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

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Nike and On Cloud have been in the news lately for good reasons. Eliud Kipchoge smashed his own world record yet again, running an amazing time in his usual Nikes at the Berlin Marathon. And Roger Federer, On’s biggest athlete, recently retired after a long and spectacular career.

There’s a reason the big athletes love both of these brands so much. But if you’re trying to decide between buying On Cloud vs. Nike, you’ll need to look a bit deeper into the details to figure out which is right for you.

That’s what we’re doing here today. Let’s dive into the similarities and differences, the good and bad, and what you can expect from both brands.

For this comparison, we’ll be looking at their running shoes specifically (the Cloud range of On’s shoes).

Main Similarities & Differences

There are some surprising similarities between On Cloud vs Nike running shoes, but also some very noticeable differences.

First of all, Nike has a much larger range of running shoes. If you’re looking for variety, they have a style for everyone. On has a noticeably smaller range, but they’re still just as high quality.

Every On shoe features a Speedboard, which significantly ups the energy return. Some of Nike’s shoes feature carbon plates, which serve the same function.

The biggest difference is the midsole/outsole. While Nike has superb outsoles that are designed to protect its runners on several different surfaces, On’s outsoles are instantly recognizable.

Their CloudTec technology is visible in all of their shoes and offers exceptional shock absorption, comfort, and responsiveness, in addition to the midsole foam. Many of their shoes also feature a rocker bottom.

Both brands are more narrow, and wide-footers may struggle to get a good fit. They also both feature shoes made of sustainable materials. Some of the Nike shoes are also customizable, which is a nice touch from the athletic shoe giant.

History

The On Cloud vs. Nike debate is fairly new because On has only been around for a little over a decade. On the other hand, Nike has been producing excellent footwear for half a century. Here’s how each company got their start.

On Cloud

On Running is a Swiss company, and who doesn’t love Swiss-made stuff? Swiss cheese, Swiss chocolate, Swiss watches, and Swiss shoes. The On Cloud footwear doesn’t disappoint.

The man behind On Running is Olivier Bernhard, a former pro triathlete and six-time winner of the Ironman triathlon. In the early 2000s, Bernhard set out on a mission to find the perfect running shoe. During his search, he came across a Swiss engineer with an idea for a new type of footwear, and they began working on it together.

In the following years, multiple prototypes were created. Bernhard sought the assistance of two running-mad friends, David Allemann and Caspar Coppetti, and they officially created On in January 2010.

It didn’t take long for them to become popular. Just a month later, their shoe prototypes won the ISPO BrandNew Award, and by July, they were stocked on the shelves of running stores.

It took On 11 years to go from a brand-new shoe company to being valued at over $7 billion. And they offer more than just running shoes! Their most high-profile athlete to date is the great Roger Federer. They continue to go from strength to strength today.

Nike

Nike is the name of the Greek goddess of victory, which we feel is appropriate considering Eliud’s many awe-inspiring victories in these shoes!

They’re a little older than On, having started in 1964. Back then, they were called Blue Ribbon Sports, and they were created by Bill Bowerman—a running coach—and Phil Knight, his student.

Bowerman was already making custom shoes for all of his athletes and seeing excellent results. His shoes were becoming increasingly in demand, so along with Knight, he began selling the original Nike—the Cortez—out of the trunk of his car.

By 1971, they were still so successful that they rebranded the company as Nike. This is also where they introduced the famous Swoosh!

It didn’t take long for them to start manufacturing basketball shoes, dancing shoes, and streetwear to their collection. The popularity of these shoes soon skyrocketed them to owning 50 percent of the USA athletic shoe market.

These days, Nike is breaking barriers thanks to their athlete-focused approach. They ask, athletes respond, and they tailor their shoes to exactly what the runners on the ground want and need.

Upper

On Cloud

On’s running shoes feature a sleek, engineered mesh upper. The ventilation design, overlays, and flexibility vary across the shoes, but they’re all lightweight with a comfortable, soft sock liner.

Some shoes, like the Cloudflow and Cloudflash, feature an ultra-thin tongue. The Cloudswift has a slip-on design despite having a traditional lacing system and a rubber midfoot band for a better lockdown.

They’re all decently padded, but not to the max. Flexibility is a feature on every shoe, but they’re soft enough to prevent chafing and hot spots.

The On Cloud running shoes have a traditional lacing system, which helps runners get a great lockdown and take full advantage of the upper’s flexibility.

They have one waterproof shoe, the Cloudflyer Waterproof.

Nike

Nike’s uppers are also made from mesh. Some are Flyknit, which is an innovative engineered knit upper.

The actual design of the upper differs across their range of shoes. Many of them feature a midfoot band, some visible and others within the upper. There are also overlays on most of them.

One of Nike’s technologies featured in some of their uppers is Flywire technology. This is part of the lacing system and helps to support an inner midfoot band while providing a tight yet comfortable lockdown.

A limited number of their shoes use FlyEase technology, which is a unique strap system rather than traditional laces.

Some of their shoes, like the Wildhorse and the Pegasus Trail, have a sock-like fit with a soft heel collar. Others, like the Pegasus Shield and the Winflo Shield, have an elf ear tab at the Achilles.

All of the uppers are well-padded and not known to chafe. Some have thinner tongues, while others have regular ones. Some shoes also feature toe bumpers for extra protection and durability; a few come in Gore-Tex versions.

