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Athlete Approved: How Elite Feedback Refined the New Cloudflow

The follow up to the record-breaking first model has been refined using the input of elite On athletes. How exactly? We’ve recruited our Athlete Project Specialist and two of the world’s best, Javi Gómez Noya and Bart Aernouts, to tell you.


We aim to create the best running shoes. To do this, we have a team of dedicated engineers, developers, and designers working behind the scenes. Researching, planning, testing, and prototyping. 


But this is just part of the process. Central to our development as a performance shoe and apparel company, is the feedback we get from our team of test runners. And we are lucky enough to count some of the world’s best athletes among them. 


“The great thing with On is that they always ask you for feedback. I think it’s very important, but many brands don't do it that often,” says triathlon legend Javi Gómez Noya.


“Obviously, we’re not engineers so we don't develop the shoes. We explain how we feel when running in the shoes, what we think or what we would like to be changed about specific parts. Whether it's the fit, the sole, the responsiveness of the shoes, it could be anything. We are constantly giving feedback to the guys and they work around that.” 



“It's really important that you have sponsors that really support you and who you can talk to. For me, a partner is not somebody that just provides me with product and that's it,” says Bart Aernouts (seen above), a Kona runner-up in 2018.


“I really value working together on ideas. For me, it's really important to meet in person and to talk about my experiences with the shoes, my ideas, and share feedback.”


So, how exactly do our athletes contribute to the development process? Read on for a Q&A with our performance running shoe Product Manager & Developer, and Athlete Project Specialist, Kevin (seen below), for all the details. 



Hi Kevin, which athletes contributed to the second-generation Cloudflow? 


Javier Gómez Noya, Chris Thompson, Andy Vernon, Rachel Cliff, and Bart Aernouts.


Did they all want different things from the new Cloudflow? 


Although the athletes have different running styles, events, and feet and bodies, they all seemed to want similar improvements. Most of them wanted increased durability and cushioning — particularly in the forefoot area — and a stiffer sole plate for increased power on the lift off. 


We tried to incorporate both of these suggestions. For example, we worked on the Speedboard™ to make it softer in the heel, for more cushioning, and stiffer under the forefoot, for increased energy return. We also implemented a few practical features like the tongue strap to stop laces interfering. This is particularly helpful for our triathletes who have to transition very quickly. 


How do you communicate with the athletes? 


We invite all the athletes to the Lab so we can meet them in person and get to know them a little bit. After this, we perform an analysis on the treadmill to collect data on how their body reacts to shoes so we can compare and advise them on which model we think they would be best suited to using in training and competition.


After this meeting, I will continue to communicate with them via email or phone calls. More recently, I have been able to travel to support our athletes during events. For example, I was at Kona for the Ironman World Championships. I went there to support Bart, and to bring him the new Cloudflow and get some direct feedback on how it performs.



Did they provide feedback on the first or second model? 


We took their feedback on the previous model and worked to create the best version for the new shoe. But Bart, Michelle, Margo and Javi, for example, all tried the new shoe before it was released to the market too. Having the athletes really put the new shoe to the test is something that we are starting to do on a more serious level. I don’t want to give away any secrets but Chris Thomson and Rachel Cliff have been helping us work on a new shoe and they were involved from the first prototype until production.


How long do you work with athletes to finish a new shoe? When do they first get involved with the process? 


If the athletes have sample size, they will be involved from the production of the first prototype until the end of the process. If they aren’t sample size, we will use their feedback on the previous product to influence how we make the new shoe. Anything they tell us about any of our shoes can be used going forward. As long as we learn from the past, we can be sure that we are continuing to make better products for runners. This is our main goal. As well as athlete input, we have a group of internal testers who try the different prototypes and provide feedback too.


Why is it so important to have athlete feedback when making shoes?


Athletes usually (but not always) have much more accurate feedback on how a shoe performs and how they feel in it. Because they are such serious runners, they often feel and understand better what is happening to their feet on the run and how the shoe is influencing the running sensation or feeling. Plus, at the end of the day, they run a lot in training, some put 200-300 miles on a shoe in just one month. So, as much as anything else, it’s good for us to test the shoe’s durability.



And what do Javi and Bart make of the new shoe?


“The new Cloudflow feels really good. It’s softer and feels very light and comfortable, especially around the heel area, which is quite different to the previous model," says Javi.


“You get all the good features of the old shoe plus some improvements. And the new foam feels more durable, especially when you're running a lot with it. You feel that it stays feeling like it does on the first day for a longer time. More cushioning, especially if you run on hard surfaces. 


“Even though when you look at it, you might think there isn’t that much difference between the older model, the surface area of the Clouds is now bigger. This makes the shoe more stable and it gives you a better grip. When you're running fast, you need that. You need grip and stability and you need to be confident when you hit the ground hard. So yeah, it's an improvement in that way.


With the new foam, Helion™, you get everything you want. It’s lighter, it lasts longer and has more cushioning. It makes the shoe faster. Definitely.



“For me, it's all about the feeling, and I felt really good the first time I put on the new Cloudflow,” says Bart. 


You can't see Helion™ foam from the outside, but you feel it. It's an amazing foam, and I think it gives you more cushioning, more support. But it's also very reactive. It's just a perfect fit.


“It's important to have a very responsive shoe that can also help you to take off fast and full of energy again. It's not just about the cushioning, but of course, for a heavier guy, especially in triathlon and long races, it feels very good to have some cushioning.   


“For me, the biggest difference is maybe in the heel cup. Again, it's maybe hard to see, but you feel it when you put on the shoe. The new heel cup, I feel, fits me a lot better, It feels more tight around the ankle, which is really important.”


The Cloudflow
The record-breaking shoe loved by elite athletes. Now refined with their input. More Comfort. More Kick. More Speed. Shortcut to runner's high.

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