Monday, February 26, 2024

ON Cloudsurfer Trail Multi Tester Review & Video Review: 7 Comparisons

Article by Jeremy Marie, Dominique Winebaum, Renee Krusemark and Mike Postaksi's Video Review

On Cloudsurfer Trail ($160, €170, GBP 150)


Jeremy: This is the third trail shoe from On that I’m reviewing, after the first two iterations of the Cloudultra (RTR Review), which improved a lot to become way more runnable and less firm in its current version. 

The Cloudsurfer Trail stands at the other end of the trail running shoe spectrum, aiming more at being a door-to-trail, mellow trails shoes for both newcomers and seasoned runners looking for a do-it-all shoe…Riders have gravel bikes, runners have..this kind of shoe.

It benefits from On recent evolution midsole technology evolution, departing from the combination of firm shoe plus Speedboard, and using here the new CloudTec Phase tech first seen on the road counterpart Cloudsurfer (RTR Review) which saw great success. Does this technology  translate as well to a trail shoe ? Let’s find out.


Road-to-trail shoe – hybrid platform/Dominique/Jeremy/Mike P

Lightweight: Dominique/Jeremy/Mike P/Renee

Cloudtec® Phase with Helion Foam™/Dominique/Jeremy/Mike P/Renee

Midsole geometry and Cloudtec Phase orientation makes for a very smooth, easy transition with adequate cushioning both rear (softer) and front (slightly firmer) - Jeremy/Mike P/Renee

Functional embroidery to reduce TPU plastic: Dominique/Jeremy/Mike P

Trendy looking: Dominique/Jeremy

Entry level trail shoe/Dominique

Fits true to size with midweight merino socks/Dominique/Mike P

Comfortable fit/Dominique

Roomy toebox/Dominique


Not an all around trail shoe/Dominique/Mike P/Renee/Jeremy

Limited ability on more rugged/technical trails - Jeremy/Mike P/Renee

Foothold lacking a bit - Jeremy/Renee/Dominique

Limited to dry trails, not much grip on even slight mud - Jeremy/Mike P/Renee

Could use some more space at the front of the toebox/ Mike P

Left shoe makes a squeaky sound upfront: Dominique 

Please find the testers full run bios at the end of the article after Comparisons.


Approx. Weight: men's 9.45oz  / g (EU42 US9)  /  women's  8.20 oz / 233g (US8)

  Samples: men’s  10.37oz / 294g 10.5US/44.5EU, 9.7 oz / 274g (US 9.5)

                  women’s 8.68 oz / 246g US9, 8.20 oz / 233g US8 

Stack Height: 32.5 mm heel / 25.5 mm forefoot ( 7mm drop spec) 

Platform Width: 85 mm heel / 65 mm midfoot / 115 mm forefoot US W9

$160, €170, GBP 150. Available February 26, 2024

Also see our German language full review HERE

First Impressions, Fit and Upper

Renee: I think we’ll all be in agreement that the Cloudsurfer Trail is a hybrid shoe, best for mellow trail or road. While not a true-trail shoe, it has a good ride on smooth surfaces. I had no issues getting 50 miles in the shoes for review, running on gravel roads and smooth trails. I did try the shoe on an ungroomed trail, still with a bit of snow coverage, and it’s not the best choice there. Looks are subjective, but it’s a pretty shoe comparable to most On shoes. I wear a women’s size 8 in other On trail shoes, and the Cloudsurfer has a bit more length and a much looser fitting upper. For comfort, it’s great. The laces help the lockdown, but it’s not what I consider secure enough for single-track more technical trails.  The toebox has an overlay and there’s some shape to the heel cup. Otherwise, it fits like a road shoe. And I always appreciate a lace tuck! 

Jeremy: Something almost never disappoints with On: the looks of their shoes always has “something”. The bold color and subtle nuances makes the CloudSurfer Trail stand out.

