Running shoes have a long and storied history, with one of the earliest examples still available for viewing today in a museum in Northampton, England. Dating back to 1865, the shoe looks like a dress shoe that has nails hammered through its sole. It was likely used for cross-country running, although today’s marathon athletes would scoff at the heavy and uncomfortable leather footwear.
A century later, the companies designing running shoes finally started considering comfort and cushioning from the hard surface of the road. In 1971, the Cortez, with its sponge rubber midsole, was the very first trainer to take this route, and became the flagship shoe for the newly established running shoe company, Nike.
The 1970s would also hail the introduction of EVA in running shoes. Short for ethylene vinyl acetate, this air-infused, shock-absorbing foam is still used in many running shoes today, and paved the way for shoes that would reduce the impact of hard surfaces on the feet of runners.
Enter Helion™ superfoam
Swiss manufacturer On released its very first running shoe to the market in 2010, with the goal of offering runners a smoother and more responsive experience while running. Nine years later, in 2019, On presented an innovation that would change the running shoe landscape forever – Helion™ superfoam.
Recognising the need for cushioning in running shoes, the designers at On were not content with what foam midsoles offered at the time: foams that promised energy return proved heavy and cumbersome for runners, whilst lighter foams didn’t last as long as their more weighty counterparts.
Constructed using advanced production processes, Helion™ combines rigid, stable sections with more flexible foam elements along the same molecular chains. The result is a foam that is big on rebound and temperature resistance, meaning that temperature fluctuations don’t have such a big influence on the way the foam performs, nor does the cushioning absorb impact without at least returning some of the energy gained through the footfall.
Put simply, Helion™ superfoam allows you to take more of the energy forward with you on the run, as the fusion of soft elements (which provide cushioning on hard surfaces) and stiffer sections (which allow the foam to rebound back to its original shape) lets you take advantage of the energy that is created when your foot hits the ground.
Greater energy return means that runners have to use less energy to propel themselves forward, instead using the energy created by gravity to secure an explosive take-off every time the next stride is taken.
Helion™ adds to On’s winning combination of CloudTec® cushioning and On’s signature Speedboard™, which form an integral part of every On shoe’s design.
What makes Helion™ different from the foam used in other cushioned running shoes, then?
This superfoam is markedly different than any of its springy competitors in the sense that the material offers the best of both worlds – cushioning and support – while also letting runners utilise the energy they create when running, thereby allowing them to use less energy to push themselves forward. Helion is also super-lightweight, making for less strain, greater support, more agility, a softer run, and better energy return.
Says On co-founder Olivier Bernhard: “Since no other foam was able to offer what we wanted, we decided to build our own. Helion™ is a lighter, softer, and more agile foam for a ride that feels more alive every step of the run.”
One of On’s latest releases features more Helion™ superfoam than ever – and it’s already making waves. Read about the new On Cloudmonster here.