Saturday, October 21, 2023

On Cloudventure Peak 3 Review: 11 Comparisons

Article by Mike Postaski and John Tribbia

On Cloudventure Peak 3 ($160)


Mike P: This is the second trail shoe from ON that I’ve tested having tested the Cloudvista last year. I found that shoe to be of very high quality , but in the end  it felt more trail-stylish than trail-capable. One distinguishing negative factor was the prominent-feeling Speedboard under the forefoot. I found it especially noticeable directly under the ball of the foot, which was a bit irritating. 

The Cloudventure Peak 3’s forked (up front) Speedboard has me intrigued. Will  this design have a more comfortable feel and better performance? It’s also marketed as ON’s lightest (and fastest?) trail shoe. The lack of “cloud” voids under the forefoot hints at something different from your typical ON model.


Firm and fast Mike P

Extremely dialed in upper/fit - no excess material anywhere Mike P/ John

Narrow heel platform favors agility Mike P / John

Top of class materials and craftsmanship Mike P

Quite protective for such a low stack Mike P

Fast ascender and excellent downhill foot placement control John


Can feel too firm at times Mike P/ John

Lack of heel cushion - rear pods don’t seem to help Mike P/ John

A bit laterally unstable under forefoot  Mike P

Can feel stiff, inflexible under midfoot Mike P


Approx. Weight: men's 8.75 oz  / 248g (US9)

  Samples: men’s  9.0 oz  / 254 g (US 9.5)

Stack Height: men’s mm 20.8 mm heel / 17.1mm forefoot

$160  Available now.

First Impressions, Fit and Upper

Mike P: My first honest impression when unboxing the Cloudventure Peak 3 was some worry - perhaps I didn’t select the right size. The shoe just looks so amazingly sleek and streamlined in hand. The low stack, plus the lack of any midsole flaring makes the shoe look almost like a cycling shoe or even a dress shoe. 

The toe box also looked a bit tapered, so I really thought there was no way the shoe would fit me.

But my initial impressions turned out to be completely unfounded once I slipped them on. The streamlined look of the exterior of the shoe also carries over to the interior. The layers of upper materials are seamlessly joined throughout. The upper as a whole is so well designed and shaped - that there’s almost a complete lack of filler foam or cushion on the interior of the shoe. 

The shoe essentially fits like a glove - a quick tug on the laces and the upper wraps seamlessly and perfectly around your foot. A few bolsters on the interior around the sides and rear of the heel - and you have a perfect heel lockdown with no fuss. The ankle and heel collar is merely a loose edge of material. Note to other brands - no stiff, rigid, ankle-biting, achilles-grinding collar necessary! 

There’s no internal heel collar. The rubber overlays cross on the lower sides of the heel and wrap around over the top to essentially strap the heel in place. This design works well and eliminates the need for any rigid elements around the heel bone.

The tongue is minimally padded, and gusseted on both sides. It’s frankly not noticeable at all since the fit is so good and secure. My concerns about the toebox were also unfounded. There’s enough width across the forefoot to be comfortable, and the front is a bit squared off - not a sharp taper that squeezes the toes. They fit perfectly at my true-to-size US 9.5.

John: I agree with Mike’s assessment of the Cloudventure Peak 3's fit. The shoe has a low stack height and a streamlined profile, which can make it look like it might be a bit snug. However, the upper is made of a soft, flexible material that wraps seamlessly around the foot. 

There is also a generous amount of toe room, even for runners with wider feet . My foot is slightly narrow and I felt like the shoe was very conforming. 

The Cloudventure Peak 3's upper is one of its best features. It is made of a lightweight, breathable material that keeps the foot cool and dry, even on longer runs. 

The upper is also very well-designed and supportive, with minimal padding or filler foam. This gives the shoe a snug, glove-like fit that provides excellent feedback from the ground. Despite its low profile, the shoe has a non-traditional counter that provides some support and stability to the heel. The heel counter is made up of two "support frames" on either side of the heel that help to keep the foot in place. I found that the heel counter was comfortable and did not cause any rubbing or irritation.


