Sunday, June 09, 2019

361° Meraki 2 Review: Carbon Fiber Plates. Too Much of a Good Thing... or Not?

Article by Dave Ames and Hope Wilkes

361° Meraki 2 

Dave:  It’s no lie that 361 has been pumping out some decent shoes. 361, or from what I always heard, is made up of a bunch of ASICS guys and gals after ASICS went through some changes.  Not a bad thing, because I have really seen some improvements in their shoes over the past few years. I was a big fan of Meraki 1 and with the 2 now in my hands, I was eager to give this baby some workload.    
Hope: Makes sense that 361 is staffed by some former ASICS employees. The Meraki 2 gives off some serious ASICS vibes, but with amped up quality. I don’t get too excited about shoes in the daily trainer category, so while I’ve been aware of 361 for a while, this is the first model I’ve tried from the brand.

Dave:  Good looking shoe.  Decent fit with a nice mold around the arch.  Good lacing scheme.
Hope: Agree with everything Dave said. Materials and construction are top-notch. Seems to drain well and is adequately breathable despite thick tongue.

Dave:  Tongue is too thick.  Meraki 2 feels a lot slower than the 1 did.  Quickfoam fails to snap off of the forefoot, due to too much stiffness via the Quickspine carbon midsole plate.  Just an average shoe for mileage days for me. Not quick enough for speed.
Hope: Too much outsole + carbon midsole plate = stiff shoe.

Tester Profiles
Dave Ames is 37 and keeps in sub 3 shape in Southern California while transitioning to Ultras. He is a professional running coach at Ame for it Coaching and trains a mix of at least one quality workout, one long run and aerobic miles on both roads and trails.
Hope is in her 20’s and after several ultras is now more on the road. She has a marathon PR of 3:47. She trains about 50 miles per week with many of her runs in the (broad) 8:00-10:00/mile range. She is happy to hit 7:30 miles on tempo days.

Weight (Running Warehouse): men's 10 oz / 283 g (US9) / women's 8 oz / 227 g (US8)
Sample women’s US 9.5: 9.17 oz (w/sockliner) -- 260 g
Stack Height: 27 mm heel /18 mm forefoot, 9mm drop
$130. Available now.

First Impressions and Fit
Dave:  Meraki 1 was a dandy.  Just a versatile, well tuned in cruiser for a variety of training styles and paces.  Meraki 2 upon slip on, feels just as good….though the tongue is a bit too thick causing the top of your foot to get a bit scrunched on overall volume.  My size 9 fits perfectly in terms of length and the shoe has a good look to it. The Fitz-Rite internal webbing portion of the seamless upper molds the mid foot and arch well.

Hope: I never tried the M1, but I agree with what the rest of Dave said. It seems like the puffy tongue construction was dictated by a desire to finish it with a smooth, thin synthetic where it hits the ankle. Make it a single layer of airy mesh and have done with it -- this part is over-engineered for little obvious benefit.

Dave:  361 changed overlays to increase comfort and reduce weight.  The Fitz-Rite internal webbing is a nice touch, as well. The M2 wants to lace up like a glove, but again this dang tongue is too thick, causing too much pressure on the top of my foot.  If the tongue could be made paper thin, similar to something like Skechers Performance is doing, then I think I would have a better idea of how this shoe performs at quicker speeds.  I am spending too much time thinking about what is on my foot and that is never a good thing.
Hope: There’s too much material, plain and simple. However, there are some bright spots. The airy mesh directly above the toes seems to do its job well. I challenged the M2 with some of my thickest socks on a hot day and didn’t suffer any discomfort. 
The welded toe cap is a thing of beauty. I can barely feel the transition from the mesh to the rubbery material, it’s that well applied an that well adhered to the upper. Ditto the welded eyelet reinforcement. The construction reminds me of a mid-level Solomon shoe -- not perfect, but very, very nice. I’m less excited about the (probably aesthetic only) fabric ridges on the heel. 

They make me think that the 361 team was trying to recreate an ASICS look and had to do something to replace an external plastic heel clip. Happy to see a small piece of reflective trim on the heel.

Dave:  The Qu!IkFoam midsole, combined with the Qu!Ik Spine carbon plate is just too much.  The carbon plate makes the shoe very stiff, which is turn causes quite the time trying to make this shoe feel smooth.  The M2 feels a lot more clunky than the M1 did. The added plate is definitely contributing to this. I find myself really having to force toe off, which in on a longer run beats my legs up much more.  The Meraki 1 was advertised more as an uptempo trainer, whereas the M2 is now advertised (at least via Running Warehouse) as a daily trainer. I can feel the differences as to why this shoe is a bit slower out of the gate than the M1 was.  And that all contributes to lack of flex in the mid foot and a struggle to let this shoe toe off smoothly.

Hope: This definitely isn’t an uptempo trainer for me for the same reasons that Dave outlined. I’d rather see a smaller piece of Qu!Ik Spine carbon plate providing torsional support only a la the plastic plate Torsion System seen in adidas models like the Boston and Ultraboost. As it is, the M2 is stiff and clunky. The foam feels fine (I appreciate some stiffness and pop from a daily trainer for runs <10 miles), but it would feel better without so much outsole and carbon fiber to contend with.

