Article by Ryan Eiler, Derek Li and Joost De Raeymaeker
On Cloudboom Echo 3 ($290)
The ON Cloudboom Echo 3 has been spotted on the feet of their professional runners for over a year now. It is easily the most anticipated super shoe release for the second half of this year. The original Cloudboom Echo had a very aggressive rockered ride, and many runners felt it was too firm for the marathon distance. The Echo 3 is widely expected to address this with a more forgiving ride. How does it stack up against the latest crop of super shoes? Read on to find out.
Upper: Superbly crafted precision fitting with great comfort upper also includes multiple lacing options: Sam/Joost/Derek
Smooth front roll without a mid foot plate hump that has to be consistently “found” for the shoe to work: Sam/Ryan/Derek
Heel is more stable than most comparable ‘supers’ – Ryan/Sam/Joost/Derek
Aesthetic is clean and sleek – Ryan/Joost/Sam/Derek
Feels nimble and fast – Joost/Sam
Not a slower paces plated shoe. Plate just ahead of the heel is firm and over rigid. 8:10 or faster per mile needed for most: Sam/Ryan/Joost/Derek
Top level pricing at $289 Sam/Ryan/Joost/Derek
Not as quick or forgiving as shoes of comparable price – Ryan/Sam/Derek
Upper doesn’t lock down foot as well as competitors – Ryan
Toe box feels too unstructured for a racing shoe – Ryan
Upper rubs a bit over top of first metatarsal – Joost
Outsole design/durability – Ryan
Tester Profiles (in brief, full run bios below)
Ryan, 37 is a 2:18 marathoner (2023) who trains in the Boston area
Derek, 40 is a 2:39 marathoner who trains in Singapore
Joost, 55 is a 2:26 marathoner (2019 at age 51) who trains in Angola, Africa
Approx. Weight: men’s 7.69 oz / 218g (US9)
Samples: men’s 7.55 oz / 214g (US8.5) -to the gram left and right same weight,
7.83oz / 222g US9.5
Measured Stack Height: men’s 38 mm heel / 28 mm forefoot
Measured midsole firmness by durometer with Shore A: 35.0,
Comparisons to other super shoes in Comparisons
$289. Available July 6, 2023
First Impressions, Fit and Upper
Ryan: The Echo 3 experience comes across as very Swiss from the outset. It looks and feels finely crafted, the aesthetic is sleek and clean but not overly done, and the price tag is… high. Most of the upper material is a thin, strong, carefully engineered polyester material.
The only overlay is a thin vertical strip on the medial side of the shoe which joins the 2 sides of the one piece upper together, but otherwise, this material is tasked with the majority of the foot containment duties.
Fine, checkerboard-like perforations atop the toe box and down the sides of the midfoot allow the shoe to breathe nicely. As for its weight, it feels as light on foot as its numbers claim. The paper thin, ribbony laces save weight and resist slipping, although they can be tough to unlace.
As long as you keep the laces aligned flat, they distribute pressure comfortably enough over the semi-padded tongue.
Because of the upper material’s thin and supple nature, it conforms to the shape of the foot in an agreeable way that most folks will enjoy. However, I felt that the tradeoff for choosing this construction was a lack of foot containment. While it didn’t meaningfully detract from performance, I got the feeling that the upper wasn’t quite willing to hold my foot as snugly as I preferred, especially during harder efforts.
There are tacky, rubberized areas on the sockliner which aim to prevent undue movement, and they seem to help very slightly. At the rear, the heel cup is of medium strength and works well enough to hold things in place, although I would have liked a bit more of a collar to enhance heel lock down.
The fit of the shoe runs a bit long, and may have contributed to the lack of lockdown I experienced. I’d consider going a half size down if you’re in between sizes.
Derek: As expected, the ON Cloudboom Echo 3 is visually stunning, and everything down to the sockliner and lace options have been carefully thought out. Step in feel is comfortable enough, and the thin upper has a snug, sock-like almost track spike feel to it. The fit is true to size for me and I honestly would not want to size down in it.
