In just four years, Chinese athletic company 361 Degrees went from trying to break into the U.S. market to a thriving running brand with serious performance technologies and designs. The progression is serious from the first shoe reviewed, the Chromoso (wow) to now, the Stratomic. But that’s the sizzle, how is the steak? Read on…
Like most running shoes in this day, blown rubber is used in the outsole with a tougher, carbon rubber between the blown and the road. This is an extremely durable but functional way to make an outsole; it offers soft flex with the blown rubber and resistance to the rough stuff with the carbon rubber — but doing this can lead to some serious flexibility and transition issues.
Luckily, the outsole’s forefoot is cut with deep flex grooves; this gives the shoe more surface in contact with the road, and more outsole contact means better grip — even in wet and less-than-ideal conditions. The flex also gives the runner greater confidence in strides. Not having to worry about slipping or losing your footing is serious peace of mind when running.
As for durability, the photo above is after almost two months of running 2-3 miles three days a week. It isn’t as much as I would have liked, but enough to see that wear and tear is minimal and the outsole should last through anything thrown your way.
QU!KFOAM is seriously nice. 361 Degrees focused on making QU!KFOAM fast and soft. Normally, these two things are opposed to each other; soft means lag time waiting on the midsole to recover and reform after the foot sinks in, while fast usually means thinner and lower but less impact protection due to minimal cushioning.
QU!KFOAM takes the best of both worlds. It is dense and bouncy, absorbing all impact dropped on it, but not soft enough to feel Stay-Puft and slow. This is classic Asics Gel-feel; dense, absorbing, protective — and the outsole design and flex make the Stratomic faster than it should be.
Lately, the insoles of most shoes have been seriously upgraded, and the Stratomic is no joke in that category. Something 361 Degrees started doing on its models two years ago was adding a premium QU!KFOAM insole made of orange foam…that feels like another orange foam insole a company was using in its basketball line three years ago. Just another layer of soft response that feels great underfoot.
361 Degrees is another example of a new(ish) company coming into the market with a cushioning platform that works better than most. One of the refreshing parts of this review process is seeing new technology that works, and QU!KFOAM works.
The materials used on the 361 Degrees Stratomic are nothing special, just your normal open mesh upper with fuse overlays in areas that need support and durability. There is a full lining under the mesh and the upper is completely seamless, so no hotspots there.
The tongue is thin with little padding anywhere, but the laces are oval and soft so lace pressure is a disappearing act. The top part of the tongue is a synthetic suede, also found on the heel counter, that is soft and feels great on the skin (for you runners who go barefoot or wear no-shows).
Ventilation takes a hit because of the lining under the mesh. Adding layers to anything just decreases air flow, but the interior does a decent job of wicking sweat away from the foot. Would have been way better without the lining, but the trade-off — comfort and no rough materials for a little sweat — is a good one for me.
Fit in running shoes lately has been killer, and the Stratomic is, again, no joke. Weaves, meshes, and knits improve fit because the upper is allowed to expand and fit the foot instead of the layers and flex points molding the foot to them. The Stratomic is cut narrower than the Strata and the Spire. However, the mesh offers slightly wide-footers a snug fit without compressing the toes and forefoot into smashed-hammer-toe zone. If you are an extremely wide footer, you might have some issues with true to size, so go a half size up.
Length-wise, true to size 10.5 fit my foot perfect — just enough room, about a thumbs-width, to allow my feet to spread and splay while running without feeling like they needed a roommate. The midfoot is completely locked in with a combination of a narrower last under the arch and the lacing pulling the shoe around my foot.
The heel fit is made great by the high lacing and the addition of a foam ring around the collar. It isn’t an extremely thick padding but just enough to form and hold you down. The heel counter is S-O-L-I-D and locks you in with no slipping at all. Magical.
With the focus on freedom of movement and flex and flow, support is left on the back burner for most shoes. The Stratomic asks, “Why not both?” Again, the heel counter is large and solid (let it go) and your foot will sit cradled with no side-to-side instability, so landing on cracks or rocks while running is a problem quickly solved. The lacing system works with the upper overlays and stabilizes the rest of the foot for those last couple of miles when the legs start to get tired and the stride may get sloppy.
Arch support is medium-height which did take my foot to a happy place. I have a slight pronation, meaning my ankles turn in and down, so extra support under the medial and arch only helps my knees and ankles feel like running and not crying.
Technically, the Stratomic is a “cushioned” shoe, not a stability/support ride, but 361 Degrees added an updated QDP-L!te system for better guidance on impact, rolling your foot naturally into the next step. Really, isn’t that the best definition of stability? If you need a shoe like the Brooks Beast, then check the 361 Degrees Strata. If you need a little push, the Stratomic may be your ride.
Like I said at the outset, 361 Degrees has made serious strides in the running market. What was once a company looking for an identity is now making shoes that will compete with any on the market in cushioning and fit.
The brand has clearly shown its desire to be a player for the long run. Hiring the right people for the U.S. design division helps, of course, but visual appearances will not overcome bad performance when it counts.
Luckily, the 361 Degrees Stratomic doesn’t have to worry. It is a cushioned, stable runner with great fit and flow. Transition is easy and smooth, and if you need a high-mileage runner then look no further. The Stratomic won’t make you a marathon runner, but it will make it feel like you could be.