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361 Degrees PACER ST Performance Review

What You Need To Know

  • Weighs 9.4 oz. (266 g) for a US M9.0/ 7.5 oz. (213 g) for a US W9.0
  • Great rubberized traction without sacrificing flexibility
  • Embedded propulsion plate provides stability and modest bounce
  • QU!KFoam !s k!nda d!ff!cult to wr!te !n an art!cle

ADRIENNE: I’ve been reviewing shoes for some time now. But I’m not gonna lie, I still get excited when the UPS guy comes! So when I received a little alert telling me I had a delivery, I couldn’t help but imagine what new superfoam was sitting on my doorstep.  

I patiently opened the brown box and found a pair of…361 Degrees?? And a new model I honestly wasn’t aware to be on the market yet. As you can guess, my reaction was a tad muted. But these brightly colored, flex-groove laden kicks were begging me to give them a chance, so I did. And they didn’t disappoint.

AUSTIN: The 361 Degrees website lists two shoes under the “Race Day” column. One of which is the Pacer ST, a somewhat light trainer that, in the analysis of this reviewer, can be used for races—but you might want to keep looking for a speedier pair of sneaks.

The Good

ADRIENNE: Going from the bottom up, these things have you covered on rubber. It’s impressive how something can be so flexible yet have so much rubber coverage. The outsole is the ‘mullet’ combination of blown rubber in the front, carbon in the back. Traction felt spot on, as I tested these during a wet spell a couple weeks ago. I anticipate these things to be tanks and last quite a while.

The midsole is comprised of a layer of (colorfully painted) QU!KFoam (polyurethane and EVA)  in the rear to midfoot and QU!K Spring+ (lightweight, responsive EVA) everywhere else. The design to me looked cool. Less busy than the Spire, and I liked the blending of the upper design into the layer of QU!KFoam. Ride wise, the Pacers are firm, but I felt the cushioning was enough for most daily runs, even longer runs for efficient runners.

The embedded propulsion plate extends from the heel to the midfoot, and while it gives the shoe some snap and a cleaner ride than some high-flexibility shoes, the purpose is more midfoot stabilization/transition than bounce and wow-factor. In an article on Running Insight, 361 Exec. Jim Monahan mentions that while the brand “isn’t the sexiest, they block and tackle very well and understand fit and comfort.” Simply put: 361 is more into quality and simplicity than blowing people’s minds.

The upper consists of double-jacquard mesh with a Morphit midfoot wrap that does its job holding the foot in place. You are locked and loaded in the Pacer. The mesh seems to breathe well, I took them on a humid run or two and they didn’t seem to get much heavier. I realize this is a primitive measure of how well a shoe breathes, but that’s what I got! A pressure-free, yet not chunky tongue is a sublime feature of this shoe. Topping the tongue that doesn’t move, ever, are basic flat laces; more on those later.

This has nothing to do with the performance of the shoe, but I liked the dual-color scheme of Spark and Sea better than the rather-busy Spire. And I still don’t exactly know what “jacquard mesh” is, in case you were wondering.

This shoe reminded me of the ASICS DS-Trainer, but with considerably more flex and a little more proprioception upfront. This shouldn’t be surprising, as Jim Monahan is the former VP of ASICS America.

AUSTIN: The Pacer ST is light on-foot: 9.4 ounces in a men’s size 9 with a 9 mm drop. Whether that weight is too much for race day varies runner to runner. Personally, I’d prefer a lighter shoe at the starting line (in the 6-7 ounce range like a Vaporfly NEXT% or Endorphin Pro). Step-in comfort is solid. As I’ve regularly said about 361 Degrees, I think their footwear continues to improve year after year. There’s ample room in the toe box and the heel is modestly padded for a secure fit. The tongue is thin, which I don’t like, but I completed all my runs without any instep pain.

For a shoe that’s billed as a race day option, the forefoot is surprisingly soft. The ride is smooth for sure, but I figured there would be more ground contact and a firm toe-off. I suspect that the lighter weight compensated for the soft forefoot and allowed me to generate faster foot turnover at faster paces. That said, I was thinking the shoe might resemble something akin to the Adidas Adizero Boston Boost.

The QU!KFOAM, QU!K Spring+, and Ortholite insole trifecta illustrate why the Pacer ST is uber soft. In a way, certainly not negative, I’ve been taken aback by the amount of cush underfoot. Though I’m not going to use it for race day, I have enjoyed the high-viz Spark & Gecko colorway for sunrise runs. Pair them with a neon shirt and you are unmissable on the sidewalks.

Shop PACER ST -Men Shop PACER ST – Women

The Bad

ADRIENNE: I have a fairly narrow foot, and had to cinch the forefoot to where the mesh nearly folded over. The toe box also had almost too much volume and the shoe runs a touch long. That being said, not long enough to size down. And the midfoot hold did compensate well for this issue. 

I also imagine that the shoe will run just fine if not better if there was just a smidge less rubber, and of course be a touch lighter. While marketed as a faster trainer, I noticed that this shoe requires some digging in upfront to really pick up the pace. The Pacer ST seems best suited, at least for me, at moderate or even easier paces (for me, anywhere from 6:45-8:00 depending on my mood). Some may also find the forefoot cushion lacking. 

While the flexibility is part of the character of the shoe, 361 could afford to include a little more toe-spring. If they do, the Pacer could become a banger of a trainer in the near future. Lastly, I was stepping on the laces and had to tuck them. QU!Kfoam is also kinda hard to type, but that has nothing to do with the shoes.

AUSTIN: At $119.99, the Pacer ST is priced a touch lower than many of its competitors. But, as strange as this sounds, the laces don’t reflect that price point. They look and feel cheap, and there’s too much extra when tied down. Laces are generally an afterthought when it comes to shoe design, but I noticed the poor quality quickly.

Also, as a shoe touted for race day, I felt the weight should be a smidge lower and the ride snappier. That may be just my personal preference.

Shop PACER ST -Men Shop PACER ST – Women

361 pacer ST

361 PACER ST Conclusion

ADRIENNE: As 361 continues to work their way into finding a true identity for themselves in the American market, the Pacer ST is not boring and will likely work well as a daily trainer for those with a sweet spot for shoes that split the difference between techy and simple. In a shoe market that seems to be losing its feel for the road, the Pacer ST offers up some low-slung, no BS miles. It will let you push the pace but to a point. I was a tad hard on this model, but I am curious to see what the future holds for this solid trainer.

AUSTIN: I see the Pacer ST as more of a trainer than a racer. You can certainly pick up the pace during workouts and lace them up for races, but weight and ride suggest otherwise. A little more curve upfront to enhance toe spring would be beneficial too.

You can pick up the Pacer ST at 361usa.com for $119.95.

Shop PACER ST -Men Shop PACER ST – Women

Adrienne has been a runner since the age of 12 and a sport psychology consultant for the past 10+ years. As a writer, she was a key contributor to Kara Goucher’s book “Strong”. She lives in Texas where she loves to run cross country when she gets the chance.

Austin, who lives north of Atlanta, is also a husband, father, and writer. He loves Christopher Nolan films, NBC sitcoms, peanut M&M’S, and a good playlist for long runs.

 

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