One of the go-to shoes in my current rotation is the Pearl Izumi EM Road N1 – a very dependable shoe that offers a balanced ride in a super comfy package. I reviewed the original Road N1 last Spring and am currently logging solid miles on my third pair. Earlier this year I was lucky enough to be selected to represent Pearl Izumi on their Champions Team, and, as part of their welcome package I received a pair of the updated-for-2015 EM Road N1. I haven’t seen too much information online regarding the latest version, but they’re now readily available for purchase at several of the popular online stores.
I’ll kick off the review by attempting to explain the somewhat-odd naming convention of the Pearl Izumi EM lineup. EM stands for “E:Motion” in their Project E:Motion collection, which is characterized by their unique dynamic offset technology. According to Pearl Izumi, “most running shoes utilize a static offset, while Project E:MOTION delivers a smoother sensation with an ever-changing heel to ball-of-the-foot offset throughout the stride”. The N in the N1 stands for “neutral”, which means there are no stability features in the midsole, and the 1 signifies there is minimal cushioning in this particular shoe.
The Project E:Motion Road collection also features 2 other neutral shoes (N0 and N2), a couple of M shoes (M2 and M3) with midfoot pronation stability and the H3 with rearfoot pronation stability. Add to the mix their Triathlon and Trail shoes, and it all gets a little bit complicated when you first start looking at their range, but kinda makes sense once you get to grips with their methodology. If you are confused, the following graphic might help explain things! [Feel free to click the image to open a bigger version.]
Anyway, enough about the name, what’s new with the shoe, and is the v2 update anything to shout about?
- New 3-D Seamless upper adding lightweight strength and stability.
- New transfer dry spacer mesh that helps keep the feet cool and dry.
- New Dynamic offset-shaped E:Motion midsole is biomechanically tuned for a neutral to supinator running gait.
- Blown rubber in the forefoot and carbon rubber in the crash pad combine for great cushioning and abrasion resistance.
The updated N1 is a great looking shoe, thanks in part to the new seamless upper which is even more stripped down than the previous model. The original N1 featured a thick strip of leather from the top lace eyelets to the bottom of the shoe heel – this has been eliminated which no doubt contributes to the 2 oz weight difference between the v1 and v2 models. For the record, my size 9.5 v2 weighs in at 8.3 oz, compared to 8.5 oz for the v1.
The transfer dry spacer mesh is really comfortable against the skin (no issues with sockless runs), but the mesh is definitely more open than in the v1. In fact, it’s pretty common to end a run with numerous small rocks/pebbles in the shoe, and my one and only attempt at a sandy beach run was definitely not the smartest decision I’ve ever made. The open mesh is a great feature in the summer months though – coupled with lightweight Injinji socks, my feet stay completely cool and dry.
The ride of the v2 is similar to the v1 – well balanced, smooth and very lively. I remember taking several runs to get comfortable in the v1, but out-of-the-box these were an instant hit – possibly due to the all-new redesigned dynamic midsole.
The outsole update is fantastic too, and not only makes the shoe feel more flexible than the original, but provides much-needed traction in slick conditions. The forefoot blown rubber is perfectly placed and I really like that the full length rubber “S” along the sole has been broken up into several sections. Worth noting, I am showing signs of wear along the outside heel area, but this is fairly typical for my running style and something I usually see in all the shoes I own.
In my review of the original Road N1 I briefly commented on the thickness of the laces and the rubber toe bumper. I’m happy to report the laces are now flat and somewhat stretchy, and the toe bumper has been reworked and slimmed down. Just a nice couple of tweaks that reinforce Pearl Izumi’s attention to detail.
Overall it’s a positive update, and a definite improvement on last year’s model. Not that there was anything major wrong with the original N1 of course, which is still a major player in my regular shoe rotation. MSRP for the updated model is $115, which is pretty comparable to many of the N1’s competitors. See below for best current online prices. I’ve now logged over 300 miles in the new version, so it will soon be time to invest in another pair – not the Black/Blue Atoll, so either the Green Flash/Black or recently-released snazzy Grey/Punch colorway.
- Have you tried either the old or new Pearl Izumi N1?
- Like ’em? Hate ’em?
- What’s your favorite shoe brand?