Mike P: The midsole is specified at 21/17mm for a 4mm drop. Before I had official numbers, I was estimating 24/20 on the high side, so I wasn’t too far off. There’s not a lot of foam underfoot, and the shoe rides firm. There are none of the signature CloudTec pods under the forefoot, and just a few under the heel. Those pods under the heel do compress when pressing them by hand, but on the run, compression is not noticeable. Heel landings do feel quite firm. You’ll want to keep your weight forward as much as possible on descents.

The midsole features a “two-finger Speedboard made of 30% carbon and injected TPU.” The marketing material states - “it creates the perfect balance between agility and stability on uneven terrain”. We’ll get to that in the “Ride” section below.

I’m assuming the green-colored area in the outsole roughly denotes the shape of the Speedboard. How ever it is actually shaped, it must not be too flexible as I don’t feel much lateral flexibility under the forefoot. I wouldn’t go so far as to call them “tippy”, but I’d be careful stepping on any angular rocks under the center of the forefoot.

I did notice some firmness under the forefoot when I first tried them on. I was concerned that I’d have another “marble under the forefoot” experience, as I did with the Cloudvista’s Speedboard. But happily, this wasn’t the case. The forefoot cushion broke in a bit after a run or two. It does still feel firm, but there’s no noticeable concentrated protrusion under the ball of the foot.

[Mixed insole - EVA under the rear, Ortholite (recycled version) up front - to soften forefoot landings which the Peak 3 favors]

John: Mike’s review of the midsole is accurate. I think it is important to recognize that this shoe isn’t your everyday trainer and wasn’t built to go ultra distance. The minimal cushion is done to promote a more responsive and agile ride and the lack of CloudTec pods in the forefoot also contributes to the firm ride. 

While some runners may prefer a more cushioned midsole, the Cloudventure Peak 3 is designed for runners who want a lightweight and responsive shoe for fast trail running . The firm midsole also provides good stability on uneven terrain. 

I found that the Cloudventure Peak 3's midsole was comfortable for short to medium runs, but it could be a bit too firm for longer runs or runs on very rocky terrain. I also found that it was important to keep my weight forward on descents to avoid heel strike to ensure better control, especially in technical sections. Like Mike, I found the forefoot cushion went through a break in period and provided a more controlled + forgiving ride.


Just one glance at the outsole, and more specifically the underfoot platform of the Cloudventure Peak 3 - gives you the impression that this shoe is intended to be firm & fast. Super slim under the midfoot, as well as under the heel, the shoe reminds you of some old school Kilian-esque Salomons of the past.

The angular lugs do a good job of gripping in loose terrain - there’s no lack of traction on non-cambered surfaces. But due to the lateral stiffness of the forefoot, you don’t get much contouring over uneven surfaces. The shoe clearly favors agility and finding your foot placements over just trying to step on anything in your way.

I have not had the occasion to test wet traction yet with the dry and warm fall we’ve had. I’d be a bit skeptical on wet rocks as there’s not much lug surface area. Also the stiffness and lack of contouring would inhibit the amount of surface area for gripping.

John: The firm outsole of the Cloudventure helps with speed, while the slim platform and angular lugs contribute to a responsive and agile feel, ideal for fast runs on hard-packed trails. 

The shoes have good grip on loose terrain and excellent traction on non-cambered surfaces, making them suitable for loose dirt and gravel. The minimal design keeps the shoe lightweight, further enhancing its speed potential.

That said the limited cushioning and firm platform may not provide enough cushioning for long runs or for runners who prefer a more comfortable ride. Additionally, the stiff forefoot does not adapt well to uneven terrain at first, but it does break in slightly over time. It is still important for precise foot placement in ankle rolling conditions.

Ride, Conclusions and Recommendations

Mike P: I mentioned above the marketing claims about “the perfect balance between agility and stability on uneven terrain.”  My translation: the ride is well-balanced, protective, and firm - providing the platform for you to use your agility to maintain stability on uneven terrain. It’s all semantics. 

