As is the case in cycling, the running market has taken a dip, certainly in the last year and in retrospect maybe this slight decline began earlier. Smaller brands, like Newton, Skora, and others struggled and there were brands that completely shut down their running shoe divisions, like Pearl Izumi and Zoot. HOKA seemed the outlier, immune to the declining market, mainly because they offer something that other brands don’t. Yet.
Still, a small, new brand, 361⁰ Running, was producing running shoes without fanfare. The brand seems to emanate from China but it has a U.S. office and just set one up in Europe. Taking a look at the different websites, the U.S. and EU collections seem quite different than their Chinese collections.
In China the brand seems pretty large. It has a lot of different collections in lots of different sports. A Wikipedia page says it’s sold in more than 5,500 doors in China. It provided uniforms for the Rio 2016 Games technical staff and volunteers.
361⁰ signifies 1 degree beyond.
I started following this brand last year when I saw the logo on the officers and volunteers apparel at the Olympics in Rio. Out of curiosity I Googled it and arrived at the U.S. website. I bought a pair of its Sensation 2 model, out of my interest in new running shoes. I didn’t expect too much of a Chinese brand expanding to the West.
At first glance its early models looked Asics-ish. But most of the 361⁰ shoes have a 9 to 10 mm drop. Asics sits with most of their key models like Kayano, Nimbus and GT2000 at 12 mm. Still, the 361⁰ Sensation 2 is in a lot of ways is similar to the Asics GT2000.
The upper is soft, seamless and flexible so it fits very nicely straight out of the box. It has a good fitting midfoot section and a stable feeling in the back part of the shoe also due to the external heel cup.
The forefoot section is just over a little narrower than the Asics GT2000, but by this Fall there is also going to be wide model.
The big difference is in the midsole. The 361⁰ is noticeable more cushioned, springy, and much more flexible in the forefoot than the Asics GT2000. Most iterations in the long line of GTs are always stiffer in the forefoot, while the Sensation 2 is much more flexible. 361⁰ named their cushioning midsole material QUICKFOAM and expressed the working of it with a logo picture of a combined sheep/cheetah animal, they call it a Sheepa. It is their way of saying this QUICKFOAM material is soft but still yet responsive. And in the Sensation 2 they actually hit that middle between being soft, but not too and still feel’s active enough to have some speed in it.
Like the Asics GT2000 series the Sensation 2 is built with a medial supportive post. It appears at first glance to be slightly less large and thus allows a more neutral strike at the heel. But the lack of that little piece of medial post compared to the post of the GT2000 does not make it less stable. This is a shoe built for the runner that needs that little bit of extra pronation support in the midfoot section.
The outsole also looks a lot like the Asics GT2000 with an almost full length flex groove. But in spite of seemingly to have so much in common the Asics shoe feels much stiffer in the gait.
While I was taking several runs over the last few months in this shoe it won the Best Debut from the Runner’s World magazine. “Best Debut’"in this case is curious since this is the second iteration of the Sensation model in 361⁰ running line, but that’s why it’s my sense that this relatively new brand was operating under the radar. Before seeing it at the Olympics I'd never heard of it.
Another thing I discovered is that they sponsor a German runner named Kai Markus which took up the crazy idea to run from Hamburg, Germany to Shanghai, China in just 235 days. That is something like 7.500 miles of distance running. In one of his blogs or posts I read that he is in just his 6th pair of Sensation 2s and I think he is almost there. That is over a 1000 miles a pair!
The 361⁰ Sensation is available in several color ways and in men’s and women’s specific lasts.
It weighs 11.5 oz. in a men’s size 10, not exactly light, but they feel lighter than they weigh, for which I credit the midsole material. If you run in the Asics GT2000, a Saucony Guide or similar running model and want to try something else, this might be worth a try. They retail for $120, and you can read further about 361°.