Pearl Izumi EM/N1 Trail – 50 Mile Review

Pearl Izumi N1 Trails - Right side view
Pearl Izumi N1 Trails – Right side view

I have 50.58 miles on my Pearl Izumi EM/N1 Trail running shoes, which means I get, well in this case I want to do my usual 50 mile review of them.

FTC Disclaimer: What am I to Pearl Izumi – nothing, absolutely nothing. I paid for these shoes with my money at the Rail Trail Run Shop, so I will say whatever to hell I want to about them – good or bad.

That being said, of all the running shoes that I have run in over the past 10 years, make that 20 years, hell maybe forever, if I had to pick and use/own just one pair of running shoe (no specialty shoes) to do roads, trails, speed work, winter running, or even race – The Pearl Izumi EM/N1 Trails are the running shoes that I would choose – period.

Bold praise for a pair of trail running shoes that I have only run 50 miles in and no trails in yet (too much ice up heah) — You bet!  And you know something I do not have any second thoughts about what I have said.

I have run in over 30 pair of running shoes over the past couple of years and a helluva lot more than that over the past 40 plus years I have run, so I have a pretty good idea of what I like and want from a pair of running shoes…so let’s get down to it, why do I feel this way?

The Pearl Izumi EM/N2 Trails have performed and done things that NO other running shoes have done (trail, road, minimal, motion control or whatever style/model they were), during the first week I have had them. I started with a speed work session on the treadmill (yes in trail shoes), did a faster run outside, the mistake run – outside, a 15 miler – outside mostly on tar, a road race in snowy conditions and last but not least another quick run – mostly on tar (at least quick for me with a few Fartlek repeats thrown in).

If you want to read more about those runs – here they are:

  1. First Run in Pearl Izumi EM/N1 Trail – RunLog 1-13-14
  2. CMS Group Run and Hill Repeats – RunLog 1-15-14
  3. Augusta Rail Trail Mistake and PI N1 Trails-Great Performance
  4. The Tale of Two Runs in One – RunLog 1-17-14
  5. 35th Central Maine Striders January Thaw Race Recap – 1-19-14
  6. 8.15 Miles and Fartlek Repeat Done – RunLog 1-20-14

Six runs that have made me really think differently about what a pair of running shoes should be able to do. Especially when I ran #3 and #4, those two runs really changed how I viewed the N1 Trails.

I am very reality-based and have been burned by running shoes that I have loved at the 50 mile review before. Those that I have gushed and hyped up o much in the past. The N1 Trails have performed at a different level than any other shoes I have run in previously. That is the difference I am basing my comments about the N1 Trails on, not just some willy-nilly, oh golly, gee, I got these shoes and they are great, type of review, just to say good things about them. This is how I actually feel about these running shoes.

The N1 Trails are the Swiss Army Knife of my running shoe inventory, which is especially important for my winter-time running, due to the constantly changing road conditions from day-to-day or hell in many cases hour-to-hour. They are running shoes that I would not hesitate to use in any running situation that I do and am confident I would run well in them.

I think that is the important thing, I feel confident in these shoes. That I will be able to run and run pain-free for as far as I want.

No, this does not mean that they are the absolute perfect shoe for every different type of running situation for me or anyone else. It does mean that they are working for me.


Each manufacturer has their own “technology” that is the “best” and they all market their running shoes based on that technology. Pearl Izumi uses Dynamic Fit technology and even though I am a running shoe geek and could go on and on about my opinions and views on this technology and how Pearl Izumi markets it – I won’t.

I will let other’s who are smarter and more technologically sound/advanced/based, discuss and ponder the pros and cons or even if it is actually something that is real or not when it comes to Pearl Izumi’s Dynamic Fit technology.

It is enough that it works and works well for me.


The tread, bottoms or whatever you want to call them, have worked great for me in a variety of conditions: snow, railroad bed rocks, sand/salt/water slurry mixtures on the side of the roads, puddles, tar. The tread clears itself of build-up and caked on crap pretty quickly and the traction has been fine. I imagine based on my experience with other trail shoes, that in deep mud these shoes will struggle (no deep lugs), and they don’t work worth a damn on glare ice (I haven’t found too many that do well on this, even with screws or carbide tips in them).

I haven’t had any issues with rocks getting stuck for long in the tread, which is something that just irks me and takes my focus away from running when I  hear that click, click, click noise every step down the road and then have to empty the rocks out after I get done running.

Pearl Izumi N2 Trail - Bottom View
Pearl Izumi N2 Trail – Bottom View

When I was running on the rocky railroad bed, which was a LOT tougher than many trails that I will run on, the rock plate more than protected my feet and I was able to run another 5.0 miles, without any issues after getting done with this part of my mistake run.

Railroad bed rocks
Railroad bed rocks – it was safer than running on the black ice/ice-covered tar

There is very little wear on the tread after 50 miles, so I would imagine that the sole will hold up for me past the running life expectancy of these shoes, to when they become lawn and garden/walking and eventually screw shoes next winter.

The sole unit is definitely firmer and less flexible than other shoes that I have run in over the past year or so, but it has not affected the smoothness or comfort of the N1 Trails when I am running in them. I transitioned over to the Dynamic Fit and the way the Pearl Izumi EM line feels, in my N2 Roads which are stiffer and firmer than the N1 Trails.


A welded seam upper that gives/stretches just enough to be extremely comfortable, even with my Tailor’s Bunionette issues (yes the toe box is wide enough to not bother me). I haven’t had any hotspots, blisters, foot pain while running in the N1 Trails, even after going through icy puddles, which soaked my feet, the water drained out quickly and within a few minutes, I didn’t notice that they were wet.

