Pearl Izumi N1 Trail v1 #2 – 50 Mile Review

This is the second time I have had the pleasure of doing a 50-mile review on the Pearl Izumi N1 Trails. You can read my first one here.

Yeah, the first time I gushed, ohhed and ahhed all about how great they were, this time while I moderate how much I sing their praises, but I can say without any doubt that I am glad that I listened Sam W and a few others, and went back to a pair of running shoe that work for me.

The N1 Trail V1’s are not the sexiest, newest and greatest running shoes available, but they are easy for me to run in, not prissy/fussy and do a lot of things well. In other words they are just working for me.

They are more like my old Ford Ranger pick-up truck:

Reliable, have a bit firmer ride, do what I want when I want, not afraid to get it dirty, go anywhere I want or need to go and it cleans up well to wander around town, take TheWife out for supper or get to work in any kind of weather. 

Yeah, that pretty much sums up how I feel about the N1 Trails V1’s too.

If you have a pair of trail shoes, they just don’t look right without some mud and crud on them.

I have run 12 times in the N1 Trails and my average run has been over 5.0 miles, which is pretty indicative of how comfortable I find them to run in.

They are the shoes that I reach for first, when I get ready to go for a run.


What do I like

Flexibility. Even though these are a pair of trail running shoes, I do everything but race or interval sessions in them and as the weather gets nasty – they will become my winter racing shoes. Which means that they see and will see a lot time on the roads, the dirt road down-back and believe it or not on trails, including the snowmobile trails when the snow gets here.

In other words, I have confidence that during and after any run my feet are going to feel fine on just about any run that I do in them. This is their most important feature to me, I know that I can run comfortably and well in them.

Fit. The size 8.5 fit is just about perfect for me and a lot better than the size 9.0 that I had the first time around, the seamless upper doesn’t bother, has enough give that my Tailor’s Bunionette is not bothered, but enough support that I can bomb down trails pretty well. This not bothering my right foot is huge for me, since this is what usually is the thing that stops me from using many running shoes.

Quiet. When I run in the N1 Trail V1’s, I am mostly quiet, even on tar, the noise is not a slapping which I hate in a running shoe, it is more of a louder tap, tap, tap as I land, which is probably from the more aggressive tread than a typical road shoe has and the rock plate up front.

Dynamic Offset. Pearl Izumi’s Dynamic Offset technology works well with my stride, even if I cannot describe or completely understand the difference between it and other shoes on the market.
I like a rockered sole and their Dynamic Offset, seems to be a sort of semi-rockered sole, so while it is not advertised or marketed that way, for me it has some of the same feel when I run.

That really doesn’t matter to me…it just works.

Outsole. The N1’s have a great multi-purpose outsole that works well for me in the trails and roads. I also know that this outsole design will work well in the snow (it did for me in my first pair of N1 Trails).

You can still see the dimples even after 60 miles.

The other thing that I don’t worry about is how they will hold up, this pair at over 50 miles has very little wear on the outsole and my first pair were over 200 miles and showed minimal wear.

Rock plate. Yeah, I like it, I run on dirt roads a lot, on road shoulder, trails that have a lot surprises and even tar roads (especially in the winter) that have gravel, salt, sand and junk where a rock plate’s extra protection makes running a little more enjoyable.

Appearance. The N1 Trails v1’s look good.

The black and orange colorway is pretty understated and they are not really the bright colors that I usually pick out for my running shoes. While there were not a lot of colorway choices, the black and orange is growing on me and at just over $50, well I couldn’t really complain that much about the colorway. I was more interested in the shoes and how they worked than the appearance.

My first pair of N1 Trails

I still like my old V1’s blue/yellow colorway better.

What I don’t like

Yep, as much as I do like the N1 Trails, there are a few things that I do not like and some things that are not quite what I expected.

  • Road/Trail Grit. First, getting little pebbles and other road grit inside to the shoe is a common problem for me with all of my Pearl Izumi shoes, not just the N1 Trails. I guess I am a lot like the Princess and the Pea, but if a pebble or larger piece of grit get inside my running shoes, it bothers me. I will try to get it to move up into the toe box out of the way while running, but it is one of those little irritations that cause me to usually stop to empty out the shoe. Yeah I know wimpy, but some things just bother me when I run and this is one of them.

