Friday, November 25, 2022

361° Spire Multi Tester Review with 7 Comparisons

Article by Jeff Beck and Sam Winebaum

361 USA Spire 5 ($160)


Jeff: The Spire 5 seems like a big leap forward for the brand. Full disclosure, this is my first experience with 361, but I have paid attention to what they’ve put out and it always seemed to be a few years behind the others in technology and execution. Whether that’s fair or accurate is besides the point, here in 2022 they’ve put out a well-cushioned, if a little heavy, trainer with zero major issues. And they’ve put themselves on my radar for brands to seriously consider going forward.

Sam: The Spire is a traditional drop (9mm), very stable and substantial neutral trainer with a robust supportive upper, lots of durable rubber and a twist.. Instead of the usual EVA or EVA blends, its main midsole is state of the art expanded pellet PEBA as found, for example, in Saucony's Endorphin Speed and Pro.  

But don’t mistake this heavier 10.75 oz / 304g  US9 fairly low stack height 33 mm heel (measured)  / 24 mm forefoot (spec) for an uptempo weight or purposes shoe. I was curious to see what always energetic PEBA would do in a more classic daily trainer with a substantial outsole.   


A traditional trainer (9mm drop, lower stack, very supportive upper) with a dynamic modern PEBA midsole foam: Sam 

Very supportive upper with stable rear of shoe with lots of toe box width and volume : Sam/Jeff 

PEBA foam (and shoe) comes alive at faster paces with quick rebound , an agile feeling plenty thinner feel forefoot cushion and despite its weight: : Sam/Jeff

Actual red, rather than some form of dark pink: Jeff 


Weight at 10.75 oz US9, especially considering mainly PEBA midsole. Overbuilt upper and outsole (also a Pro for durability and support) : Sam/Jeff 

Not much fun at slow (10:15 / mile or slower) paces. Firm heel. Too much heel rubber? : Sam/Jeff 


 Sample Weight: men’s  10.5 oz  /  298g US 8.5, 11.29 oz / 320g US 10.5

Stack Height: men’s 33 mm heel (measured)  / 24 mm forefoot (spec 9mm drop) 

Available $160

First Impressions, Fit and Upper

Jeff: Right out of the box all I could think was “That’s a red upper.” There’s no pink or orange hue there, it’s just pure red, and I’m a fan. It might be the most red shoe I’ve ever worn, it almost gives Dorothy vibes, it’s that severe. 

That said, the upper is more than just a good color, it’s a pretty good execution of a mesh upper. I tend to say pretty good, rather than good or great, because it is pretty robust while also not being all that comfortable. We’ve seen uppers on other shoes that are overbuilt but also super plush, and this doesn’t give you the plush feeling of the best in this segment. 

The tongue is pretty thin, but has enough cushioning to prevent lace bite, and the heel collar is pretty substantial, if all internal. If the shoe had a few more overlays on the midfoot it could double as a trail shoe - the heel is that planted. 

The toebox is pretty good for a standard upper and platform design shoe, though I did find it a bit limiting vertically with almost no stretch whatsoever. 

Topo/Altra diehards may feel a little constricted, but most runners won’t be disappointed. Fitwise I’d call it true-to-size both in length and width, with my 10.5 having about a thumb’s width in front of my big toe.

Sam: The Spire immediately conveys a sense of substance with a promise of durability from its dense upper mesh and big outsole and with its bright bright red upper hinting at some fun.

The heel counter is high and highly supportive with "bank vault class" rear hold and security, reminding me of the hold oof ASICS shoes such as Kayano and Nimbus.  

The collars are well padded and comfortable. The upper support story continues to the midfoot with a thin but lightly padded tongue. Inside, as part of 361’s Morphit hold system we have underlays lining the midfoot. I am not really sure they are needed given the dense and inherently supportive upper mesh and while a bit overdone in support, the shoe upper does not get in the way of moving forward at transition for me. 

The toe box is plenty broad but due to the dense non stretch mesh a bit low as Jeff also found out The hold is excellent, secure and locked down up front. 

I was true to size without questions here with no slip, looseness or lack of support at midfoot or any toe box sloppiness. The Spire has a fine upper if in my view an overbuilt on for my preferences.


Jeff: The Spire 5 midsole is a multi-material construction with their QuikSpring+ chemically modified EVA top layer and a QuikFlame PEBA bottom layer. The white exposed PEBA bottom layer is the more substantial material, and combining the two different midsoles works well, making the shoe more versatile than its weight would suggest.

The heel/forefoot offset of 9mm seems almost off, with so much more cushioning in the heel. The forefoot cushioning is in the decent-to-adequate range, while the heel has truly substantial amounts of cushioning. That said, it’s not the softest shoe around, with the multi-material midsole approaching “Mizuno soft” levels of comfort and cushioning - but more of that in the Ride section.

