Shoes are one of the most important pieces of gear that a runner can own. After all, your feet are pounding the pavement constantly, so it’s vital that the shoes which protect them provide the right amount of cushioning and support. When I first started running, I was told that I was an ‘over-pronator’ and therefore required structured shoes to keep my feet from rolling inwards. I ran only in structured shoes for years, however they tend to be quite heavy. When I started trying to get faster, I decided to do some of my runs in a lighter, more neutral shoe. Neutral shoes have less rigid stability features which reduces their weight, and yet still maintain a soft cushioning underfoot.
As a brand ambassador for 361° Europe, I was very excited to get to try out their new neutral shoe offering, the 361° Meraki. I was sent a pair shortly before heading off to Australia, and was able to test them out on several runs over the past few weeks – including one beach run! I switched between wearing the Meraki’s and the 361° Sensation 2 (a more structured shoe) to compare the two types, and see if they made me #feelfaster.
So what actually makes this shoe special? As already established, the Meraki is a neutral shoe which is designed for long-distance road running – perfect for what I love to do. Here are some of its other great benefits and features:
- A multi-layer cushioning system which is soft and comfortable, but is still stable and responsive against the road.
- Included in these layers is QU!KFOAM, 361°’s unique technology which gives a high level of energy return and comfort
- The ‘Fitz-Rite’ midfoot overlay pattern which keeps the foot in place
- A sock-liner for extra comfort, and to let you go sock-less (if that’s how you like it)
- QU!K Flex forefoot for a natural and balanced toe, and better ground contact for acceleration.
All that sounds great, but may not mean much to the standard runner. What’s more important is how it performs on the road.
To date, I have run 42.8km in the Meraki’s over 8 runs. These runs were not more than 7km each, so I can’t make an accurate judgement about how the shoes hold up over long-distance runs. However, I did run with them over a variety of terrain and up a lot of hills. And after three weeks of testing…
I think they’re great! From the first moment I put them on, the Meraki was incredibly comfortable and didn’t feel stiff like a new shoe usually does. I had this same feeling when I put on the Sensation 2s for the first time, so the level of comfort seems to be a recurring theme among 361° shoes. On my first run I could feel the difference between the neutral Meraki and my standard structured Sensation 2, but after a while it became less noticeable. This is probably because the new pair of shoes filled a gap in my running shoe collection.
The Meraki is significantly lighter than my structured shoes, yet is not as featherweight as a racing-type shoe, such as the 361° KgM2 2. This makes the Meraki perfect for tempo runs or marathon-pace sessions, where you want to be light on your feet but will still cover a decent distance. The #feelfaster hashtag for the 361° Meraki is certainly appropriate given the type of shoe (even if I couldn’t quite tap into much speed in the Australian heat).
My biggest problem with the shoe is the colour! I’m not a fan of pink, and I’m disappointed that the shoe has only been made in one shade for women. The men’s version comes in blue or a fantastic red/orange, and I would have much preferred to wear either of those colours. Would have matched my wardrobe better too!
361° is a newcomer to the European market, but the new Meraki shoe provides a great reason to try them out. The lightness and comfort of the shoe had me completely won over from the first step, and weeks later I’m still satisfied with the shoe. I would be interested in trying them out over a longer distance to see if they continue to perform after an hour+ running. Overall, they’re a great looking neutral shoe which I continue to pull out each week – I just wish they were made in another colour too!