It’s built in a very simple yet effective way, with a very airy breathable mesh on the outside, and an under-layer of a denser mesh in order to minimize debris entrance.

The lacing scheme is interesting, with the first row being attached to fine Flywire-like, cord loops, which are themselves bonded to overlays. 

This creates a fine and effective front-third foothold as it brings the most outer section of the mesh closer to the foot. One can question durability of this fine cord, but this element also marks the CloudSurfer trail for what it is: an easy trails, door to trail shoe, not a true mountain running shoe by design, such as the Cloudultra is.

There not much more as to improve foothold, and combined with the true-to-size but slightly voluminous fit of the rear half the shoe, this results in a comfy yet loose fit. I personally like this, but my usual trails are also very tame ones. Someone closer to mountains might find the foothold a bit too fuzzy, lacking security.

The gusseted tongue is of very standard thickness and stays put. I don’t feel the laces at all, and the elastic loop used to tuck them in is a nice touch.

The ankle collar is quite wide, and the semi-rigid heel counter keeps this general idea: it’s not too tight, leaning on a wider fit.

Overall, the CLoudsurfer trail really offers what I’d call “all day comfort” fit, but clearly not a performance nor “mountain running” fit. Nevertheless it is more than enough for forest paths and dry, gravel trails.

Dominique:The Cloudsurfer Trail is a new take on the Cloudsurfer and my first introduction to a trail shoe from the On Cloud Collection. The Cloudsurfer has the same CloudTec® with Helion™ foam as the Cloudeclipse, albeit firmer and with a lower stack height and a similar drop - 6mm for the Cloudeclipse and 7 mm for the Cloudsurfer Trail.  

I eased into the Cloudsurfer Trail right away as I felt in familiar turf having recently tested the Cloudeclipse, a max-cushioned road shoe and a new favorite of mine.  

A road-to-trail shoe with a hybrid platform, the Cloudsurfer Trail is an entry-level trail shoe designed for easy trails.  The trails in Park City have been covered in deep snow, so I have tested them on hard pack snow trails, road running to get to the trails, with plenty of walking in between. It has a comfortable fit, smooth and protective platfor  that doubles as every day wear shoe its given its trendy design and comfort.  

The fit is true to size in a roomy kind of way . For a hybrid shoe, the upper is designed to provide a comfortable fit as opposed to a super secure fit.  

I find the toebox to be quite roomy with the hold lacking a bit around the forefoot, otherwise the fit feels secure for the kind of gentle running that I do. 

I note the forefoot platform underfoot is wide at 115mm contributing to this but also helping provide a stable front of the shoe given the colIapsing elements in the mix.

 I received my Cloudmonster Trail in a darker color, slate gray, with contrasting black and white.  After weeks of more gentle wear with no rocks or dust, they still look great.  

As with the Cloudeclipse, I like the embroidery that is stitched as part of the shoelace system, and this in lieu of TPU plastic.  It is surprisingly sturdy.  The gusseted tongue is nicely padded without adding any bulk.  I typically wear medium thickness merino wool socks with them for a good fit and for added comfort in the winter. 

Midsole & Platform

Renee: The midsole is comfortable, and unlike other On trail shoes, the pods actually condense giving more cushion and a bit of spring. The midsole is fun for easy miles on smooth surfaces. While walking, the heel is soft but I don’t notice that much when running. This does cause some instability when moving to actual trails, and it wasn’t a shoe I continued to use on single-track (I tried!). 

Jeremy: The midsole uses Helion foam with the recent CloudTec Phase first seen on the road Cloudsurfer and then the  CloudEclipse. I usually appreciate the general firmer feel of On shoes (save from the way too rigid first Cloudultra), but was eager to try this new midsole approach from the Swiss brand. 

Gone is the rigid plastic  Speedboard, and I think for the best here. The CloudTec Phase elements are a completely different design than the usual Cloud pods, and this translates to a softer, not mushy and still lively cushioning.