Sam: 361's combination of QuikSpring chemically modified EVA and QuikFlame nylon elastomer PEBA is excellent but.. In my view held back and limited by the over extensive outsole coverage which gives the shoe a firm heel feel at slower paces, and adds to weight.  Now those are my preferences.

I totally agree with Jeff that the platform comes alive at faster paces where the PEBA foam can really be activated and that firmer heel feel mostly goes away but.. the relatively low 24mm forefoot stack and again lots of front rubber in full coverage starts to feel “thin” and a bit firm.  

For sure it will be a durable midsole (and platform) as the PEBA should not compress and lose resilience nearly as fast as EVA’s will, all that outsole should keep things stable . Thus for the heavier runner this combination should prove durable and long lasting  which 361 highlights in its marketing materials: With a “wider and thicker platform, even heavier runners will feel the comfort, cushioning and stability”


Jeff: The outsole is one of those elements that’s simple and great. 361 went with a surprisingly thick slab of rubber under the forefoot and a slightly thinner slab under the heel with exposed outsole under the midfoot. 

The rubber used has really good durability and grip, with a modified diamond pattern. It’s very reminiscent of PumaGrip featured on a wide variety of Puma running shoes over the last few years, which is a big compliment. Even though there’s plenty of rubber I don’t think it contributes poorly to the ride, which a lot of shoes suffer from when they go with big slabs of rubber.

Sam: I am going to have to disagree with Jeff about the outsole’s contribution to the ride. 

I think the firm heel feel at slower paces may be due to the thickness and coverage of the rear rubber as well as to the lack of a crash pad to break up the far rear of the outsole.  

The firmer/thinner (but responsive) fast pace feel up front may be due to not enough segmentation up front (and the lowish 24mm stack) as while the shoe is decently flexible the rubber up front is also full full coverage.  

While the outsole here should prove very, very long lasting and all the rubber contributes to stabilizing the softer PEBA foam above, as with the upper I think it is overdone affecting Ride and adding to the weight of the Spire. 


Jeff: As I mentioned above, the midsole has some give to it, but it’s a relatively firm ride considering the stack height and weight. It’s not one of those shoes that mutes out the ground, and there’s still quite a bit of ground feel. And the result? It’s a little underwhelming for the slow miles that make up most of my runs. However, it’s got a surprising amount of pop as you turn up the speed considering the heft of the shoe. The thick slab of rubber under the forefoot doesn’t hinder the shoe at pace.

Sam: I agree with Jeff’s ride assessment with caveats as stated above about the rubber in the mix which I think affects the ride at both slow and faster paces with a firmer than ideal heel feel at slower paces my main issue but one that goes away at faster paces for me.  If you care about a stable neutral ride with some really noticed supercritical foam energy in the mix and shoe weight is not a big concern you will find a reliable long lasting ride here with a some real fun when pushed. 

Conclusions and Recommendations

Jeff: 361 has created a relatively well-cushioned shoe that pales in comparison to almost anything else at easy paces and shines at faster speeds. What’s more, it brings enough weight to the table that the shoe exists in kind of a categorical no man’s land. My 10.5 is over 11 ounces, and it’s easily not in my top five shoes to take out for an easy run, and among the short list if I was going to run quickly. 

The outsole is among the best out there, and the upper is a little on the overbuilt side while still not being plush enough to justify the weight. All told, it’s a really interesting shoe that I wish they’d have added two-to-four more millimeters of cushioning under the forefoot, even if that made the shoe a little on the sluggish side. That said - as it stands the Spire 5 is a different shoe than what so many other brands have brought out as their most cushioned shoe, and even if it isn’t right up my alley, I can respect what they did.

Jeff’s Score 7.9/10

Ride: 7 Fit: 9 Value: 8 Style: 10


Sam: My key issues with the Spire are its relative weight for cushion stack and its overdone outsole and upper.  Reduce the weight and slim down the outsole coverage and I think I would like it alot more as an all around daily trainer. Somewhat lacking in versatility for me, and while very well built and I would expect very durable and long lasting, I don’t see it as that strong value at $160 for my needs.

The 361 Centauri (review soon) with a yet more energetic and lighter TPE foam midsole, more stack height, 0.75 oz,/ 21g  lighter weight and $30 lower in price with almost equally as supportive an upper, and with more “judicious” outsole coverage is much more to my liking and is one of my top few if not top more traditional, higher drop trainers of 2022.

This said if you are looking for a traditional style higher drop trainer, are rough on your midsoles and outsoles, are potentially a heavier runner, or you are seeking a very inherently stable and supportive neutral trainer with some clearly noticed modern supercritical foam energy, but don’t want to go with a rocker profile shoe or more minimal upper,  the Spire 5 is a solid choice. 