The Speedboard plate is a bit stiff - from the forefoot through the midfoot. The split design under the forefoot is not apparent at all to me - as it also feels laterally rigid. You essentially have a firm, protective platform from the ball of your foot through the midfoot to work with. You need to be running up on your toes, so to speak, and the shoes definitely feel better at speed. At slower paces, the feeling of firmness is more apparent, and the drop can even feel lower than 4mm. It almost feels like a zero drop shoe at times, but more accurately I’d say it rides like 2mm.

There’s not much heel cushion to speak of - the only CloudTec pods under the heel don’t translate into soft heel landings when descending. The ideal terrain for the Peak 3’s is mixed, rolling or steep, mountainous terrain. On smoother, hard ground, they feel a bit harsh underfoot. There’s a lack of any sense of response from the foam. It’s just pure force transmitted between you and the ground. 

On mixed surfaces and grades, and especially softer ground, they can feel really fun. The fit is just so good, and the platform so narrow, that they feel so precise - you have perfect control of where you’re landing your footsteps. It’s definitely a different feel from a lot of shoes these days where at times you have to “manage” or “steer” them through difficult terrain. I give points to ON for giving trail runners a different, almost “throwback” option here. It’s likely a shoe designed for trail purists, and those who love to dance and move quickly on the trails.

Mike P’s Score:  9.38 / 10

Ride: 9 - Maybe a touch of flex up front and around the midfoot

Fit: 10 - Fantastic, secure upper, well fitting at TTS

Value: 9 - Pricey, but this is a high, high quality shoe

Style: 9 - Sleek in all black, but maybe some highlights could work well

Traction: 9.5 - Great for mixed, mountain terrain

Rock Protection: 9 - Sharps are blunted well, but it’s firm underfoot

Smiles 😊😊😊😊😊

John: Overall, the On Cloudventure Peak 3 is a well-designed shoe built for speed and agility. It shines on moderate climbs, delivers excellent breathability and comfort, and provides a responsive feel ideal for experienced runners who prioritize a minimalist approach. However, the minimal cushioning and traction limitations necessitate careful consideration for distance and terrain when choosing this shoe. If you primarily run shorter distances on moderate trails and prioritize speed over cushioning, the Cloudventure Peak 3 could be your ideal companion.

John’s Score:  8.7 / 10

Ride: 8.5 - it’s a short distance shoe for race scenarios; agility and speed are key

Fit: 9 - Comfortable and soft to the touch upper

Value: 8 - premium design but narrow use case

Style: 9 - love the all black

Traction: 8.5 - Solid all around

Rock Protection: 9 - Sharps are blunted well, but it’s firm underfoot

Smiles 😊😊😊😊

11 Comparisons

Index to all RTR reviews: HERE 

ON Cloudvista (RTR Review)

Mike P (9.5): This is not a direct comp, but it’s the only other shoe from ON that I’ve run. The Cloudvista was a nice and quick shoe, but felt more “trail casual” to me than serious. Same quality craftsmanship, especially in the upper, but the Cloudvista ran a touch shorter than the CVP3. Big issue for me (and others) with the Cloudvista was that the Speedboard seemed to protrude into the center of the ball of the foot. The CVP3’s Speedboard also feels stiff, but doesn’t poke up into the balls of your feet. The Cloudvista is a more general, easy trails and paths shoe. The CVP3 is a serious, agile, all mountain tool.

Salomon Sense Pro 3 (RTR Review)

Mike P (9.5): The Sense Pro 3 is probably the most similar shoe to the CVP3. Sense Pro 4 got a bit taller, and also softer underfoot. The Sense Pro 3 was similarly low, firm, and fast with the same lack of lateral flex in the forefoot. Front-to-back the SP3 felt more flexible though, but the Profeel film was also less protective than the ON’s Speedboard. The ON’s upper is better fitting, and more refined. It’s a toss up between those two shoes. I’d say the SP3 wins if you like more ground feel, and the ON if you like a bit more protection and stiffness in flex.