    It was this issue that I used as the primary excuse to move away from the N1 Trails the first time – which was dumb, stupid and all those other words to say that I made a bad decision. It might be the way my feet are shaped or the way I flex my foot when I run (I toe-off quite hard), but the bottom of tongue and where it meets the upper I always seem to have a small gap there.

    The size 9.0 N1 Trails I had before really were really bad about this. Now that I have sized down to 8.5 the gap is much smaller, I still get too much stuff inside the shoes when running. I really would love to see Pearl Izumi put a gusset on the tongue of their trail models and this would become a non-issue. If it gets too bad duct tape will become my friend.
  • Insole. When I was running through the streams, mud and muck on the Inland trails, the shoes got just a bit wet several times, well they got down-right soaked through. Then when for short-time if I was running faster downhill the insoles felt like they were slipping around inside the shoes (yes both shoes), which caused me to slow down.


    No, they didn’t move, bunch up or anything like that, but it was like a tire hydroplaning on the highway and I didn’t feel locked-in or secure while it was happening. It only lasted a short-time and the shoes drained quickly, but…I would hate to be in a wet trail race and have that feeling for any length of time – it would slow me down and piss me off. If I was planning to do that kind of running a lot in them, I would glue the insoles down with rubber cement or Shoe Goo.
  • Locklaces. I like to use LockLaces in my running shoes, basically because I am lazy – just pull them off and on, but also because I get a more consistent feel in the uppers. However, with most Pearl Izumi shoes that I wear LockLaces with are not as comfortable as they are with the stock laces, especially the trail models. I kept these N1 Trails stock and they are doing great.

These are pretty minor things, all with easy solutions – a little duct tape, glue or don’t use that.

Version 2

Updates. There is a V2 of the N1 Trails available, you can read what Pearl Izumi says about the updates below:

This is something that I do like about PI, is that since they have released the EM series, they haven’t gone ahead and made huge changes to the primary models and made them into completely different shoes from what they were in the last version. It is more incremental improvements than whole scale changes.

If they continue this, it is a philosophy that I like and it provides consumers, errr runners more consistency in shoes that they like, unlike some brands that seem to make whole scale changes every year and you don’t know if a model is anything like it was a version or two before. That consistency thing.

I like this approach much better and it is another reason why I have decided to stay more with Pearl Izumi. It doesn’t mean they are staid or not improving their shoes, but it means that they are making changes on a little slower cycle and not just going with the vagaries or newest fad of the running marketplace. Plus it has been my experience that their EM model lines that I have run in, are designed to last a little longer than most other brands.

They do things more their way, than simply following the crowd, which I can identify with and appreciate.

However, that means for all the shoe geeks, bloggers and magazines that they don’t get to gush and write great new shoe reviews like they do for other brands as often with more model lines and/or faster update cycles. After all, a simple colorway update, isn’t that big of a deal.

I have no doubt that when I put my foot into a pair Pearl Izumi V2’s that they will feel very familiar to me, which is something that I have also been looking for in all the brands I have run in and hopefully found.

Shoes that work for me and that when they are updated and me still liking them. Now that would be a nice change.

The reality is that

I like my Pearl Izumi N1 Trail V1’s – a LOT.

I am not going to get into the hyperbole that I did in my 50-mile review of my first pair, but they are working and working well for me for just about any kind of run that I do.

So if or when you see some old fart out running around in a pair of Pearl Izumi trail shoes with a little duct tape over the laces later this winter or next spring up in Central Maine, you will know who it is. Besides I am pretty sure that these N1 Trails will be in my running shoe rotation for quite a while. I can see them lasting 400-500 miles – easily, based on my past experience in my first N1 Trails, other PI models I have run in and how these ones are working/wearing after 50-60 miles.

Especially, now that I don’t have that “need” to go out and find/try and then write about as many running shoes as I can. Now I just can focus on keeping and staying with running shoes that actually do work for me, like the N1 Trails and the other Pearl Izumi road models I have in my rotation are doing now.

This a huge attitude adjustment for me and one that needed to happen.

Bennie has promised me a new pair of running shoes for Christmas.- I am not sure of which model yet, but I am pretty sure it will not be a pair of Pearl Izumi N1 Trails…these ones are going to last too long to get another pair that soon.