The orientation of the CloudTec elements is where the magic lies in this shoe.The more vertical they are, the more they can compress - and the softer the shoe feels. That’s how they’re arranged at the back of the shoe, giving the CloudSurfer Trail a nicely soft cushion for heel strikers. 

The most rear-placed elements are also oriented forward, helping to transition quicker from the extreme back of the shoe, in a way reminiscent of a heel bevel with the medial side elements (shown above) smaller, for a touch more support than the larger lateral ones shown below which have a bit more give on landings.

Going forward to the midfoot, the CloudTec elements are progressively more horizontally placed, acting as a dynamic geometry-modifying feature of the shoe and clearly easing mid-to-forefoot transition, all in a very subtle and effective way.

At the front, the Phase elements are almost horizontal, thus compressing less (there’s basically less void space for this) and giving the front of the shoe a more dynamic, slightly firmer cushioning - and a clearly effective toe-off. The late front rocker geometry further increases this feeling.

The 7mm drop feels…like a 7mm drop, considering that drops with rockers and now more compressing midsoles have lost a bit of their meaning making it difficult to use this value as a key characteristic nowadays.

The platform is quite wide at 115mm upfront  and the slightly soft overall feeling makes this less adequate for rock hopping and rocky trails. Otherwise, it simply works wonders on smooth trails and even on roads, as it stays flexible and, as I previously described, transitions very easily.

Dominique:  We have the same technology as in the Cloudeclipse, however, the latter is a road shoe with a higher stack height – 37mm/31mm versus 32.5mm/25.5mm for the Cloudsurfer Trail.  This is definitely a step down from the “cloud nine” feeling of the Cloudeclipse, however, the stack height is well adapted for a trail shoe.  The drop at 7mm is an “improvement” over the 10mm drop in the Cloudsurfer road shoe – with more cushioning and stability in the front also helped by the outsole. 


Mission Grip - 2.5mm lugs (measured - Mike P)

Renee: The outsole is good enough for the shoe’s purpose, which is clearly road to light trails. On packed dirt, the 2.5 mm  lugs aren’t at all uncomfortable, and they provide some traction on gravel and light mud. For soft ground and snowy areas, there’s not a lot of benefit, but the ride/midsole/upper fit of the shoe isn’t great for anything but smooth terrain anyway. The pods look like they trap debris, but I’ve never had an issue with this in any other On trail shoe. I did run through mud, and some was wedged along the side, but it fell off rather than getting lodged deep.



Totally built for the purpose, the outsole has low profile lugs in a very standard pattern. This works really well on everything dry, or loose gravel, and even wet hard surfaces thanks to the  tacky Mission Grip compound.

Some grooves at the front ensures that flexibility is not compromised, and the whole midfoot section exposes the midsole.

The center channel did not filled up with mud, and I think that it helps a lot in not compromising too much the compression pattern of the CLoudTec Phase elements of the midfoot section. Covering all this with an outsole might have constrained too much the elements and would modify how they react during the gait, altering the transition and their purpose.

Of course, this is clearly not a shoe that you’ll choose for mud running. Yet thanks to the crappy weather in France I’ve brought them to my usual muddy terrain - and nope, they didn’t work. At all.

Dominique: The rubber outsole’s versatile platform is defined by its low profile rubber lug pattern. This is my first exposure with the Missiongrip™ a compound is designed to stick to the ground. On hard packed snow covered trails, whether uphill or downhill, they performed well running at my slow pace. The outsole is well adapted for transitioning from road-to-trail when running or walking. 

Ride, Conclusions and Recommendations

Renee: The Cloudsurfer Trail is a comfortable, fun shoe for smooth and mellow surfaces. For days running 10 to 12 miles at an easy pace, it worked great. The shoe isn’t heavy and the midsole is comfortable with some spring. I found it useful for tempo paces at 15-20 minutes mixed in during long runs. It’s not bad for strides either. 

