361's Tim Rose tells us why he thinks he's found the best running shoe for runners...
We think the only way to develop the best running shoe is to ask runners to make the shoes in the first place. This is what 361 has done. 361 is still a little bit of a hidden secret: launched just five years ago, it has made considerable waves in the running market, but it still might not be the brand you immediately associate with our sport when you’re considering your next pair of shoes. But we’re here to tell you that you should. Their expertise and passion for running runs through the business like a stick of rock, and the shoes themselves are little short of phenomenal. Could these be the best shoes for runners? Let’s find out.
We spoke to Tim Rose, marketing specialist at 361, to find out more about the brand and their latest launches. Tim’s day job might be 361, but his life is running and triathlon, having raced in the Ironman World Championships, so we can rest assured that he has a vested interest in developing the perfect shoes. Based in Germany, he tells me over Zoom how much he loves his dream job. “Because when you are a runner, and you can work on your kind of own shoes, that’s actually pretty cool!” he enthuses. “The good thing is I can test them pretty hard in my runs and my training and my workouts, and then give very good feedback to the product team.”
I’m interested to find out what Tim thinks of the changes in the running shoe market, the trends that have had the most impact. He explains that a few years ago the trend was towards neutral, barefoot running shoes, and that seemed to be the over-riding theme right up until a certain carbon plated racing shoe landed. Since then, he says, the trend has been for bigger midsoles and Pebax foams. “At the moment, nearly everyone is following [the maximal foam sole] in terms of how the platform is looking like so it’s getting bigger and softer for even more comfort. And that’s actually the biggest trend that’s actually going on in the market. And for sure, 361 will also follow this trend.”
But while still serving customers’ demand for those big soles, a lot of 361’s popularity, Tim explains, is in providing a more classic style of running trainer. “When you see our Meraki, which is our best seller, it’s a very classic platform. Other brands are not doing these classic shoes anymore [so] people are asking for these classic shoes from us.”
Why is that, does he think? One surprising reason is location. “We have our European business and our US business. People in the US are always asking for softer shoes because they use them for walking. And the European guys are always asking for like more energy return, because they’re used for running. That’s why the Meraki is doing pretty really well here.”
Along with those classic good looks, there’s another big point of difference with 361: it’s the way we buy them. As Tim explains, other running shoe brands are concentrating a lot of efforts on their brand websites, persuading customers to buy their shoes there. The end result is that running shoe retailers aren’t being supported by these big brands in ways they might have been before. 361, however, prides itself on its relationship with retailers, supporting them with education around the shoes, and enabling the retailers to be able to pass that knowledge on to us.
“Our retailers are not just like a number in an Excel file,” says Tim. “We really try to build a partnership and to support every retailer the best way we can do. Yes, we have our own site but we don’t actively promote it, we promote our Store Finder instead. We always try to get the people from the community directly connected to that community’s retailer. And that’s actually what no one nobody else is doing.”
We agree with Tim that the online experience is never going to be perfect when it comes to buying running shoes – some things are just better in person. “One thing that can never be changed is the expertise of the retailer in store [who can] see you running, for example on a treadmill and then suggest the right shoe for you. I’m sure that online shopping can never do what the retailer is doing in person.”
But let’s get down to the nuts and bolts. What 361 shoes are Tim most excited about this season? “We’ve just launched the Kairos,” he smiles. “We say the Kairos is the big brother of the Meraki. The Meraki is our best seller, a neutral shoe. The Kairos is building on the Meraki, which means the platform and the base of the shoe is the same for the Kairos as we have in the Meraki. But then on top to deliver a little bit more of support and stay stable, we have included a long interior post, which starts at the heel and then goes straight along the whole foot along the platform up to the mid foot. Which means you will have support from the shoe as soon as you hit the ground.”
What all this means is that the Kairos delivers the performance of a neutral running shoe, while offering the stability at the same time. “As the Kairos is built on the Meraki, which is a very dynamic shoe, it means the Kairos is also very dynamic.”
A dynamic stable shoe? Just one of many very good reasons to include 361 in your shoe search this year.
The 361 Kairos is out now, priced at £125, available in a running shop near you. Find out more about it.