On Cloud vs. Brooks – Which Brand Is Right for You?

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Brooks running shoes and On Cloud running shoes are very different. While Brooks stick more closely to the old-school running model, On Cloud running shoes are new, modern, and… a bit unusual.

While we’re going to lay out all you need to know about On Cloud vs. Brooks shoes, in the end it always depends on what feels best to you. We’ll do our best to give you all the information you need to match your preference to one of these shoes, though!

Let’s get into our comparison between On Cloud vs. Brooks running shoes so you can decide which one will help you reach your goals.

It’s important to note that the On Cloud range of shoes includes hiking and casual shoes, but we’ll focus on their running shoes in this review!

Main Similarities and Differences

Both brands have a loyal following who will tell you theirs is the best! But there are some noticeable differences between the two brands’ shoes that attract certain runners and aren’t suitable for others.

On the Brooks website, it’s recommended to size up ½ a size because they run short. This implies a slightly wider fit, while the Clouds are reputed to run a little on the narrow side.

On Cloud shoes feature a Speedboard in every one of their shoes, which creates a slightly firmer feeling with plenty of energy return. Brooks only has one carbon-plated shoe, the Elite. Their midsole is softer, while the On Cloud shoes are more firm.

Brooks is far more traditional than On Clouds, but that’s their strength. On Clouds feature unique technology that can be seen in their CloudTec outsoles.

One thing that Brooks does well is create funky holiday-themed shoes. On Running has far fewer shoes than Brooks does, and Brooks makes an effort to create fun shoes for special occasions.

They also feature multiple shoes that are APMA-approved, which makes them an excellent pick for those who suffer from foot problems.

History

It’s important to note that the On Cloud vs. Brooks comparison is between two vastly different companies. Brooks has been around for over a century, while On Cloud is still relatively new in the running shoe world.

Here’s the background between each company before we get into the details.

On Cloud

The company’s actual name is On Running, and they’ve been official since 2010. The Swiss brand was created by former triathlete Olivier Bernhard, a 6-time Ironman winner.

Frustrated at not being able to find shoes that worked for him, he teamed up with an engineer to create a prototype of the ideal shoe. Once the design was created, he onboarded two close friends, Caspar Coppetti and David Allemann, both runners.

One month after launching their prototype, they won the prestigious ISPO BrandNew Award for their innovative design. This kicked off their popularity, and just a few months later, they were selling in all major running stores.

Now, 12 years later, they continue to design and create shoes for various sports. Multiple high-profile athletes favor On Clouds, and the company is still going from strength to strength. It will be exciting to see what they do in the next few years!

Brooks

You probably didn’t know that when Brooks started in 1914, they made ballet shoes and bathing footwear! In fact, they only started focusing on running shoes 58 years later, in 1972. They made baseball cleats, roller skates, football shoes, and kids’ shoes.

Their first running shoe, the Villanova, was released in 1974 in collaboration with a well-known Olympic runner. Their second running shoe, the Vantage, came out in 1977 and went to number one in Runner’s World. It was also worn by the then-president, Jimmy Carter!

1981 saw their first shoe made for overpronation, the Diagonal Rollbar made its first appearance the following year, and by 2001, Brooks were only making running shoes and nothing else.

Although interestingly, their latest innovation is a tech-loaded running bra. But they continue to be a leader in the running shoe world and have gained a loyal following.

Upper

On Cloud

The On Cloud running shoes have an engineered mesh upper that’s lightweight and good-looking. Depending on the shoe, the flexibility of the upper, ventilation patterns, and supportive overlays differ in design.

Each shoe features a nicely padded ankle collar. Some have a plush tongue, while others feature a thin, more aerodynamic tongue. A soft and comfortable sockliner is present across the full range of shoes.

They feature a traditional lacing system which allows you to get a good lockdown on your foot. Once locked down, the upper remains flexible enough for your feet to move naturally and not feel restricted in their movement.

Some of their shoes have unique features. Only three shoes are waterproof—the Cloudflyer Waterproof for road running, and Cloudvista and Cloudventure waterproof for trail running—and the Cloudswift features an unusual slip-on design with a supportive midfoot band, as well as a normal lacing system.

