Welcome to my review of the Pearl Izumi EM Road N1 V2. This is the second version of the Pearl Izumi EM Road N1 shoe (hence the ‘V2’). Unfortunately, I didn’t run in the first version, so I can’t personally compare any specific updates. But I can and will compare it to the New Balance Fresh Foam Zante, which I think is a fairly similar shoe.
If you’ve read my review of the New Balance Zante, you’ll see that I purchased both the Road N1 V2 and the Zante at the same time because I couldn’t decide which one to get. I eventually decided to purchase and keep them both.
At the time of purchase, the only other Pearl Izumi shoe I had run in was the Pearl Izumi EM Trail N2 V1, which I loved, so I was eager to try another one. Since then, I have also run in the Pearl Izumi EM Road N2 V2. Check back later for a review of that shoe.
So far, I have run over 50 miles in the Road N1 V2. And let me say this up front; those have been quiet miles. I don’t think I’ve ever run in a shoe that makes less noise.
We’ve all heard those runners stomping by as if they were about to crack the concrete or wake up the dead. Their shoes slapping the asphalt as if it was applauding them as they ran. Heck, we could be those runners. I know I am sometimes.
But with the Road N1 V2, I could run in a library and not raise any eyebrows. I could run up behind someone, quiet as a mouse, and they wouldn’t even know I was there until…until… well, I guess until it was too late.
Not that I recommend doing that. That analogy took a wrong turn.
But if there was a shoe for stalkers, if there was a shoe for sneaking up on someone, this would be it.
Again, not condoning.
This shoe is just really quiet…
Well…(cough…cough…awkward pause)…anyway, onto the rest of the review.
First, a summary of the shoe specs from runningwarehouse.com.
In one corner, the Pearl Izumi EM Road N1 V2 checks in at:
- Weight: 7.8 oz (size 9)
- Stack Height (Heel): 23 mm
- Stack Height (Forefoot): 18 mm
- Category: Neutral, Performance
In the other corner, the New Balance Fresh Foam Zante checks in at a weight of 8.1 oz, a heel stack height of 23 mm, and a forefoot stack height of 17 mm. That is almost identical to the Pearl Izumi EM Road N1 V2. To say these two prize fighters are evenly matched would be an understatement.
While New Balance is (rightfully) going away from their complicated and unintuitive numbered naming system for their shoes, Pearl Izumi still uses a much more simple naming convention. In the Road N1, the ’N’ stands for Neutral and the ‘1’ stands for the level of cushioning. In their road shoes, Pearl Izumi makes an N0, N1, N2, and N3. In their trail shoes, there is only and N1 and N2 (at the time of this review). The higher the number, the greater the cushioning. There is also an ‘M’ and ‘H’ category for moderate and high stability / motion control respectively. There’s nothing wrong with using a simple numbered naming system as long as it doesn’t require note cards to remember.
What I like
I briefly discussed Pearl Izumi’s dynamic offset in my review of the Trail N2. In summary, due to the mid-sole design, the offset is low at initial contact and increases through the transition to toe-off. The intent is to create a smooth transition. See Pearl Izumi’s video on how this works for more explanation. For the Road N1 V2, Pearl Izumi’s website indicates the offset is 1 mm at initial contact and 4 mm at mid-stance. The 4 mm is slightly different than the runningwarehouse.com measurement, but that is probably due to exactly where the measurements were taken.
I can’t give you any scientific evidence whether the dynamic offset makes a difference one way or another. However, I’ve tried 3 different Pearl Izumi shoes and they all have a very smooth transition.
I think Pearl Izumi is definitely on to something here.
The Road N1 V2 outsole is composed of blown rubber in the forefoot and carbon rubber in the heel. This should provide decent durability for all types of running techniques. I have noticed some wear in the forefoot and mid-foot so far; perhaps a bit more than the Zante at this stage. I am not sure these will last over 400 miles, but I should be able to get at least 300 out of them.
Another interesting difference between the Road N1 V2 and the Zante is the width of the outsole. The width is similar at the heel and forefoot, but at the narrowest part of the mid-foot, the Road N1 V2 outsole is about half an inch wider than the Zante. See the pictures below. While I don’t have any evidence of this, my feeling is that this would provide a little more mid-foot stability on the Road N1 V2. Something to consider if stability is a concern.
