At the heart of all great brands lies a desire to affect change. This change may take many forms and have multiple areas of focus. The changes On wants to see are all linked by running… but how does a business act as a disruptor in an established industry, help to unleash the potential inside elite athletes and protect the environment? These plans all come together in the concept “dream on” – a call to think beyond the ordinary.

The American artist Edward Hopper once said: “No amount of skilful invention can replace the essential element of imagination.” Hopper’s assertion is true in every walk of life, not just painting. For example, how about creating a business that sets out to disrupt an industry packed with multinational, household-name brands? That takes imagination. It requires the ability to dream on. And that is what the founders of On realised when they set out to establish a company that would change the face of the running shoe and apparel industry.  

The fact that On is an innovative and disruptive business is apparent the moment you set foot inside its new headquarters building in north-eastern Zurich. The layout is open, light and engineered to create as many interactions as possible between team members. There is a large canteen where everyone can rub shoulders, from the senior leaders of the company to visitors. And the roof garden allows staff members to experience nature while being in a city.  

On the ground floor is a retail space where runners can come to discover the latest innovations in footwear and apparel. In this space, runners at every level are able to benefit from the same products that elite athletes use in the pursuit of being their very best.  

The focus on athlete performance is a key component of On’s plan. Olivier Bernhard was a three-time duathlon world champion and multiple Ironman winner before he turned his attention to developing shoes that would deliver the perfect running feeling. Olivier teamed up with his friends David Allemann and Caspar Coppetti to create the first On shoe, which hit running-store shelves in July 2010. The journey had started. But there was much more to come.  

On continues to focus on the innovations that will supports high-performance athletes striving to unleash their potential. This extends from developing footwear – such as the Cloudmonster, which delivers the ultimate balance of cushioning and propulsion, to the Cloudspike 10,000m for distance races on the track – to making apparel that provides exactly what is required in all conditions.  

However, the support the brand gives to athletes goes beyond footwear and apparel. One example is the On Athletics Club (OAC) and the On Athletics Club Europe, both of which are designed to deliver the coaching and support that elite athletes need to perform on the biggest stages in the world.  

So far, so good. But On is always looking for more ways to disrupt the running world. Not satisfied with creating the best possible products for elite and regular runners, On is determined to make the best possible products for the planet.   

Through programmes such as CleanCloud™ technology, which turns carbon emissions into performance products and the Cloudneo – a fully recyclable shoe that you never own (runners pay a subscription for the shoe, return each worn-out pair to be recycled, then receive new shoes) – On is showing its commitment to the planet on which we all live. 

A spiral staircase connects the floors of On’s new headquarters. As you climb the stairs, they get subtly steeper and narrower. This reflects the challenge of climbing mountains. After all, it was in the Swiss mountains that Oliver, Casper and David first discussed their dreams for a new running brand that would take on the status quo. The design of the staircase represents the fact that the higher you go, the harder you have to work. 

On has achieved huge amounts in a relatively short time. But everyone on the On team knows that there is still much to do. And the more the brand, its athletes and collaborators achieve, the harder it becomes to continue innovating. But no one involved in On is discouraged by that. Because they all know that they have something that fuels them to remain at the forefront – imagination. The ability to dream on. And, in doing so, to keep scaling the heights. 


Find out more about On, its mission and products at 

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