Thursday, June 26, 2014

Pearl iZUMi Men's E:Motion Trail N 1 (REVIEW)

I've never given a pair of shoes a second chance after sending them back to the manufacturer. Last year I ordered a pair of Pearl iZUMI Men's E:Motion Trail N 1's, pulled them out of the box, took one look at their stack height, felt the stiffness of their construction, and put them back in the mail unworn. What you may ask, possessed me (a devout minimalist) to order a second pair of a shoe I didn't like in the first place?

I love to run trails and I love to run long, and while I still live by the 'less is more' credo, sometimes when you've been out there on your favorite root and rock littered single track for several hours, less isn't quite enough to get the job done. And so I’ve been experimenting with ‘middle of the road’ shoes to help ease my body’s crossing of greater and greater distances. In other words, I’m looking for a shoe that will spare my feet an ass kicking when I’ve gone beyond the point where my favorite light weight shoes can reasonably be expected to get the job done. Last month I bought a pair of Patagonia EVERlong’s (REVIEW 1). After a couple short runs I concluded that I didn’t like the shoe, but thought that they might feel more to my liking at the end of a run than at the beginning. A few weeks later I wore them for the last couple hours of a 25 mile run (REVIEW 2). At that point my opinion of the EVERlong began to change. Last Saturday I wore them for the entire 23 miles and 5 hours of my long run, and they’ll likely be my shoe of choice for an upcoming trail marathon, or perhaps even an ultra later this year.

I'd warmed up to the EVERlong, the shoe was not without flaw, so I was still 'in the market,' as the saying goes. And so I asked myself, if my opinion of one shoe could change so dramatically were there any other models I’d previously dismissed that I might yet warm up to given enough time and testing. It was in that spirit that I decided to give the N 1 a second chance


The Pearl iZUMi Trail N 1 sounds great on paper.

  • Synthetic
  • Rubber sole
  • 4mm heel-to-toe drop
  • 1:1 Energy Foam cushion in forefoot
  • Protective forefoot rock plate
  • Multi-direcitonal lugged outsole

  • My favorite trail shoe of all time, the NB MT 110 (REVIEW) also has a 4mm heel-to-toe drop, rock plate and multi-direction lugs on the outsole, but the similarities stop there. While the N 1 qualifies as minimalist, by the measure of some, when you sit the two shoes side by side you begin to wonder if the 110's might be in danger of being swallowed whole. also has a 4mm heel-to-toe drop, rock plate and multi-direction luggs on the outsole, but the similarities stop there.

    The N 1 has a rock plate, but honestly, with an outsole this thick it is probably not necessary, even when bombing down the rockiest trails you can find. That said, while the shoe has an advertised weight of just under 10 ounces, it doesn't feel that heavy.

    The N 1's advertised 4mm drop comes with a caveat. According the product page on Amazing the " E:Motion midsole features what Pearl Izumi calls a 'Dynamic Offset' that changes as a runner moves through his stride. Because the effective heel-to-toe drop changes as you roll from heel to toe, you'll find you're driven forward with an intuitive flow and a natural, no-slap, no-crash, smooth-as-silk feel"

    So the shoe supposedly changes height and shape under the stress of a runners body weight as he or she movies through their stride, but I'm not sure this has an relevance to a mid-foot striker. I certainly did feel anything during my first test run in the shoe

    And did they seriously just describe running as a heel to toe motion? It is probably from this misunderstanding of the basics of proper running mechanics that the shoe’s major flaw arises. These suckers are stiff.  I suppose that the extra firmness may come in handy when bombing down mountain trains late in a run, once your body is already fatigued, but on fresh feet, especially feet that spend many of their miles in Merrell Trail Gloves (REVIEW) it is an annoyance. I like to think that the N 1's will soften up after a breaking period, however I've come accustomed to shoes that require no such breaking in, but rather are ready to run straight out of the box.

    The rest of the N 1 is satisfactory. I did take the insole out to create more space, but the one piece mesh upper is otherwise comfortable and seems durable, although only time will tell on that. Traction seems to be similar to the NB 110, and superior to the Patagonia EVERlong. They handled today’s muddy trails acceptably, although the rubber compound is a bit on the hard side, rather than sticky, and as a result did not grip wet rock quite as well as I may have liked, although finding any shoe that handles wet stone is a challenge so I cannot hold it against the N 1.
    Check back during the next few weeks for my thoughts on how the shoe handles longer training runs. 

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