361 remains relatively unknown in the US market, but this Chinese behemoth continues to try and penetrate the market nonetheless. Their shoes compete head to head with almost every other brand out there offering models across the entire ecosystem. We have checked out other models before, but we were definitely interested in checking out the new Meraki 2… one of their flagship road shoes for the everyday runner.
The upper is a full engineered mesh using a couple of independent layers and then some simple overlay elements around the toe and the lacing column. The heel cup holds you well and the collar and tongue use ample padding for a very comfortable and snug upper fit.
The midsole on the Meraki 2 uses two of 361s own technologies that they refer to as Fitz-Rite and QU!KFOAM. It is still EVA at its core, but with their own internal design system. With 27mm of cushion and a 9mm drop they are designed to be plush and yet still moderately aggressive for recreational runners.
361 has also gone with high-abrasion rubber across key contact points from toe to heel leaving some areas of reinforced EVA exposed. Had they gone more, they would have increased the weight so its a nice balance currently.
Style & Aesthetics
The Merkai 2 comes in 3 color options and they do offer a decent amount of diversity. The shoe closely maps to something you might see from ASICS or Mizuno and definitely don’t feel as aggressively styled as what we are now seeing from Nike and others.
First time on the foot, I immediately noticed how snug these uppers run. The toe box is obviously tapered a bit, but the padded tongue and collar along with a snug fit overall is really something that will swing people either way. I would have liked a little more freedom of movement, but others may enjoy the hug this upper provides. In a run, their QU!KFOAM is definitely a good amount of cushion, but I would in no way call it pillowy or plush. In fact, it is actually quite firm and not as flexible as we would have liked. Again though, this helps make it really clear where it sits in the market. This is most definitely designed for the everyday consumer runner and not for any sort of performance. I would put it head to head against almost every other everyday runner out there though and it would complete, but it doesn’t do a lot to differentiate itself.
The 361 Meraki 2 is a definitive improvement to the original. It is a well-designed shoe, but overall it is not different enough to really warrant someone making a jump to the brand. The cost profile is similar to other manufacturers and if you love your current shoe, there just isn’t something new or special here. Don’t get us wrong, it is a great shoe, but we would love to see something genuinely different from them.
Technical Stats, Pricing & Availability
- Weight: 9.6oz (size 9)
- Drop: 9mm heel/toe
- Cushion: 27mm
- Type: Neutral Road
- MSRP: $129.95
- Available: Now