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Review: Pearl Izumi E:Motion Road N1 v2

pearlizumin1the buildup
The Mizuno Wave Evo Cursoris 2 is the best shoe I’ve ever run in. Wait, what? Isn’t this a review of a pair of Pearl Izumis? It is, but this all starts with the Wave Evo line. You see, I’m a forefoot-striking, splayed-toebox, light-shoe, zero-drop kinda guy. The Wave Evo line was a totally different series of shoes from the rest of Mizuno’s line, and spoke exactly to what I like in a shoe. Unfortunately, it apparently didn’t speak to many others, so the entire line got dropped. The first version of the line was sold in the US, and then the revision wasn’t brought here. I fell in love with the Wave Evo Cursoris, and when that was discontinued, I bought literally every pair I could get my hands on, and was able to import just two pairs of the second version. That second version was amazing – it looked better with more striking colorways, but also solved the only problem I had with v1 by removing the closed throat design, allowing for a more customized fit and free movement.

([tweet_dis]@Mizuno, if you’re listening, bring back the #Wave Evo #Cursoris![/tweet_dis] Or at least sell me any pair you still have left.)

Well, marathon training has almost totally depleted my supple of v1 Cursoriseseses (I’m assuming that’s the correct pluralization of the word), while I’ve saved my v2s for races, with one pair having about 40 miles on it, and the other brand new. The 40 mile pair are what I’ve been planning to run the 2015 Chicago Marathon in, but I’ve been nervous because they’re really not meant to be distance shoes. They have this great, soft, exposed EVO (called U4ic) midsole, meaning they wear down fast (I start to have all kinds of pain if I use them for more than about 120 miles), and don’t hold up well to the kind of heat and beating 3+ hours of running puts on a shoe.

So I’ve been on a quest to find an ultimate replacement to the Cursoris as my go-to running shoe, but also to potentially replace it as my shoe for the marathon. With one month to go, it’s getting very late in the game to make that big of a switch. I’ve tried three strong contenders, only to be turned off by them – Newtons (the Distance III), Altra (The One 2.5), and Skoras (Tempo). Of all of them, the Skoras have been my favorite as they’re sort of like the Cursoris but with thicker, rubber-encased soles. Unfortunately, I tend to get crazy blisters from the Skoras in lots of places, so I’m not comfortable risking using them in the race.

I’ve been eyeing Sketchers GoRun (aka GoMeb) and Pearl Izumi Road N1s for a while. That’s right, I said, “Pearl Izumi.” As in the brand you may recognize from their huge line of cycling gear and equipment, where they’ve earned a really solid reputation for quality and technology/forethought going into their products.

Screen Shot 2015-09-15 at 12.04.03 PMMy marathon coach has been wearing PIs, and really likes them, so I fired up runningwarehouse.com and decided to give them a try. For those who don’t know Running Warehouse, they have amazing customer service on top of good prices, and will even take back shoes you’ve run in if they don’t work for you (though they keep an eye on abusers of this policy, understandably).

So with that extremely long background, I got a pair of Pearl Izumi E:Motion Road N1 v2 (how’s that for a name) shoes right before my 19 mile long run this past Friday, but didn’t plan to use them because that’s a really long run to start with a shoe you have no experience with. Rookie runner mistake I’ve learned not to make by making it before and paying a price.

Turns out, the weather gods had other plans for me, though. Down-pouring rain meant my run started on the treadmill, which meant I had a great opportunity to try the PIs since I could pause the run and swap shoes if they really didn’t work for me. I did 10 miles on the mill with them before putting on a pair of Cursoris to run outside.

