RUNNING NORTHWEST: 361-VOLTAR REVIEW

 
 

RUNNING SHOE REVIEW: 361° VOLTAR

I have heard people call them the Nike of China and you probably saw them during the Olympics, but weren’t sure what brand it was. I was in a very similar place and from the first time I tried on a shoe from 361°, I had no idea what to expect. In this review, we are taking a closer look at the Voltar, a neutral road runner that is designed to provide ample cushioning as well as breathability and some light support.

Before we move on, a little history on 361° and their rise to the top. Born in China in 2002, they launched as an alternative to Western brands in an effort to be something specific to the Chinese market. 360° represents full professional functionality and that one extra degree is for innovation and creativity. In 2014, they began their move into the US and you may remember another Chinese company, Li-Ning, who actually tried the same thing but failed. The difference is that 361° competes across mainstream running footwear and apparel whereas Li-Ning was also focused on alternative sports like badminton, table tennis, and more which put them behind the eight ball. Rio put 361° on the world stage as they outfitted the Chinese national team as well as volunteers, referees, and operational staff.

Now that we’ve talked about that, let’s jump into the Voltar.

 
 

Construction: Upper

The no-sew upper is made of a breathable air mesh, but has some decent molded overlays that have been placed on top to provide a better fit. The shoe has a very solid and secure feel up top, around the foot, and also breathes well.

 
A close up look at the upper on the Voltar. Note the welds and engineered mesh usage.
 

A close up look at the upper on the Voltar. Note the welds and engineered mesh usage.

 
Overhead view of the Voltar.

Overhead view of the Voltar.

 

Construction: Midsole

The mid is a made up of QU!KFOAM which is a 361 proprietary tech. Supposedly it has been tested to maintain its cushioning properties longer than standard EVA foams used in athletic footwear. Additionally a full CPU coating is supposed to give it better longevity, responsiveness, and increase acceleration. The sidewall in the Voltar is slightly higher and given the insole is also QU!KFOAM based, it basically gives you two layers on the responsiveness.

 
Up close on the toebox of the Voltar.

Up close on the toebox of the Voltar.

 
 
Zooming in on the heelcup and mid of the Voltar

Zooming in on the heelcup and mid of the Voltar

 

 

Construction: Outsole

 
 

The outsole is blown rubber with abrasion resistant crash pads strategically placed throughout the sole. I found the shoes to track really well and they cling to the road nicely. Even during rain, I found them to retain their traction nicely.

You can clearly make out the crash pad locations on the sole

Style & Aesthetics

I think the 361 lineup in general will have its super fans and then those that are turned off by their designs. The shoe profile itself is very typical and doesn’t do anything necessarily out-of-the-box technically. The big thing is their use of bold colors and while they have a large lineup of colorways for all of their models, the palettes and mixes are something definitely nonstandard in the US market. The combination I tested (Lime/Midnight) I actually found to be quite appealing especially during the winter months when you look for a little more visibility. That being said they even offer an all-black for most of their shoes so you’ve got plenty of options.

 
Side view of the Voltar

Side view of the Voltar

 

 

Run Test

I wasn’t sure what to expect at all from the 361° Voltar. That being said, my initial impression from the first time I put the shoe on my foot was definitely a sense of comfort and stability. It felt very traditional, if that’s the right word. I felt like I had worn a shoe like this before. As I mentioned, the profile and stance of the shoe is very traditional from its 9mm offset to its toebox which is maybe slightly wider, but not by a lot. In general thought, he shoe itself is comfortable fits well and feels very secure underfoot.

For low mileage runs, meaning 10 miles and lower, I found the Voltar to be totally adequate. It’s very much a recreational level runner with an ample amount of overlays providing some level of support in the upper. I wouldn’t view it as a fast shoe, but I found I could dial it up and down pretty well as needed and it would react appropriately. Some clunkier recreational shoes take more energy to turn the speed up and down and I didn’t feel that here at all.

At distance, I started to feel more of the shoe and while you can easily run a marathon in a shoe like the Voltar, for me it wouldn’t be the most comfortable throughout. While it has plenty of cushioning, I always lean back on wanting a little more comfort in the forefoot especially in the toebox as you start to get a little bit of that pinching on the outside edges. The support does help at distance giving you more control even when your feet are tired, so the overlays do their job aside from just looking good. It’s definitely a good all-around shoe and I never felt like I was suffering while wearing them at all and they feel very much to me like a lot of other mainstream shoes I have tried.

Overall Conclusion

My first experience with 361° Voltar was an interesting one. I didn’t know what to expect going in and what I found was a shoe that is very competitive in our very large running market here in the US. The shoe competes well I would say against most recreational level neutral road runners. I would put it up against Asics, Brooks, New Balance, Saucony, etc. and it would hold its own. I think it lacks a little bit in terms of innovation which can hurt them in the long run, but I think this could be good as well because it’s very traditional and he feels like something you have worn before. You could give these to any recreational runner and they will probably like them whereas if you take a shoe thats highly innovative, you typically here complaints about the difference in feel. Visually, they are striking and definitely bring something else to the market and give them a big platform for differentiation. I’m not sure everyone will love it, but I found it quite nice to have something new and different underfoot. It simply doesn’t look like everything else and I think for this reason alone, they will find a following here.

Technical Stats, Pricing & Availability

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