COAAA: 361-Meraki Review

COAAA: 361-Meraki Review

I ran in the 361 Degrees Meraki during a few half marathons, as well as all of my road miles lately. I've been putting roughly 15-30 miles a week in them for the last few months. And I have to tell you, they really out-performed my own expectations. - Jeremy Heath

Beyond Expectations: 361 Degrees Meraki Shoe Review

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I've now ran well over 100 miles in the 361° Meraki. And spoiler alert: I've found my new favorite! This may be a lengthy review, but I've got lots to share about the 361 Degrees brand, the Meraki model, and why they are performing beyond expectations.

Disclaimer: I received a pair of 361 Degrees Meraki in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts an opinions are my own.  

I'll be honest, I'm picky. (But when it comes to running shoes, who isn't?) Sometimes, I feel like Goldilocks. Some brands have WAY too much cushion for me, while others just don't have enough. Shoes designed for over-pronators have too much support while the more minimalist shoes rip me to shreds. So finding the right pair is always tough. Even when I find a great shoe, it tends to not hold up to heavy mileage long.
Enter the 361 Degrees Meraki. A brand and model designed for high mileage training. I'm currently training for an ultra marathon, so the perfect chance to put this shoe to the pavement-pounding test!
But first, I know many of you may be curious about the shoe brand itself. It's still fairly new and making a name for itself here in the U.S. So let me quickly share a little about the 361 Degrees brand and technology. 

361 DEGREES: The Brand
The extra one degrees comes from the 361° motto: ONE DEGREE BEYOND. It's about the brand's dedication and commitment to support athletes of all levels and abilities. 361 Degrees believes you can do more than you think you can, which is why they support you to perform beyond your own expectations. 
What is not to love about a mission statement and brand motto like that! I'm a runner who's always seeking out unique challenges that push my limits. My personal achievements are just that: goals I've set and exceeding the expectations. Not comparing to other runners, but instead to the adventure I set forth for myself. I agree with the 361 Degrees mission 100%. 
The family-owned company was founded in 2003 and has quickly grown to become one of the biggest sports brands in China. It was one of the main sponsors for the Olympic Games in Rio in 2016. In China 361° is a major supplier of sports gear for all kinds of sports like running, basketball, football, swimming, outdoor and much more. Following the initial success in China the brand decided to internationalize its business.
Since then, several US athletes have been chosen 361 degrees as their shoe. Like U.S. Olympian Katie Zaferes and long distance runner Sarah Crouch (who was the top American finisher at the Houston Half). So they're gaining traction here in the U.S. quickly. I bet you will start to see 361 Degrees a lot more in the coming year!
So what makes 361 Degrees stand out from the rest? The QU!KFOAM cushioning: an EVA rubber blend that provides an amazing combination of cushioning and responsiveness. Proven to maintain the same high level of energy return and long lasting comfort throughout the life of the shoe. Take a look at how they piece together one awesome shoe here
  • Seamless engineered mesh vamp
  • Externally the Fitz-Rite midfoot utilizes a distinct overlay pattern to hold the foot secure.
  • Pressure Free Tongue designed to provide comfort and avoid irritation
  • QU!K Flex forefoot engineering provides for a natural and balanced toe off and enhances ground contact for better acceleration.
  • Powered by QU!KFOAM and QDP System
I ran in the 361 Degrees Meraki during a few half marathons, as well as all of my road miles lately. I've been putting roughly 15-30 miles a week in them for the last few months. And I have to tell you, they really out-performed my own expectations.

No, I'm not just saying that because I received a free pair. I'll be honest with you if I feel something just isn't right for me. But quite the opposite with this model and this brand. I not only enjoyed them, but fell in love!
In a nutshell, here's what I love about this shoe:
  • Responsiveness. A lot of shoes that promise cushion tend to be bulky and I lose that "responsiveness" and feel of the road beneath me. However, I was surprised by just how responsive this shoe really is. Flexible and a great close-to-the-road feel
  • Lightweight. While each shoe weighs in at 10.2oz, it still feels lighter than some of my other bulkier shoes. 
  • Cushion. The Meraki definitely has some cushion. But just the right amount. Soft enough to protect my feet and body from all the pavement pounding, without being too clunky. 
  • Smooth Ride. The flexibility in all the right spots, combined with a perfect balance of cushion make for a really smooth ride on those double-digit miles. 
  • Durability. Putting them on after almost a 100 miles they still feel like they have a lot of life yet. A lot of my shoes as of late tend to break down pretty quickly after heavy mileage but not these! I feel I can still get another few months in them at least!
  • Breathable. It's a snug fit, without cramping your feet, and a nice breathable toe box.
  • Runs true to size. Get your normal shoe size on this one. I've found it to run true to size, and seen the same feedback from a few others. 
  • Thin Tongue. The thin yet cushioned tongue on the shoe, while not an asset a lot of people think much about, provides a more secure fit for my foot. I love to tie my laces tight and this allows me to get a snug fit b/c a thick tongue 
  • Awesome colors. Okay, I know that *shouldn't* be a factor, but let's face it. Most of us like shoes that look as good as they perform. And these are no exception. Bright colors that look sleek, without being over the top. And blue is one of my favorite colors! 

Seriously my new favorite shoe. You know when you have a pair of shoes that you love to run in so much, you refuse to wear them for anything else for fear of "breaking them down" even more? That's me with this shoe. I even get a little excited when it's time to run so I can slip these babies on. My feet love em.

I'll even go as far as to share this: I have had some issues in the past from Plantar Fasciitis to tendinitis. And I do believe shoes can play a major role in that. Since doing my long runs in the Meraki, I haven't had as many issues. (Knocking on wood as I type this.)  Yes, I've still got the aches and pains that come with heavy mileage, but manageable. So for me, I believe the 361 Degrees Meraki is the perfect fit. 

So I guess you could say this Running Goldilocks found the shoes that are juuuuussst right! I wanted to see what the other 361 Degrees models are like, so I've recently purchased their trail shoe, the Santiago. Can't wait to give them a shot on the trails!

I highly recommend giving the 361 Degrees Meraki a try. Maybe they will be the perfect shoe for you too. Or maybe they won't. But you don't know until you try! 
Here in Phoenix, you can check them out at Runner's Den. If you're not in the area, use the 361 Degrees local dealer tool on their website. Or you can always order from their online store (Pro Tip: sign up for their newsletter, you'll get a 15% discount code!) 
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