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(The Gear Loop) - Since it launched its first performance running shoe in 2012, On has continually experimented with footwear across a wide range of activities. The Cloudrock Waterproof is its first foray into the world of hiking, taking technology found in its advanced running shoes and developing it into a sleek, mid-level boot designed to tackle the outdoors in comfort, whilst still retaining the modern look we’ve come to expect from the Swiss brand.

Built for "speed-hiking", these high-tech boots go heavy on the firm's innovative trainer features, packing things like a built-in "Speedboard", which aids propulsion from one step to another. There are also quick-tie laces and advanced cushioning for those thinking of racking up serious miles.

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It might look a million miles from a traditional pair of leather-clad Brasher walking boots, but these thoroughly modern hiking shoes come crammed with weatherproof and comfort-enhancing features, making them great for longer trips or more casual wear alike. 

Our quick take

On has created a stylish and feature-packed boot that will suit anyone who enjoys hiking and exploring trails in their spare time. It's comfortable, looks good with casual attire and packs all of the water-proofing and grip technology that will see it tackle a variety of terrain. That said, it's geared towards "speed-hiking", so it's much lighter and less armoured than some of the more hardcore climbing and trekking boots out there.

We noticed that a lack of inside drainage means any irksome leaks into the boot will result in a very wet foot, while the lack of ankle support and protection means this isn't the shoe to plump for if tackling really challenging climbs. 

But we aren't convinced On really wants to compete in this market anyway and as a technical hiking shoe with a fashionable lifestyle lean, it's very good. Just expect to dig deep, because they aren't cheap. 

On Cloudrock Waterproof review: a stylish boot for light hikes and weekend walks

On Cloudrock Waterproof

4.0 stars
For
  • Impressive waterproofing
  • Comfortable and flexible
  • They look great
Against
  • Poor grip on technical terrain
  • Soles collects debris
  • Lacks ankle support

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In the Loop

Here's a quick breakdown of what the On Cloudrock Waterproof offers:

  • Weight: 445 g/15.70 oz per boot
  • Drop: 7mm
  • Missiongrip rubber outsole
  • FlexLock lacing system
  • 360° mudguard
  • Speedboard for propulsion
  • Wind and waterproof membrane
Tom WheatleyOn Cloudrock Waterproof photo 6

Design & styling

On has made a name for itself over the last decade by creating performance-led products that place a consistent emphasis on aesthetics. The Cloudrock Waterproof is no exception, creating a sleekly designed rugged outdoor boot that eschews the traditional bulky styles associated with conventional hiking footwear.

The Cloudrock Waterproof comes in a range of five colourways, ranging from all-black to a bright pecan brown, disguising many of its technical features within a surprisingly slight design. When specced in black or one of the more subtle hues, it’s perfectly possible to rock the Cloudrock with a more casual hiking get-up, meaning casual dog walks to the pub don't necessarily result in the need to don full mountainside attire. 

OnOn Cloudrock Waterproof photo 1

This is helped by the fact the Cloudrock Waterproof bears many of the hallmark styles of On's wider range of shoes, including the patented Cloudtec midsole designed for cushioning and the wide central groove that runs the length of the outsole.

Features

As you would expect from a company that largely focuses on shoes for speed, the Cloudrock Waterproof veers towards the leaner side of hiking boot design. Marketed as a lightweight speed-hiking boot, the build stuffs a lot of technical features into a package that sits far from the chunky build often associated with conventional outdoor boots.

The upper is made from a waterproof membrane that incorporates a mesh towards the mid and front section of the shoe to increase stability, while the collar and tongue are reinforced with padding for extra comfort.

Tom WheatleyOn Cloudrock Waterproof photo 2

On the outsole, there’s a generous covering of "Missiongrip" rubber to add durability and improved traction on slippery surfaces. This rubber follows the pod design found in the majority of On's shoes but adds a very light sprinkling of lugs, predominantly across the forefoot of the boot.

The lacing uses a customisable FlexLock system to allow versatility in creating a locked-down fit, and also enables the laces to be slipped under an overhanging tongue section to keep them out of the way when walking.

Performance in the field

The first thing you notice when wearing the Cloudrock Waterproof is that it feels more like a conventional boot than something designed to tackle the technical terrain associated with tougher hikes and scrambling. The upper, although supportive and cushioned, has a flexible feel to it that lacks the robust locked-down fit of hard-wearing boots designed for high mileage and ascents.

Tom WheatleyOn Cloudrock Waterproof photo 4

When used for lighter trails on day hikes, that level of comfort works really well, delivering just enough support and a secure fit without feeling heavy or too rigid. The upper mesh membrane also feels light and breathable, making it a great option for warmer seasons when thicker boots can feel hot, heavy and sweaty.

When used for more technical sessions or multi-day hikes, the limitations of the Cloudrock Waterproof become apparent. For rugged terrain and tougher climbs, the boot lacks the support needed to hold the foot firmly in place and can leave ankles and other sensitive parts feeling unprotected against rocky or tricky ground. Over long-distance efforts, a lack of thick support can also lead to unnecessary flex in the foot and ankle which becomes noticeable in the later miles.

The upper membrane does an impressive job at protecting the inside of the shoe against water, although, as with any waterproof footwear, you need to ensure that the ankle collar is covered with waterproof trousers or gators. If the shoe does become waterlogged - something that happened to us whilst hiking in shorts during an unexpected rainstorm - there is little in the way of drainage from the inside of the shoe. Cue comically sloshing boots for the remainder of the hike. 

Tom WheatleyOn Cloudrock Waterproof photo 5

When it comes to the outsole, it's clear that the boot is built specifically for lighter trails. The light lugs that sit across only part of the shoe work very well on soft ground but lack the grip to tackle really sodden surfaces well. For technical climbs, the smooth shape of the pods that run across the outsole also can cause problems for holding onto smooth surfaces.

The design of the outsole is perhaps the biggest flaw in the Cloudrock Waterproof and one that has sparked debate in many of the road shoes On has released over the years. The main issue here is the wide gap that sits in the central space of the outsole along with the grooves that run the width of the shoe. In both cases, the space is perfectly designed to collect debris from the ground, whether that's rocks or large twigs. In both instances, these can become annoying to remove over time and can impact the grip of the shoe.

There's nothing worse than pulling up to a pub, cafe or rest stop only to awkwardly slip and screech on the smooth Tarmac of a car park thanks to a big rock being stuck in the sole of your shoe. An oversight on On's part, we feel. 

OnOn Cloudrock Waterproof photo 8

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To recap

This is definitely a boot that's geared towards those who appreciate a balance between fashion and comfort when tackling lighter hikes and walks. For short distances on trails, the Cloudrock Waterproof is comfortable and impressively waterproof, but for technical climbs and long-distance efforts, it lacks the support and grip needed to complete the job.

Writing by Tom Wheatley. Editing by Leon Poultney.