On Cloud vs Altra: Which Offers Best Running Shoes?

Written By Sunny

Choosing the perfect running shoes among many great brands is head-scratching.

Among those brands, Altra and On Cloud are innovative underdogs known for their distinct philosophies.

While On Cloud promises a cloud-like landing and supreme take-offs with its unique CloudTec pods, Altra offers a zero-drop platform and roomy toe box, letting your foot move naturally.on-cloud-vs-altra

Several of my friends and I have used various shoes from those two brands, and here I will share our experience comparing Altra vs On Cloud.

Let’s dive in.

Overview of Altra and On Running Cloud Shoe Brand

The brands Altra and On Cloud are like kids compared to Gandalf Adidas and Fila.

Founded in 2011 with a vision of zero-drop running, Altra has rapidly evolved from humble beginnings to global recognition. Their distinctive characteristic, removing heel-to-toe elevation, promotes comfort and a natural foot strike, appealing to trail runners and marathon enthusiasts.

Altra has expanded over 1,600 specialty stores, snagged the top 10 rankings in run specialty, and number 4 for trail running.

Their wrath continued, and in 2016, they ventured into apparel (Jackets, Tops, Bottoms).

In 2018, VF Corporation took over Altra and helped Altra’s Superior and Escalante shoes to receive the Editor’s Choice Award from Runner’s World.

Altra is passionate about runners.

They invested in the running community and partnered with athletes. Their support extends to races worldwide, both competitive and casual.

They’ve proven that out-of-the-box thinking and dedication can make you a global phenomenon.

In contrast, the brand “On” was founded in Switzerland in 2010, five years before Nobull and Metcon. Olivier Bernhard, Caspar Coppetti, and David Allemann are its founders, who created it to provide innovative design in the running shoe industries.

Though the brand is simply On, it has become On Cloud due to the shoe model and query preferences.

The shoes feature CloudTec technology, which offers responsive cushioning and comfort. With a smooth and responsive stride, these shoes are ideal for runners seeking agility and a minimalist feel.

Attribute Comparison of Altra and On Cloud Shoes

Both brands offer innovative features with different running styles and preferences. A quick head-to-head overview of the Altra and On Running Cloud shoes will give you a glimpse of these shoes to find your perfect match.

Following is the attribute comparison table of Altra and On Cloud shoes:

AttributeAltra ShoesOn Cloud Shoes
FocusNatural foot freedom, zero-drop platformLightweight design, responsive cushioning
Key TechnologyZero-Drop Platform, FootShape toe box, Altra EGOCloudTec pods, Speedboard midsole
CushioningFocused on impact absorption and reducing stress on jointsFocused on energy return and a propulsive feel
Heel-to-Toe DropZero-drop~ 6mm to 11mm
Toe BoxUsually WiderStandard to slightly wider
Weight (Approx.)Usually heavier than On Cloud shoesVery lightweight
Price~ $120-$240~ $130-$330
Popular ModelsLone Peak, Torin, Escalante, SuperiorCloudventure, Cloudflow, Cloudswift, Cloudstrus

Now, move to the detailed differences.

8 Main Differences between On Cloud and Altra Running Shoes

The underdogs Altra and On Cloud have you covered in different categories with various shoes.

While On Cloud throws extra padding for road warriors, Altra lets you ditch the heel drop altogether, making your footfall flat as a pancake. As you spend over 100 bucks, I recommend learning the breakdown of these brands’ shoes.

Here are the feature comparisons between On Cloud and Altra Shoes:

1. Product Offerings and Target Audience

When comparing the features between two shoe brands, considering their target audience and product offerings is important.

The On Running primarily targets those prioritizing innovation, design, and technology in their footwear. With athletes and fitness enthusiasts keeping in mind, On Cloud has several categories of shoes for running, trailing, or hiking.

Below are the major shoe offerings from On Cloud:

CategoriesOn Cloud Shoes Series Name
Road RunningCloudmonster
Cloudmonster LNY
Cloud X
Cloudboom Echo
Trail runningCloudventure
Cloudventure Peak
Cloudvista Waterproof
Cloudwander Waterproof
Cloudalpine Waterproof
TennisThe Roger Pro
The Roger Pro Clay
TravelingCloudnove Flux
Cloud 5
Cloudnova Form
Cloud X

Meanwhile, Altra favors runners who want a natural running experience. Runners who seek a balanced, low-impact running style find the zero heel-to-toe drop more comfortable.