The shape of the toebox is quite pointed, so it can give the impression of a lot of space in front of the big toe and second toe, but actually, the 5th toe is already quite close to the edge at the side so I’d say sizing it just right. That said, I agree with Ryan that the heel lock is a bit poor and could benefit from a little more padding in the heel cup, though this can be fully rectified with heel-lock lacing.
ON shoes have historically had shallower heels and ankles, and it was particularly noticeable in the original Cloudboom Echo where heel slippage was exaggerated by the very stiff carbon plate.
It’s better here, as the added stack makes the plate less noticeable. The heel is not really unstructured per se; there is a rigid counter about 1.5” wide in the midline. It’s just that the heel could use a bit more foam on either side to reinforce the lockdown. Ryan has done a great description of the upper. I just want to give special attention to two things. The sockliner is quite special and aesthetically very unique. There are linear ridges glued on the surface at the forefoot, and the ON logo at the heel is also made of the same material. It is tacky and adds to grip between the foot and the shoe.
The other special feature is the laces. The laces seem to be made of synthetic mesh but has a sort of resin mixed in with it, giving it a bit of tackiness that bites very well on lacing up.
I’ve not come across this sort of laces before, and in my opinion they do an even better job than the Nike ridged laces. My only gripe is I would have preferred the laces to be wider. The tongue is quite thin, and with higher lace tensions in a racing shoe, I prefer a wider lace to reduce pressure on the top of the foot.
Overall, for a marathon shoe, the fit is good enough. For that distance, I don’t want an excessively snug toebox and that’s exactly what we have here.
Joost: This is my first ON shoe, and it didn’t fail to impress in the design department. It looks amazing, and I love the graphic design hints like print marks and color strips on the upper.
The shoe is superbly crafted, is light and feels nimble on foot. I just compared it visually to the Nike Vaporfly Next% 3 as I’m writing this and it looks smaller and more tuned-in than the Nike offering.
Looking top-down at it, it definitely has a racing flat vibe to it.
The Echo 3 fits true to size for me and in spite of being a couple of millimeters less wide than the Vaporfly at the base, I didn’t have any issues with fit, being quite wide-footed.
The upper is very pliable, but doesn’t really stretch much.
It conforms to the foot and in my case, contrary to Ryan, keeps it in place really well. It’s a thin, but not especially breathable upper.
The tongue is thin, with some very minor padding on top and fixed to the eyestay on the lateral side and with a strip of flexible fabric to the strobel on the medial side.
It stays in place and didn’t cause me any lace bite.
The eyestay has an extra 2 eyelets in an extra “row” on both sides that allows for extra lockdown for people who need it.
Heel padding is just enough and I didn’t experience any slippage. Ryan and Derek already mentioned the tacky details of the sockliner, but they’re a great way to keep your foot in place.
Cloudboom Echo 3 Medial Side
Ryan: Soft, energetic, and fairly neutral, I found that this midsole is likely best suited for 10k-HM distances. It’s not as deeply cushioned and propulsive as a Vaporfly or Adios Pro, but it also isn’t as tricky to get used to.
While the signature midsole pockets of the ‘Cloud’ lineup are still visible here, they’re toned down drastically, and only punch about 10mm into the midsole. This is a good thing, as open air cavities in a midsole generally don’t do many favors for performance. The plate here is both stiff and wide — so wide, that it’s actually exposed on both the lateral and medial sides of the midsole. The consequence of this stiffness is that you need to be putting in a fair amount of effort to get the Echo 3 working properly.
Cloudboom Echo 3 Lateral Side
At more casual paces, the shoe’s rigidity keeps you in the back seat and feels excessively flat footed. I felt that I had to run no slower than 6:30/mi to find the sweet spot, where the plate worked to my advantage and properly thrusted the toe-off phase of my stride. The good news is that the plate’s function isn’t hard to figure out, making it simple to plunge into and roll off of the forefoot cushion smoothly.
