Beyond Expectations – 361° Spire Performance Review
361° has only been in the U.S. running market a short while, so a learning curve should be expected. A learning Pike’s Peak? Completely unseen, especially after the first shoe I reviewed.
Second life, and the evolution is in full swing. The Spire is every bit a top level cushioning shoe on par with any other brand, and WAY ahead of some “top” cushioned shoes from brands who have been doing this for years. Its QDP system and Qu!kfoam cushioning rival almost any cushioning system around and the fit and materials are already greatly improved from even last spring’s line.
How did 361° jump so fast — from a brand even their main endorser didn’t seem to want to wear — to a running company with models this good? Easy. To be the best you beat the best, and they did that by bringing over brain power from what is widely considered the running company: Asics. I said in the Volitation review the resemblance to an older Asics model was uncanny, and now I know why. Enough talk, it’s go time. Here’s the 361° Spire performance review.
MATERIALS – Open cell mesh with synthetic overlays for breathability, flexibility, and targeted support. Dense padding around the heel and Achilles notch. Road-wear rubber around the outsole edges for long road work with a softer foam insert in the forefoot for road feel. Midfoot TPU torsional support web. Love the transparent external heel counter — simple touch but looks expensive. The shining star? The QDP/Qu!kfoam midsole and insole, but more, much more, on that in the cushioning section.
FIT – I said much improved and no lie, they fixed my concern, at least in the Spire. The Volitation in a 10.5 was wide but short. I could have used an 11 length-wise but a 10 width wise. The Spire is still wide but not sloppy — probably a D.25 if there was one, but the lacing system pulls tight without too much dead space.
Initially upon tying it may feel roomy but a few miles into the run, when your feet start pounding and swelling, the extra room will work. Length-wise it was spot-on — just about a 3/8″ to .5″ gap between toes and shoe end. One of the issues I had with the Volitation was a stiff overlay around the toebox. The Spire still follows that design but instead of a thick piece of synthetic it is replaced by a thineer material. It till protects the mesh toe but doesn’t feel like a pair of Wolverine steel toes.
Heel fit is completely locked by the dense, thick ankle collar foam. Not the puffy 80’s style foam but more of a memory foam of recent years. The lace holes run the full length to the top of the foot and lock the heel in without having to use the runner’s loop — unless you have those Cinderella feet.
TRACTION – I used to not worry about traction in a running shoe — then Springblade happened, and I was convinced traction is truly necessary in running. When a running shoe has a hard outsole, wet roads become WAY more adventurous than I like when out, but too soft and you are left with a moccasin after about 25 miles. Now that is true barefoot/minimalist style, but I prefer a little more between my feet.
The Spire is a perfect combination of both — harder durometer rubber around the edges and softer, blown rubber in the center for grip right under the forefoot. In the pictures, I have put around 120 miles on the shoes in all conditions and surfaces (treadmill, road, track), and there are at least two or three miles left on them. Sarcasm — they are still going strong and just getting good.
One note: when a shoe uses stiffer rubber on the outsole for durability it loses flexibility — think trail shoes (my next pair). They combat this by the two different rubbers but also by running deepflex grooves across the forefoot, allowing the shoe to feel as natural as possible for a heavily cushioned shoe.
CUSHIONING – The absolute best part of the shoe. Qu!kFoam and the DQP system are amazing — no other way to say it. Again, for a company just entering the U.S. market, they have nailed their own system on the second try. Like a cross between Asics Gel and Micro G from Under Armour, it is both soft and responsive. I wouldn’t quite put it into Boost levels yet, but it is very close.
The QDP system uses Qu!kFoam in the midsole (the light blue area), the blown rubber in the forefoot (the grey area in the picture), and an insole that feels and looks just like a Micro G insole, even down to the color. Long runs, short runs, grocery store runs — didn’t matter — the foam gave way initially and then bounced right back into my foot.
I enjoyed every step of the way as my feet felt so fresh and so clean after even 5-7 mile runs, which for me is long. Amazing, again, that a company so new to this market has so thoroughly accomplished what established companies are still looking for — a cushioning system that lasts, works, and feels great mile after mile.
SUPPORT/STABILITY – Typical running stability system – midfoot web/shank for lightweight plantar support, wide, flat outsole for solid landings, and external heel counter so you don’t twist when you should turn. Not much else to say. My feet never got lost from one step to the other, always going forward, so I guess it worked. The heel counter does give one of the distinctive visuals for the shoe, looking very techno with the clear clips.
OVERALL – The Spire has become one of my favorite shoes for any time, anywhere. The combination of plush cushioning, fit, and comfort make it ideal for any distance or activity. I honestly reach for these when leaving the house for anything besides playing ball, and they are in my bag for the ride home most days.
If you are a fan of cushioned shoes, such as Kayano’s, Lunar’s, or Boost, check out the Spire. With the team in place, 361° is making noise this year with great designs and technology. If you want to stay in the path, keep to the norm. If you want to go beyond the ordinary, try something off the grid and check out the Spire.