Live Science Verdict
A stable carbon-plate shoe designed for race day. They may suit those looking for a firmer, lower ride but the lack of durability makes them an expensive choice.
Performs well at speed
Great stability for corners
High price tag
Why you can trust Live Science Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing products and services so you can choose the best ones for you. Find out more about how we test.
Once the solo realm of Nike, carbon shoes are now sold by all the leading brands with 'On' being no exception. The Cloudboom Echo 3 is On's latest hotly anticipated super shoe which aims to compete with Nike Alphafly 2, Hoka Rocket X2 and Saucony Endorphin Pro 3.
This is certainly an attractive pair. Far less chunky than its rivals, the sleek Cloudboom Echo 3 could easily spend its retirement as a fashion shoe. And there is the problem — they will reach retirement fairly quickly owing to the fact that they are designed to last just four marathons — a bold claim made on the side of the box. Sustainability issues aside, the price tag of $290 means runners won't get an awful lot of bang for their buck (and neither will the planet).
Whilst the Cloudboom Echo 1 and 2 were designed for regular training and speed work, the Echo 3 is purely a race day shoe, only to be used when speed is the crucial factor. Although the shoe can be worn beyond 104.8 fast miles, the energy return will decrease once this threshold is reached.
Despite being a race shoe, the Echo 3 is full of contradictions. It lacks the stack height and subsequent bounce of its competitors and feels more akin to a beginner carbon shoe. The firmer feel and lower stack mean it handles corners really well, something other brands have been criticized for. If you a wary of the instability of carbon plate shoes, then the Echo Boom 3 are a great way to break you in gently.
Weight: 188g women's, 215g men's
Heel stack height: 38mm
Forefoot stack height: 28.55mm
That said, the high price may be off-putting for newcomers. Not only that, but the shoe performs best at faster speeds when propulsion under the ball of the foot is in full use, which may not be appropriate for those new to running.
Instead, the Cloudboom Echo 3 are best suited to experienced fast runners who are looking for a firmer carbon shoe and greater stability.
On Cloudboom Echo 3: How we tested
We were not able to test the shoes during a marathon race, but they were used for every day long runs up to 20km, interval training and tempo runs.
On Cloudboom Echo 3: Build and cushioning
A lightweight, comfortable shoe, the Echo 3 benefit from a fuss-free design with all the cushioning provided in the sole via the new PEBAX foam. This provides an ultra-soft base, meaning long runs don't lead to sore feet. There is minimal padding around the ankles to lock the foot in, but it doesn't feel overbearing. The overall build is light, keeping feet cool and fresh.
On Cloudboom Echo 3: Design and upper
The Cloudboom Echo 3 running shoes are synonymous with On's simple but stylish designs. Available in just one colorway — white and mint — it is an eye-catching pair that could easily complement a casual summer outfit.
The upper is made from a single woven piece which is immensely light, fairly breathable fabric that holds in moisture. The tongue is made from a thin fabric which helps to keep feet cool and prevents rubbing. During testing, the laces were easy to adjust to get the right fit, although the lack of structure in the upper does mean they need to be tied fairly tightly.
We liked the lack of cushioning in the upper which created a lighter, more aerated feeling than the suffocating effect of some super plush road shoes.
We find they do come up a little narrow and slightly on the large size, so half a size up may be more appropriate than a full size for many runners.
On Cloudboom Echo 3: Outsole
The outsole is where Echo 3 fail to beat their competitors. With a stack height of 37mm in the heel, it falls well within the World Athletics limits, whilst Nike super shoes push to the limit of 40mm. Those 3mm make a big difference. Whilst its rivals exude bounce and a squishy feeling underfoot, the Echo 3 are comparatively firm and only spring into action at faster paces. Slower runs feel heavier and the rocker is not noticeable until you are really pushing the speed — unlike Hoka's Rocket X 2.
On the plus side, the advantage of the stiffer plate and firmer sole is a carbon shoe with far greater stability which works effectively with its reliable traction.
The Echo 3 handle corners well, even when running at speed in the rain and you never feel unstable. By comparison, simply walking in Endorphin Pro 3 or Nike Air Zoom Tempus Next% can lead to a lot of wobbling.
On Cloudboom Echo 3: Performance
The quality of performance will really depend on what type of running these shoes are used for. While they are great for speed, due to their firmness, they are perhaps better suited to half marathon than marathon distance.
They don't quite have the pep or bouncy energy return of other similarly priced carbons and perform best when running at race pace. Their lack of durability means although they will be suitable for fast interval training you won't want to use up your precious four-marathon mileage limit on non-race running.
On Cloudboom Echo 3: User reviews
On popular running-centric sites, users tend to comment on the price being expensive and the narrow fit. Some users also comment on the lack of color choice and white being impractical for all weather conditions. One user comments: 'I like the fact the sole is not over cushioned, meaning they have good stability. My pace has instantly increased since using these.'
On Cloudboom Echo 3: Should you buy?
If you are looking for a firm, stable carbon to race your first half marathon in then these will be an upgrade from a regular road shoe. But if you are looking to smash a fast marathon and are familiar with the feel of carbon plate shoes then there are many better alternatives.
- Read more: Do running shoes make you faster?
If the On Cloudboom Echo 3 aren't for you:
For a fast carbon shoe with a rocker which propels you forward during both slow and fast runs then look no further than Hoka Rocket X 2. And if you are looking for another brand with an eye-catching design to match its speed, then Saucony Endorphin Pro 3 is a fantastic racing shoe that can also be worn at the after-party. Take a look at our best running shoes for supination for other highly rated designs that we recommend.
Lily Canter is a freelance money, health and lifestyle journalist with more than 20 years' experience. She writes about fitness for Fit+Well, Tom's Guide, T3, South China Morning Post, Runner's World and Trail Running magazine. She focuses on personal finance for Yahoo! Finance UK, Metro, The Guardian, and loveMONEY. In her spare time she is an ultra-runner, canicrosser and UK Athletics running coach. She also co-hosts the award-winning podcast Freelancing for Journalists.