There’s plenty of cushion here even for long runs on the road, and it’s balanced nicely between the heel and forefoot. I didn’t feel I had to learn how to use this one — which isn’t something I’d say about a lot of the other ‘supers’ I’ve run in. Shoes like the Vaporfly 3 and Adios Pro 3 can feel a bit intimidating at first, as you need to get the hang of using their soft, explosive cushion that their narrow (relative to the forefoot) heels provide. The Cloudtec foam has an inspiring, rubbery bounce to it, and is probably toward the more responsive end of the super-shoe spectrum. Its heel is certainly more stable than most of its competitors, and it handles like it has a lower stack than its figures purport. This midsole doesn’t have the depth of cushion of a Vaporfly or Adios Pro, and its energy return doesn’t feel quite as efficient, so I wouldn’t necessarily look at the Echo 3 as a top-level marathoner. Instead, I’d look at this as more of a 10k-half marathon shoe.
I’m generally not a fan of a segmented midsole/outsole heel design like this, where the sections of foam are free to move independently from one another. I find that it makes impacting the ground feel gummy and not as smooth as a more uniform design. I’d rather have those voids filled with additional foam to help propel me along. I’ll admit that I’m nitpicking on this point, and the design does make for a softer impact.
In the forefoot, the stack is pleasantly soft and comes across as an appropriate compliment to the energy from the heel. Its softness allows for a wide range of pronation types. Here again, I don’t think the cutouts in the lateral side of the forefoot are helping to return energy, and I personally would have liked more substance in this particular area.
Derek: The midsole here is actually quite soft, and reminds me a lot of Lightstrike Pro as seen in the Adidas Adios Pro.I think it’s telling that the cloud pods are much smaller here, but it also allows for a more consistent feel of the deeper soft cushioning of the Pebax foam. I think the original cloud pod design was a good idea, and in the context of being limited by the use of EVA foam, probably the best way to introduce cushioning, but as materials technology has advanced over the years, the pods are less necessary now.
As with many super shoes, foam softness is only one half of the equation, and the shape and position of the carbon plate has a huge influence on the underfoot feel. I think the ON plate shape is quite unique in that it’s not just a typical spoon shape. What’s interesting here is how the plate curves downwards toward the heel.
On initial testing, I found this design created for a relatively harsh feel for heel-strike and it took me a while to find the sweet spot for running in this shoe.
The traditional 10mm drop would give the impression that a heel strike works best for this shoe, but actually, the best place to land is just a little bit ahead of the rear cloud pods. I found that in this position, the plate actually flattens a little on impact and acts as a sort of trampoline to rocker the foot forward. It definitely helps that the forefoot rocker starts quite early in this shoe. Landing in a traditional heel strike position tends to make the transition a little slower for me.
In terms of stability, this is definitely one of the more stable supershoes. I think it’s to do with the width of the plate used. There is less foam deformation than one would expect on applying shearing or torsional forces to the shoe, and so you get an almost block-y feel if you try to land in a more supinated fashion.
In terms of cushioning, even though the Echo 3 does not max out on the 40mm stack limit, and forefoot stack is comparatively low at 28mm, overall cushioning and vibration dampening is better than similar stack shoes for me. It is nevertheless, on the firmer side of the spectrum among the current crop of super shoes.
Joost: As Ryan mentioned, the midsole is soft, but feels less deeply cushioned than some of the other options, like the Vaporfly. This firmer feeling has more to do with the position and shape of the plate than the foam itself. You can see the plate in the few remaining cloud holes. It’s basically the entire width of the shoe from the metatarsal area to just behind the last cloud hole. The cloud holes themselves don’t really have any discerning function in this configuration, except for aesthetics. As a mid to forefoot striker, I didn’t have any issues finding the right spot for a smooth transition Derek brought up. The rocker kicks in right away and makes the shoe feel very fast. Contrary to Ryan, I feel I could run a marathon in the Echo 3.
Ryan: The forefoot offers up a generous but thin H-shaped patch of rubber.
At the rear, we have three small islands of the same rubber, leaving about ⅓ of the foam midsole exposed to the asphalt.
I don’t think there’s enough outsole material at the rear of the shoe, as after only 45 miles, I’m seeing some significant wear and graining. Time will tell, but durability of the heel doesn’t seem too promising at this point.
