Clinical Analysis of Running, Running Footwear, and Injury Prevention/Performance. The Doctor(s) of Running, using knowledge of human movement, clinical biomechanics and performance to bring you cutting edge reviews, science and knowledge.

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361 MERAKI 2 Multiple Tester Review

Matt: The original Meraki was an interesting shoe.  It was one of the rare trainers that I could do workouts in well while still providing enough protection for longer efforts and recovery days.  I use the phrase "do it all" shoe far too often, but the original Meraki successfully managed to live up to that.  The Meraki 2 maintains a great deal of the sole while completely updating the upper.  The fit has changed for the better while the midsole has remained similar with one of the few trainers with carbon fiber plates.  This creates an interesting ride with pluses and minuses.

Nathan: Finding a good high milage trainer can be tough. The increased cushion and materials typically added to shoes typically brings the weight a bit too high for successful tempo runs or faster performance. However, I have found the 361-MERAKI 2 to be a great balance of substance without sacrificing its ability to handle a bit of speed as well. This shoe would be a great "do-it-all" shoe for the right person. What makes it that way? Let's check it out.






Specifications (per 361 Fact Sheet)
Weight: 9.6oz (men), 8.0oz (women)
Stack Height: 12mm / 21mm
Drop: 9mm
Classification: High Mileage Trainer


FIT/UPPER

Matt:  The fit of the upper is true to size and snug.  Typical to 361, the fit is a little snugger, particularly in the forefoot. The new seamless engineered mesh replaces the overlays of the last version, allowing for a far more comfortable fit, particularly in the midfoot.  The forefoot does have a strong taper at the toe box which is somewhat offset by this new stretchy mesh.  The heel has a strong and tall heel counter which is offset by decent cushioning in the heel collar.  The Fitz-Rite in the midfoot does a great job of holding the foot and I experienced no slippaged when turning.  The upper overall provides a snug but stable hold of the foot and those with medium to narrow feet will be right at home.




Nathan: This shoe fit true to size. As is typical for all 361 shoes that I have tried, the toe box is a bit on the narrow side. For me, however, it is a great fit as I have a typical to narrow width foot (they do have a wide option if you have a wider foot). One of the big updates in the MERAKI 2 was in the upper to make it less restrictive and soften the toe guard. I personally am a fan of mesh uppers over knitted, and the ventilated upper of this shoe was very comfortable. It provides great airflow on the hot days, so I had no problem with overheating. It is flexible on the top of the upper and gets slightly firmer on the sides, which I found provided good support when changing directions. The lateral and midfoot portion of the upper has what 361 calls the Fitz-Rite Midfoot, which you can feel with your hands if you put it inside the shoe but is hidden from the outside. It feels like a web-like pattern that works to hug your foot and keep it secure in the shoe. I didn't feel a significant difference in this compared to other neutral trainers, but my foot definitely felt secure. I appreciated that the Fitz-Rite was not overbearing on my foot. Overall a very stable but flexible upper.


RIDE/MIDSOLE

Matt:  The ride of the Meraki 2 is on the firmer side.  This is thanks to both the carbon fiber plate (QU!K spine) in the midsole as well as the firmer midsole QU!KFOAM material.  The ride is fairly stiff in the heel and midfoot thanks to the plate and feels best when you land farther forward.  The transition from midfoot forward is smooth and quick.  The flex grooves in the forefoot make for a very smooth toe off regardless of speed.  The Meraki 2 has a 9mm drop and that is exactly how it feels.  The heel however does not feel as smooth due to a lack of a significant heel bevel (there is a very mild one).  It feels fine for most uptempo runs, but during recovery runs can feel overly stiff landing in the rear portion of the shoe.  The extra QU!KFOAM in the rearfoot provides plenty of protection, the transition is just a little harsh.  However I am used to shoes with far more beveled heels.  For those that land farther forward, this will not be an issue.



