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What I learned while running with the founder of On shoes

On Running at Zoo Zurich

Running the On Zoo Run for Elephants 5K through the Zurich Zoo was an unforgettable experience. This unique setting was a great occasion to test the "On feeling" of my new pair of Cloudsurfer.

Besides contributing to a good cause, I had the chance to meet two of the three co-founders of On shoes. How did these Swiss inventors manage to revolutionize the running experience all over the world?

I did not get to meet Oliver Bernhard, the three times World Duathlon Champion and multiple Ironman Winner. Since 2010, he has been working hard on designing the perfect way of running along with his friends Caspar Coppetti and David Allemann, who I did meet. Both of them bring many years of experience within renowned consultancy companies to the table.

On Running at Zoo Zurich

So during the next 44 minutes, I chatted with David while testing the Cloudsurfer shoes on the trails of the zoo.

Thanks for the unique occasion to visit the Zurich Zoo almost privately. Where did the idea originate from?

David: First of all, there is the noble cause of the event. We are here for the elephants, as all the proceeds will benefit the Zurich Zoo's project in Thailand to save and protect these beautiful animals. This is the second year we have organized the event, and we keep enjoying it and receiving positive feedback.

It is rare to have a "private" view of the Zurich Zoo, let alone go for a run here. From the damp Masoala rain forest to the heights of the Himalayas and the vast Mongolian steppe, we have the chance to admire nature’s beauty in a single location.

On Running at Zoo Zurich

How did this adventure all begin?

It all started in 2010 with the idea of combining Swiss quality and technology with a new way of running that could be also fun. Together with Oliver and Caspar, I looked at the running movement in a holistic way, focusing on the entire body. We realized that there is a need for a shoe that would transform such movement into a continuum. Running, as everything in life, evolves with training. Therefore, we wanted to create a range of shoes supporting your needs at every level.

From Switzerland to the world "On" a pair of running shoes...

On Running at Zoo Zurich

It actually feels like running on a cloud. What is the secret of these shoes?

The "CloudTec" technology is based on arch-shaped springs that work as a cushioning system, in turn protecting your movements and absorbing the shock. This technology enables running on clouds and creates a sensation that there is a natural fit with the runner. Each level has its own design: For the beginners, there is the Cloudster. For fast runners, there is the Cloudracers, and for a more relaxed pace, the Cloudrunner.

On Running at Zoo Zurich

Creating a company from scratch is a tough adventure. How do you keep up the pace?

Passion and hard work are the answers to this question. The collaboration among the three co-founders is perfectly balanced. Being passionate runners ourselves, we have a burning desire to keep improving the running experience of our clients.

We each cover a different role within the company, and this helps keep the focus on our job and stay on top of innovations and changes. We want our fans to enjoy running and grow within their shoes to become better runners.

On Running at Zoo Zurich

What's next for "On"?

The company is quite literally "running" faster than we expected. We are one of the strongest brands in Switzerland, and we are recognized as a leader in the running shoe market. We are now present in 25 countries and have recently been recognized as one of the twenty most important running shoe brands in the US, UK and Germany by Runner's World Magazine. Our aim is to keep enjoying our adventure together with our "On runners" and make their experience more natural and custom fit.

Thank you, David! I am sold on "On" because with my back problems, it has been quite hard to enjoy long distance runs. Having tested On shoes and enjoyed the natural experience, I definitely recommend sport fans to learn more about the three On Shoes co-founders and their Swiss engineered shoes.

(All pictures copyright by Florian Westermann; for the purpose of this article, On has provided a complimentary pair of Cloudsurfer shoes to the author.)

On Running at Zoo Zurich


James Cole is a traveling banker, business man and hipster at heart. He never gets tired of traveling and meeting new people. When this Asian food addict is not roller skating, you might find him doing yoga.

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