Although 361 Degrees is one of the largest running shoe brands in China its audience in the UK and US is significantly smaller. Against the big players in the running shoe world, it is largely an outlier brand – although you may have noticed an increasing number of sighting at races over the past year or so.
361, like the majority of its competitors, covers a range of shoe types from stability to race shoe. The Spire 4 is the latest addition to the neutral running shoe line, one that focuses primarily on comfort.
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We've been putting the 361 Spire 4 to the test over the last few weeks to see if it's a brand you should be looking out for.
Price: $$155 | Weight: 286g/ 10oz (men) 232g/ 8oz (women)| Type: Road | Stability: Neutral | Heel to toe drop: 9mm | Sizing: Sizing is correct but does feel thin (there is a wide version of the shoe) | Alternatives: Nike Pegasus Zoom Turbo 2, HOKA ONE ONE Rincon, On Cloudflow
For us, the aesthetic look of the 361 Degrees range has never been that exciting (aside from the retro-look of the Feisu), especially when compared to the decorative developments of some of the leading brands like Nike or On. That's not to say it's a bad design, and 361 Degrees does make improvements with each iteration of the shoe. It's just a range that looks a couple of years behind many others on the market.
The Spire 4 continues that theme with a conventional look doesn't appear that exciting in terms of colorway and shape. It is an improvement on the Spire 4 and overall it's a completely fine-looking shoe that doesn't appear in any way clunky.
Looks aren't everything though and 361 Degrees have included a heap of technology into the Spire 4.
The upper is made from a breathable knitted material that feels supportive without being too thick. To the rear of the shoes, there's a fair bit of heel support, the surrounding cushioning around the collar and the tongue has also been updated with a new pressure-free design that focuses the cushioning into a central area of the tongue.
The midsole is made from a combination of EVA foam for responsiveness and comfort as well as a midsole rubber blend to add overall durability and cushioning. 361 Degrees has also added in a carbon fiberglass shank to the midsole to help with propulsion at higher speeds.
Finally, that midsole is topped off with a nice level of PU rubber on the outsole for durability.
Overall, it feels like a sturdy shoe that offers a high level of support. Straight out of the box the shoe does feel quite stiff, both in the upper and the midsole and it does take around 20-30km to loosen it up.
We've been testing the Spire 4 out between 5k and 20k runs over a period of four weeks and included two 10k races. Overall we've found it to be an enjoyable shoe to run in for both training and, surprisingly, it's a fairly competent shoe when it comes to racing.
After the initial bedding in period of 20-30km the Spire 4 does become a comfy shoe to run in and the upper offers a secure fit that feels nice during slower training runs and faster miles.
For a shoe designed as an all-rounder, we actually found that everything about the Spire 4 excelled at a higher pace. On slow training runs the shoe feels fine if not a slightly too hard, however, it's not until you pick up the speed that you really start to feel it working. The heel to toe transition kicks into gear at a higher pace and the shoe starts to add noticeable value to the run.
As a result, we've been using the Spire 4 for training runs focussed on speed. For those long slow efforts where your main concern is comfort, the slightly hard midsole layer lacked enough softness for us.
The only other notable point to make abut the shoe for us is the slimline tongue design as it can be slightly tricky to position comfortably due to the miminal area of cushioning. It's not a deal-breaker but we'd like to see slightly more cushioning from 361 Degrees in the next shoe release.
Overall we enjoyed running in the Spire 4. It's a nice all-rounder shoe that sits more towards the faster side of the market. If you're a recreational runner looking for a neutral trainer that'll cover you for the occasional race and speedier training, it's worth a look.
The support and durability of the shoe are impressive and it's likely to last a good while before you'll need to think about buying a new pair. The only point to make about the upper is that it is slightly tight. Luckily 361 Degrees offers a wide version of the shoe to solve that issue.
Although we're not overly impressed with the looks, for comfort and speed runs it's a very competent shoe that delivers when you need it to.