361 Strata 2 Review

As someone who used to be a Brooks Adrenaline regular, despite the variety of footwear I wear and test, a stability shoe is always in my arsenal.  That "type" of shoe is changing radically as we redefine what stability means in the footwear world.  The Strata 2 is a mixed example of this shift.  It is smooth riding in the front, slightly lower drop yet has a stiff heel with a very traditional post and rigid heel.  It has served as a shoe that I pull for on days I am beat up or looking to handle longer miles.  Yet it has the hint of something faster that has been able to handle my increased addition of hill repeats and strides after runs.  361 is on the right track so let's talk about this.


Specifications (per Running Warehouse)
Weight: 10.9 oz (men's size 9)
Stack Height: 26mm / 18 mm (forefoot/heel)
Drop: 8 mm
Classification: High Stability Trainer


FIT/UPPER

The Strata 2 has a hefty upper.  There are tons of overlays in the midfoot and heel, so expect to feel fairly locked down.  The forefoot is breathable, although a bit narrow (see below).  Sizing wise this does fit true to size, although some that are in between may want to go up due to the narrower forefoot (or consider a wide).   The toe guard is especially thick, so don't expect any durability issues.  However I would like to see 361 move away from overdone toe guards like they did with the Spinject as that creates a far more adaptable upper fit.


The heel is fairly normal width but is made snug but a significant heel counter.   The midfoot lockdown is great and holds the foot nicely.  The forefoot is on the narrower side but mostly because of the medial toe guard.  The lateral part of the forefoot expands very well, but I had a hard time getting over the pressure on my big toe.  I had a somewhat similar experience with the Sensation 3 and the wide fit perfectly.  A wide is available of the Strata 2 and based on my previous experience, I would highly suggest a wide for those with slightly above or slightly sensitive forefeet.


RIDE/MIDSOLE

The Strata 2 is definitely new age stability despite using some older technologies.  The QU!KFOAM midsole does give the shoe some pop despite the weight.   The forefoot is also on the flexible end and rolls forward very nicely.  The high amount of material in the heel and midfoot make the rear of the shoe stiff and not as smooth as it could be.  The archaic arch bridge makes the midfoot very stiff, which makes the shoe more stable.  From a ride standpoint it makes things more stiff than necessary, particularly with the posting already present.


The Strata 2 is listed at an 8mm drop, which is becoming more frequent in trainers and stability shoes.  The lower drop adds to the smoothness of the ride, somewhat combating the stiff rear section of the shoe.


STABILITY

This is an extremely stable shoe thanks to the combination of a slightly lower drop, thick heel counter, midfoot posting, stiff heel and midfoot, flexible forefoot and stiff midfoot bridge.  While these are not new technologies, they definitely get the job done if you need stability.  The new part of this is that they are not obtrusive.  I would categorize this shoe more as a firm but highly protective stable shoe.


SPEED

Despite being a high stability trainer, 10.9 oz is not lightweight.  However, as traditional for 361, the QU!KFOAM is very responsive when the pace picks up.  For strides or hill repeats at the ends of runs this shoe can switch gears well.  For anything longer than that, the weight holds the shoe back.  However, this is a high stability trainer and is meant for high mileage training.  For those looking for an uptempo stability shoe, the Sensation 3 (REVIEW) is well worth a look.


DURABILITY

As usual for 361, the Strata 2 is a tank.  I have seen almost zero signs of wear after over 100 miles both on the outsole and the upper.  This is a tough shoe and should handle well beyond the normal 300-500 mile estimate.  Due to the thick overlays on the upper, I expect it to last quite some time.


THOUGHTS AS A DPT 

As I recently discussed in a post on Excessive Pronation as a movement impairment, pronation itself is an important method of shock absorption.  As demonstrated by the literature, shoes should be picked based on personal feel and comfort far more than matching a level of support to arch structure.  The Strata 2 has several older methods of stability, including an arch bridge/midfoot torsion system and second density foam.  While there are many other ways to provide stability, these methods have worked for many individuals over the years.  That doesn't mean they shouldn't be improved, but question is why have they worked?  When the research demonstrates that internal methods of support may not influence the foot as much as we thought, why do people still gravitate towards models with these features?  As Dr. Benno Nigg has written extensively about, it may have more to do with either an individual preferred motion path.  Or as I believe, it may have to do more with where an individual needs proprioceptive or sensory input into their feet.  It is my belief at this time that these stability features provide more sensory feedback that physical support to the nervous system.  This is based ONLY on clinical experience and hypothesizing as I am not aware of significant literature demonstrating this.  Some people may need more input to get their muscles kicking on, whereas others may need physical support.  This variety is one of the reasons it is so difficult to make definite decisions about how these methods of stability work.  I think it has more to do with human variability than whether or not the methods work.


WHO THIS SHOE IS FOR (Conclusion)

361 is making an effort to integrate old thinking with the new.  While a traditional post and arch bridge are present in this shoe, it holds a new age feel that gives it potential.  All they need to do is redesign the upper for a more flexible fit.  If you are looking for a moderate to high stability shoe that is extremely protective yet has some bouncy to it, the Strata 2 is your shoe.  It runs a bit on the narrow side, so those with normal to narrow feet should be fine (consider the wide version if you have wider feet).  The stability is not intrusive, so expect some if you need it and less if you don't.  I continue to see the potential in 361 and look forward to seeing their evolution.

GRADING

Fit/Upper          5/10
Ride/Midsole    6/10
Stability            9/10
Speed                6/10
Durability          9/10

Total Score: 70%

Thanks for reading!

Editor's Note: As always, the views presented on this website belong to myself or the selected few who contribute to these posts. This website 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 Los Angeles area, I am currently taking clients for running evaluations.


Dr. Matthew Klein, PT DPT  OCS
Doctor of Physical Therapy
Board Certified Orthopedic Clinical Specialist
Kaiser SoCal Manual Therapy and Sport Fellow

***Disclaimer: These shoes were provided free of charge in exchange for a review.  We thank the  people at 361 for sending us a pair.  This in no way affected the honesty of this review. We put at least 50-75 miles on trainers and 10-25 miles on racing flats prior to reviewing them. Currently I have 120 miles on my pair. My views are based on my extensive history in the footwear industry and years testing and developing footwear. If you are a footwear rep looking for footwear reviews or consultations on development, we are currently looking to partner with companies to assist, discuss and promote footwear models. Partnership will not affect the honesty of our reviews.


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