Nathan: The ride of this shoe is one of its stronger points for me. At first, I felt a bit of lateral pressure around the base of the fifth metatarsal as it seems the foam is built up slightly in that region, but this decreased in the first run I did in them and wasn't a concern. Overall the ride is a bit more firm, but would act more cushioned depending on the type of run. I found that when I picked up the pace, the QU!KFOAM felt that it cushioned more through the heel and was very responsive in the transition to the mid and fore foot. The carbon fiber plate in the midsole, which they call the QU!K Spine, helped with a quick transition to the forefoot and made the shoe feel very stable without being too rigid. I've become a fan of full contact outsoles as they make even neutral shoes have some stability, and this shoe packs that as well. What helped decrease the rigidity in the ride was the lateral grooves through the forefoot, which they call the QU!K Flex. This made the transition on the the toes smooth for push-off.


STABILITY

Matt: The 361 Meraki 2 is listed as a neutral shoe.  However, the carbon fiber plate (QU!K Spine) provides additional rigidity in the midfoot.  Combined with the QU!K Flex in the forefoot, there is definitely a nice stable roll from midstance to toe off.  Thus it has a few factors that make it an inherently stable shoe without the need for posting.  This is not enough for someone with extreme stability needs, but for those who feel like they fit into the neutral to mild support category, this shoe will be fine.



Nathan: As mentioned above this is a neutral shoe, but is inherently stable because of a few factors put in. The combination of the full contact outsole and the carbon plate midsole made this shoe hold up well for long runs without feeling flat and has a wide enough base for stable propulsion, especially if you get the wide version of the shoe.


SPEED

Matt:  At 9.6 oz, the 361 Meraki 2 is on the border between lightweight trainer and traditional trainer.  It works best for easy to long runs where fatigue may be a factor, but has a higher than average degree of responsiveness for a trainer.  The firmer cushioning and carbon fiber plate make this shoe an option for uptempo workouts.  For the days you need a bit more underfoot but still want to do a tempo or fartlek, the Meraki 2 is great.  This is not a racing shoe and would not be my first choice for workouts.  The carbon fiber plate and QU!KFOAM  adds enough responsiveness to the sole that the Meraki 2 can be used for a variety of runs.  So for those looking for additional cushioning but still want a little kick, this shoe is definitely worth checking out. 

Nathan: This is where I enjoyed this shoe the most, in its versatility. The stability factors mentioned above as well as the adequate cushioning from the QU!KFOAM make it a great shoe for an easy long run. In addition, given the QU!KFOAM's responsiveness and the carbon plate, it also did well for both long and short tempo runs. Not only that, but this update is 0.5oz lighter than in predecessor, which makes it that much easier to pick up the pace. Keep in mind that I am not the fastest runner in the world, but for my tempo runs (6:30/mile) the shoe felt like it was contributing to my run and not holding me back. This is by no means a racing flat, but was a great option for 90% of the runs that I do both for just pounding out miles and some tempo training runs. We will dig further into what makes this shoe handle tempo runs down in the "Thoughts as a DPT" section.


DURABILITY

Matt: I have 78 miles on my pair of 361 Meraki 2s with minimal wear to the outsole.  The blown rubber in the heel and forefoot have next to no signs of wear.  The QU!KFOAM midsole has retained the same feel it did during my first run.  Additionally, the carbon fiber plate has retained the rigidity and further contributes to the maintenance of the original feel.  I expect the Meraki 2 to last as long if not far longer than most trainers given the above components.  So far I am impressed by both the durability of the outsole as well as the feel of the sole (although that has been my experience with 361 in the past). 



Nathan: I have 61 miles on these shoes currently with no sign of wear on any part of the shoe. Given the components that make up this shoe, I wouldn't be surprised to see this last longer than my typical trainers. The carbon plate has kept the integrity of the midsole, the outsole looks great, and the QU!KFOAM does not show any decrease in responsiveness.


THOUGHTS AS A DPT 

Matt:  Nathan will go further in depth into what are called the rockers of the foot and ankle.  My primary focus is on the rear of the shoe.  The forefoot and toe off in the Meraki 2 are great and feel especially good at uptempo speeds.  The heel is a bit stiff and I want to discuss why that might be.