Midsole

On Cloud

On Cloud’s midsole actually includes their famous CloudTec pods underneath the shoe, which looks like the midsole but is a sort of hybrid sole unit.

These pods are made of thick EVA foam, and their hollow design helps to absorb shock as they compress, cushion your landings, and add some energy return on the rebound. It’s a great balance between being firm and remaining cushioned.

They use two different types of foam in their shoes. Some use extra-lightweight Zero-Gravity foam, and some use Helion Superfoam, a more bouncy foam.

Most of On’s shoes use either a 6 mm or a 9 mm heel-to-toe drop. However, two shoes—the Cloudsurfer and the Cloudgo—have an 11 mm drop, while the Cloudflash has a 5 mm drop.

Each On Cloud shoe has a Speedboard built into the shoe. This semi-flexible thermoplastic polymer plate is situated between the midsole and the upper of the shoe and helps boost energy return. A groove underneath the shoe allows you to see the Speedboard.

Nike

Nike uses various cushioning systems to give their shoes the best of both comfort and performance. These include:

  • React
  • Cushlon
  • Zoom
  • ZoomX

Each has its own advantage, with some being softer, some being firmer, and some offering excellent energy returns.

React foam is a soft and responsive foam that is lightweight but retains a high level of durability. It’s fun to run in, offering a peppy bounce but protecting your feet from shock simultaneously.

ZoomX is said to be the lightest and most responsive of the shoe foams used in their elite running shoes.

Nike’s running shoes range from a heel drop of 4 mm—for racing shoes—to 10 mm.

Some of their shoes contain a carbon fiber plate, which performs the same function as the Speedboard in the On shoes. These include the ZoomX Vaporfly Next% 2 and the Air Zoom Alphafly NEXT% Flyknit.

Outsole

On Cloud

As the CloudTec pods technically belong to the midsole and not the outsole, On Clouds’ outsoles are quite minimal. With the exception of the Cloudsurfer, none of the shoes feature full-length rubber along the outsole.

All On Clouds have strategically-placed rubber in the forefoot and heel. The midsoles are exposed in the midfoot, making them less suitable for midfoot strikers.

The Cloudsurfer features full Rebound Rubber Cloud pods, making it quite durable and bouncy.

While most people feel that this outsole design is innovative and provides exceptional shock absorption, the main complaint is that small stones and mud can get stuck in the pods.

Nike

All Nike running shoes feature a full-length rubber layer on the outsole for durability and grip. They come in various tread patterns, depending on whether the shoe is a road running shoe or a trail running shoe.

Some, like the Wildhorse, use multiple types of rubber, both soft and firmer. Most of them feature flex grooves on the sole to increase the ease of the heel-to-toe transition and encourage a natural and safe gait.

Durability

On Cloud

Surprisingly, despite the minimalist outsole, the On Cloud shoes hold up well over the miles. They’re well-made, and the rubber on the outsole is smartly placed and doesn’t wear down easily.

As for the upper, the mesh is hardy, and the overlays effectively protect the shoe from the outside world.

Nike

Nike’s shoes are known to be highly durable as well. Their full rubber outsoles give them excellent protection against any terrain, and their strong uppers are resistant to abrasion and tearing within reasonable use.

Cushioning

On Cloud

On Cloud’s cushioning is excellent. Those shoes containing Zero Gravity foam are unusually lightweight, while Helion foam is a little less light but offers more responsiveness.

The biggest factor in On Cloud’s cushioning is the CloudTec pod design. This hollow design allows the foam to compress easily, absorbing impact and throwing energy on the rebound.

This factor creates a cushioned, comfortable, and pain-free running experience that many claim is unparalleled.

Nike

Nike’s many foams are all designed to provide the wearer with the perfect combination of comfort and performance.

Whichever of the foams you find in your shoe, it’s likely to be well-cushioned and soft underfoot. You’ll also find Zoom Air units in some of the shoes—like the Pegasus—which absorb shock as you run.

Overall Fit and Comfort

On Cloud

On Cloud shoes have comfortable step-in feel thanks to their soft sock liner. However, they are reputed to run a little narrow, especially in the heel.

There is some space in the forefoot, but those with wide feet may want to buy a size up from their usual. Some of their shoes can be bought in a wide variety, though.

Nike

Nike shoes are known to be best for narrow feet, although they are supremely comfortable on those feet. Unfortunately, most of their shoes don’t come in wide sizes, so those with wide feet may have to choose something else.

Pricing

On Cloud

According to On’s website, the Clouds range from $140—the standard model—to $270 for their most expensive racing shoe.

Nike

According to Nike’s website, their running shoes range from $54/$70—entry-level running shoes and track spikes—to $350 for their most expensive racing shoes.

Summary

On Cloud vs. Nike is a strong debate. They’re both excellent choices for runners with narrow feet, and each have their own pros and cons.

We recommend On Cloud if you’re looking for fantastic shock absorption, great energy return, and something a little different. They also have wide versions, so those with wide feet may find something that suits them in this range.

On the other hand, you should go with Nike if you like funkier colors, more options to choose from, exceptional performance, and want the backing of a well-established name in the industry.

The bottom line is that they’re both superb options. It’s just down to you to find out whether On Cloud vs. Nike is the better choice 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.