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The running shoe giant you’ve never heard of, by way of China

361To most of us, the number 361 might just signify a degree beyond a full turn. But in China, it’s the second highest grossing athletic footwear brand. And you’re about to see a lot more examples of it.

The running shoe giant is expanding globally, launching in Latin America early last year, the Americas in January, and in Europe right now. We’re calling your attention to it because these kicks are about to go big.

“America is the largest market in the world for athletic footwear, and it’s also the most competitive,” says 361 Americas new president Jim Monahan, who started at Asics in 1992 and served as the VP of footwear there for the past 12 years. And his goal is for the brand to become a global top five. “So it’s mandatory to be successful here [in the US],” he adds. In other words, they want you training in their (purple, bright rose, robin’s egg blue…) kicks this spring. 361

Currently you can find the 361 shoes online, in New York City’s Paragon Sports, and in 25 other specialty running stores across the country. Although 361 aims to be in more than 100 stores by year’s end.

So how do the sneaks compare to current market faves like Nike and Puma?

The shoes are primarily designed for training (starting around $60) and performance running (starting around $110), with a focus on finding that sweet spot between offering support and increasing speed.

“The minimal trend made people want flexible, unstructured, lightweight shoes, but most runners need far more protection than that, while shoes with super thick soles aren’t as responsive,” Monahan says. “We focus on shoes that have that soft platform but are still very responsive, and have that feeling of going fast.”

When we tested out the Chromoso, they definitely felt lightweight but still had a good amount of support, as promised. The styling isn’t the most fashion forward out there, but the shoes do come in some fun neon colors.

Of course, time will tell if 361 can keep pace with pack leaders like Asics, Brooks, and Mizuno, a running shoe brand from Japan that’s become a cult favorite. Will new import 361 hold that same allure for runners? Its prominence on the running path (and in your closet?) will soon tell. —Jamie McKillop

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(Photos: 361)