Originally posted on: January 4, 2014
This not going to be your typical, “I love this shoe from the moment I put it on review”, because I did not.
I found the Pearl Izumi EM/N2 Road’s were a shoe that took some getting used to, especially after I had run in softer/more cushioned feeling running shoes for most of the summer and fall.
No, I am not going to repeat the manufacturer’s claims, stats or marketing propaganda about their shoe. I am just going to give my experiences and opinion about a pair of running shoes that I received as a Christmas gift from my wife (these are not free media samples).
What I am going to focus is how the Pearl Izumi EM/N2 Road fit my tough to fit feet, whether I found them comfortable and if they worked for me during the first 50 miles I ran in them.
Yes, this is one of the Emotion Line of Pearl Izumi's most recent line of running shoes (which has been out for a while now) and has their "new" technology called Dynamic Offset. It is beyond my intent or ability to explain how it works or does not work. If you are looking for that kind of information, go to the Pearl Izumi website or do a Google/Bing search of Pearl Izumi EM/N2 Reviews. You will find out all about its dynamic offset technology, stack height, weight, drop and all that other technical stuff that we all seem to be so hung up on today.
Another difference is that I am going to put my conclusion first and then if you want to read more about how I got there, you can keep reading.
The reality is that
The PI/N2’s have impressed me, but only after getting over their initial lack of “Wow”. They were not the most comfortable shoes right out of the box that I have tried on.
When I try a pair of running shoes on and they feel too firm or are not “super flexible”, I put them down without a second thought since they do not give that immediate feeling of comfort that I have come to expect from the style of shoes I have run in lately. That is what I would have done if I had not done a lot of research about the Pearl Izumi EM/N2’s beforehand.
I am glad that I asked for N2's for Christmas, because it meant that I was not in a hurry to try them on and then make a decision about whether I liked them or not within a couple of minutes, with a salesperson breathing down my neck to make a choice so they can move on to the next customer.
It also meant that I got a chance to actually run in them, beyond a quarter-mile on a treadmill or a quick jog up the sidewalk (if the local running store even allows that).
To be honest, I was quickly impressed with the N2's during my first run in them, which was a 10.0 mile treadmill run. When I can run double-digit miles on the treadmill (which is harder on my right foot than running outside) as my first run, it is definitely a good start for those running shoes.
My experience is that these shoes are meant to be run in and that I do run in them very well.
The bottom-line is that so far I am very happy with the Pearl Izumi EM/N2’s and how they are working for me. Happy enough that I am seriously considering getting a pair of N1 or N2 trail shoes, to replace my current trail running shoes.
The Rest of the Story
If you are interested in the rest of the story about the fit, comfort and how the Pearl Izumi EM/N2's worked for me - please keep reading.
I was worried about this – a lot. We didn't have any local retailers who carry Pearl Izumi locally (the new Rail Trail Run Shop does carry them) and I hate to buy running shoes completely blind, not knowing how they will fit or feel on my feet. I have had too many negative experiences doing it this way.
There were a LOT of conflicting reviews of how the N2’s fit and finally after all my reading and the Shoe Fittr recommendations, I decided to go with a size 9.0 US, instead of my usual 8.5.
I was glad that I did – I have a thumb’s width between the end of my big toe and the end of the shoe, which is perfect for how I want my shoe to fit.
The other thing that I was extremely worried about was the width in the toe box, which I had read was generally wide, but some reviewers claimed that it was too narrow for them. I had to make sure that the forefoot was wide enough that they did not bother my right foot Tailor’s Bunionette. The didn't seem to and a crucial test for any running shoe over the past couple of years is if they can do 7-8 miles on the treadmill, without any discomfort or pain.
Pearl Izumi EM/N2 Road with LockLoaces
I did change the laces to LockLaces, which is something that I do for all of my shoes and this minor change felt fine. In addition, the ability to have two places to attach the laces to the tongue ensures that it does not move around during a run, which is a nuisance or a blister waiting to happen (which it has for me in other shoes).
