The driving force behind this innovation was six-time Ironman Winner and World Champion duathlete Olivier Bernhard. Bernhard, who was recovering from injury, wanted to find a shoe that would protect his body from the impact of long-distance running – without compromising on speed. His sponsors were all focused on cushioned running shoes for the mass market, and could not deliver his vision. So he worked with a Swiss engineer to develop and perfect a technology, which would match his professional needs.
Bernhard ran thousands of miles in prototypes before giving the final design the ultimate seal of approval: he started the company On to bring the new technology to market – initially selling 2,000 pairs himself out of the back of his car. And very soon it became clear that the On shoe had a wider appeal than just professionals like Bernhard. It answered every runner’s dream: pain and injury-free running that does not impede performance.
“I was very excited by the On shoe, as I felt that it delivered all of the things that were missing in the market,” explains Bernhard. “It allows you to land softly and to push-off hard – so you can go very fast and very long.” Before the On, soft shoes equaled poor performance. The excellent cushioning also allowed Bernhard to build his shoe in line with the latest research on the movement of the foot: the On features an extremely flexible sole and a low heel. The result is almost a ‘rolling’ experience that gives you extra forward momentum for a faster run. “And, over time, your foot muscles are trained to get better by themselves, rather than depending on cushioning and support. It’s not the shoes that lift you, it is you,” says Bernhard.