Salomon S/LAB Pulsar (RTR Review)

Mike P (9.5): I only have Pulsar V1 - its stack is slightly higher and weight is substantially less than the ON. It runs on a similar very narrow platform, with more energetic foam and a rockered geometry. It’s less stable than the ON so you have to be quite a strong and technically proficient runner if you want to take them into technical terrain. The ON has a more user friendly firm ride which will be more stable for most runners in mountain terrain. The ON upper is also more comfortable and just as secure as the Pulsar.

John: Mike details the differences between the two quite well here. I would add that both have racing orientations - I would opt for the Pulsar where the terrain is rolling and running speed + turnover are needed, while the Cloudventure is superb for harsher terrain and ascending.

Salomon Pulsar Trail Pro 2 (RTR Review)

Mike P (9.5): This shoe is closer to the Cloudventure Peak than the Pulsar. It also features a very secure, well fitting upper, with a nice wide-enough toebox. It’s also a fast shoe , but we found it difficult to manage in technical terrain as its Energy Blade plate is very stiff - stiffer than ON’s Speedboard. The forefoot also is more laterally unstable than the ON. The PTP2 is definitely a faster shoe in the flats and tamer terrain, but the ON is more proficient for mountain runs.

Brooks Catamount 2 (RTR Review)

Mike P (10): Love the Cat 2 for its versatility. I’d call it somewhat firm (but much less so than the CVP3) and fast, but it has a moderate higher stack that’s just enough for me to take it out for very long runs/races. Its Sky Vault plate flexes well upfront - much better than the ON’s, and overall it contours better than the ON’s stiff ride. I think the plate also makes the Cat 2 faster and more responsive. The ON does have a better and more secure upper though, and would win out in purely technical terrain with its agility.

John: The Catamount 1 and 2 are my favorite shoes because they can pretty much go anywhere, road to trail to mountain top. The Catamount is more of a pure running shoe compared to the Cloudventure as a short distance shoe that excels in technical terrain. As Mike mentions, the forefoot flex are major differences between the two where the Cloudventure is designed for protection and agility and Catamount for all purpose trail running and longer distances. 

Norda 002 (RTR Review)

Mike P (9.5): Very different feel underfoot than the ON - wide and spacious up front, its foam is also much softer and you feel the ground way more. The Norda does run a bit short in my TTS 9.5. ON has a standard TTS fit, and its upper is more secure as well as more breathable. The Norda’s are sooo flexible underfoot - big difference from the CVP3 there too, perhaps the biggest difference. I find them a bit fatiguing over longer runs, but on the other hand, CVP3’s firmness can be harsh on the legs over longer runs too. So make your pick based on preference.

TNF Vectiv Sky (RTR Review)

Mike P (9.5): A very fast shoe from TNF - featuring a dual forked (front and rear) carbon plate. Very fast indeed, and surprisingly also very stable for a carbon plated trail shoe. I found them to be a bit blocky and stiff directly under the midfoot and that would be an issue in technical terrain. They can handle moderate to low technical if you’re careful, but in very tech stuff, the ON’s firm ride, protection, and feel would be a safer pick. The TNF’s upper is very good, and a big improvement for the Vectiv line, but ON’s upper is still superior. 

John: Mike details all of the main comparison points between the two that I would have mentioned. While the TNF has promise, I find running in them to feel more encumbered compared to the Cloudventure. The ON boasts a more agile platform and the upper is more comfortable and less noticeable than the TNF's. 

Naked T/r (RTR Review)

Mike P (9.5): Putting the upper aside, it’s another very similar shoe. Low to the ground, firm, (carbon) plated, and fast. The Naked T/r’s carbon plate is very responsive and also quite flexible. It’s listed at a higher stack than the ON, but it feels lower to the ground. I like the flexibility of the Naked, but the ON is more protective. The upper is the big thing though - no laces with the Naked, and not very breathable. It holds surprisingly well without laces, but the ON is still better. 

