One of my favorite shoes over the last 3 or 4 months has been the Pearl Izumi EM Road N0 – an extremely lightweight, flexible racing flat utilizing the E:MOTION midsole. Pearl Izumi describe their midsole as follows:
A simply shaped midsole designed to deliver a smooth running experience.
The Road N0 is a great example of less is more. My size 9.5 weighed in at just 6.5oz, making it one one of the lightest shoes in my current rotation. However, just because it’s light, doesn’t mean that it’s a harsh ride – the Road N0 delivers a smooth, responsive ride with a perfect balance of cushioning and comfort. The upper is seamless in construction and hugs the foot like your favorite slipper. In fact, the synthetic mesh upper and padded tongue are so comfortable I’ve successfully completed several sockless runs in the Road N0 with zero blisters or hot spots – quite a rarity for me.
The sole is approximately 80% exposed midsole with the other 20% coming from two “strips” of blown rubber (see photo below) – one in the forefoot and one in the heel area. The combination makes for a very flexible shoe with just enough firmness for the ride. Traction is excellent for a racing flat and after 70+ miles, durability seems to be pretty good.
Another thing I love about the sole – no drainage holes like one of my other favorite racing flats, the Saucony Grid Type A5. To be honest, I’ve never really understood those holes; they may shave an ounce or two off the final shoe weight, but (a) they let in far too much water during rainy conditions, making for soggy socks and potential blisters, and (b) during drier conditions you’re almost guaranteed to pick up numerous stones/rocks in at least one of the 18 drainage holes.
Back to the Road N0. The fit is fantastic, with just enough width in the forefoot compared to many of the typically narrow racing flats on the market. The heel cup is soft and flexible, and in my opinion, just the right height for zero irritation. Most of my runs in the Road N0 have been in the six to eight mile range, but I have logged a windy, solo 5K time trial in just over 18 minutes and completed a brisk 10 mile run on the local roads. I’m thinking of testing them out at the fast & flat Dismal Swamp Stomp 1/2 Marathon this coming weekend, but haven’t completely made up my mind. Watch this space…
The Road N0 are available in the Black/Mykonos Blue colorway (pictured above), or a Fiery Red/Black option. Both are sharp looking shoes and are bound to attract some attention at the local race scene.
Finally, one thing that is a bit confusing, is figuring out one of the first questions asked by a potential shoe-buyer; the heel-to-toe drop of the Road N0. Pearl Izumi quotes a Dynamic Offset of 1mm at initial contact to 4.5mm at mid-stance (what does this mean?), but I much prefer the common sense measurements from King of the Calipers, Peter Larson, of Runblogger.com fame. Peter, in his excellent review of the Road N0, states that:
The N0 is pretty much a straight-up 6mm drop shoe. I measure stack at about 22mm in the heel, 16mm in the forefoot.
That’s good enough for me! By the way, Peter loves the Pearl Izumi EM Road N0, which is probably about the best recommendation one can get.
Here’s what Pearl Izumi have to say about their most minimalistic road style to date:
From the Pearl Izumi website:
Our lightest weight and most minimalistic road style, the new Road N0 is designed for the bio-mechanically efficient runner seeking that sweet spot of cushioning plus connection to the ground. A barely there seamless upper and a silky smooth E:MOTION midsole make the N0 feel slipper-like, light and flexible. In turn, you’ll feel smooth as butter as you flow through those speed workouts, tempo runs and shorter distance races.
- Seamless upper creates a foot conforming, sock-like fit
- Our lightest weight dynamic offset E:MOTION midsole delivers a smooth, responsive ride with an ideal balance of ground feel and cushioning
- Outsole combines outsole–grade EVA with blown rubber in forefoot for traction, durability and a lively feel
- Dynamic Offset: 1mm at initial contact to 4.5 mm at mid-stance
Weight–Size 9: 6.0 oz/170g
Let me know if you have any questions about the Road N0, or feel free to leave a comment about any of the other shoes Pearl Izumi are selling right now.