In the toe, they’ve chosen to add a cutout in the rubber a few millimeters toward the lateral side of the shoe.
I’m not sure what purpose this serves, as I personally rely on this area to handle a lot of the pressure I exert at toe-off. I’m already seeing some graining on either side of this cutout, and I can’t imagine that this design helps with grip.
Derek: I am historically not a high outsole wear runner so it’s difficult for me to comment on outsole durability. Even the exposed midsole has held up well for me so far. I will say that outsole grip seems fairly good on both dry and wet roads.
Derek: outsole after ~30 miles of use.
Joost: I haven’t seen any real wear so far in my pair after around 50 miles, but expect to see some of the same front wear Ryan mentioned. The outsoles of my running shoes typically wear out at the lateral midfoot and the central toe-off area right in the front. My heels usually look like new, even after several hundred miles, so I don’t take issue with there not being a lot of outsole coverage here.
Ride, Conclusions and Recommendations
Ryan: The Cloudboom Echo 3 is a worthy performer, and a nice step in the right direction for On. Its lightweight, low inertia combines with its bouncy and powerful midsole to provide a great option for mid-distance racing on the road. It will favor mid to forefoot strikers, as the plate can feel harsh toward the rear of the shoe. My personal inclination is toward a midfoot, slightly supinated footstrike, which is why the plate worked well for me, but perhaps why the outsole seems so banged up already. II think there are some improvements to be made on foot lockdown and outsole durability; however, I’ve pushed the Echo 3 through three successful workouts and will continue to use them for harder training efforts. I just don’t see how I’d justify paying $290 for these, when I can get a Vaporfly, Adios Pro, Metaspeed, Takumi Sen, etc., for less.
Ryan’s Score: 8.1 (Deductions for price, weak lockdown, outsole durability, and sizing)
Derek: The Echo 3 is very smooth and efficient at race pace in the 10k-full marathon zone. I’ve not had much long run experience with the shoe yet as I’m currently still in a rebuilding phase of my run fitness, but I’ve used it for intervals in the 1-minute to 10-minute range and threshold runs of up to 10km.
It does feel a little awkward at slower paces so the recoveries always felt odd when doing speed work. Transitions have been very smooth and there is good forefoot bounce and propulsion at toe off. I feel like it sits somewhere between the VF4% and the VFN%2 in terms of ride. One major difference is the plate width. While the Nike VF plates are often never wider than the width of the foam, it is notable that the width of the plate at the forefoot of the Echo 3 covers the entire width of the shoe. This means the forefoot is very stiff medio-laterally so you have to remember to keep the foot square at push off and pushing off at an angle will feel off balance.
Overall, in terms of mechanical assistance, I do feel that the shoe is helping to maintain turnover and makes holding a fast pace easier. In terms of dynamism, it’s still not quite as radical as the super max racers like the Nike Alphafly 1 and Mizuno Wave Rebellion Pro, but it’s a huge improvement over the original Cloudboom Echo 1. Even against the recently released Vaporfly 3, while it is not quite as pillowy soft underfoot as the VF3, the rocker is more aggressive and I dare say I feel more assisted in the Echo 3! The price point is definitely right up there, but ON has never tried to compete with the other brands in terms of pricing, and their ever growing sales over the last 10 years is a testament that people are willing to pay a premium for premium materials and aesthetics.
As far as recommendations, I think this shoe will work better for more efficient runners and runners who can maintain a midfoot strike. Even though it’s quite a stable shoe, if you are not so clean in your landing, I can see the exposed midsole abrading quite quickly around the heel area. Most of the rubber coverage is up front, so if you are mostly loading up front, the outsole should hold up quite well.
Derek’s Score 9.5 / 10
Ride 9.4 (50%) Fit 9.3 (30%) Value 9 (15%) Style 10 (5%)
Smiles Score 😊😊😊😊 out of 5
Joost: I came away very impressed with the Cloudboom Echo 3. The ride made me feel like I had a couple of decades less aging in my feet and lower legs. The Echo 3 feels nimble like a racing flat, and I feel like I can run more like I naturally do than in some of the other super-shoes.
