Clinical Analysis of Running, Running Footwear, and Injury Prevention/Performance. The Doctors of Running, using knowledge of human movement, clinical biomechanics and performance, bring you cutting edge articles, reviews, and research reports.

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361 Flame Review
By Matt Klein


While racing shoe technology is continuing to advance, the challenge with many super shoes is that they are expensive. With many brands topping $250-275 for a single pair of shoes that often keep their "magic" for less than 200 miles, that is more than most people can afford. Those that do purchase them often spend very little time training in them, saving the shoes exclusively for race days. 361's goal with the Flame was to create a (more) affordable carbon fiber racing shoe that was fast enough for racing but durable enough to handle training miles. $160 still isn't cheap, but compared to others on the market, this may be a more budget friendly carbon fiber racing shoe that has enough durability for both training and racing. 





Specifications (per 361)
Weight: 7.7 oz (men's size 9), not provided (women's size 8)
Measured Weight Men's Size 10: 
Stack Height: 32 mm / 24 mm (not including insole)
Drop: 8 mm
Classification: Carbon Fiber Racing Shoe



RUNNING SHOE SUMMARY

Matt: The 361 Flame is a "budget" carbon fiber racing shoe that was designed with enough durability for for daily training. A secure upper in the heel and midfoot is paired with a very wide forefoot that allows plenty of room for toe splay for those who want it. A firmer ride with one of the highest levels of stability of all of the carbon plate racing shoes occurs due to a (overly) rigid plate. The transition will be too firm and rigid for most people to daily train in, but will work well as an aggressive but stable 5k to half marathon racer. For those with wider feet or wanting a wide forefoot paired with a very stable and rigid ride, the 361 Flame is a good option at a more friendly price compared to other shoes in this category.



FIT (LENGTH / WIDTH / COMFORT)

Matt: The 361 Flame fit me true to size with extra room in the forefoot in my normal men's US size 10. Those who want a close fit may benefit from going a half size down. However at true to size, I had plenty of room in the forefoot. Enough that I could easily splay my toes. For those that want extra toe room, this is definitely a shoe for you. The forefoot fits wide without tapering with a thin mono-mesh upper. The midfoot and heel fit more snug with extensive overlays that lock the feet in very well. Adjusting the laces does give the midfoot extra room, so those who want more volume may like this shoe. The heel has a very thick heel counter that is offset by a Next% like half ring of cushioning along the top of the heel collar. Those sensitive to stiff heel counters should approach this shoe with caution, however I did not have an issue thanks to that extra piece of cushioning holding my heels. The heel counter has some give to it and the extra piece is much wider and broader than that of the Next%. This is not a shoe you should wear sockless as the upper has some roughness to it. The toe guard is very well done: flexible, not irritating but still gives some structure up front. The tongue is free floating but has a notch in it that fits nicely against the ankle. The whole upper is extremely secure and locks the foot on the platform well. I never had to lace lock the shoe and I had plenty of room. So overall a secure upper with plenty of room up front (and more in the midfoot if you need it). 



PERFORMANCE (RIDE / SPEED)

Matt: 361 has both a more aggressive plate (QU!KBONE) and a new nitrogen injected PU foam (QU!KFLAME). The Flame surprised me as the ride is quite firm and stiff throughout the length of the shoe. The QU!KFLAME midsole has only slight bounce to it at faster speeds. The plate is extremely rigid and noticeable immediately. This contributes to the firmer ride, which masks some of the give from the PU foam. The firmness and stiffness makes running slow uncomfortable unless you want a shoe like that. There is a significant heel bevel (finally present in a 361 shoe) and toe spring in the Flame that is a bit aggressive. This allows for a very fast transition during quicker running. During slower running, the fast and late toe spring reminds me of the Adios Pro. It works very well when you are running fast, allowing for a fast transition through the forefoot as the plate extends. However during slower running it feels very abrupt and a bit like going over a speed bump. This is exacerbated by how stiff the plate is. For that reason, this shoe really works best for fast days, workouts and races from 5k to half marathon. It is too stiff and aggressive in my mind for races beyond the half marathon or for daily training. Those individuals however that want a shoe that almost feels like a rigid orthotic looking for naturally stability however may be able to tolerate this for even longer races and running (see Stability section). 



     The traction and durability in this are both great. I have 35 miles of running on my pair and there is almost zero wear on the outsole. The ride also has not changed (I was hoping it might break in). So anyone who buys this shoe will get a high number of miles out of them for only $160. The traction from the grey outsole pieces is good and grips well on dry and wet surfaces. I did not have any trouble doing a workout on wet road and have even taken these on light trails without too much issue. I would not take these on aggressive trails as the outsole and shoe are not built for that. For me, this shoe worked best during fast efforts. The plate is aggressive feels most fluid and responsive at 5k to half marathon paces.  For someone who wants more protection, a stable and stiff ride, this shoe may be for you. 