Sam’s Score Score 8.66 /10

Ride: 8.5 Fit: 9.1 Value: 8.5 Style: 9

7 Comparisons

Index to all RTR reviews: HERE

361 Centauri (RTR Review soon)

Sam: The 361 Centauri has a yet more energetic and lighter TPE foam midsole, more stack height at 36/27, 0.75 oz,/ 21g  lighter weight and is $30 lower in price. It is one of my top few more traditional, higher drop trainers of 2022.  It has almost equally as supportive an upper, and its more “judicious” more segmented if less massively thick outsole coverage is much more to my liking letting the midsole shine without compromising stability too much although Spire wins in that department.


ASICS Gel-Nimbus 24 (RTR Review)

Jeff: ASICS best iteration of the Nimbus feels soft, mushy, and under-cushioned when worn against the Spire 5. The stretchy upper, especially in the forefoot, doesn’t hit “plush”, same as the 361, but it’s definitely more comfortable. I’d take the 361 without hesitation.

Sam: A close call but agree with Jeff even though both are not exactly my cup of tea.

Brooks Glycerin 20 (RTR Review)

Jeff: While the 361 has a number of things going for it, personally this matchup is skewed heavily toward the Brooks. The upper is roomier, softer, and lighter with a bigger toebox. There’s more cushioning, and it’s lighter, with Brooks’ DNA Loft v3 midsole very well executed. I’d give the Spire 5 the edge on the outsole, and that’s it. The Brooks runs better with more cushioning and bounce than the 361.

Sam: I tested the GTS version of the Glycerin 20 with the regular mesh upper which, unlike the lighter StealthFit upper Jeff tested, ends up having the shoe actually weigh more than the Spire. The underfoot ride of the Glycerin 20 was clearly superior with a similar energetic foam that wasn’t masked and hampered by its outsole design. Up top for my narrower feet,  the Glycerin upper had considerably poorer hold, with its mesh overly soft, un reinforced and borderline sloppy in comparison to the somewhat “overbuilt” Spire’s.  As ride is always key for me, the Brooks wins there and I think if I had tested the Stealthfit upper I would have liked it better than the regular mesh. 

Mizuno Wave Sky 6 (RTR Review)

Jeff: The closest comparison to the 361, both shoes have a lot of firm cushioning and a refined upper that doesn’t have much give. The Sky has a more pronounced rocker and a finer fit and finish, while the Spire has a more durable and grippy outsole and a little more cushioning. Slight edge to the 361.

Mizuno Wave Neo Ultra (RTR Review)

Jeff: Mizuno’s ultra premium and sustainable shoe carries a hefty price at $250, but if you can swing it it’s an incredible shoe that’s lighter, more cushioned, and overall a more enjoyable shoe. But the 361 isn’t cheap at $160, and the Mizuno is a full $90 more, so if you don’t want to spend the difference, I completely get it.

New Balance 1080v12 (RTR Review)

Jeff: New Balance’s big daily trainer has a wider platform and softer upper than the 361, but its EVA midsole feels a bit dated compared to the primarily PEBA midsole of the Spire 5. Purely easy miles I’d favor the 1080, but for a more versatile shoe, go Spire.

Saucony Triumph 20 (RTR Review)

Jeff: Similar to the Glycerin 20 comparison, the Triumph really didn’t get anything wrong. The midsole and the upper are a big step up from the Spire 5, so while I’d favor the 361’s outsole, everything else is all Saucony. Rough year for big trainers with two other shoes heading for Mount Rushmore in the Triumph 20/Glycerin 20.

Sam: A full 1 oz / 29 g lighter with a higher stack height of almost as energetic foam and with a more streamlined faster big shoe ride with a great upper. Yes, the Spire has more outsole coverage but for me it gets in the way of the ride way more than the Triumph’s more minimal rubber. No contest Triumph for me.

Tester Profiles

Jeff Beck is the token slow runner of the RTR lineup, and as such his viewpoints on shoe and gear can differ from those who routinely finish marathons in three hours or less. Jeff runs 20 miles per week on roads and trails around Denver, CO (and sometimes on the treadmill when the weather gets too much for a Phoenix native). Jeff only got into running in his 30s, as a result his career PR's are 4:07 for the marathon and 5K at 23:39. Jeff has finished several ultra marathons, from 50K up to 50 miles, and is still debating if he wants to go down that road again.

Sam is the Editor and Founder of Road Trail Run. He is 65 with a 2018 3:40 Boston qualifier. 2022 will be Sam’s 50th year of running. He has a decades old 2:28 marathon PR. These days he runs halves in the just sub 1:40 range if he is very lucky, training 30-40 miles per week mostly at moderate paces on the roads and trails of New Hampshire and Utah. He is 5’9” tall and weighs about 164 lbs, if he is not enjoying too many fine New England IPA’s.

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