John: This is a tough comparison, because they’re very comparable in my opinion. The laceless upper is such an interesting feature in the T/r  that provides a snug and accommodating fit. The ON is snug and accommodating. However, the outsole tread and overall precise performance on varied terrain of the ON makes it a better shoe by the slightest of margins.

Saucony Endorphin Rift (RTR Review)

Mike P (9.5): A newer low-end super shoe from Saucony - the Rift takes the Endo Edge ride, and removes the carbon plate, making it a bit more user friendly. The Rift’s PWRRUN PB is definitely softer underfoot and likely more fun and comfortable for most runners in most terrain. I found them a bit snug and tapered up front - I’d recommend going up ½ size from TTS in them. That softness and bounciness is great on easier terrain, but unstable in technical. I’d stick with the ON for that.  ON’s upper again (noticing a pattern here?) is more refined and secure.

John: I’d say the ON is a somewhat similar shoe to the Endorphin Rift, but less much dynamic. The Rift runs smoother and has a more running oriented ride, which therefore gives it an edge in most terrain that rolls. If you want to go out and have a short and fun blast of a run on technical terrain - go with the Cloudventure. 

VJ Ultra 2 (RTR Review)

Mike P (10.5): The Ultra 2 delivers a unique blend of elements in a mountain/trail shoe - cushion, protection (with added rock plate), and grip. The cushion is a big factor in favoring the VJ over longer ultra distances. The added protection of the rock plate also makes them a great pick in rocky terrain. Where the VJ lacks though is in the upper, and quality of materials and construction - it really can’t hold a candle to the ON upper. Both are great shoes for similar terrain, I’d go with the Ultra for longer stuff, and the ON for shorter, faster runs.

VJ Spark (RTR Review)

Mike P (10.5): Similar narrow profile, and comfortable forefoot as the ON - the Spark upper is one of my favorites. The Spark midsole is overly flexible - lacking some connection between the front and rear of the shoe. It feels a bit loose for a pure running shoe, but it’s probably good in the OCR realm. For real mountain running, the ON is better suited - protection is better, and though a bit on the stiff side, works better than the overly flexible Spark.

John: The Spark is a great shoe that locks the foot in when the going gets tough. I love the Spark for sloppy and messy trail conditions; it also has a great precision when in high stepping technical terrain. The Cloudventure is similarly suited for technical terrain and I give it an edge on comfort and protection. 

Tester Profiles

Mike Postaski currently focuses on long mountainous ultras - anywhere from 50K up to his favorite - 100M. 5'10", 138 lbs, midfoot/forefoot striker - he typically averages 70 mpw (mostly on trails), ramping up to 100+ mpw during race buildups. A recent 2:39 road marathoner, his easy running pace ranges from 7:30 - 9:00/mi. From 2022-23 Mike has won the Standhope 100M, IMTUF 100M, and Scout Mountain 100M trail ultras. He also set a CR of 123.74M at the Pulse Endurance Runs 24H and completed the Boise Trails Challenge on foot in 3 days 13 hours, besting the previous record by 7 hours. Mike's shoe preferences lean towards firmer, dense cushioning, and shoes with narrower profiles. He prefers extra forefoot space, especially for long ultras, and he strongly dislikes pointy toe boxes.

John Tribbia (5' 6", 130lbs) is a former sponsored mountain/trail runner who has run with La Sportiva , Brooks/Fleet Feet, Pearl Izumi, and Salomon. Even though he competes less frequently these days, you can still find John enjoying the daily grind of running on any surface, though his favorite terrain is 30-40% grade climbs. He has won races such as America's Uphill, Imogene Pass Run, and the US Skyrunner Vertical Kilometer Series; and he's held several FKTs on several iconic mountains in Boulder, Colorado and Salt Lake City, Utah. If you follow him on Strava, you'll notice he runs at varying paces between 5 minutes/mile to 12 minutes/mile before the break of dawn almost every day.

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