It’s relatively firm, and feels snappy, with the rocker just in the right place for me. It also felt stable and secure, even on bends and turns. As a reminder, I’m a lateral mid to forefoot striker. The Echo 3 likes to go fast and while it didn’t really feel awkward for me at 8 min/mile pace when going slower, it definitely is made to go a lot faster than that. A shoe like the Vaporfly 3 is more forgiving at slower paces. At a faster clip, I felt energetic and smooth, with a firm rebound from impact and the effort for the resulting speed felt very low.
There’s of course the issue of cost. At $290, you might think twice before you decide if the stunning looks and the Swiss engineering are worth the premium. As for me, I’m considering not putting too many miles on my review pair and possibly running my next marathon in them.
Joost’s Score: 9.55/10
Ride 10, Fit 9.5, Value 8, Style 10
Index to all RTR reviews: HERE
Derek’s Measured Marathon Super Shoe Midsole Firmness
Caveats: I’m still trying to find a standardized way of measuring with a durometer gauge as the numbers can vary quite a lot depending on where you measure, and are heavily influenced by the midsole stack itself, proximity to outsole rubber, proximity to the strobel board, and proximity to the embedded carbon plate. What’s clear is that under foot feel and the ride itself is a complex interplay between all these elements and objective midsole softness can be very different from the translated overall ride when actually running in the shoe
Cloudboom Echo 3 midsole firmness (lower is softer) at Shore A: 35.0
Cloudboom Echo 1 top layer 35, bottom layer 39
Adidas Adios Pro 3 36.0
ASICS Metaspeed Sky OG 30.0
ASICS Metaspeed Sky+ 36.0
Hoka Rocket X 2 25.5
Nike 4% OG 20.5
Nike 4% Fk 22.0
Nike VF 1 26.0
Nike VF 2 29.5
Nike VF 3 28.0
Saucony Endorphin Pro 3 26.5
Saucony Endorphin Elite (HG foam component) 38.0
Xtep 160x 3.0 Pro 28.0
Cloudboom Echo 1 and 2 (RTR Review)
Derek: I wear US9.5 in both Echo 1 and Echo 3. The main difference between the two models is the stack and resultant difference in underfoot cushioning. I would say the rocker of the Echo 1 is even better than Echo 3, but the harsh underfoot feel limits how far I’d take it in terms of training and race distance. The Echo 3 is softer and more cushioned and is much more user friendly for longer races. In terms of fit, I find Echo 3 to wrap my foot a lot better. I think between the two shoes, I’d take Echo 3 simply because it’s more versatile and forgiving and fun!
Vaporfly Next 3 (RTR Review)
Joost (M9.5 in both): This is a tough one for me. I’ve been going back to the Vaporfly in its various iterations for all my marathons since 2017, having come close to using the Xtep 160X Pro 3. As much as I like the Vaporfly, I actually prefer the ride of the Echo 3, since it feels more natural to my running mechanics. I’ve still to find out if it will save my feet at the latter stages of a race like the Vaprofly does, but I’m seriously considering taking a shot at it for my next race.
Derek: I wear US9.5 in both shoes. The VF3 is softer at the edges and gives a more natural feeling transition, whereas the stiffer edges of the Echo 3 give a more directed forward transition (reminds me a lot of the Tempo Next% actually). Both don’t give me a perfect fit but fit ok with the right socks and lacing pattern. I find the VF3 to have slightly better underfoot cushioning and vibration dampening, but the Echo 3 feels faster and more assistive with the rocker. I think for the half marathon or shorter distance, I’d go with the Echo 3. For the full marathon, right now I’m leaning more toward the VF3.
Ryan (M9.5): The Echo 3 has a more natural ride dynamic to it, and beats the VF on stability in the heel. However, for me the VF is the faster, more forgiving, and snappier shoe. The Nike’s upper contains my foot much better, has better ventilation, and superior lockdown all around. For some folks, the heel of the VF might feel a bit too narrow and/or soft, but on the other hand, the ZoomX provides a level of cushion for long runs which the On can’t match. I prefer the VF over the Echo for any type of running
Vaporfly Next 2 (RTR Review)
Joost (M9.5 in both): I much prefer the Vaporfly Next% 3 to the 2, so except for possible leg-saving advantages in the Nike, I would pick the Echo 3 for a race.
