 3D breathable fabric, there is plenty of room for those with greater girth and sweat – which is only a good thing if you are someone – like my good self – whose body liberally expels toxins. My humble conclusion: This shoe has plenty of room to move in the toe box whilst having a well- supported ankle and, give extra bounce. Equally, the clouds do not hinder movement – they in fact encourage forward motion encourages and a light forefoot strike. I found it almost impossible to heel-strike in these shoes.
Over the next few weeks I have built up to my full 10K run home in the shoes and I have to say, despite initial reservations (mainly of the clouds promoting an exaggerated upwards movement) I have been more than pleasantly surprised. The Cloudsurfers really do give lift, feel springy and dare I say it, cloud-esque, but without promoting an exaggerated upwards movement or a heel strike. I have found myself being able to run in my usual, neutral gait without any problem.

This is a guest post from my lovely, running-obsessed sister. I decided to let a real expert do the testing!

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