THE RUNDOWN: The 361-Spire 3 is a well-balanced, neutral everyday trainer in a very low-key package.
Surface: Road Pronation: Neutral Stack Height: Medium
A relative newcomer to the U.S. shoe biz, 361 entered the American scene in 2014 after hiring former Asics VP Jim Monahan. At the time, 361 was the second-largest running shoe brand in China, looking to expand their market to Europe, South America and then finally, the U.S. Though their U.S. presence may seem low-key, they are, in fact, a giant international company. Offering a range of shoes that include trail, stability, neutral and lightweight (also basketball and cross-training), 361’s range is mostly mid-offset with no models in the high-cush or low-profile range. Middle ground is the name of 361’s game.
With no smart shoes, no crazy knits, no zero-drop, and no maximal or minimal models to speak of, 361 focuses mainly on the no-gimmick sweet spot of workhorse running footwear. That’s not to say there’s nothing exciting about having a great-feeling, injury-free run, but if you’re looking for a shoe that will spark conversation at the next Saturday morning run, the Spire 3 is not that shoe.
Weight: 10.4 ounces
Midsole: Quik Foam EVA/rubber blend
Outsole: Blown rubber forefoot with carbon rubber heel
Upper: Mesh overlays with internal midfoot webbing
100 Miles In: The Review
At first glance, the Spire 3’s style is certainly not a head-turner. But that’s good for a lot of people. These are running shoes, not fashion items. The über-basic black-on-black with some white is a great setup for those who want to get their running shoes dirty and stinky and generally beat the crap out of. And a beating these can take. Weighing in at a stout, but not overbearing, 10 ounces, there is plenty of stability and cushioning (more of the former than the latter, to be sure) for the great majority of runners with good mechanics and okay mechanics. Runners with severe overpronation may not be happy here, but the carbon fiber plate (they call it the Quik Spine) adds a very impressive level of structure to a shoe that from the outside looks like it wouldn’t have much.
With that said, the Spire 3 is also not the bounciest or cushy-est ride of these nu-foam models. These shoes felt a little more old-school in their rebound, but of course that’s not necessarily a negative in a time when some foam recipes feel unnaturally flubber-like. Between their weight and roll-off, these definitely aren’t your race-day or lightweight tempo trainers, but think of the Spire 3 as your go-to long run shoe. Or the perfect shoe for when you’re already tired from yesterday’s run and your mechanics are likely to suffer right from the first step. These aren’t a shoe that will force you forward on your forefoot with a serious rocker, but that’s an ok thing if you’re just putting in the miles.
The outsole and upper are similarly unexciting but utilitarian—a very basic tread pattern that still worked fine on rocky/loose trails and mesh fabric that was surprisingly overbuilt and durable for a road shoe. Some trail brands could take note of 361’s upper, and if you’re someone who pokes holes through the tops of your shoes with an unruly toe, you’ll like the barrier to exit in the Spire 3. The super minimal glued-seam tongue was also a nice touch, laying very flat on the top of the foot with no rubbing at all.
There’s the Rub
Without going too far into the aesthetics of this shoe, this model has a somewhat limited style offering, and much of 361’s line is similarly conservative. This pair is more like a tool than a piece of art, but then again, these are still running shoes, right?
For as many strong points in the upper’s favor, the liner—specifically near the toe—could use a little work. Seams just above the footbed caused a decent amount of rubbing on an already pretty narrow toe box. Nothing run-stopping, but those who have more toe splay may want to look at another model or maybe the wide version of this shoe.
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While the responsiveness in the Spire 3 isn’t necessarily dead wood, for all of the expectations surrounding the QuikFoam, there wasn’t a noticeable springiness or energy-returning rebound. And yet, these shoes didn’t seem to break down much during long, hot runs, so maybe that’s an ok thing.
Finally, after about 80 miles, the outsole of the Spire 3 had already started to show pretty significant wear in the center of the forefoot (under a 170-pound, efficient runner). Clearly the carbon rubber heel was performing very well—almost no wear there—but the forefoot’s blown rubber outsole was already losing life pretty early in the game.
The 361-Spire 3 typifies the workhorse running shoe. There’s nothing truly sexy about this shoe—either in looks or in function—but there’s also nothing truly sexy about developing an injury from some let-your-foot-do-whatever-mish-mash-of-weird-fly-by-night running fad. A wild and crazy spring break is all fun and games until you have to go back to school the next week and feel like hell. 361’s middle-of-the-road Spire 3 may not turn heads, but you should really be keeping your eyes on the road ahead anyway.
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