Derek: I wear US9.5 in both shoes. VF2 geometry just doesn’t work for me and I find the ride to be flat and just doesn’t roll through very easily for my running style. Echo 3 is more forgiving and cushioned and has the better rocker for me. I’d pick the Echo 3.
Nike Alphafly 1 (RTR Review)
Joost (M10 in Alpha and 9.5 in Echo): I never really got along with the Alphafly 1. My usual size 9.5 gave me terrible blisters on my big toe, in spite of feeling quite fast, and size 10 just felt clunky.
Derek: I wear US9.5 in Echo 3 and US9.0 in AF1. AF1 is for me still the gold standard for marathon race cushioning and performance. The Echo 3 is still a level below in terms of dynamism and underfoot cushioning.
Nike Alphafly 2 (RTR Review)
Joost (M9.5 in both): I was probably one of the few reviewers for whom the Alphafly 2 worked better than the 1. In spite of that, it’s sitting at home gathering dust. It’s just not the type of shoe I enjoy very much running in, because it forces me to change my running mechanics. The Echo 3 feels natural and snappy and very nimble in comparison.
Derek: I wear US9.5 in Echo 3 and US9.0 for AF2. Unfortunately I could never do much mileage on the AF2 due to arch rubbing with this shoe. Just for comfort and effectiveness of the rocker, I’d go with the Echo 3.
Adizero Adios Pro 2 and 3 (RTR Review)
Derek: I wear US9.5 in all the models. The Echo 3 actually has the best rocker and mechanical assistance of all the models. The AP2 has the best dynamism, while the AP3 has perhaps the more comfortable overall fit. All 3 models sort of have their sweet spot. I like Echo 3 the best among the lot.
Ryan: The clear winner in my book here is the AP3. Its upper is made of a more robust material, and has overlays and underlays along with a padded heel collar to offer race-worthy lockdown. The Lightstrike Pro midsole delivers better depth of cushion and more energy rebound, especially in the forefoot. Its drawback for some may be how tall the stack of the AP3 feels, and its heel takes some getting used to as compared to the On. Durability of the Adidas outsole also seems to win out, as my pair of ~150mi AP3’s has about the same wear as the ~45mi Echo 3s. Editor’s Note: Ryan’s 2:18:05 marathon PR was in the AP3 on a hilly course.
ASICS Metaspeed Sky (RTR Review)
Derek: I wear US9.5 in both shoes. The rides are a little different here. Sky is a lower drop shoe that performs best with a midfoot-forefoot strike. It relies on a high forefoot stack and bounce from the foam to work with the plate to get its propulsion. The Echo 3 relies more on the rocker effect of the spoon-shaped plate to roll you through. Both methods work well but in different ways. I tend to favour the action of the Sky and i’ve set 5000m and HM personal bests in the Sky. I think the Echo 3 will work better for someone who lands farther back on the shoe, while Sky will work better for runners who can maintain a mid-forefoot strike throughout the race. Personally, i also found the Sky to be more cushioned underfoot and a tad lighter.
ASICS Metaspeed Sky+ (RTR Review)
Joost (M9.5 in both): In spite of requiring some of the same mechanics and power application as the Alphafly for me (really pressing down in the metatarsal area to get that energy back), the Sky+ worked better for me than the Alphafly, but on longer runs, really gets my achilles complaining. I would pick the Echo 3 for a race.
Derek: I wear US9.5 for both shoes. The FF Turbo is a little firmer in Sky+ than Sky but more importantly, the carbon plate is very close to the foot sitting quite high in the shoe. The Sky+ really requires a very efficient mid-forefoot striker to engage. It is not much fun unless you are going be able to do that. It can feel quite harsh otherwise. I prefer the Echo 3 for more underfoot cushioning and comfort and just general ease of use.
