“My feet!” one of my hiking buddies complained. Several others in our group groaned in agreement. We had just completed 10 hours on North Carolina’s Mountains-to-Sea Trail—a 21-mile stretch on the rugged Blue Ridge Escarpment, including a nearly 7-mile run on sole-pounding, soul-sucking crushed gravel—meaning sore feet were expected. I remained conspicuously quiet: No one wanted to hear how I’d come through the ordeal unscathed (my feet, at least).
Unscathed, but not surprised. I’d been wearing my On Cloudventures for about a month and had racked up nearly 60 hiking miles and another 25 trail running. The hiking included the typical rocky and rooty trails found in North Carolina’s rolling Piedmont, as well as 20-plus miles in the Nantahala National Forest. The running—nearly all on trail—had no shortage of rocks either. Through all that, my feet never felt sore, nor had I developed any blisters.
I discovered the Cloudventures accidentally, when my go-to hiking shoe, the Altra Lone Peak, was in short supply. I’ve been hiking and running in Lone Peaks since they first appeared as a minimalist trail running shoe, then beefed up and turned into a favorite among thru-hikers. I’m betting the Cloudventures have the potential to follow suit.
One thing I especially like about the shoe is its Missiongrip outsole, which has double-decker grippy nubs. The larger nubs—as opposed to a solid sole, like the Lone Peaks—save weight and enhance grip. (Those grippy nubs also are responsible for my main complaint about the shoe: they tend to grip 1/2-inch to 3/4-inch chucks of gravel.) I’ve been particularly pleased with their traction on creek crossings. While it’s not a zero-drop shoe (it has 6 mm of drop), it still encourages striking on the ball of the foot. Initially, I wondered how the shoe’s slipper-like feel and fit would hold up, but with more than 110 miles on them in four weeks, they’re a little dirty, but show no signs of ripping out.
The angel-hair pasta lacing system does not untie and is especially responsive to a good fit; I don’t even double knot them. I haven’t backpacked in the shoe, but as a hike leader, I typically carry a daypack weighing 15 to 20 pounds—more than many ultralight backpackers—making me confident in their ability under weight.
How will the On Cloudventures sell in stores?
The On Cloudventures debuted in Great Outdoor Provision Company when the steamy summer Southern heat tends to stifle interest in hiking and trail running. This fall, however, I believe they will take off. They’re the ideal shoe for the local terrain, especially as the fall temps beckon hiking and trail running hereabouts. I also think their unique colors (mine are flame orange) will grab attention. The shoe is pricey, about $30 more than the Lone Peak ($149 versus $120). That could make it difficult in convincing hard-core Lone Peak devotees to make the switch. I’m thinking the heartier outsole grip and slipper-like comfort could help smitten them.
My best argument: 100-plus miles and no blisters. I think the shoe speaks for itself.
This review is part of our Retailer Review series, written by retailers, for retailers to help guide their buying decisions and provide brands honest feedback from those selling their products.