Normal foot anatomy 
Image from orthoinfo.aaos.org

There are three rockers of the foot and ankle that contribute to the forward progression of the foot.  They are either curved aspects of bones (heel bone or calcaneus) or joints (talocrural/ankle joint and metatarsophalangeal joints/toe joints).  During walking and running in most individuals, the heel rocker, which originates from the curved posterior section of the heel, naturally rolls the foot forward when you land.   It is not a sharp edge, but a gently curved bone with padding.  This is something the Meraki 2 lacks.  Many shoes, including the Meraki 2, do not have heels shaped like this.  They are far more rigid and straight.  For those that land farther forward, this will not be an issue.  For those that land farther in the back, the removal of the ankle rocker may mean a sharper/harsher landing, increased work on the pre-tibial muscles (muscles in front of your ankle) to control the front of the foot and for those shoes where the heel actually extends backward, early landing before your muscles are ready to fire.  None of this is great or natural for the lower extremity, but has been around in shoes for decades.  361 is doing a much better job than previous (whereas other companies continue to struggle with this) as the Meraki 2 does have a very mild posterior lateral bevel.  361 does a great job with their soles from the midfoot forward.  I urge them to increase the bevel of the heel to smooth out the posterior section of the shoe to work more with the foot (rather than against it).

Nathan: Given that this shoe could perform well for me at faster paces even though it is a high mileage trainer, I wanted to dig into aspects of running that promote forward progression and how this shoe might be playing into these natural elements of running.

We have three "rockers" when we run (if you are a mid/forefoot striker, you only have the last two): a heel rocker, an ankle rocker, and a forefoot rocker. The first is the heel rocker, which is defined (for heel strikers) as the time from when your heel touches the ground to when your foot is flat. This is what Matt discussed above, so let's move on.

The second is the ankle rocker, which is the forward progression of the tibia over the talocrural (ankle) joint. The ankle rocker requires our ankle to travel into dorsiflexion, which as a side is why having good calf length is important. The stable midsole with the QU!K Spine carbon plate assists in stabilizing the foot on the ground during this to optimize the ability of the ankle rocker to progress our center of mass in front of our foot in the saggital plane (looking at a runner from the side).

The final rocker is the forefoot rocker. This is the elevation of the heel and transitioning onto the ball of your foot. The QU!K Flex design of the outsole allows flexibility in the appropriate direction to allow the natural forefoot rocker to occur and getting up on the balls of your foot.

So whether you are a heel striker or mid/forefoot striker, this shoe has components that may assist in the natural "rockers" in running that promote forward progression. This might be one of the reasons that this shoe does so well at higher paces despite being a high milage trainer and makes it a really fun shoe to run in.


WHO THIS SHOE IS FOR (Conclusion)

Matt: The 361 Meraki 2 continues to be a multi use lightweight trainer.   The updated upper provides a much better but still secure fit.  The sole retains the level of responsiveness normally associated with far lighter shoes.  This makes for a great trainer that can handle long runs and speed workouts where you need a bit more shoe there.


Nathan: Back to my point that this might be the perfect "do-it-all" shoe for some people. If you are a recreational to semi-competitive runner looking for a shoe that will help you increase your mileage and knock some seconds off your average mile time, this is the shoe for you. It will handle your long run days as well as keep up with you on your tempo runs. It is a no nonsense shoe that plays into the biomechanical advantages for forward progression. This shoe can be a great mainstay for many people's training.

GRADING
Matt
Fit/Upper          8/10
Ride/Midsole    7/10
Stability            8/10
Speed                8/10
Durability          9/10

Total Score:  78%

Nathan
Fit/Upper          8.5/10
Ride/Midsole    9/10
Stability            9.5/10
Speed                9/10
Durability          9.5/10

Total Score: 91%

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 FAAOMPT
Doctor of Physical Therapy
Board Certified Orthopedic Clinical Specialist
Fellow of the American Academy of Orthopedic Manual Physical Therapists

Dr. Nathan Brown PT DPT MS
Doctor of Physical Therapy

***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 we have 78 (Matt) and 61 miles (Nathan) on our pairs. Our views are based on 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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