While I didn’t run in the Road N1 V1, one update on the Road N1 V2 is the added grooves in the rubber ‘S’ that runs the length of the outsole. One complaint about the Road N1 V1 is that it wasn’t very flexible and the additional grooves on the N1 V2 are intended to help in that regard. Overall, I’ve found the Zante to be more flexible, but I didn’t have any issues with the flexibility of the Road N1 V2.
(3) Seamless Upper
The upper on the Pearl Izumi EM Road N1 V2 is seamless. While I haven’t run sockless in them, I imagine you could with no issues. There are a few things I would change (see “don’t likes”), but overall it creates a comfortable fit.
Initially, I thought the upper might be too thick and not very breathable. But that turned out not to be a problem. There is a “dry spacer mesh” that does allow plenty of breathability.
Compared to the Zante, the Road N1 V2 upper is thicker. While I like the Zante upper as well, it seems that the Road N1 V2 would be a little more resistant to rips and tears. I don’t have any evidence of this since both are holding up fine so far, but it just seems that way from touch and feel.
Like the Zante, the Road N1 V2 also makes a great case to be your one and only shoe. It feels just as good on speed work and long slow runs.
The forefoot is firm and responsive, but still soft enough for long runs. The fluid ride makes the shoe feel responsive when you pick up the pace and soft when you slow it down. In comparison, I would say the Zante is a little bit softer, but they are close.
A fluid and smooth ride is where Pearl Izumi shoes have developed a solid reputation. Overall, the ride on the Road N1 V2 doesn’t disappoint. It is smooth and whisper quiet.
I imagine some of this is due to the dynamic offset. The Road N1 V2 outsole contains what Pearl Izumi calls its 1:1 Energy Foam in the forefoot. As a forefoot striker, this shoe feels great and provides a nice responsive feel. When I run in this shoe, my legs feel like gears, turning and turning as they rotate, my feet gently touching the pavement just briefly before they’re up again. It’s a nice feeling. This shoe disappears on my feet which is the main thing I look for in a shoe.
What I don’t like
(1) Laces are too short
This is also a problem on the Pearl Izumi EM Trail N2, which I reviewed earlier. However, thankfully this is not a problem on the Pearl Izumi EM Road N2 V2, which I will be reviewing later. But for the Road N1 V2, the laces are just too short. Perhaps the Road N2 V2 was updated after the Road N1 V2 and they have addressed this problem going forward. Time will tell.
Refer to the pictures of the laces below. On the left foot, I used the lace locking technique. When this is done, there is barely enough lace left. It is mildly annoying but not a deal breaker.
(2) Extra fabric in the mid-foot and forefoot
While I do like the seamless upper, there is a little too much extra fabric around the mid-foot and forefoot. It doesn’t fit as snuggly as I would like. See the picture below and how the mid-foot fabric bunches on the interior of the foot. Compare that to the New Balance Zante, which hugs the mid-foot more securely. In addition, there is a little too much extra fabric in the forefoot on the Road N1 V2 as well.
(3) Heel slippage
Lastly, there is a little bit of heel slippage. This was probably partially due to the initial stiffness and I think it has lessened some as they have broken in a little more. To overcome it initially, I used a lacing technique to lock down the heel. This helped, but due to the short laces, it was not ideal. The heel slippage wasn’t enough to impact the ride, but it was noticeable.
Would I recommend this to a friend?
Yes, I definitely recommend. However, I would also suggest someone check out the New Balance Zante and compare first before settling on the Pearl Izumi EM Road N1 V2. If you’ve tried Pearl Izumi shoes before, then I think you know what to expect and won’t be disappointed in the Road N1 V2. If you haven’t tried Pearl Izumi shoes before, then they are definitely worth considering.
To summarize, the Pearl Izumi EM Road N1 V2 has a very smooth ride. It is great for speed work as well as long slow runs.
The Road N1 V2 upper, while seamless, breathable, and comfortable, is not as snug fitting as the Zante. The upper on the Road N1 V2 is probably more durable, however. But in general, I think the Zante has a better fit.
But both shoes have a great ride and you can’t go wrong with either.
If you decide to purchase the Pearl Izumi EM Road N1 V2, please consider following this link to Amazon. Purchases made through this link help support this site. Thanks!
As always, comments are appreciated. Let me know of any thoughts or questions below. I hope you found this review useful. Thanks for reading.