Monday, August 19, 2013

Pearl Izumi Trail N1 Review

I've been curious about the E:Motion line of Pearl Izumi shoes since Timothy Olson won the 2012 Western States in the prototype. Since then they have received glowing reviews and once again Timothy won Western this year in the same shoes, so I decided to go ahead and give them a try.
Weighing in at 9.6 oz for a mens size 9 with an actively changing heel to toe differential and an MSRP of $115: the Pearl Izumi Project E:Motion Trail N1. (This is a neutral shoe with minimal cushioning. The N stands for "neutral" and the 1 = level of cushioning.)



 UPPER
The upper on the N1 is a true work of art. It's simple and comfortable; seamless and breatheable; soft, yet supportive. It's everything other lightweight trail runners claim to be, but aren't. When you slip them on they wrap your foot securely, but stretch enough to alleviate any constrictive discomfort. Instead of frivolous overlays they feature bonded structure technology on the interior of the shoe on both the medial and lateral sides which provide ample support.
The sausage type laces on the N1 are one of my favorite features. Not once have I had the laces come untied during a run. Another one my favorite features, which is very simple like the rest of this shoe, is the addition of two "eyelets" on the tongue which keep it from slipping to either side. Both tongue slippage and loose laces are two of my pet peeves during a run, so I am extremely happy with these simple and effective features.


seamless upper
sausage laces and tongue eyelets
seamless interior
seamless bonded structure


MIDSOLE
Pearl Izumi uses what they call Dynamic Offset in their midsole. Basically the shoe's heel to toe drop is constantly changing from foot strike to toe off. Pearl Izumi states that there is a 1mm differential, while Running Warehouse measures a 7mm differential (23/16). None of that really matters since it is constantly changing anyways, but it feels like a 4-6mm drop to me.
I've tried to run in a couple minimal shoes in the past (NB MR10, NB MT110, Merrel Mix Master) and I found that the low heel to toe drop really tore up my achilles and calves. Now, I'm not sure if it's because my form has improved over time or because of Pearl Izumi's design, but these shoes caused no soreness in my muscles or tendons and didn't require a transition period. 
A lot of people found that the N1 had great energy return, but I didn't find that. While it does have a nice low to the ground ride that keeps the foot stable on off camber and technical trails, I felt that the midsole was too firm on the road, which I would avoid in these shoes. This could be due to the fact that I haven't run in a shoe this minimal for quite some time. Even so, the N1 provides a smooth, fluid ride on soft trails and single track as well as a stable ride on technical footing.






OUTSOLE
The outsole features somewhat shallow multi directional lugs that aren't too aggressive. But don't let that fool you, I was thoroughly impressed with the grip on the N1. I never had my feet slip out from under me on steep descents with loose dirt. Pearl Izumi states the N1 have "an aggressive self cleaning lug pattern". What I got from this was a bunch of dirt and pebbles getting wedged between the lugs that then flung up against the backs of my legs. 




FIT
I love fit of these; like a forgiving racing flat with a wide toebox. They fit like a flexible glove. I found them to fit true to size, but others I've talked to have occasionally found them run slightly short, so if you're unsure about sizing when ordering online, I would go 1/2 size up from your normal size running shoe size.


CONCLUSION
If you're looking for a lightweight, low profile, performance shoe for race day or even for tempo runs and speed work on the trails, this is a good option. I initially wasn't that thrilled about the ride, but the more I ran in them, the more I loved them. They encourage a midfoot foot strike and really make me feel connected to the terrain without leaving my feet feeling too beat up. I feel more efficient in them and I also have more confidence on technical trails. They've gradually become my favorite trail shoe. 



UPDATE:
After 400 Miles I decided to retire this pair of N1's. They were feeling rather compacted in the midsole which was causing some minor anterior shin irritation if I ran through town on the concrete. The upper was holding up well for the most part, but looked like it might blow out by my 5th metatarsal any day. The tread had plenty of life left in it.
Other runners probably would have kept running in them until the end, but I decided to retire them and cut them in half so I could see what I've been running on. So here you are: 







What are your thoughts on the N1?

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