STABILITY 

Matt: While the 361 Flame is technically a neutral shoe, this is one of the most stable carbon fiber plated shoes out there. The stiffness and rigidity of the plate creates a great deal of stability throughout the length of the shoe. The forefoot is by far the most stable with the broad plate, wider last and outsole flare. Those with excessive motion problems will really like the forefoot flare and stiff plate as there is no other direction for your foot to go but forward. The heel and midfoot are quite rigid with the plate being so close to the foot. Despite the narrower last at the back, the heel has a significant amount of medial and lateral flare. Adding the plate and counter in for a high level of stiffness, the heel has only one direction to go. While uncomfortable for me at slower speeds, this feels nicer when the pace picks up. The midfoot is a bit more neutral, but the stiffness of the plate also keep the foot rolling forward. Although the stiffness and firmer ride can be too much during easy running, it does contribute to one of the most stable carbon fiber racing shoes out there. 




THOUGHTS AS A DPT / FOOTWEAR SCIENCE

Matt: There is increasing research on carbon fiber plates in footwear, with much of the early research on sole stiffness. The simple explanation for what any plate in a shoe does is stiffen the sole. A pinnacle article on this topic was by Mcleod et al. (2020) which Jared Ward contributed to. This article was the basis for the difference between the Saucony Endorphin Pro and Speed. The summary was that each person has an optimal level of sole stiffness that will optimize their mechanics (Mcleod et al., 2020). For some people that may mean a very rigid sole/plate while others may need more flexibility. Like most things in life, this is going to be unique to each person and will require some experimentation to figure out. Thus a stiffer plate is not always better.

    Plate design will also influence whether a shoe works for a certain person or not. There is an extensive amount of research suggesting that plates can be beneficial if they do not disturb where the metatarsophalangeal joint (toe joints) normally move (Oh & Park, 2017; Flores et al., 2019). While toe spring and plates reduce the need for motion at these joints, the pivot point in the shoe and plate still need to line up with where that would naturally be. If not, the plate is likely to be detrimental, uncomfortable and may require more work to get over (Flores et al., 2019). 



    So if a plate is too stiff or has the pivot in the wrong place, there are going to be some problems. Multiple authors have discussed how much comfort plays into injury prevention (Nigg et al., 2015; Flores et al., 2019) and having a pivot in the wrong pace will essentially force the body to move in a way that it may not want to. The stiffness, angle of the forefoot aspect of the plate and the degree of toe spring will play into this. This has been the problem with shoes that have bevels at too steep of an angle. They will be great when a runner is moving at a high speed and putting a ton of force into the shoe. If another runner is running at a slower speed and not putting as much force into the shoe, the plate engagement or lack thereof is going to be very different.

   If 361 really wants to create an all around racer/trainer, something is going to have to change with the plate design. It can be done (and has been done by shoes like the Saucony Endorphin Speed) and there are some additional elements referenced above that may also help/play into this. So I encourage them to look at the bevel angles, plate stiffness and depth of plate embedment.

References

Flores, N., Rao, G., Berton, E., & Delattre, N. (2019). The stiff plate location into the shoe influences the running biomechanics. Sports Biomechanics.

McLeod, A. R., Bruening, D., Johnson, A. W., Ward, J., & Hunter, I. (2020). Improving running economy through altered shoe bending stiffness across speeds. Footwear Science12(2), 79-89.

Nigg, B. M., Baltich, J., Hoerzer, S., & Enders, H. (2015). Running shoes and running injuries: mythbusting and a proposal for two new paradigms:‘preferred movement path’and ‘comfort filter’. British Journal of Sports Medicine49(20), 1290-1294.

Oh, K., & Park, S. (2017). The bending stiffness of shoes is beneficial to running energetics if it does not disturb the natural MTP joint flexion. Journal of Biomechanics53, 127-135.



RECOMMENDATIONS

Matt: The 361 Flame has a great deal of potential. There is a ton of room in the forefoot and the shoe is extremely durable, which is often missing in many racing shoes. However the plate is far too stiff to be used as a training shoe for most people. Similar to the Endorphin Speed series, I would suggest decreasing the stiffness, embedding the plate deeper in the midsole or using a nylon plate. That or creating a training counterpart to this shoe. The other suggestion would to lengthen out the degree of the toe spring and heel bevel to create a more gentle rocker. The mechanics of the Flame are best for fast running and not much else. I have walked away from every easy run with aches and pains in my feet and still don't know how the PU midsole actually feels because it is masked by how rigid the plate is. Fast runs however feel great and I dipped under 5 minutes per mile pace with ease in this shoe. 