Screen Shot 2015-09-15 at 12.21.49 PMwhat they are
Pearl Izumi has a slightly convoluted naming convention that makes sense what you figure it out. Their models, which fall under the E:Motion running shoe line, use a letter to denote their type – eg N for neutral, M for stability (not sure why it’s an M, perhaps for motion control), etc. They have road, trail and tri versions. Then after the letter, they have a number which is essentially a read on how built up the shoe is, going from 0 up to 3 (at least I think it goes up to only 3, though there could be higher numbers that I’m not aware of). Then, after this long yet informative name, they denote which revision you’re using. Here, I’ve got E:Motion Road N1 v2, so the second iteration of their neutral road running shoe with not the most minimal build but still quite minimal. The thing most reviewers don’t like about the name is that they think of the number after the letter as the revision (e.g. they expect the revision to the N1 to be the N2, but that’s a totally different shoe that’s in the same line). Once you know how to interpret the naming, it’s fine and tells you exactly what you’re getting.

Retail is about $115, which is not bad for running shoes these days, plus Running Warehouse had a sale on them for $85 (with free shipping!) and I had a gift certificate (RW gift cards are awesome ideas for any runner you need to buy a present for, or amazing blogger you want to just be cool to…just saying).

The last thing I’d say is that I ordered up a half size based on what I found in reviews online that say they run a touch small. I’m typically a men’s US 10, and got 10.5s. This was perfect. The 10.5 fit me just right.

my impressions
I started by just wearing the shoes around the house for about 3 hours the night before the run to see how the toe box felt, if any blatant discomfort presented itself, etc. It’s not a great test of how a shoe will be when you run in it, but it does expose major issues like toe crowding. They passed that test well, and my move on upsizing by a half size was a good call – the fit was really nice all around.

[tweet_box inject=”#review #run #fitfluential” design=”box_12_at” author=”newbodies”]1 word describes the @PearlIzumi E:M Road N1 – #smooth[/tweet_box]

Once I started the run, my overall impression was set on this shoe. One word was on top of my mind during the entire 10 miles, and again this morning when I put them back on to walk around in the house. Smooth. The ride of this shoe is butter. Literally like walking on butter. And not butter out of the fridge, but room temp or even slightly melty butter. They are really flexible without feeling unstructured. They are soft-soled without feeling mushy. They handle impact beautifully, transferring energy through the sole, well, smoothly. If I keep describing it, I’ll basically just keep saying, “smooth.” And that’s because it the word just describes the feel of how this shoe runs so perfectly.

Here’s a video of the shoes landing with a forefoot or mid foot strike indoors:

That’s what they’re like on a treadmill or walking around. Since doing that 10 miler on the ‘mill, I’ve now put another 20+ miles on them outside, including a recovery run (5 miler), short run with strides (4 miles plus 4x strides totaling 5.3 mile), and medium-distance run with faster pacing in the middle and intervals (8 miler with miles 3-5 at 10k pace plus 8×1 intervals at tempo (actually much faster than tempo) for a total of 10.76 miles). They’re quite different outside, actually, but not bad. Outdoors in temps in the 60-80 range, they’re much firmer. The impact of each foot strike is less melty-butter and more like, maybe, semi-frozen butter. It’s nice, but as other reviewers have said, it’s a firm shoe. Funny how I would never have said that indoors, but taking them outside makes it clear. My Cursoris is soft and supple when you strike, while these really stand up to each foot strike. They absorb and transfer energy nicely, but it’s a totally different shoe. They may be better through the entire marathon distance, holding up to a few hours of pounding the heat that generates better than the Cursoris would, which definitely feel a bit worn out toward the end of my long runs. The firmer ride also helps to keep from wasting my energy as it’s not blowing out through super-soft foam, but it can make the legs feel the impact a bit more.

Here’s another video with the foot strikes slowed down so you can really see what the shoe does on each strike – smooshing butter:

What is it like for heel strikers? I can’t say as I don’t strike that way, but there are tons of heel strikers out there who run in them, and PI even talks about the shoes in that context (describing energy transfer as you go from heel strike to toe off), and my coach is a heel striker, so I’m sure they work great and feel just as smooth if you run that way. I’m not going to test it since I really am uncomfortable running that way, and don’t know if what I experience would be what habitual heel strikers would feel, so I couldn’t give a true view of them.

