A neutral running shoe that’s built for speed, looks stylish and reasonably priced? Colour us interested. Here’s our 361° Meraki 3 running trainer review.
Once upon a time I was a one-running-shoe kind of runner. I had a gait test and picked a trainer brand. Every time an upgrade was due, I just bought the next model of the same shoe. However, having tested more brands and shoe types, I’m now a complete convert to having multiple pairs of shoes for different types of runs.
Ever since I wrote a review on the 361° Strata 3 last year, it’s been part of my regular trainer rotation. It’s one of my favourite long-distance road-running options. So I jumped at the chance to test the Meraki 3. Could the Chinese brand would come up trumps and add another shoe to my collection?
I’ve been testing this shoe for a while now and it’s definitely got its benefits. I don’t feel quite the same love and attachment to it as I do the Strata 3, but it serves a different purpose. This is a shoe built for speed; I’m more built for long ultras, trails and cake stops.
[Side note: I have also got a pair of the 361° Taroko 2 on test, which I am pretty excited about. They look like a great road-to-trail shoe and the perfect hybrid is something of my personal Holy Grail. Review to follow once I’ve got some more miles on them.]
However, when I feel the need to crack out a speedy (ish) 5K or interval session, this is the shoe I’m picking out more and more often.
First impressions of the 361° Meraki 3
Opening the box and I immediately like the look of the shoe. I have the Black/Ebony colourway, which is right up my street. I know some people like more vibrant shoes, so you might feel disappointment at the colour choices, of which there are just three. There is a Cloud/Black option for a lighter look, and Sea/Glass, a vibrant mix of blue and aqua.
For men, the choices are pretty similar, except the blue is darker with flashes of orange, rather than aqua. I like a dark shoe and I like a versatile shoe, so I’m perfectly happy with black. The flash of silver on the rim is attractive and actually I’d probably be perfectly happy wearing these as a leisure trainer.
But, of course, that’s not what they’re designed for. This shoe has been built with a purpose. It’s a neutral shoe, and I usually run in a stability model. However, thanks to a decent Ortholite insole (which uses 20% recycled content), they are a pretty comfortable ride. They give just enough support without feeling rigid. For my shorter runs and interval sessions, I’m really quite happy in them. They feel light enough too (245g), and there are no pressure points around the mid-foot or from the Pressure Free Tongue.
The only thing I would say is that I wish I’d sized up more. I usually wear half a size up in running shoes, but with these I think I would have fared better with a full size higher. I need a little more space in the toe box for optimal comfort.
Meraki 3 test run review
You can’t do a running trainer review without, well, going for a run. Over the last month I’ve been taking the Meraki 3 shoes out regularly to get a feel for them. Having heard these shoes were designed to feel fast, I started off with a few short tempo runs.
There’s a nice transition through my entire gait; it feels fluid from front to back (9mm drop). I definitely felt I was getting decent ground contact to power each step. While they’re not actually significantly lighter than my normal road shoe, they somehow felt it. The seamless mesh upper sort of wraps to your foot and you forget you’re wearing them.
For me, they definitely feel better suited to shorter runs (up to 6-8 miles). I think that’s because I need more stability on longer runs, rather than any particular failing in the shoe design. My foot felt secure enough and well supported. I’m prone to rolling my ankles and need to feel ‘locked in’, which these shoes do well.
There is the right amount of cushioning. Enough to support your foot, but not so much as to feel bulky. The more I’ve worn them, the more they have moulded to my foot shape and I’ve enjoyed wearing them as time’s gone on.
Final verdict: 361° Meraki 3 running trainer review
So, what are my final thoughts on the 361° Meraki 3 after giving them a good review and plenty of runs? I think they’re a beautifully engineered and well-thought-out shoe. 361° might not quite dominate the UK market, but it’s a brand that should be considered by runners. The whole product range is small but considered. Each model has a distinct purpose, so you can gravitate towards the one that’s right for you.
These won’t replace my Strata 3s, but the Strata model is noticeably heavier after spending some time running in the Meraki shoes. So if I want the edge at parkrun in the future, it’s likely these will be whipped out instead.
They cost €135 in the 361° Europe Store, which is about £117 at the time of writing – pretty much in line with the RRP of new releases from other major brands.
361° was founded in 2003 and grew into one of the biggest sports brands in China. It was one of the main sponsors for the Olympic Games in Rio in 2016. Over 100,000 games volunteers were kitted out head to toe in 361° gear. In China, 361° is about more than running. It’s also a major supplier of sports gear for basketball, football, swimming and more.
The family-owned company has since gone international. Its goal is to deliver products that compete with the best in the market. Its mission is to support athletes all over the world to perform beyond their expectations.
Find out more at 361europe.com