At this year’s The Running Event (the annual trade show in Austin, TX where the running community gathers and shows off new gear for the next year), we kept our eyes peeled for brands that were off the beaten path. Some that caught our eye were young, startup brands that are approaching running shoes in unique ways. Others were heritage brands that are often overlooked in the running world. Their booths may not have been as flashy as some of the bigger brands, but their gear was worth a second look. If you’re looking to upgrade your running gear with something beyond the Nike, Brooks and Adidas of this world, check out these three brands.
The name comes from the idea of 360 degrees, the all-encompassing circle of running and your life. 361 Degrees wants to go one step further to help you go that extra degree (or mile, foot or second) further than your competition. Founded back in 2003, the brand got its beginnings in China. It came to the US for the holiday season of 2014 and tapped a variety of revered shoe experts from Asics to get the business going. It entered the market with 160 styles.
361 Degrees tested its initial product in Santa Barabara, CA, which resulted in the creation of a new type of foam, which is right on point for almost every brand today. Quikfoam (or QU!KFOAM as the brand styles it) claims to be incredibly responsive while also maintaining cushioning and comfort. Shoes are paired with QDP (quick, dynamic, performance), a layering system that helps to spread out the shock absorption. The brand sells footwear and apparel basics including jackets, leggings, shorts and vests.
Created in 1948, Diadora qualifies as a heritage brand. The Italian-based sports company leaned into collaborations a few years ago, while still creating top-quality Italian sneakers (and gear). At first glance, this brand looks more street style than track-style, but if you click around a bit on the site, you’ll also find the brand’s running and walking sneakers. What we’re most excited about though, are the New Balance-like suede shoe vibes in bright 90s-inspired colors. If you’re bored of matching everyone in your running crew, look to Diadora to mix things up. Pick up a sleekly-designed rain or wind jacket — neither of which are heavily branded, which is a sometimes difficult thing to find. The brand pulls inspiration from old-school track workouts and pairs it with updated sweat-wicking and breathable fabrics and designs.
Some of the world’s best distance runners have come from Kenya — Eliud Kipchoge, Wilson Kipsang and Dennis Kimetto to name a few. Enda wanted to be the first Kenyan-based running shoe company, inspired by the runners around them. Back in 2016, Enda took to Kickstarter to launch the Iten shoes and swiftly exceeded its goal of $100,000. The brand wants to pull away from the idea of running in shoes that ‘fix’ pronation and encourage more people to run with each other, thus lifting up their communities. Good things come from those who run together. A portion of all Enda sales go back to support local causes in Kenya as well. In terms of what’s next for the brand, soon there will be another sneaker model on the roster: the HMT. It’s going to be a more cushioned runner for long distance days. Oh and as for the name? It means ‘go’ in Swahili.