 

my depressionsScreen Shot 2015-09-15 at 12.20.59 PM
I’m really struggling here. There are some things I noticed when walking around that concerned me, but were total non-issues when running. Namely, the toe box width and the line where an overlayed toe cap ends worried me that they’d cause blistering and/or toe nail issues (my right big toe nail has been threatening to break up with me for a while). Turns out, I wasn’t aware of any of that when running.

What I did notice was that my Achille’s had a little abrasion on them after the first run, with one having a small blister. Now, to be fair, the Skoras did this, too, only there was nothing slight about it. There were very large blisters on both legs and a lot of blood that took a few weeks to fully heal. With the N1s, it’s nothing like that, but it’s something to watch before deciding on doing a marathon with these. So far, a Band-Aid has kept me safe on my subsequent runs, so I think this is just an initial break in type issue.

Otherwise, it really just comes down to whether they’re firmer than I want. I wouldn’t call this a really firm shoe, but having run outside with them now, I certainly wouldn’t call them soft. The Cursoris – or any all-or-mostly-foam-bottomed shoe – is super soft by definition, so everything with rubber in the strike zones will feel firmer (including the Skoras, though they feel softer than the PIs outdoors…and firmer indoors – go figure). I think what I’m looking for, though, is the way these things felt on the treadmill to be how they feel outdoors. If nothing else, it teaches you that you can’t just test a shoe on a treadmill and expect to know how it will perform in other conditions (or test one outside and know how it would be on a treadmill). The moral of the story – demo shoes in the same manner that you plan to use them.

But that’s it – one possible minor issue that can be easily mitigated with a different sock or maybe a preventative Band-Aid or moleskin application, and a personal decision about what kind of firmness I want for my upcoming marathon.

to buy or not to buy
For me, the question is more whether to run the marathon in them than it is to buy them or not. I have to say, I’m leaning toward running the race in them right now, and plan to run in them for my long run this week to see. But not everyone is looking for a marathon shoe, so the purchase question is a resounding yes for me. I’d even say that if you just want a shoe to wear walking around. They look good, and the feeling of just walking in them is bliss. Just get over the feeling that you’re wasting a running shoe by not running in it.

I have a feeling of relief right now as the depletion of my stash of Cursorii (maybe that’s the plural form of the word like how Toyota tells us Prius becomes Prii, though no one seems to say that) leaves me seriously concerned. I think I found my next go-to shoe with a reasonably priced, smooth, light-enough, stylish sneaker that appears to be able to go the distance from a company that’s not too well known or established in the running shoe community but has already more than proven itself as a top sports equipment and clothing maker you can trust.

[tweet_dis inject=” #fitfluential”]Running is an amazing sport that allows me to be free while being healthy[/tweet_dis]. Having a shoe that lets the body feel the way the mind does when running is so key to enlighten.your.body.

About bryan falchuk

bryan falchuk is the founder of newbodi.es, a certified personal trainer, behavior change specialist and the best-selling author of "Do a Day". bryan coaches people on their whole health - the physical, mental and emotional combination of wellness that we need to thrive and change our lives.

6 comments

  1. Nice review, i also had the Cursoris which was my favourite shoe. How is the Pearl Izumi in terms of breathability and toebox width, compared to the Cursoris?
    As for the other 2 shoes you mentioned, i had the Skora Tempo but it also caused me blisters and it was too loose in the heel. What do you think of the Altra The One 2.5 compared to the Cursoris? I hope the PI will my be my replacement of the Cursoris, too bad Mizuno discontinued them.

    • Peter, thanks for the comment. These are great questions. Sorry for the long response, but you asked a few good points I want to be sure to answer. And I’m still bitter about Mizuno killing the Evo line. I don’t really find their other shoes work for me, despite trying several (Syonara, Hitogami, Rider 18). I do have Universe 5s I save for 5Ks that I like, but most racing flats like them are the same (no structure, no padding, super light), so I doubt I’d like them much more or less than competitor shoes.

