361 Meraki Review

I will be the first to admit that I can be very particular about things.  Starting in college, I made sure to do my easy and long runs in my trainers but did every workout in lightweight trainers or racing flats.  The reason was to let my body get used to the racing shoes so I would be more comfortable on race day.  I have stuck to this, partially due to paranoia about trainers slowing me down during workouts.  The 361 Meraki is the first shoe I have violated that rule with.  Despite being a 10 oz trainer, I was able to take it on a great tempo run (6 miles at ~5:30 per mile) that felt relaxed and smooth.  So I have to amend that rule a bit.  Can I do workouts in trainers?  Yes.  Do I prefer to?  No, but let's talk about some of the things that make the Meraki a little different.


Stats*:
Classification: Trainer

Weight: 10 oz (Men's size 9)
Heel Drop: 9mm
*per Running Warehouse


Upper/Fit:

The Meraki is very much a "disappears on your foot" kind of shoe.  While I was apprehensive about the toe guard at first (which will likely be changed in the next generation as seen by the upcoming Sensation 3) I did not have any issues with rubbing.  The upper uses a seamless engineered mesh, which creates a smooth fit throughout the foot.  I have not had any rubbing or chaffing issues.

The midfoot is held quite well in this shoe.  361 uses a design called "Fitz Rite" in the midfoot to wrap the foot securely.  I did not notice this until I realized how well the shoe held my feet.  This further contributes to the shoe disappearing on the foot.


The tongue of the Meraki is on the thin side.  They designed this perfectly as it is thin enough to not get in the way but not so much that it is flimsy.  I have not had any irritation from the tongue, which is somewhat rare with me.  Usually I get some minor rubbing breaking shoes in with the tongue, but the Meraki was ready to go from the first step.



There is a heel counter in this shoe but there is some cushion in the upper to protect anyone with sensitive calcani.  As always, if you have anything like a Haglund's deformity ("Pump Bump") you may want to try this shoe before buying. 


The fit is very true to size.  I am normally a size 10 and that is exactly how the shoe fit.  It does have a slightly narrower fit throughout that gives it a more performance feel.  However, those with normal to slightly wide width feet should not have any issue.


Sole/Ride:

This is the area I was most impressed.  361 managed to combined appropriate flexibility with a plate that adds wonderful responsiveness when the pace picks up.  There are flex grooves throughout the length of the shoe, but the forefoot is what really shines.  There is a plate that feels like it runs from the midfoot through the forefoot.  The heel has mostly QU!CKFOAM that makes for a stable but protective landing if you land back there.  From the midfoot forward, the QU!CKFOAM stays as a significant top layer while the plate takes over the middle midsole.  This is why I have been able to use this shoe as both a trainer and a tempo/interval shoe.  The springy QU!CKFOAM combined with the responsive plate make it great for a variety of runs.  The flex grooves throughout the shoe do work well to smooth the ride out.  I would prefer if they were mostly in the forefoot (where most sagittal plane motion occurs in the foot, not ankle) but they are not overdone anywhere else.


The outsole is incredibly durable.  This is characteristic of 361 as their shoes tend to last for long periods of time.  I have 320 miles on my pair and there is very little wear on them.  Other than being dirty from the amount of trails I have also used them for, they feel almost the same as when I first put them on.  So expect many miles out of this shoe both from the durability of the QU!CKFOAM as well as the outsole.


The Meraki is meant as a neutral trainer but the plate does add some element of stability, especially toward the front of the shoe.  However, the sole overall is slightly on the narrower side, so those needing some extra stability may want to look at the upcoming Sensation 3.  The Sensation 3 is essentially the same shoe with no toe guard and some light posting in the midfoot.


Something I do appreciate that 361 is (slowly) starting to add a bevel to their heels.  I understand the design influence from Asics as many of their developers originally migrated from that company.  The Meraki now has a bit more of a bevel at the posterior-lateral aspect of the heel, which should smooth out and landing posteriorly rather than causing a jarring impact from those rigid non-beveled heels (that irritate me both personally and biomechanically).  So for those that have difficulty with this, know the ride is smoothing out.  I have found the ride of the Meraki to be very smooth thanks to the flexibility, plate and the mild heel bevel. 


Thoughts as a DPT:

Sole width is an easy way to both change the weight and stability of a shoe.  A narrower sole obviously has less material there and will weigh less.  The trade off is that a narrower platform will have less lateral stability and resistance to motion in the frontal plane.  Racing flats and performance shoes often has this feature as a way to cut weight, but there is a trade off stability wise.  On the flip side, stability shoes often have very wide soles to provide a more stable and broad platform. While this increases stability, it obviously adds a ton of weight.  A wide sole is only one of the many ways one can increase or change the stability of a shoe.  Hoka is very well known for having wide soles which is one of the reasons many report them feeling more stable.  361 has a bit more normal to narrow sole width, as seen by the traditional use of second density foam in their stability shoes, the Strata and Sensation.  The Spinject (REVIEW) stands out from many of 361's other shoes due to the slightly wider platform, which is why I had so much success with.  Despite being a neutral performance shoe (with great flexibility and turnover), the wider base made the shoe more stable for me and I was able to handle far more in that shoe than others in the 361 neutral line.  I really do like the Meraki, but given the narrower sole, I would classify it more as a performance trainer, especially with the added propulsive plate in the sole.


Room For Improvement:

I might widen the base of the sole just a bit to increase stability.  That is a personal preference and many find the fit and sole just fine.  I do like the fit as it feels like a performance trainer, so those needing a bit more shoe should look at the 361 Strata or Spire 2 (REVIEW).

I believe this is already in the works, but I would like to see the toe guard toned down like it is in the Sensation 3 (coming soon).  I think this will improve the already good fit.


Conclusion:

This 361 Meraki is not the lightest shoe but it is one of the more versatile.  I can see people using this as a do it all shoe, many using it as a marathon racer, others using it as a solid performance trainer.  At 10 oz there are lighter shoes on paper, but thanks to the QU!CKFOAM, the plate and the fit, this shoe feels much lighter.  This shoe has responded well for me on long training runs, tempo runs, intervals and even some sprints.  While I do prefer using lighter shoes for workouts, I kept reaching for this shoe during testing even when I thought I might want something lighter.  Each time they performed very well and I hit my splits.  So for those looking for a performance trainer that can handle faster paces, check out the 361 Meraki.

Thanks for reading and don't forget to tack on!

As always, my views are my own.  My blog should not and does not serve as a replacement for seeking medical care.  If you are currently injured or concerned about an injury, please see your local running physical therapist.  If you are in the LA area, I am taking clients privately for running evaluations based on my Orthopedic Residency and upcoming Manual Therapy and Sport Fellowship schedule. 

Dr. Matthew Klein, PT, DPT
Doctor of Physical Therapy
Casa Colina Orthopedic Resident

Kaiser SoCal Manual Therapy and Sport Fellow 2018

***Disclaimer: These shoes were provided free of charge in exchange for a review.  I put at least 75 miles on trainers and 25 miles on racing flats.  Currently my pair of 361 Merakis have 320 miles on them.  A big thank you to 361 for sending me these.  This in no way affected the honesty of this review.  I have no problem being brutally honest with a review because I do this for the consumer and those reading this blog.  I must disclose that my girlfriend is sponsored by 361 as a professional runner, but this did not influence this review. 

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