In windy, cold conditions, my feet have felt cold initially, but after a mile or two they warm-up and I don’t notice the cold. This might be an issue in the summer heat, but this time of year, I am not worried about breathability.

Pearl Izumi N1 Trail - Front view
Pearl Izumi N1 Trail – Front view

Something that has really surprised me was that I didn’t immediately change out my shoelaces to LockLaces and still haven’t decided whether I will or not. The stock laces are working so well that I would hate to screw things up by changing them out, when I do not need to. Maybe down the road, I will change the laces, but not for now.

One thing that impressed me, was when I was post-holing in 6-8″ of crusty snow, that I didn’t rip the upper to shreds (which I have done before to other shoes, while running in crusty snow) – there was no discernible damage to the uppers.

Looking up the trail at all three challenges, ice, crusty snow and railroad bed rocks
Looking up the trail at all three challenges, ice, crusty snow and railroad bed rocks

One that I usually do not worry about as much as the functional part, but is still a consideration – is that I think they are a good-looking shoe.

Pearl Izumi EM/N1 Trail - Left view
Pearl Izumi EM/N1 Trail – Left view

Something that is a small thing, but that I like is the heel pull-tab, it just makes it easier to pull the shoes on. Yes, it is a small detail, but it is the accumulation of these small things that make the difference between a good shoe and one that I want to run in and get again.

The only thing that I would like to see on the upper is a gussetted tongue, sometimes I have found little grains of sand that have gotten to the shoe – probably through the tongue area.


I can wear them running and then wear them around all day without any issues or problems. They remind me a lot of my Skechers GoRunRide 2’s in that I want to wear them, instead of the “oh I have to run in these today” attitude that I have with a lot of shoes, although the fit and feel are very different.

Yes, I whined and moaned a lot about how firm and stiff the N2 Roads were and while the N1 Trails are still firm, they feel to me, to be more cushioned than the N2, even though they are still quite firm and not that flexible compared to other shoes.

Pearl Izumi N1 Trails - Right side view
Pearl Izumi N1 Trails – Very Comfortable

When I run in them, they just feel very smooth and are quiet, even on the roads, which is something I look for in my running shoes, I interpret that to mean that am running somewhat efficiently in them.


In each run the P/I N1 Trails exceeded my expectations, they have done everything I have asked of them and more.

Pearl Izumi N1 Trails after running
Pearl Izumi N1 Trails after running

The N1 Trails are a faster running shoe than I am a runner, they can go places and on trails that I probably won’t go running and can comfortably go further than I want to run, all the while without the foot issues that I have become so accustomed to and endured with other running shoes. You know those things like: blisters, hot spots, pain due to my Tailor’s Bunionette being pressed against/squeezed and all those other assorted things that happen to our feet while they are in running shoes.

All I can say is that when I run in the N1 Trails, I am not thinking about how bad my feet are hurting or gonna hurt, I am focusing on running. Which is what I expect and want from my running shoes.

Put ’em on and forget about ’em and so far that is what I am doing with Pearl Izumi’s N1 Trails.

Pearl Izumi N1 Trail
Pearl Izumi N1 Trail

Good job Pearl Izumi – I just hope when you do your first update you don’t make a lot of wholesale changes just for the sake of changes, these running shoes are pretty damn good just the way they are.

Okay where am I running in them today?

5 thoughts on “Pearl Izumi EM/N1 Trail – 50 Mile Review

  1. Thanks Carrie – I like how you capitalized FINALLY hehehehe, they work well for what I want to do and I will be in the process of keeping a 2-3 pair shoe rotation from now on. I don’t see me ever going completely back to just one pair of shoes, but at least I know what does work for me now. Now I just hope they don’t screw around too much with it too much when they “Update” the model line.

  2. Looks great – question: I have become very comfortable in minimal – 4mm drop ultra-light shoes … these have a different ‘E:Motion’ design. How does that work and how does the feel / weight compare to the Nike Free (I know you prefer these, just looking for a basis since there aren’t any locally for me to try)

    1. Mike – The drop depends on who you read – it is claimed to be anywhere from 1mm to 10mm???? To me it feels comparable to the Free 3.0 or 4.0 – somewhere in the 4-6mm range. It is a much stiffer shoe than the Free’s, which initially took a lot of getting used to, but luckily I had been running in the N2’s before I got the N1 Trails. As trail shoes, the size 9.0’s are supposed to be around 9.6 oz and other have listed them as around 10.6 oz, so as usual there is a lot of conflicting stats out there to consider. The “feel” when running is smoother than it was in the Free’s and once you get past the firmness, they are comfortable with a wider toe box. For me the N1 Trails have more “pop” than the Free’s do (which always felt a little dead for me). Both are great shoes, but I prefer the N1 Trails over the Free’s by quite a bit.

      1. haha – that comment makes sense (not)! Actually it is perfectly in line with what I have read – whereas I could easily compare the Nike to the Saucony Kinvara before buying them, this shoe is definitely different. Keeping my eyes out for a deal … I am liking the New Balance (with Lock Laces – thanks for speaking highly of them, gave my wife ‘stocking stuffer’ fodder!), so perhaps I might try the trail version of those. I know I have time, but would like to get into the habit of having shoes ‘on rotation’ because that is actually supposed to be better for you.

      2. You might like the NB1010,, I misunderstood what you were saying ;-). I have heard rumors of Pearl Izumi updating some the EM Line soon, so there will be some deals out there this spring – at least I am hoping so. I am glad you like the LockLaces, I do like them and will be putting them in my other N2’s pretty soon, but haven’t wanted to rock the boat with how the N1 Trails are doing.

Leave a Reply, but I moderate all comments

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.