Pearl Izumi EM/N2 Road - rear view
I have a very narrow heel and heel slippage is a problem in many running shoes with a wider forefoot. While I had a little heel slippage on my first couple of runs, it was a simple fix. All I had to do was slightly adjust the LockLaces, which is why I like them. They have a little give, but at the same time hold the foot in place and they are working well in the N2’s.
The heel cup is not squishy, but is not hard plastic and I had no issues with rubbing or blisters on the heel or ankle areas.
Pearl Izumi EM/N2 Roads Right side view
Finally, the uppers, are made of a stretchier material, which doesn’t have any stitched overlays to irritate my feet (especially the right forefoot/toe area) and provides a little extra give, if I have to wear my wool socks for running outside more comfortably in the subzero weather we have endured around here lately.
What all this blathering means that the fit of the EM/N2’s has been outstanding for my hard to fit feet!
At first, I did not like the ride!
I was worried that I had made a mistake in asking for them for a present. The N2’s definitely felt too firm and the sock liner/insole felt like I was running on concrete. When you add in that they are not very flexible, I was disappointed with how uncomfortable they were during my first try them on and walk around the house test.
Unfortunately, the N2’s really do not give that out of the box, I WANT TO WEAR this shoe feeling.
If I had been at a running store and tried the N2’s on, I would have chosen something else. Simply because I usually like a more cushioned feel to my new running shoes than what the PI’s are right out of the box. I had done a lot of research on the N2' and because they were a gift, I did not have to make a decision about these shoes based on a 2-3 minute wear around a store, a quick jog on the treadmill or a run up the sidewalk.
The N2's lack of flexibility did not bother me like, I thought it would especially once I started to run in them their perceived lack of flexibility it was not a factor.
Thankfully, the PI/N2’s have a full tongue, which for me makes the shoes a little more comfortable. It seems that too many running shoes that I have used lately have moved to a minimal tongue, which I have come to HATE. I find this style uncomfortable and a pain in the ass, especially when I am trying to put the shoes on and they bunch up or crinkle (they are a hot spot or blister waiting to happen. In the future will refuse to buy any shoes that do not have a full tongue.
As I ran in the N2’s either my feet/body got used to them or they loosened up a bit, because when I ran 10 miles on the treadmill in them this week, I did not notice anything uncomfortable about them. If anything, they disappeared on my feet, which is what I want and expect from my running shoes. I need/want to be able to put them on and forget about them.
How are they working?
I have run in the PI N2's seven times with four of those runs on the treadmill and only two runs outside, the weather has been super cold and lots of ice/snow/white ice. I've done one session of speed work, two 10-mile runs, two medium length runs, then a shorter outside run on a wet/sloppy/slushy/icy crap and on New Year’s Day a 7+-mile run in the cold (around zero) on packed snow and ice.
During the faster paced runs and speed workouts, the N2’s didn’t feel like they were bottoming out like when I wear more cushioned shoes and gave me the “right” feeling of firmness when I was running faster.
The N2's surprised me in a good way when I was running on snow pack/icy roads on the 1st. They did a lot better than I thought they would and while I would not go run on the local snowmobile trails, out in a snowstorm, or use them on technical trails; they will work quite nicely on roads, dirt roads and non-technical trails. You know those things they were designed for.
The shoe’s design and use of the Pearl Izumi Dynamic Offset technology seems to work for me. Which is all I really care about.
To be honest, I do not really need to know why it works, just that it does. Sometimes I think we as runners get too enamored with a shoe’s technological advances and forget to focus on whether the shoe actually works for us when we first run in them. That is my usual problem and when the newest and greatest technology does not work as I expected, the shoes find a place in the back of my closet and collect a lot of dust, until I get rid of them.
I do not believe that is going to happen to the N2's
The Pearl Izumi EM/N2's have become my primary running shoe and I would not be afraid to use them to run any road run that I plan to do.