Exploring New Trails & New Shoes – 361 Degrees-Spire 3

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See that cracked dry trail? Yes, it is the scorched earth that is otherwise known as “Austin, Texas in July.” The forecast for the next week includes satanic temperatures of 105, 106 and 107 degree days.

Well, hell, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em, right? Might as well turn up the heat and make it 361 degrees! That’s the beauty of having no major races on the calendar (besides the pesky Sky Island 50K in September). I get to explore new trails, walk, run, hike, box, visit some state parks and try new products that have captured my eye.

You know that feeling of being scared to try new things, but really wanting to? Yeah, I don’t have that fear right now. I’m riding different bikes, trying new nutrition, and even wear-testing some new shoes to see how my feet respond. (This weekend, I’m also testing out some new sunglasses that display your pace and power in the lens, but more on my stint as athlete-terminator later.)

Ever since I met the folks from 361 Degrees at The Running Event back in December, I’ve appreciated their, shall we say, straight-forward sales and marketing approach to their shoes. In fact, their new slogan slays it. “Not Trending.” Me neither, 361 Degrees. Me. Neither. I guess that’s what makes us a decent pair (shoe pun intended).

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Fortunately, I reckon, I have boring feet. No weird fetish-like features, here. Standard size 7, normal arch, no bunions, chipped toenail polish, and a few blister remnants. You know…boring, if not bordering on a little gross.  I’m comfortable in just about any shoe and I’ve definitely fallen prey to all of the fads of recent history.

Vibram five fingers? Check!
Big Cushy Shoes? Tried ‘em

No matter what trend comes and goes to promise the most speed, cushion, comfort, room, midfoot strike, yada, yada, yada… I always end up back to a “regular looking” shoe for my boring-ass feet. I just want to run. How lame, right?

So here I am, as crusty as the cracked earth in the above photo, ready to go for some test runs. I’m definitely not a shoe expert. I’m not a bike saddle expert either, but I sure as hell know when one feels good and when it doesn’t. And, like a bike saddle, sometimes the thickest, cushiest saddles feel the worst. You’ve got to find what’s right for you and your bits (or, feetsies, in this case).

The first thing you notice on the Spire 3 when you open the box is that they are all black. What? Aren’t running shoes supposed to be day-glow yellow, pink, purple, and bright blue? Aren’t they supposed to look fast? These are a simple black and white classic color scheme for my simple, but classic feet.  (note: I did learn after visiting the website that bright colors are coming and ready for pre-order)

361 Degrees is named as such because their slogan is, “One Degree Beyond.” In an industry where almost every shoe has a different purpose, this shoe actually looks and feels like a workhorse for many occasions. Over the last month, I’ve tested it on different terrain including trail, track, and road – all with a high level of satisfaction and comfort. (I’ve stayed away from super technical terrain because it is considered a road shoe).

So?? My Non-Technical Thoughts

I know this sounds a little goofy, but I love the soft tongue of these shoes (insert inappropriate jokes here). I’m not even sure if the use of the material serves any form or function, but it does make an aesthetic difference – as does the material of the shoe. It’s just different – comfy, with a touch of luxury. I dare you to try on a pair and not notice the tongue.

361 Degrees is known for their QU!KFOAM technology in the midsole, which lends itself to a comfortable landing and quick responsiveness. I especially noticed this on the track as I was going for a little speedwork and quick turnover. Sometimes shoes that have too much cushion actually make me feel like I’m jumping on a trampoline, you know, with too much absorption and a slow rebound. (As much as I love trampolines, they don’t do anything for my run cadence.) This shoe also didn’t drastically change my gait or footstrike. It felt “different” (very technical), but in a positive way

After a few runs, I was also trying to pinpoint the unique feeling of stability I had. Does it feel as secure as a fastened ski boot? No, that’s much too drastic and confining. It didn’t feel tight or smothering either, which I’ve felt before with shoes. I’d say my best personal comparison is a sensation likened to wearing road bike shoes. They lock your foot into place which provides a unique, clearly hard-to-describe, sense of security. Come to find out, after I went back to the website to read more about the shoe, this feeling has a name: The Fitz Rite midfoot, speaks to the comfort of the shoe. Fitz Rite is the soft webbing fabric around the foot that keeps the foot snug in the shoe. <— That’s it. It felt snug as a bug in a rug.

If you’re in the market for a new running shoe and you’re in a phase where you can have fun and try new things, give the Spire 3 some consideration. It’s lightweight and perfect for mid-to-long distance training and racing and worth a shot for almost any kind of foot- especially boring ones like mine.

Is it the trendy new style of shoe that everyone is talking about? Not necessarily, but it delivers performance and comfort without gimmicks.

P.S. My 79-year-old Mom also wore these on a 3-mile walk when she was visiting last week and freaking loved them. Talk about #nottrending

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