For trails, I’d need an upper with better lockdown and a midsole that is more stable. The shoe isn’t marketed for technical trail, so that’s not a negative. At the price, I’d suggest it for anyone who runs gravel or smooth/groomed trails. It works great as a casual shoe or for walking when the give of the midsole/pods isn’t a concern for stability. 

Renee’s Score: 9.2/10 (-.20 limited to smooth trail or road, -.30 unstable on rough surfaces, -.30 loose upper for trail) 

Jeremy: The CloudSurfer trail is perfectly built for its purpose: a comfortable shoe for all kinds of running on various surfaces, as long as you stay off of rugged trails. Roads, forest paths, fire roads, gravel trails: you can go wherever you want as long as it stays “tame”.  The shoe is light for the cushioning provided, is really easy and fun to run  thanks to the nice and smooth  transition, and still packs some dynamism to swallow some tempo chunks. Just keep in mind that the fit is quite loose and as a consequence, will not really work for mountain or technical trails runs. Otherwise, it’s one heck of a fun shoe!

Jeremy’s Score: 9.3

(- lack a bit of foothold, -not a real trail shoe, more a “gravel” one, - grip limits to dry conditions ideally)

Smiles: 😊😊😊😊😊 A lively, fun, easy shoe providing all day comfort, with usual On top-notch looks.

Dominique:  A road-to-trail shoe designed for mellow trails, the Cloudsurfer Trail has a comfortable platform with light cushioning that transitions smoothly.  As a heel striker, the feel of the collapsing pods is quite noticeable, especially when running downhill, which makes for a very pleasant and dynamic ride, even at my slow paces.   A shoe with a versatile platform that does not necessarily call for the trails but for everyday wear as well.  I have enjoyed wearing my Cloudsurfer Trail on walks in addition to some running on snow pack trails and road running to get to the trails.  

Dominique’s Score: 9.3 / 10

(a bit more secure upper without compromising comfort to improve foothold in forefoot; not an all around trail shoe but more a shoe with a versatile platform).

Smiles: 😊😊😊😊😊 Not retiring it any time soon because I enjoy wearing it for all kinds of reasons. 

Mike Postaski's Cloudsurfer Trail Video Review (18:02)

7 Comparisons

Index to all RTR reviews: HERE 

ON Cloudultra 2 (RTR Review)

Renee: The Cloudultra 2 has a more narrow and secure fit. For trail running, it’s the better shoe. The midsole is firmer, but much more runnable than v1’s was. For casual running or a road-hybrid, the Cloudsurfer Trail has the edge, and it’s a lighter shoe. For trail running, I much prefer the Cloudultra 2. Sizing is comparable although the Cloudsurfer Trail has more stretch and width in the upper (pro for wide footed runners, con for a secure fit). 

Jeremy: Completely agree with Renee’s take on the differences between the two shoes. The CloudUltra 2 is an adequate pura trail/mountain running shoe, with a tighter foothold (not tight, but tighter !) and firmer platform resulting in a more precise and secure shoe. The Cloudsurfer trail is way more easy, fluid to transition on mellower trails and makes a perfect road-to-trail shoe giving its softer cushioning and looser foothold.

ON Cloudvista (RTR Review)

Renee: The Cloudvista is a more nimble shoe with better ground feel, a more secure upper, and generally it’s a better shoe for trails. The Cloudvista’s Speedboard can be felt under the forefoot after a few miles, making the Cloudsurfer Trail more comforting underfoot (but far less stable). Sizing is comparable, although much like my comparison to the Cloudultra 2, the Surfer Trail’s upper is looser and more accommodating for width/high volume feet (a con for trail running, a pro for comfort). 

Saucony Ride TR (RTR Review)

Renee: Both are road-trail hybrid shoes. The Cloudsurfer Trail is lighter and the midsole has more softness as compared to the Ride TR. The Ride TR has a more secure upper and works better on trails for that reason. As a casual shoe, the Cloudsurfer has the edge, but it will be unstable in comparison to most other shoes. Sizing is comparable. 