The uppers also differ slightly by activity. For example, road running shoes tend to have more lightweight, breathable mesh, while trail running shoes feature a tighter, sleeker mesh.

Brooks

Brooks takes pride in the sustainability of their uppers. As of 2023, ⅔ of their uppers contain recycled material. The uppers are supportive yet slightly stretchable material that hugs your foot but doesn’t restrict your natural movement.

Every Brooks shoe features their logo in an overlay on the side of the shoe. Depending on the shoe, some have more overlays for extra subtle support, while others are more minimalist.

Most of their shoes have a well-padded heel collar, except for the StealthFit models. These have a sock-like fit that’s softer around the ankle. A few of their shoes also feature a thin tongue that helps you to get a tighter lockdown on your foot.

Like On Cloud, Brooks shoes use a traditional lacing system. The slight flex in their uppers ensures that you don’t feel stuck but can move comfortably and easily.

Midsole

On Cloud

The On Cloud midsole comprises the foam inside the shoe and the CloudTec pods underneath the shoe. These unique pods are On Running’s selling point, and they create excellent energy return.

Made of thick EVA foam, the CloudTec pods compress on every step and release energy as you lift your foot, helping to propel you forward.

The shoes contain one of two types of foam: Zero-Gravity foam, which is ultra-lightweight, or Helion Superfoam, which is a little more bouncy. Between the type of foam and the unique design of the pods, their shoes have excellent shock absorption and cushion.

Also found in the midsole is the built-in Speedboard. It works like a spring, holding onto energy and rebounding it as you lift off to create a snappy feeling on every step.

There’s no standard heel-to-toe drop in On Cloud shoes. Common drops are 6 mm or 9 mm, but the Cloudflash has a 5 mm drop, while the Cloudsurfer and the Cloudgo both feature an 11 mm drop.

Brooks

Brooks splits their midsole experience into four categories: Cushioning, Speed, Energize, and Trail. Each one is designed specifically to cater for that style of running.

Within those categories, they use four different types of foam. BioMoGo DNA is a dynamic, adaptive cushion that works with your unique stride. DNA LOFT is nitrogen-infused, which makes it lighter and yet still responsive.

DNA AMP is their most responsive foam padding, and DNA FLASH is another nitrogen-infused offering that’s a combination of the best parts of BioMoGo and LOFT. They also offer shoes with arch support aimed specifically at high, medium, and low arches.

Brooks’ support shoes feature GuideRails in the midsole, which can be seen from the outside along the lateral and medial sides of the shoes. Some also have medial post, which provides stiff and more traditional support.

The midsole is also where you’ll find the carbon plate in the Hyperion Elite and the ballistic rock plate in their trail running shoes.

Brooks’ heel-to-toe drops vary from 4 mm to 12 mm.

Outsole

On Cloud

Many runners assume that the CloudTec pods are part of the outsole but belong to the midsole. The only thing that makes up the midsole is the strategically-placed rubber bits underneath the pods.

Only one Cloud shoe—the Cloudsurfer—features a full-length rubber outsole. In this case, the actual pods are made from the brand’s Rebound Rubber, so they make up the outsole of this particular shoe.

But the rest of the shoes feature minimal rubber on the outsole. Most middle pods don’t feature rubber on them, but as the pods are already from EVA, they’re still quite durable.

Most Clouds have rubber placed in the forefoot and the heel, the most high-wear areas. The shoes last a surprisingly long time considering the outsole is quite minimal.

All of the Clouds have a guidance line down the middle of the sole, which splits the outsole into two distinct sides. This provides extra support on both sides of the foot, making them ideal for both overpronators and supinators.

Brooks

Brooks outsoles vary depending on the use of the shoe. Their road running shoes feature a good amount of rubber on the outsole, with only small areas of the midsole exposed.

Shoes in their Energize range feature an arrow-shaped tread on the outsole, designed to help you speedily and naturally through your stride.