Though it’s a unique style, this zero-drop running approach attracts a diverse audience to reduce the injury risk.

Altra offers road, trail, and everyday wear shoes with natural foot alignment and balanced cushioning.

Here’s a list of Altra shoe offerings:

CategoriesAltra Shoes Series Name
Road RunningTorin
Trail RunningLone Peak
King MT

2. Material and Construction

Both the On Running and Altra stand out for their unique features.

On Cloud focuses on luxurious comfort and performance for their shoes.

They offer flexible Speedboard soles for smooth movement and transition. The supportive design prevents pain in the long run.

On the other hand, Altra prioritizes natural foot movement with its straight and flat sole, technically known as zero drop.material-and-construction-of-altra

This unique feature, balanced cushioning, and the wider toe box minimize impact during runs.

3. Sizing, Fit, and Comfort

The On Cloud shoes are a mixed bag when it comes to sizing.

Some shoes I’ve tested are true to size, and some required half size up. Most had a tight toe box, while two friends said they had wiggle room for the toe.

I wouldn’t say they are wide shoes (excluding the wide-width shoes).

So, wider foot runners will feel uncomfortable in the regular size.

Though there are running shoe size comparisons between brands, size differences in the same brand can sometimes require extra hassle.

Most shoes come with plastic speedboard soles that give a firmer feeling to maximize energy return.

I have used Cloudboom Echo 3, which has a carbon fiber plate.sizing-fit-and-comfort-of-on-cloud-shoes

However, it was a different fit experience compared to Nike Alphafly and Vaporfly due to their high stack height.

On the contrary, Altra stands out with its roomy toe box.

These shoes feature a zero-drop structure, whereas On Cloud running shoes have a traditional heel-to-toe drop of about 6 to 11 mm.

So, this is a significant difference between Altra and On shoes.

And if you ask, can zero-drop shoes help with Plantar Fasciitis? Yes, it is.

Though most of them are true-to-size in my regular size, a few of my friends said they feel the size runs small for them.

The shoe was a secure fit with its small heel, preventing heel slippage.

Among carbon fiber plate shoes, I have used Altra Vanish Carbon, which has Altra’s FootShape toe box and Quantic foam.

The breathable mesh upper of it fits perfectly. The ventilation system was comfortable.

However, the shoe’s durability was not satisfactory.

4. Cushioning Technology

On Running uses CloudTec technology for cushioning. The hollow pockets at the bottom give the shoe a different appearance and feel.cushioning-technology-of-on-cloud-shoes

The pods at the outsole also help to absorb impact.

However, comparing On Cloudstratus 3 vs Hoka Bondi 8, the On’s ride was not plush or cloud-like to me, even though the shoe had enough cushion.

But the On Cloudmonster was great for daily runs.

In fact, it’s the most cushioned pair of this brand.

The maxed-out CloudTec and Helion foam for ultimate cushion and performance without sacrificing energy return makes this shoe an overall best.

Meanwhile, Altra shoes tend to offer balanced cushioning with Quantic.

The even level of cushioning throughout the length of the shoes keeps the zero drop. It improves stability and ensures natural foot movement.

I have used one of their most popular models, Altra Torin 7.

The shoe is my favorite because of its padded tongue and heel collar.

It is also the most cushioned shoe I have used of Altra’s. Despite a $150 price tag, the Torin’s appeal comes from its comprehensive offering.

5. Breathability Factor

The Cloud shoes from On are lightweight, and the design prevents heat buildup.

The mesh upper, thin tongue and heel collar keep the feet dry and comfy. These combinations and their odor-resistant materials can help you ride a long run without feeling smelly inside.

Cloud X is great for walking shoes and running for having nice breathability.breathability-factor-of-on-cloud-shoes

Conversely, Altra uses durable, quick-drying air mesh uppers that aren’t afraid of getting wet.

Moreover, it’s also breathable to keep your feet comfortable and adventure-ready. That’s why I frequently use the Altra Paradigm for walking when I’m on vacation.

6. Support and Stability

If you are looking for stability shoes, On Running Cloud and Altra perform average.

Usually, I don’t use stability shoes, but I borrowed On Cloudflyer from one of my friends to test it out.

They gently guide your foot into a proper alignment to maintain stability.

However, if you have severe overpronation issues, I recommend using Asics Kayano 30 or Kayano 29 instead of these.

Meanwhile, the Balanced cushioning and GuideRail stability in the Altra shoes provide comfort and stability together.