Hoka Challenger 7 (RTR Review)

Renee: The Challenger 7 is another hybrid option. Neither shoe has an outsole for technical running. The Cloudsurfer Trail has more comfort underfoot and a more flexible upper. The Challenger 7 upper isn’t super comfortable, but it’s secure and better for trail running. The midsole is firm, but that makes it more stable. Sizing might be comparable, although I have a half size down in the Challenger 7. 

Nike Pegasus Trail 4 (RTR Review)

Renee: Probably the most comparable shoe. Both are good road shoes and great for walking and casual use. The Peg Trail 4 has a great upper, and is much better for trail for that reason despite the high drop. It’s actually nimble and controllable from a forefoot landing and the midsole has a touch of softness to it. Sizing is comparable. I have the Peg Trail 4 in both a 7.5 and 8 and wore a slightly loose 8 in the Cloudsurfer Trail. 

Topo MT-5 (RTR Review)

Dominique: A comparable shoe to the Cloudsurfer Trail given its hybrid platform.  The MT-5 upper is a bit more secure and protective.  I often tend to do more walking than running in shoes with a hybrid platform, however, I value their versatility.  For sure, the Cloudsurfer Trail is also well adapted for everyday wear as a lifestyle shoe whereas the MT5, though pleasantly colorful is less so.  The MT5 is a more affordable option - $130 versus $160. 

Merrell Antora 3 (RTR Review)

Dominique: The Antora 3 is an entry-level trail shoe that is a better “trail shoe” than the Cloudsurfer Trail.  The foothold is more secure and the upper more protective.  The configuration of the outsole with 4 mm lugs in a chevron pattern provides better traction and grip.  More padding around the ankle for a more secure fit.  At $125, it is the most affordable option.  It is ess trendy looking than the Cloudsurfer Trail when it comes to wearing it as a lifestyle shoe.


Also see our German language full review HERE

The Cloudsurfer Trail is available now including at our partners
Men's & Women's  SHOP HERE

Tester Profiles

Jeremy MARIE, French, 44y/o. Running since 2013 and quickly transitioned to trails, focused on ultras since 2015 : TDS, Maxi-Race, “100 miles du Sud”, 90 kms du Mt Blanc, GRP 120 kms, Some shorter more mellow races (Saintelyon 45 kms, Ecotrail Paris 45 kms…) with always in the mix road and flat running, but not many road races. Also active cyclist and 70.3 Ironman. Recovery/easy runs ~4’45/km - 4’30/km. He has an un-official marathon PR of 2h54 (solo) and 10K PR of 36’25. He does few timed road races.

Dominique has run for over 40 years, consistently about 25 miles per week at paces between 10 and 11 minute miles and once a week down in the mid 9 minute miles. She races rarely, but always surprises more hard core runners in her age group when she does. She has a 1985 marathon PR of 3:16 in her second marathon which at the time put her on the top 10 Swiss women’s lists. An avid hiker and trekker, she has been around Mont Blanc 3 times, hiked Chamonix to Zermatt, and completed the 48 New Hampshire 4000 footers. She is the mother of two grown children, both runners post college, and also enjoys nordic and alpine skiing, tennis, and gardening. 

Renee is a former U.S.Marine journalist, which is when her enjoyment of running and writing started. She isn’t that awesome of a runner, but she tries really hard. Most of her weekly 50-60 miles take place on rural country roads in Nebraska, meaning mud, gravel, dirt, hills, and the occasional field. She has PR’s of 1:30:59 for the half marathon and 3:26:45 for the marathon.

Samples were provided at no charge for review purposes. RoadTrail Run has affiliate partnerships and may earn commission on products purchased via shopping links in this article. These partnerships do not influence our editorial content. The opinions herein are entirely the authors'.

Comments and Questions Welcome Below! Please let us know mileage, paces, race distances, and current preferred shoes

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