Their trail running shoes feature TrailTack, a sticky rubber with strategically-designed lugs to help you keep your footing on rough or uneven ground.

Durability

On Cloud

Despite their minimalist outsole, On Cloud shoes are impressively durable. Between the hardy mesh upper, the sturdy overlays, and the well-placed rubber on the outsole, you can expect these shoes to last at least as long as any other running shoes.

The only complaint we hear from users is that small stones and mud tend to get stuck in the pods. However, this isn’t likely to affect the shoe’s durability as long as you ensure to keep them clean and free from debris.

Brooks

Brooks shoes tend to last a long time as well. Their outsoles are more robust and offer better coverage than On Cloud’s, and the overlays on their uppers protect the shoes from abrasion.

According to the company, their shoes have a lifespan of 300 to 500 miles, depending on the frequency of use and the person using them.

Cushioning

On Cloud

The cushioning in On Cloud running shoes is known to be excellent. Their unique CloudTec pods provide superb shock absorption, which can be easily felt when you run.

Whichever of their two foams comes in your shoe—Zero Gravity or Helion—you can expect some firmness underfoot with a nice bounce. If softness is what you want, you may want to stick to Brooks.

Brooks

Brooks shoes vary in their cushioning. Depending on what you’re looking for in a running shoe, you can choose a category that will affect the amount and the feel of cushioning in your shoe.

For example, shoes that fall into the “Cushion” category will be softer and built more for comfort. However, those that fall into “Energize” will be less cushy and have more energy return. “Speed” shoes are likely to have less cushioning, therefore, less weight.

They have four foam types, each of which possesses the properties necessary for the category it falls into. Shop by what you want out of the cushioning, and you shouldn’t be disappointed by the feel and performance of the shoe.

Overall Fit and Comfort

On Cloud

On Cloud running shoes have a reputation for being a little on the narrow side, especially in the heel. While newer shoes have a more spacious forefoot, runners with wide feet should size up to get a good fit if their shoe of choice isn’t available in wide.

Once you’ve found your fit, though, they provide a soft, comfortable step-in feel. The sock liner is made with comfort in mind.

Brooks

Brooks themselves state that their shoes run slightly short. This means they’re likely to fit true to size in terms of width, but you may want to order ½ a size up to give your toes enough room to move.

Between the comfortable cushioning and the well-padded uppers, you can expect Brooks shoes to be comfortable on your feet. You should note that they’re somewhat heavier than the On Clouds, so if weight is a factor for your comfort, then keep that in mind.

Pricing

On Cloud

Their website shows On Cloud’s running shoes are priced from $140 to $270. The shoes on the lower end of the spectrum are their standard models, which are still of excellent quality. If you want a high-end racing shoe, expect to pay higher prices.

Brooks

Brooks’ most affordable road running shoe retails for around $100. Their most expensive shoe is the carbon-plated Hyperion Elite, which costs $250. But their average price is $140.

Summary

They may both be well-loved running shoe brands, but On Cloud vs. Brooks are quite different on the feet. Depending on what you want out of a running shoe, one or the other may be better suited to your needs.

On Clouds are a great choice for those who don’t mind firmer cushioning but want exceptional shock absorption and a bit of snap in their step.

They’re also an excellent option for supinators, thanks to their uniquely split outsole. Runners who want a lightweight shoe will also prefer the Clouds over the Brooks.

Brooks running shoes are more traditional in style. If you want to stick with one brand for all your runs—recovery, training, races—then Brooks truly has something for every situation, thanks to their various foams.

Brooks may appeal to you if you’re a traditionalist who wants a tried-and-true running shoe. They’re a little heavier than On Clouds, but they’re not abnormally heavy in the running shoe world.

Runners who love funky colors and unique upper designs will enjoy Brooks’ holiday designs! Clouds come in fewer color options.

Ultimately, both are great shoe brands. It’s up to you to decide which features would work for you!

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AUTHOR

Ben is an avid road and trail runner, and has completed multiple marathons and ultras. A former running store owner, he now shares his knowledge and experience writing these articles.