As I said, I don’t have pronation issues; one friend who used Altra Provision said the shoe was great regarding stability.support-and-stability-of-altra

7. Quality and Durability

Long-lasting is a concern when you are paying a good amount of money for a pair of shoes. Along with their performance, their lifespan is also good.

So, what’s the longevity of On Cloud?

Depending on running style, care, weight, and the surface, On Cloud shoes can last 310 to 465 miles or around six months if used daily.

In contrast, Altra shoes also come with an impressive lifespan between 300-600 miles.

So, the build quality is neither superior nor trash.

8. Pricing Point

The On Running shoes can cost you between $130 to $330.

The more features and technologies the shoes have, the more costly it becomes.

You can obtain Altra shoes for $120 to $200. However, special features like carbon plates or others can cost you up to 240 bucks.

Though it seems expensive, they are not the most expensive ones.

They fall under average if you compare them with APL shoes, which can cost you up to $450 for their flagship footgear.

Pros & Cons of On Cloud and Altra Shoes

While both On and Altra brands offer great shoes with unique features, they have some strengths and potential drawbacks.

Here are the advantages and disadvantages of On Cloud and Altra Shoes:

On Cloud Shoes

  • »Excellent durability.
  • »Different categories for specific purposes (Hiking, Trail, Running, Tennis).
  • »Free shoe recycling is available.
  • »Soft soles for pain-free runs.
  • »True to size with a sock-like fit.
  • »Responsive and breathable.
  • »Thin laces.
  • »Pods in the outsole can grab pebbles and stones.
  • »Tightly packed toes can cause blisters.

Altra Shoes

  • »Zero-drop platform promotes natural foot strike.
  • »Better balance and agility.
  • »Wider toe box.
  • »Amply cushioned models are comfortable for long runs and ultras.
  • »Wide range of shoes for terrains, roads, recovery, etc.
  • »Less stress on the ankles and knees compared to heel striking.
  • »Require adjustment period for heel drop transitioning.
  • »Not suitable for runners with pronation issues.
  • »Can feel less responsive.
  • »Some models are heavy.

On Cloud vs Altra Running Shoes: Which One is Best For You?

There’s no straight answer to which is better.

The one specific model that gives you the best fit and meets your requirements is the one you should go for.

While On Cloud can give a unique appearance with modern style, Altra can help you have a natural running experience with its innovative zero heel-to-toe drops.

Here’s my recommendation for the On Cloud shoe series.

  • Long Distance: On Cloudstratus
  • Speed Work: On Cloudflow 4
  • Racing: On Cloudsurfer
  • Road Running: On Cloudboom Echo 3
  • Comfort: On Cloudmonster
  • Trail Running: On Cloudultra 2

For the Altra brand, you can choose from the following:

  • Daily Running: Altra Torin 7
  • Trail Running: Altra Lone Peak
  • Hiking: Altra Olympus
  • Minimal Neutral: Altra Escalante
  • Cushioned Stability: Altra Provision


Which brand is better for beginners, Altra or On Cloud?

Altra and On Cloud are both great beginner-friendly footgear. On shoes provide more comfort with plush cushioning for first-timers. Altra shoes give a natural footstrike with their unique zero-drop. However, beginners can require extra time to cope with Altra for the new drop system.

What shoes are comparable to On Cloud?

As an alternative to On Cloud shoes, you can opt for Hoka or Brooks, which also offer amazing running shoes for all kinds of runners.

Why are On Cloud running shoes so popular?

Several key factors, like CloudTec technology for comfort, Helion super foam for performance, and sleek & modern design, make On Cloud shoes appealing to customers. Collaborations with high-profile athletes and influencers also help to grow the brand’s community. Their technological innovation and durability keep them so popular.

Is Altra’s zero-drop platform good for everyone?

Altra’s unique flat sole with zero-drop gives a natural stride. Moreover, they are also great for Plantar Fasciitis. However, runners with weak calves or pronation issues can find this shoe uncomfortable.

About The Author
Sunny is all about action and activities. He finds it difficult to contain himself. Be it motorcycling, playing football, or exploring the great outdoors, he loves to keep his legs busy.Sunny quickly realized the importance of footwear to keep himself going healthily. This was when he decided to share all his knowledge and expertise regarding different footwear and their significance.Now, he’s on a mission with this humble platform by his side. With time he plans on doing bigger and better things.Apart from his writing and other hobbies, he loves spending time with his cat Sophie. He loves to cook for his friends and family too.

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