Pearl Izumi Road N1 Review
Pearl Izumi has been pushing their new EMotion line in which the N1 sits as the purest running experience. A simplified, stripped down no nonsense midsole without all the technical bells and whistles, it is designed to do one thing: provide the smoothest ride ever.
That is something that is very appealing to a large number of runners. But the N1 has a problem, an identity crisis, and it needs to be sorted out or no matter how good the ride is it won’t matter.
Basically, the problem can be summarized as such, the N1 is a racer that’s too heavy for racing and a trainer that’s too light for daily training. Pearl Izumi calls the N1 a racing shoe, but the fact is this, when racing weight is king and if you’re serious about performance the N1 is too heavy for race day. It doesn’t matter if it’s a 5k or marathon if you want to go faster, you need to go lighter. Also, the N1 isn’t tough enough to hold up to daily training high mileage abuse or last beyond 250 miles.
But let me tell you why all of this doesn’t matter.
After basically living in the N1 for two weeks, let me tell you that I don’t care that the N1 has an identity crisis. So what if I can’t race or log big miles in it? What I can do with the N1 is R-U-N.
Sure you can jog in the N1, but why waste the experience? The shoe was not designed for hobby joggers, walkers, or weekend warriors; it was designed for runners who want to run.
And when it comes to running the N1 does an incredible job of it. The N1 totally lives up to the expectations put on it by Pearl Izumi. The ride is so good, so responsive, and so smooth, that it’s easy to look past any small problems.
The N1 can technically be classified as a semi-weekly up-tempo trainer. Suffice to say whoever you are, get the shoe and use it for some part of your training week; you won’t regret it.
With the Pearl Izumi Road N1 and all Project EMotion shoes, it’s all about the ride. The N1 doesn’t disappoint. The foam is extremely responsive but has also not completely shredded my legs.
Off-roading? Or no?
Obviously, this shoe was designed for the road and that is really where it shines, but a big question was how it would perform once it leaves that surface. I also tested the shoe on grass, gravel, dirt, snow, and slush and have had a few different experiences.
Here’s what they are.
On dirt roads and gravel paths, the N1 is fantastic, you get the same smooth ride you do on the pavement with no traction problems. The only worry is that durability becomes an issue if taking the N1 off-road. I’d recommend keeping the shoe on the tarmac as much as possible.
On grass, the N1 offered up a small let down. When it’s dry the shoe is fine, but when the grass gets wet the ride gets a bit slippery. Vancouver even offered up some snow for this road test and I was hugely impressed with the performance on the white powder.
Not that the ride was incredible but it was totally comparable to how other beefier road shoes perform in the conditions, and in a much lighter package. Overall on varied terrain the N1 far surpassed my expectations. It’s almost just as good off-road as on-road, and it’s easy to look past a few shortcomings because it’s not what the shoe was designed for anyway.
Breaking it all down
The focus and major selling point of the N1 is the awesome ride, but great as it is it’s not my favourite part of this shoe. No, the best part of this shoe is THE UPPER! Never has a shoe felt this good; it is without flaw perfect in every way. Here’s why:
Seamless: True this has become the standard today and from any other company it wouldn’t be anything too special. But because Pearl Izumi basically pioneered the seamless upper for runners, having a Pearl with a seamless upper still means something.
Heel Counter: This is a great design feature that wraps the rigid support around the base of the heel where you need it and removes it up around the Achilles for added comfort. The easiest way to explain it might be that you can fold the heel down halfway before hitting the heel counter.
Mesh: The mesh is so awesomely stretchy. After first putting the N1 on it felt narrow, three hours later it still felt narrow. But give it some time, it will stretch out, and the mesh is so forgiving that your foot never feels constricted.
Printed Overlays: Gives support in the midfoot, but the big thumbs up is for the lack of overlays in the forefoot. There is nothing but that fantastic mesh and your feet will love it.
Toe Rand: The name of the game is a comfort and freedom with this minimal toe and designed with soft, flexible rubber that does not constrict the feet or toes in any way. And for a little bit of extra protection where you need it most, the rubber guidance line wraps up around the top.
Eyelets: Though a trivial detail to some, this is very important to others. Thank you, Pearl Izumi, for not using any ridiculous and flimsy lace loops, and sticking to good old traditional eyelets. With these, you can lace your shoes however you want, including my much preferred Lydiard style.
Wrapping it up
So to sum up the N1 is not a shoe for daily training, nor is it a shoe for racing. What it is, however, is a fantastic shoe for running.
It doesn’t matter who you are. You’ll appreciate the awesome sensation this shoe gives you every time you slip it on.
The N1 is just begging to be incorporated into your weekly training! So find something to use it for and give it a go.
Kintec Fitting Expert
Spencer Jackson ran at Liberty University in Virginia where he graduated from in 2011. Despite evidence to the contrary, he is adamant that he is in fact not a hobby jogger. Spencer coaches at both White Rock Christian Academy and South Fraser Track Club.