ASICS Metaspeed Edge+ (RTR Review)
Derek: I wear US9.5 for both shoes. When the Edge+ first came out, I had quite high hopes for it. After more extended use, I tended to get heel soreness with the shoe on longer runs, which is odd considering the foam isn’t much firmer than say Adios Pro. Either way, I use the Edge+ more for moderate pace, medium distance runs now. I find the Echo 3 to have the more aggressive rocker and the more dynamic foam rebound. This is especially obvious in the forefoot.
Hoka Rocket X 2 (RTR Review)
Derek: I wear US9,5 in both shoes. Both shoes are quite similar for me in terms of cushioning. The Hoka has the softer feeling heel for sure, but the low 5mm drop feels even flatter because of this. As a result, I feel that the rocker effect isn’t very good unless you are going at race pace. I generally feel that the Echo 3 has better rocker assistance and this is reflected in my efforts and HR vs pace in workouts. The Hoka does have the more comfortable softer upper, with good overall lockdown. It’s a relatively close contest here, but I’d pick the Echo 3 over the Rocket X 2.
New Balance SC Elite 3 (RTR Review)
Derek: I wear US9,5 in both shoes. The SCE3 has the more forgiving ride and the rocker is easier to engage via different foot strikes. The big drawback is the upper. Too much susceptibility to rubbing at the collar, too easy to get soggy and stretchy in the wet. Without solving the upper issue, the Echo 3 is by far the better shoe. With a conventional upper, I think the SC Elite 3 could be one of the best super shoes on the market.
Ryan: These are two fairly different approaches to building a distance racing shoe. The SCE3 is far softer and more forgiving of a wide range of paces. I agree with Derek that its upper is lacking on several fronts, as it relies much too heavily on the laces to secure the foot properly. The Echo 3 takes a firmer and more aggressive approach to delivering performance, demanding that you engage the plate at all times. If you don’t mind, or prefer, a super plush midsole with a ton of bounce, the NB might be the better choice. On the other hand, if stability, responsiveness, and a more aggressive level of stiffness are more your style, the Echo 3 is a fine performer.
Saucony Endorphin Pro 1 and 2 (RTR Review)
Joost (M9.5 in both): The Endorphin Pro 1 and 2 felt very aggressive and snappy, with a very feisty rocker. Because of my stride, the forefoot ended up being quite thin, so I never used it for a marathon or any longer races. The Echo 3 feels more natural and balanced to me.
Derek: I wear US9.5 in both shoes. I think the Echo 3 provides that much needed extra bit of cushioning to complement the aggressive rocker. I think many people liked the EP 1 and 2, but they just weren’t sure of the cushioning over longer races. The Echo 3 actually feels a lot like them in terms of rocker, more so than EP3, but with more cushioning to get you through the longer distances.
Saucony Endorphin Pro 3 (RTR Review)
Joost (M9.5 in both): I really loved the Endorphin Pro 3. It was soft and fast and I used it out of the box to run a local recreational marathon here in Luanda in an easy 2:51 (it felt like that at the time) and my feet were ok afterwards. The main issue I have with them is the upper basically disintegrated after 300 miles. The Echo is firmer and feels faster to me.
Derek: I wear US9.5 in both shoes. I too enjoy using the EP3. It has a good degree of cushioning and bounce and rocker. The major downside for me is outsole durability and it is one of the few shoes where I have worn out the forefoot rubber before the foam wears out. The Echo 3 is firmer but also seems to have better energy return when you pick up the pace. Consequently, there is a feeling of more efficiency in the Echo 3. I would say EP3 probably keeps it together better over a full marathon, but for anything shorter, the Echo 3 would be my choice.
Ryan: I agree with the guys on the Endo Pro 3. The midsole depth, bounce, and rocker make it better suited to marathoning. For shorter stuff, the Echo 3 feels snappier and more responsive. I also had significant durability issues with the Saucony in both the upper and the outsole. I’m seeing some worrying signs in Echo 3’s outsole as well, to be fair.