      Re the Skora Tempo, you’re the third person I know with this feedback. Great idea for the shoe, but clearly something isn’t right in the execution.

      Re the breathability, it’s next to impossible to match the Cursoris here. The PI is great, but the Cursoris (and Levitas, like it) are beyond anything I’ve tried. My issue was less about the breathability than the width. The Cursoris is ideal for my foot shape, while the PI was good but just a hair too narrow up front, so I did have some blistering. Typically, some 2Toms powder was good enough protection, but when I ran the Chicago Marathon, I had blisters within the first 10 miles, which was a real surprise (and big problem).

      Lastly, I really didn’t like The One. I wish I did. It’s a great shoe and technically should have worked well for me. I was hoping it would be my ideal marathon choice. I actually found it too wide, especially in the toe box. I felt like it was hard to take turns and go down hill because my foot was moving around too much in it. I had the laces pulled super tight. So they are a bit wide, but also a bit less pliable than the PI or Cursoris, so it’s hard to get that width taken up. And I don’t have a narrow foot at all. I did try sizing down a half size, but then it was too tight at my big toe, and would have lead to a lot of pain in the nails and probably the loss of nails. I still felt that pain when standing in them in my proper size (10), but didn’t notice it while running. Overall, just not a good fit for my foot.

  2. Thanks for answering. My worst problem with the Tempo was the extensive arch support. The soles of my feet were hurting for 2 days after running in them. As for the Altra, i have also read other reviews stating exactly what you wrote, that they are too wide. Nothing beats the Cursoris!

    • Interesting. I wish I had seen these reviews of The One before buying them, but I got them from the amazing Running Warehouse, who has a great return policy even for shoes you’ve run in. Unfortunately, Skora doesn’t, so I’m stuck with the Tempos.

      As for the Cursoris, the one thing I’d say is that they’re minimalist, and the Tempo and The One are both more on the max cushioning end of the spectrum. So that means they aren’t really apples to apples replacements for the Cursoris. They’re all zero drop and have wide toe boxes, though. I just had no expectations of either of them feeling like the Cursoris. I was looking for something with more cushion for doing a marathon. I am very happy with the PI EM Road N1, and think it’s closer to the Cursoris than the other two. And it was fine for the marathon cushioning-wise. But I had my Cursoris 2s with me (much better than the first version, cooler looking, but never came to the US – I imported 2 pairs on clearance, and save them for races). I wish I had run in them instead of the PIs. I just had it in my head that they aren’t for marathon distance races. I ran an 18 miler in v1s, and was fine, so I should have just ignored what they’re ‘supposed to’ be for, and run with what I thought was best for me.

  3. I tried the N1 v2 and the N2 v3. They both feel like they have lower drop than 4mm for the N1 and 8mm drop for the N2. The N1 v2 has a more snug fit than the Cursoris and a narrower toebox. I wish the N1 had the toebox of the N2. It also felt soft underfoot. In runningwarehouse.eu i found an offer of N1 v1 here http://www.runningwarehouse.eu/Pearl_Izumi_EM_Road_N1/descpage-EMRN1M4.html but it looks identical to the v2 here http://www.runningwarehouse.eu/Pearl_Izumi_EM_Road_N1_v2/descpage-EMRN1M5.html

    • Peter, these back and forth comments are great. We’ve turned this article into our own private chat room (and I’m totally cool with that).

      I just got a pair of N2s to try, so your comment about the toe box is really encouraging.

      I will forever lament the loss of the cursoris. It’s just the perfect shoe. I’ve been wearing the Skora Tempos around lately as I recover from a foot injury, and think they’re just so well-designed EXCEPT for the heel. I don’t know why it has to be as nasty-blister-inducing-and-painful as it is. I think it’s a mix of the material being a bit tacky, and something that protrudes a bit too much for such an-otherwise-minimally-structured upper. But the shape of the upper is spot on, and the way the sole works is really good. It just makes me feel like this is the shoe that could have been. Instead, I end up cursing inside with every step, or wearing double bandaids to try to protect my Achilles.

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