It may be a great form of exercise, but running is a high impact pursuit that places great strain on muscles and tendons. The stress it places on the body forces many runners to hang up their shoes and seek alternative, lower impact forms of exercise. Looking to take the pain out of running, a Swiss engineer set about creating a shoe that enabled the runner to land as soft as if running on sand, and to push off as if running in track shoes. The result is the the On Running Shoe – a shoe that incorporates a unique rubber ring into the sole design to provide a soft landing, while offering firmness and stability on push off.

According to the creators of the On running shoe, more than two thirds of runners eventually suffer some kind of minor or major injury. Although existing running shoes are designed to absorb the vertical impact, the foot is exposed to both horizontal and vertical impact when running. It is the horizontal impact that causes the most damage to muscles, tendons, ligaments and joints, and that's what the On design addresses.

Today’s shoes are also built to stabilize, guide and control the foot in its movement. This means that the runner’s postural muscles become lazy and even degenerate. The idea of the On is to create a support system that actually activates the postural muscles.

The solution was a shock element consisting of a hollow circular piece of rubber that is able to absorb both the vertical and horizontal shock. Then, after landing the runner’s weight pushes the top and bottom of the element together and interlocking teeth on the inside surface of the element lock together. It is this locking that provides firmness for the push off.

Three-time world champion triathlete and six-time Ironman Olivier Bernhard, who was recovering from injury and was looking for a low-impact way to maintain his running fitness, heard about the shoe. He decided to get on board and ran thousands of kilometers helping test and refine the shoe’s design. It appears the extensive testing has paid off with the On Running Shoe taking out the Advansa Overall Award at the recent ispo BrandNew Awards.

The final design of the On Running Shoe will be unveiled at the International Trade Fair for Sports Equipment and Fashion (ispo), which takes place in Munich from February 7-10, 2010.

On is planning to step up production of the shoe in 2010 with selected dealers in Switzerland and key European markets chosen to carry the On brand from spring 2010. An online-shop is also planned. Pricing is expected to be in the US$150 a pair ballpark.