Like most obsessions, my Carrie Bradshawesque fixation with shoes came out of nowhere. Though I’ve always been style conscious, shoes felt like a hole in the rich tapestry of my outfit—a time suck, a money pit—and my feet, which are size 11 and wide, have made investing difficult. While Carrie could mysteriously buy Manolo’s or Jimmy Choos on a writer’s salary, I’ve focused more on finding high-quality, sustainably-focused sneakers that are comfortable to wear for long periods of time. And now, I can't stop buying them.
My first purchase was a new pair of running shoes — the Cloudmonster — from Swiss brand On. I didn’t know much about On before buying these shoes — just that their logo confused me, because the “O” in “On” looks more like an upside-down “Q.” Otherwise, I loved the look. In reading about the brand, I also liked that On prioritizes sustainability. (On each shoe’s webpage, the product details section lists the amount of total recycled content used in the crafting of each sneakers.) Plus, On publishes environmental impact reports and uses sustainable packaging. You can read more about their sustainability initiatives here.
I loved the look of the shoe so much, in fact, I decided to work against my neutral aesthetic (solid colors, usually varying shades of blacks and whites) and bought the Cloudmonster shoes in Acai and Aloe coloring, a deep purple upper made from recycled polyester,with light green embellishments. The shoes have a ridiculous-looking design in their soles that looks like you’re walking atop honeycombs — as funny as it sounds, the pop of color was exactly what my drab wardrobe needed.
Since I bought them a few months ago, the Cloudmonsters have been my go-to running shoe. I wear them for five miles runs each day, and their cushioning feels supportive, stable and comfortable — all the important features in a pair of running shoes. As my dedication to running has grown over the summer, the Cloudmonster shoes have kept me grounded (pun intended).
Even if I’m not running along Brooklyn Bridge Park, I still need sneakers for walking to restaurants or coffee shops — options that trade cushioning for style. To that end, On’s walking shoes have come in clutch, too: The Cloudnova Form (a new version of of 2021’s Cloudnova sneakers) and the Cloudeasy, two of On’s latest offerings, manage to look sleek and funky, while offering enough comfort for a day spent walking around the city. According to On, the Cloudnova Form are better for cooler conditions, while the Cloudeasy are better for warmer conditions. Because they’re super light, both shoes are great for all-day wear (rather than intense exercise, like the Cloudmonster running sneakers). That said, the Cloudnova Forms can be used for short runs, too, according to the brand.
Another new option from On is the 90s inspired Roger Clubhouse Mid, which will be my next purchase. Their synthetic leather upper resembles Nike’s famous Air Force 1s, though they include a hidden lace pocket to either tie your laces up or tuck them in. The only downside of On shoes is that they aren’t cheap. Most pairs run anywhere from over $100 to nearly $200. That said, for a shoe that keeps sustainability in mind and shows no signs of slowing down, they’re worth the investment.
Other highly-rated sneakers
Below we’ve rounded up other highly-rated or expert-recommended sneakers.
I’ve had positive experiences with Brooks’ running shoes and their Adrenaline GTS 22 model (as well as the Glycerin 20 model) made our list of the best walking shoes for women. Experts told us that Brooks shoes offer durability and passive stability, which means you’re less likely to get injured wearing them, compared to other shoes. Experts also noted the Adrenaline GTS 22 has a good heel counter — a supportive material on the back of the shoe that helps keep you steady as you walk.
The Chargefeel sneaker is the second in Lululemon’s line of footwear (offered in a low-top and mid-top, one which hits you at your ankle and the other which hits you at your shin), following the Blissfeel that debuted earlier this year. That said, the Chargefeel was specifically designed for women’s feet and more rigorous exercise: Lululemon says the Chargefeel is a cross between a running shoe and trainer (for weightlifting or mat workouts) and has a dual-density midsole.