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.
My 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.
what 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.
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.
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.
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.