Dave:  Blown rubber.  Basic and nothing fancy, but gets the job done.  The Meraki 1 was only about a 250 mile shoe for me.  I have a feeling the M2 with increased weight and having more of that “daily trainer” feel will last more in the 300-325 range, depending on runner biomechanics.  No issues on wet surfaces and side walls are forgiving enough to round corners well and smoothly.
Hope: I want to say that there’s too much outsole because I really felt it a lot in the forefoot (and it contributes to weight and stiffness), but I experienced some seriously accelerated wear after <50 miles. This can happen with blown rubber and sometimes the wear slows down as the shoe approaches the middle of its life, but it’s something to watch out for. However, grip was excellent even in heavy rain.

Dave:  Honestly, there is nothing much to write here.  It’s an average shoe with some daily trainer characteristics.  Is it fun to run in? Eh. But it gets the job done. I definitely have an arsenal of faster and smoother shoes I like to run in, but it’s not to say this won’t hit the just doesn’t wow me.  It’s smooth, just lacks the snap I like for a trainer that is under 10oz.

Hope: You can get a more dynamic ride from other daily trainers . The carbon fiber plate doesn’t bring any specialness to this model. It’s a fine shoe, but like Dave said, not memorable.
Conclusions and Recommendations
Dave:  An interesting shoe.  I think with a few tweaks (thinner tongue, more flex in midsole) this shoe could be quite the ride.  It’s just a bit stiff for my liking, but that doesn’t mean I won’t run in it or it’s unrunnable. It’s that perfect daily trainer for the runner who likes a little less snap, may be more in the 8:00+ easy day range and is looking for a reasonably priced ($129) trainer at around 10oz.  Note: The shoe does open up a bit with more miles, so do not let the first few runs fool you. It gets a lot smoother. This may be a great option for the high school athlete who doesn’t want the chunkiness of a Brooks or ASICS.
Dave’s Score 7.5/10
-1 for thick tongue
-1 for lack of well quickness to the Qu!kFoam
-.5 Qu!k spine plate is too firm causing a “forced” transition from heel to toe.

Hope: I’d love to see an update with a thinner carbon rubber sole, a smaller plate, and a lightweight upper design. If 361 rips a page out of the Adidas playbook and combines that with their ASICS design sensibilities, they could make a really excellent daily trainer with nice snap to it. As it is now, the M2 is a bit too clunky and stiff to really impress me.
Hope’s Score 8.0/10
-1 for excessive outsole/fast wearing outsole
-.5 for thick tongue
-.5 for stiffness

361° Meraki 2 vs. Nike Pegasus 35 (RTR Review)
Dave:  The Pegasus 35 is one of my top 3 shoes of 2018 and is honestly so good I keep mopping up more pairs.  It’s a 500 mile trainer for me and is smooth enough to do Tempo and progression given the great forefoot pop.  These shoes are in a similar wheelhouse, I just dig the Pegasus a lot more. It also fits my narrow foot better.

361° Meraki 2 vs. Skechers Performance Razor 3 (RTR Review)
Dave:  Hyperburst is the best midsole in the game right now.   Should you want a daily trainer, grab the Meraki 2 for cruiser miles and keep the R3 for workout days and races.

Hope: Radically different shoes and different weights. As Dave said, put the R3 in the rotation for speedy stuff and let the M2 soak up slower miles. But if I had to pick just one, I’d pick the lighter, faster, bouncier R3.

361° Meraki 2 vs. Brooks Launch 5 (RTR Review)
Dave:  I did not run in L6.  Hopefully Hope can chime in here because they are very similar.  Launch 5 feels a lot like Meraki 2. Meraki 2 boasts a wider midsole platform, which I like and was dissatisfied with in Launch.
Hope: I did not run the Launch 6. The Launch 5 has more bounce than the M2, but the M2 has far superior lockdown. If Brooks fixed hold of the overlay-free upper in the L6 (see RTR Review of Launch 6, they appear to did) , I’d pick that shoe, otherwise go M3.

361° Meraki 2 vs. Hoka One One Carbon Rocket (RTR Review)
Dave:  Both shoes boast a carbon plate and unfortunately for me, both of those plates ruined the shoes a bit.  Carbon Rocket became a foot basher and was unrunnable and the plate in M2 is taking away from the ton of pop this shoe really could have.

Hope: The Carbon Rocket was so stiff that it caused me major discomfort (my ankles were doing weird gearing tricks to try and keep the sole rolling even though it didn’t have a rockered shape) and I had to bail on a long run. Very different shoes despite the shared midsole insert material. Other RTR reviewers had a more positive experience, so your mileage may vary. Although it’s stiff, the M2 is still a heck of a lot more flexible than the Carbon Rocket and it’s therefore more forgiving and more runnable. I wouldn’t race in the M2, but I basically don’t want to run in the Carbon Rocket period, so M2 gets the nod.

361° Meraki 2 vs. ASICS GEL Nimbus 21 (RTR Review)
Hope: Best comp on this list even though the N21 is heavier by about half an oz. and pricier ($150 to the M2’s $129). The N21 has a softer ride and generally softer materials, but both models seem to be going for the same thing: a protective ride that still delivers some snap. The N21 feels a lot smoother, so it’d be my pick.
The product reviewed was provided at no cost. The opinions herein are the authors'.
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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Our store has stocked the Meraki, versions 1 and 2, and we were under the impression that the update was merely an upper update. I'm looking at both versions now and aside from the upper the shoes look identical. Is this not the case? It seems strange to me that the Meraki 2 would feel so much slower, especially since I can't see any differences apart from the upper.