It isn’t that I don’t want another pair, I just don’t need them right now. However, I can see a pair of N1 or N2 Trail V2’s in my future next spring.

Bennie will probably be getting me a pair of N1 Roads V2’s to do my race day and faster running. Especially, since Coach Bennie wants me to run faster more than I already do.

All I know is that I am happy to have the N1 Trails back in my running shoe rotation and that they are working quite well for me.

Have you ever had a pair of running shoes that you loved and then for some stupid reason, you got rid of them and when you got another pair, you realized just how good they were?

This post originally appeared on One Foot In Reality if you see it elsewhere, it has been used without permission, please go to my site to see the original post.

Pearl Izumi EM/H3 v1 – 60 Mile Review

I was really torn whether to do this review after 50 miles or wait until I get 100 miles on the Pearl Izumi EM/H3 v1’s that I got from Sierra Trading Post on close-out last month. Things are kind of slow this evening and to be honest, I have run in the H3’s and other Pearl Izumi models enough that I have a really good idea of how they work for me.

We all have our vices and mine is that I have a running shoe problem and love to write about my running and running shoes.

However, after several years of bouncing around from brand-to-brand and style-to-style, it seems as though I have finally figured out what works for me and as much as I like the trying out and writing about the newest and greatest running shoes, at some point I have to start using what actually works the best for me.

I have finally reached that point.

Is that a concession to getting older? 

Yeah, in my case I really think it is.

I am finding that my body at 58, does not recover as well or quickly from hard workouts or long runs, especially when I am using running shoes that don’t fit right, don’t feel comfortable or hurt my feet.

Then like the stubborn old ass that I can be, keep running in questionable running shoes, all because I had to get them to at least 50 miles so I could do a damn shoe review.

Yep, running shoes can be part of the problem and cause aches and pains that I could easily avoid by simply not running in those shoes.

Why the H3 v1?

Honestly, this has been a very frustrating year for me running shoe wise. I have run in over 20 different shoes and nothing seemed to really work for me long-term. The shoes all seemed to have “something” that didn’t work, even after I might have initially thought they were really great and gushed great things about them in my blog posts, because I wanted to believe that they were the answer to my running shoe “problems”.

In October, I sort of remembered how well I ran in the Pearl’s in 2014 and when I went back to re-read my blog post from when I was running primarily in Pearl Izumi’s, I “rediscovered” how well they worked for me and how much I enjoyed running in them.

What I read impressed me enough that I dug out my old N2’s to run in again.

Yeah, they felt right.

Because of what I read in my old blog posts, how well the N2’s performed and no little thing – being able to get the H3 v1’s for less than $50, I decided to take a chance and get the H3’s – in other words, low risk to see if a “new” pair of PI’s would work for me.

I am finding this choice has been one of my better decisions when it comes to running shoes this year.

You can read more about my thoughts on moving back to Pearl Izumi here.

Review

Which comes to the Pearl Izumi EM/H3 v1’s review.

This review is more a conversation with myself about how they are doing for me and some of the reasons why they are working, rather than the usual running shoe review that I used to do.

It ain’t like I am reviewing the most recent version of the H3’s. My H3 v1’s are closeout shoes and pretty soon will not be available or pretty difficult to find, So this review is of limited value to other runners, but it is valuable to me because moving to the H3’s was a HUGE change of direction for me in style and will remind me of where I was, why I got them and how they are working for me to this point.

Motion Control

For the past 3-4 years I have been running in light-weight trainers (7-9 ounce range) as my primary running shoes. You know the lightweight neutral trainers, that have been popularized by many in the running community as the “right” and “only” running shoe needed for most runners. I bought into the hoopla hook, line and sinker and while I have had some good running while running in that style of running shoe.

Unfortunately, also during this time I struggled with finding the shoes that I could actually comfortably run in. Also, it seemed as though my legs were always feeling tired or beat up and I have had more than my share of aches, pains, nicks and a few injuries that may or may not have been related to the shoes I was running in. Which took time away from running or hasn’t let me run comfortably.

The H3’s are Pearl Izumi’s motion control shoes in the EM line-up and for a long time, I would have scoffed at anyone suggesting that I needed to run in “those” damned motion control shoes, but my experience with the Nike Lunar Glide 5’s made me re-think what I need to run in.

