All of the best carbon plate running shoes are in some way indebted to the Nike Vaporfly and inspired by the archetype. However, in the case of the 361° Flame, the similarity to the design and geometry of the Vaporfly is, at first sight, striking.
Appearance is one thing. The bigger question is whether the performance of the Flame, which costs $160 in the US and £155 in the UK, can come close to Nike’s latest (the Nike Vaporfly NEXT%2) and other carbon shoes like the Adidas Adios Pro. 2 and Asics Metaspeed Sky. If so, the Flame might be one of the best running shoes available, offering top-notch performance at a reasonable price.
Flame 361°: price and availability
The 361° flame was launched in 2021 but has been difficult to obtain since. The shoe is now in stock on the 361° US site. (opens in a new tab) and costs $160. In Europe, you can get it on the European site 361° (opens in a new tab) for €179.99. The shoe costs £155 in the UK and is available from select retailers.
While most carbon plate super shoes cost over £200, the Flame’s price is more in line with training partner shoes like the Saucony Endorphin Speed 2.
Design and fit
With all carbon plate super shoes, the magic is in the midsole. This is where you’ll typically find a high stack of soft, bouncy foam combined with a full-length carbon plate (or equivalent, like Adidas’ EnergyRods).
The 361° Flame uses a polyurethane foam called QU!KFLAME in the midsole, which is not as soft and springy as PEBA foams like Nike’s ZoomX material or New Balance’s FuelCell material. It does feel responsive underfoot, however, and despite a relatively low stack of 32mm in the heel and 24mm in the forefoot (compared to the 40mm limit many shoes are close to), the midsole is comfortable enough not to be hard from plaque.
Continuing the theme of using ALL CAPS and adding rogue punctuation, the plaque is called QU!KBONE and is visible through a substantial cutout in the center of the outsole, a design element that is there to reduce the weight of the shoe.
The outsole follows the path of most running shoes by having minimal rubber, with a thin layer covering the forefoot, then two stripes at the heel. Despite this, the shoe gripped well for me, even in wet conditions on the road.
The upper is a thin monomesh material that reminded me of the Vaporweave upper from the original Nike Vaporfly NEXT%. There is minimal padding around the heel, but I had no issues with slipping in my normal size, and there was plenty of room in the toe box.
At 250g in a UK 9, the 361° Flame is far from heavy – although it is heavier than most carbon plate running shoes, which usually weigh between 200-235g at my height .
How I tested this shoe
I ran just over 50 km in the 361° flame. It was mostly a fast run, including two tough road workouts and a track session, plus a fairly easy run to see how it went as a daily trainer.
The running performance
The 361° flame doesn’t feel fantastic or natural when I’m running at easy gaits, but every time I’ve increased the speed in the shoe it’s been a pleasant surprise. Since the foam isn’t spongy and springy like on many super shoes, I wasn’t expecting much from the Flame – there are other shoes that have combined a carbon plate with sole foams intermediates with dull results – but the QU!KFLAME foam offers a high level of performance.
My first run with the shoe was a tough workout with two sets of 3k at 3min 20s/km, followed by five hill reps. It’s a long session that tires me out, but the Flame matched the best super shoes in helping me maintain a fast pace even when I started to tire.
The geometry of the shoe makes you feel like you’re rocking forward with every stride, an effect that’s especially noticeable on the descents. It reminded me of the Vaporfly in that regard, even with the Flame’s firmer midsole.
While not the lightest of shoes, the Flame also feels great at faster paces. I did a track workout that included sets of 400m reps in 72 seconds and the weight was not noticeable. This workout took place in a delicious mix of apocalyptic hail and thundering rain, and the flame reliably stuck to the flooded track.
I was also impressed with the feel of the shoe when running fast on tired legs. A favorite workout from my trainer is to do a hard 5k, take a short break, then run another 5k about two minutes slower than the first. I used the Flame for the second of these 5Ks after running 16 minutes at a local parkrun (in the excellent Adidas Takumi Sen 8) and found the slower pace came easy and the shoe was comfortable.
The Flame has impressed me every time I’ve raced in it fast and while it doesn’t match the performance of the best super shoes, which are lighter and more springy, it’s a terrific option at $160 / £155 – either to use as a trainer/runner or as a fast training shoe in partnership with something like the Vaporfly. It’s a good training partner for the Vaporfly as it has a similar setup but a firmer, more stable platform that will likely prove more durable.
Is the 361° flame worth it?
If you’re just looking for the best running shoe you can get, it’s worth spending the extra on something like the Vaporfly. There are also more awesome super shoes available for a little extra, like the Adios Pro 2 or the Puma Deviate Nitro Elite.
However, at its price, it is worth investigating the flame. The main rival would be the Saucony Endorphin Speed 2, which is a terrific all-rounder that’s better for easy runs while being lighter than the Flame and just as fast. I would give the Speed 2 the edge myself as a more versatile shoe, but the Flame might have the edge for pure pace.
Before making your decision, you should also keep in mind that the Flame has been hard to get since its launch and 361° is now following the launch of a new carbon shoe called the Hurricane. So it might be a good idea to keep your powder dry and wait for that if you’re looking for a plated trainer.