Saucony Endorphin Elite (RTR Review)
Derek: I wear US9.5 in both shoes. The Endorphin Elite is a lower drop shoe in the same vein as the Xtep and the Nike AF1. It is a firmer shoe that requires a more mid-forefoot strike to engage well. The rocker profile also sits quite far forward, so be prepared to really get on your toes when you pick up the pace. I think most runners would still be better off in the Endorphin Pro 3. I find the Echo 3 to be the more assistive ride, but the Endorphin Elite has superior underfoot cushioning. Both have similar pricing, but I’d say in terms of value for money, the Echo 3 is probably better, because the Endorphin Elite outsole isn’t the most durable.
Xtep 160X Pro 3.0 (RTR Review)
Joost (M9.5 in both): The only reason I didn’t run a marathon in the Xtep Pro 3.0 was that it was just a little too small in my usual M9.5, which is normally 27.5cm in Chinese sizing, but came as 27cm and would have given me a painful experience at the end of a marathon. One of my athletes, who’s half a size smaller than I am, has been successfully using them for his races and loves them as much as I did. The Xtep is my favorite of the 2 here.
Derek: I wear US9.5 in both shoes. I have enjoyed lots of fast long runs in the Xtep 3.0 Pro. It is definitely superior to the Echo 3 in terms of bounce and cushioning and is probably the closest mimic to the Nike AF1 on the market today. I’d agree that Xtep wins here. The major downside is the weight with the Xtep weighing about 1.5oz more than the ON, and if it’s a more hilly course, I think the lighter weight of the Echo 3 might prove superior.
Mizuno Wave Rebellion Pro (RTR Review)
Derek: I wear US9.5 in both shoes. The Wave Rebellion Pro has the most unique and crazy rocker among the recent super shoes. The extra high stack comes with the downside of maybe being a little unstable around corners, and the foam isn’t the softest, but the mechanical assistance from this shoe is very, very good. Overall, I’d say it’s the better shoe than the Echo 3, unless stability is a major concern.
Ryan (M9.5): As Derek notes, the Rebellion is a wild beast indeed, and a far cry from the relatively stable platform of the Echo 3. I agree that the energy conservation of the Mizuno is far better than the Echo 3 — but things do get dicey around turns. Neither shoe likes to go slow, with the Echo 3’s plate asserting itself, and the Mizuno’s wild midsole geometry forcing you to keep the throttle down. The Mizuno fits much snugger, and is about a half size shorter than the Echo 3.
Ryan Eller A hopeless soccer career led Ryan to take up running, and after taking a decade-long break from competing, he is back racking up mileage whenever he can. He calls the 2018 Boston Marathon the hardest race of his life, where he finished in 2:40, barely remembering his name at the finish line. More recently he has solo time trialed the 2020 super shoes, often sub 15 minutes for 5K with 10K’s close to 30 minutes. In 2022 he set a course record of 2:19 at the Maine Marathon and in 2023 had a 2:18:05 PR at the Vermont City Marathon.
Derek is in his 40’s and trains 70-80 miles per week at 7 to 8 minute pace in mostly tropical conditions in Singapore. He has a 2:39 marathon PR from the 2022 Zurich Marathon.
Joost is a Belgian in his 50s living in Luanda, Angola, Africa, where he faces the heat, humidity and general chaos to run anything between 60-100 miles per week. He was on a mission to run and win in his age group in the 6 marathon majors and got his 6th star at London in 2023 with a 2:26:10 PB in Berlin in 2019 at 51. He recently won his M50 AG at the 2022 Chicago Marathon in 2:29 and in 2023 won his AG in London in 2:36. Only Boston, so far, escapes him for an AG win at the 6 Majors. He ran in primary school, but then thought it would be a lot cooler to be a guitar player in a hard rock band, only picking up running again in 2012, gradually improving his results. Please check out Joost’s coaching service here
Cloudboom Echo 3 available July 6, 2023
Samples were provided at no charge for review purposes.RoadTrail Run has affiliate partnerships and may earn commission on products purchased via shopping links in this article. These partnerships do not influence our editorial content. The opinions herein are entirely the authors’.
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