Simple, minimal and effective. Were I to compare racing shoes with sports cars these sweet looking carbon plated kickers would be a Porsche for sure. They're beautiful to look at, fast, superior engineered, best driven on special occasions, not suited to off-road or long distances, and should be washed regularly.
The Cloudboom Echo is an incredibly good looking shoe that delivers in ride performance. A long distance racer from the innovative & fast evolving Swiss brand that flies as fast as it looks and feels.
On's recent noise around Norwegian Gustav Iden’s insane 2:36 marathon leg at the Hawaiian Ironman World Championship proves that they're on the right path right now, combining their distinctive style, Swiss precision craftsmanship and a classy midsole. This is not the same shoe and as you'll read below, it's not suited to marathon distance or more, but here's why it's amazing for shorter distance races.
What's to love about them:
- Aside from the awesome looking, lightweight and comfortable upper, what we like most is the efficient and aggressive forefoot rocker. The carbon plate is more pronounced than any shoe we have wear-tested to date. These are ideal 5-21km racing and interval training weapons, possibly a marathon distance for very light and efficient runners.
- It's very light weight and more stable than many super shoes - especially in the forefoot. - Well ventilated, soft upper. - Great grip in smooth and wet conditions.
- 20% of the shoe is made from recyled material - good on you team!
What you may not love about them: - Too little support and too much kick for marathon or easy paced runs. - Narrow heel platform and light foothold isn't ideal for heavier runners and all out heel strikers.
- Non gusseted tongue is light and firm under laces but can move around.
So, let's dive into why - based on our wear testing.
If there’s one thing the Swiss clock, cheese and chocolate connoisseurs at ON have nailed from the gun, it's their shoes aesthetics. Delivering the technical midsole design has taken a while to catch up, but we reckon they have leapfrogged many brands with this iteration. The CloudBoom Echo looks superb. The combo of turquoise mint on white upper with black logo really stands out from the crowd. The orange outsole elements are the cherries, or perhaps energised naartjies, on top. From when you first step into them, they feel fast with a true to size fit and solid lockdown. This is definitely not a deep cushioned trainer but there is certainly compression in the midsole and the forefoot is noticeably bouncier than the rear. The rocker is as evident visibly as it is in feel when you take the first step.
The minimalist polyester with elastic perforated engineered mesh upper is a game changer. It looks a bit hard and scratchy at first sight, but is in fact light, pliable, comfortable and strong. The micro perforated upper feel is quite soft, so it molds to your foot shape fast. I was happy in thin, light racing socks. The heel has a semi-rigid heel counter and the tongue is a very thin soft layer of non gusseted fabric. The internal toe and heel guard laminates are soft yet effective in providing a sense of cockpit lock-in and protection. The minimal overlays are very well positioned to deliver midfoot stability. For shorter distance races like 5 0r 10km runs off the bike in triathlon I was comfortable in no socks - they felt like track spikes!
At first glance I was concerned about the comfort and lockdown of such a minimalist upper combined with a rigid midsole. The ankle opening is quite big with a low-cut shallow heel collar which, although lovely for ease of foot entry (a win for triathletes), this combination could increase the risk of heel slip, especially with carbon-plated stiffness below. The minimalist laces are also narrow and thin, with only 5 rows of eyelets plus the heel lock eyelet. Having run in them many times already, from 5km to 21km, I've been very happy with comfortable foot lockdown - it's a great performance fit. The sharkskin feel heel liner plus heel lock lace loop gave me a proper foot lockdown. If you have very narrow low volume feet, which i don't, you could find them a tad loose and tough to find a secure tightly without discomfort.
Apart from my bright white attention grabbers needing a wash each time my race has finished in dusty areas, the only negative I can point out relating to the upper is the non-gusseted tongue. It's soft, comfy and secure under the flat laces if you position it right, but in the fast transition triathlons the slide to the side irritated me.
Let's talk about what's happening underneath the awesome looking, lightweight, minimalist upper.
The CloudBoom Echo has a softer feel than any On shoe we've run in and we slated the very early iterations that felt a bit like running on pieces of hosepipe. They are definitely not soft, but in racing shoes I'm looking for a firm ride with an efficient kick. The Helion foam used in the Echo is firm, completely different from the much more common Pebax cushioning used in many long-distance racing shoes. The Helion foam layer tops the carbon-infused Speedboard with the much reduced, but still recognisable, trademark Cloud Tec spaces in the lower midsole using a much firmer foam. The open space 'clouds' do the compressing, it's not the foam.
The Speedboard has a very aggressive toe spring, and unlike many racers with protruding heels, these have a slight inward sloping bevel, resulting in a pronounced rocker shape from end to end. Transitions are therefore very fast and favour an 'aggressive' stride. This Helion layer is much thicker at the front, under the ball of your foot, a clear indication as to the goal of this forefoot striker, even at slower paces in longer races. The orange rubber outer provides excellent traction but is limited to mainly the front part of the sole, with only three small patches of rubber at the heel, two of which are on the external side where a heel strike should impact, with just one on the medial side.
Unlike the Nike Vaporfly which you either love or hate, the Speedboard is fairly flexible. It's flex point occurs quite far back due to the aggressive rocker and toe spring. This allows for a longer curvature from the midfoot to the toes offering an efficient transition to midfoot strikes. It's still a firmer ride with aggressive kick though, so you'll need a faster tempo and more efficient stride, definitely more so than the much more plush and accommodating Puma Nitro 2 that we recently wear tested.
How about the minimalist looking outsole you ask?
In classic On tradition, the middle of the outsole features the deep guideline groove for an element of guidance (stability) during the foot roll. There was no more stone grabbing and the relatively new shoes felt stable from start to finish of the Two Oceans half marathon with zero blisters nor desire to remove them once I crossed the line. The tiny cross-shaped lugs clearly work well, and the rubber compound hits the sweet spot between softness and ruggedness. I still see no wear & tear after almost 100km, even on the exposed middle part of the midsole.
In summary the Cloudboom Echo is a minimalist shoe that delivers a very classic direct response, firm 'racing-flat' feel, but is not flat at all featuring a potent rocker.This pronounced curvature provides quicker heel-to-toe transitions and a big toe spring. Other modern design elements include much more cushioning, a propulsion plate and a foot shape conforming upper. These great looking shoes definitely reward strong engagement while running which is why few would consider them as long distance racer where the On CloudMonster would take over. Pop on these whippets for a session of fartlek, track training or hill repeats rather. The shoe is ideally suited to more efficient mid to forefoot strikers, especially runners who desire a more stable and predictable underfoot, modern, long distance racer. 21km and below are very popular, healthy distances to race. This lightweight, reactive, snappy and firm beauty of a supershoe is a real winner for 5-21km confidence inspiring races plus short/medium interval training.
Worth R5000? - if the above review speaks to you and you have penchant for fine designs like Porsche, you'll know there's no compromise.