WHO THIS SHOE IS FOR (Conclusion)

Matt: The 361 Flame is for those that want an extremely rigid plate with a wide forefoot and more midsole underfoot for 5k to half marathon racing. Those wanting a racing fit should size down a half size, but those wanting a very wide high volume forefoot should go true to size and will be quite happy. At $160, this is a budget carbon racing shoe with a firmer ride. Although developed as a racer/trainer, most people will only be able to use this as a workout/racing shoe. For those that like extremely rigid rides, potentially for stability, this may be worth a look. 




GRADING (SHOE CATEGORY)

Matt
Fit: A- (Wide forefoot, secure midfoot and heel. Almost fits half size long for those who want a snug fit. Those who want more volume will like this upper, but will need to loosen the upper in the midfoot)                     
Performance: B- (Firm, aggressive ride. Rigid plate makes ride very stiff. Glad to see heel bevel finally, but bevel angles are aggressive enough that this shoe works mostly for faster running for 5k-half) 
Stability: A- (So rigid that your foot won't go anywhere. Really good for those that need a naturally stability in all directions. Solid heel counter and plate keeps foot locked on platform) 
DPT/Footwear Science: B- (Design is really meant for fast running. The plate and bevel angles are far too aggressive for training. The plate pivot angle is also too aggressive and uncomfortable for training mileage. ) 
Personal:  (I really want to like this shoe, but it causes me pain whenever I use it for anything except fast running. The plate is far too rigid, the rocker too aggressive. A one trick pony that was supposed to do everything. Fast running only. Warm ups are not fun with cool downs only slightly better). 
Overall: B- (There is a great deal of potential here. A great fitting shoe with extra toe room for those who want it. Secure upper with even more stable ride. The 361 Flame is too rigid however for easy running and will be a workout/race day shoe unless you prefer extremely stiff and firm rides)                  


FURTHER READING

Compare 5k to Half Marathon Plated Racing Shoes
Skechers Speed Elite -
Combining hyperburst with a full length plate, the speed elite is a 5k monster that can work for runners who like an aggressive, lightweight performer
Asics Metaracer - Featuring a forefoot plate and lightweight flytefoam midsole, the Metaracer is fun racer that flies at the 5K pace thanks to the aggressive Guidesole helping for propulsive toe off
On Cloudboom - Combining On's soft landing with a firm push off, the plate makes the Cloudboom a hyper aggressive racer for 5k road racing
Skechers Razor Elite - Similarly to the Metaracer, but with Skechers ultralight hyperburst foam, the forefoot plated razor elite is light, nimble, and a blast to soar through the roads in on race day

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Asics Novablast 2 - Stability changes to the heel help bring this neutral trainer favorite to life for more runners than ever before

Thanks for reading!

TESTER PROFILES:

Dr. Matthew Klein is a 150 lb male with notable PRs of 14:45 for 5k and 2:32:44 for the full marathon.  He typically runs 70-100 miles per week and trains at a variety of paces from 8min per mile recovery runs to 4:40 per mile 1k repeats.  He prefers firmer and responsive shoes with snug heels and medium to wide toe boxes.  The stability guy of the group, he also prefers a little stability in his footwear. However, as a researcher, clinician and running shoe aficionado, he will run in anything. IG handle @kleinrunsdpt

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.

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

Nathan Brown PT DPT MS
Doctor of Physical Therapy 
Masters in Anatomy and Clinical Health Science
Movement Performance Institute Certified in Advanced Functional Biomechanics 

David Salas PT DPT CSCS
Doctor of Physical Therapy
Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist

Bach Pham MS
Marketing and Social Media Manager
Master of Arts in Cultural Anthropology

***Disclaimer: These shoes were provided free of charge in exchange for a review.  We thank the  people at 361 USA for sending us a pair.  This in no way affected the honesty of this review. We systematically put each type of shoe through certain runs prior to review. For trainers and performance trainers, we take them on daily runs, workouts, recovery runs and a long run prior to review (often accumulating anywhere from 20-50 miles in the process). For racing flats we ensure that we have completed intervals, a tempo or steady state run run as well as a warm up and cool down in each pair prior to review. This systematic process is to ensure that we have experience with each shoe in a large variety of conditions to provide expansive and thorough reviews for the public and for companies. Our views are based on our 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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