Maybe the good news is that running in a motion control style running shoe, especially when I am running longer or recovery runs, is something that works better for the way that I actually run. Not the way that I want to believe that I run. Although I have done an easy speed work session in the H3’s and they did just fine — although I wouldn’t want to race in them, they are a bit on the heavy side.

Heavier

The H3’s supposedly come in at around 10.5 to 11.0 ounces, which is heavier than anything I have run in a while. When I first started running in them I could tell the difference, but now I don’t really notice the added weight, unless I am attempting to run faster or longer distances and wouldn’t want them to be any heavier.

However, since I started running in the H3’s my legs don’t feel as beat-up and “knock on wood”, no injuries that are new or worse. So that is all good news and makes me feel confident about running in the H3’s at any distance, even though they are “heavier motion control” running shoes.

Fit/Feel

Comfortable.

What more can I ask for. From the first run to my latest run, great fit no hot spots, no problems with my Tailor’s Bunionette on my right foot, several long runs without any issues with my feet.

I can’t really say anything more or better about the H3’s other than they fit my feet the way I want them too and well they are…

Comfortable.

Sole

There is a little more tread on the H3’s than on the N2’s (v1) and I could tell the difference on the dirt road when running down there in the rain, so the grip is decent.

There is plenty of midsole material between you and the road, to protect your feet on most surfaces, but not enough grip that I would use them on technical trails – after all they are road shoes and do well for what they are designed for. However, if you are looking for road feel there ain’t none – or very little.

Also they are firm, but surprisingly they feel more cushioned (not Hoka Clifton cushioned, they are still firm) than the N2’s and all of the whining and complaining that I did about N1’s and N2’s in 2014 about them being too firm and inflexible…well it wouldn’t have been as big an issue if I had started with the H3’s. I find it is interesting that the motion control shoes feel to me more cushioned and comfortable than the lighter neutral road shoes, just an observation.

The lack of flexibility is still something that sort of bothers me when I pick them up and try to bend the H3’s or even the N2’s – they ain’t flexible in the hands. However, since I ain’t running on my hands and when I actually run in them I do not notice the lack of flexibility. There is something about Pearl Izumi’s Dynamic Offset design that just works great for me and the way I run.

Another big thing that I know about running in Pearl Izumi’s EM line is that all of their EM models I have run in, have been very quiet. Hell, even PI’s EM trail shoes when running on the roads are quieter than most of the shoes I have run in this year and the heel-to-toe transition for all of them has been smooth as hell, which is important since I do land on my heels (yes I have finally accepted that I do). Both of which are an indication that they are letting me run efficiently. None of that slap, slap, slap sound and feeling like I am working hard to run in them.

So yeah, the H3’s are a smooth running shoe for me.

The reality is that

I like the H3’s — a lot.

Okay, so the Pearl Izumi H3 v1’s work great for me (so far), which is a great thing. However, until they get over 200 miles on them and if I am still gushing about how great they are, I will wait on anointing them as my next great running shoes.

They have become my go-to running shoes for recovery and longer runs and have not disappointed me yet on any run.

Now I have to figure out what comes next.

When these get to the “worn out” stage, which I hope and believe that they will — do I go ahead and attempt to find one more pair of the H3 v1’s or will I have to take a chance on the updated H3 V2 which according to most sources seem to have gained quite a bit of weight (which is not what I wanted to hear).

Probably if I was smart, I would snap up that last pair of 8.5’s at Sierra Trading Post, put them in the closet and have them ready to go next spring. Unfortunately, the budget and the wife ain’t gonna let me do that right now, so we will see what happens down the road and what is available. Who knows with all the focus being on everyone running in neutral running shoes that there will be a few pairs of H3 v1’s still out there at great prices or hope against all hope that the V2 works as well as the V1 does.

Right now it is enough that they are part of my regular running shoe rotation.


  • Pearl Izumi N2 Roads v1
  • Pearl Izumi H3 Roads v1
  • Pearl Izumi N1 Trails v1

Kind of heavy on the Pearl Izumi…ain’t it.

This post originally appeared on One Foot In Reality if you see it elsewhere, it has been used without permission, please go to my site to see the original post.