Pearl Izumi EM Road N0 Racing Flat Review

Pearl Izumi EM Road N0I love the Pearl Izumi EM Road N0.

Let me say that again.

I love the Pearl Izumi EM Road N0.

Not since the Saucony Grid Type A5 have I had such a positive experience with a running shoe. The reason? Because this shoe replicates the fit and ride of the A5 better than any shoe I have run in since the A5 came out (including the recently released A6). It’s simply outstanding.

My biggest fear with the Pearl Izumi N0 is that using the number 0 in the name will scare some people off. This is not a zero drop shoe. I also think Pearl Izumi made a mistake in using their “dynamic offset” (whatever that means) terminology in describing the construction of this shoe. No need to complicate a shoe that is beautifully simple and purely functional.

(Disclosure: the shoes reviewed here were provided free-of-charge for review purposes by Runningshoes.com).

Sole Construction

Let’s start by describing what the Pearl Izumi N0 is. It’s a racing flat. It’s a simple shoe built for running fast. PI claims that it has a drop of 1mm at initial contact, and 4.5mm at mid-stance. I don’t find that information all that helpful. Unlike the Pearl Izumi Road N1 which has some unusual geometry built into the insole, the N0 is pretty much a straight-up 6mm drop shoe. I measure stack at about 22mm in the heel, 16mm in the forefoot. It weighs only 6.0oz in men’s size 9.

Pearl Izumi EM Road N0 side

The sole of the PI N0 is firm yet flexible, very similar to the Saucony A5. It does not have the stiffness of some other racing flats – I don’t think there are any plates in the sole to stiffen it up for example. And that makes it a bit more versatile than your average racing flat. I could easily see racing up to the half-marathon in these.

The sole provides full ground contact – no cutouts. There’s a bit of rubber under the heel, a bit more under the medial forefoot, but the rest is pretty much exposed midsole. Forefoot strikers might rip it up a bit, my pair looks pretty good still after 30 miles.

Pearl Izumi EM Road N0 sole

Upper Construction

Like the sole, the upper of the PI N0 is wonderfully simple. A double-layer mesh makes up most of the upper, and there are a few welded overlays for added support. There is a flexible heel counter, and internally the lining feels soft (have not attempted a sockless run yet). The insole is thin and seems to be of uniform width.

What really makes this shoe for me is the fit. Almost perfect on my foot, maybe only the slightest tad snugger than the A5 was, but the fit is far better on me than the A6. It feels as if the shoe was designed specifically for my foot shape.

Performance

I’ve put about 30 miles on the N0’s so far, and have pretty much reserved them for workouts where I intend to include a bit of speed. I also used them in a 5K last weekend, my first road 5K in well over a year. They have performed brilliantly on all occasions, and they felt great in the race. The sole is responsive without being overly stiff.  I managed a sub-20 5K in them, which was my goal heading into the race, and they are probably going to be my 5K racer for the foreseeable future (unless the A6 upper breaks in a bit). I can’t say I’d want much more from a racing flat.

Conclusion

If you’re in the market for a racing flat suited to distances from the 5K to the half-marathon, the Pearl Izumi EM Road N0 might be my top rec as of writing this post. It has been a fantastic shoe for me so far.

The Pearl Izumi EM Road N0 is available for purchase in the red colorway shown above and the black colorway below at Runningshoes.com. MSRP is $100.

Pearl Izumi EM Road N0 black

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About Peter Larson

This post was authored by Peter Larson. Pete is a recovering academic who currently works as an exercise physiologist, running coach, and writer. He's also a father of three and a fanatical runner with a bit of a shoe obsession. In addition to writing and editing this site, he is co-author of the book Tread Lightly, and writes a personal blog called The Blogologist. Follow Pete on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and via email.

Comments

  1. This shoe was at the top of my want list, not it’s even more likely I’ll get a pair. Can’t to try them out myself.

    You categorize these at a racing flat, but I can’t find that description anywhere else for these. Could you clarify that? How would you recommend them as an “everyday” running shoe as part of my rotation with 2-3 other pairs?

    • If you like low, firm shoes you could use them as an every day trainer, but the shoes they compare to most closely are mostly straight up racing flats. If you like training in racing flats, these should be a good choice.

  2. You didn’t mention forefoot width in particular. Do you think it’s wide enough for this Altra runner?

  3. i really want this shoe.
    thanks for clearing up the ‘dynamic offset’ nonsense.
    judging by your perfect fit comment im guessing they are true to size

    now all i’ve got to do is wait for them to become available in Australia

  4. would you say you like it more or less than nb 1400 v2? they seem similar, no?

    • Don Livingston says:

      I run all my races in 1400 v2. They are my favorite running shoes because they are so light weight but still offer the right amount of cushion. Be curious to compare the two.

      • N0 is a different beast from the 1400. The 1400 has a softness to the sole, and I’d consider it more a distance racer/lightweight trainer. The N0 is a speed shoe, very firm and built for 5K maybe up to half marathon.

    • Very different shoes. 1400 is more a distance racer, N0 is a straight speed shoe/racing flat. I’d compare the N0 more to the NB 1600.

  5. Do these fit similar to the N1? Do they feel similar to the N1?

    • Lower to ground than N1, similar firmness, fit may be a tad snugger since the upper doesn’t have the same give as the N1 upper. But I don’t find them to be tight at all on me.

  6. stupid question: can you do speed work in a distance racer?

    • Sure, really depends on preference. One persons distance racer might be another person’s 5K racer, and most people you see racing 5K’s wear typical training shoes. Just depends on preferences and what you are comfortable with.

  7. Iain Denby says:

    They remind me of the Inov8 Road X 233 (which I love)

    How does the fit and feel of these comnpare?

  8. I have this shoe and I love it. Hearing that Inov8 is going with wider toe boxes is awesome!

  9. Iain Denby says:

    Pete

    I curious to know why, if these shoes are so amazingly comfortable etc, why wouldn’t you consider them for a marathon?

  10. Matt Newman says:

    This comment is more germane to your review of the Road N1, but since this review is newer, I figured it might still hold relevance here. Anyways, I wanted to describe my horrifying experience with the N1, which until this past Sunday, I liked quite a good deal. (I can’t say I loved it because it really isn’t snappy enough to do quick tempos in.) But this past Sunday in Ann Arbor, I was running on a paved trail in my N1s, which by the by had maybe 30 miles on them, a lot of them on nice soccer field grass, when a rogue (and roguely positioned) stick punctured the foam, the insole, and my foot pad, effectively anchoring the N1 to my left foot. After wrenching the shoe off, there was lots of blood, and then infection and swelling. I’m on the fasttrack to recovery I think, but I’m mildly traumatized by this and can’t imagine running in these again. Have you heard of anyone else having such an experience with this shoe or others like it? I’ve had a number of shoes that don’t have a whole bunch of blown rubber, but have never experienced anything like this. Is the EVA really this soft? (Do you think PI would be interested in this?)

    • Don Meeker says:

      Well, considering the Road N1 is basically a road only marathon race flat the fact that a rogue stick punctured the sole is not that much of a surprise (though I’ve never heard of any issue like this happening before). It’s built for road running and nothing off road. I’ve run in the N1s for about 2 years now both off and on road with no problems but if you step on a sharp object hard enough your bound to puncture just about any soft race flat.

    • Carsten Hoever says:

      Matt, I wouldn’t attribute this too much to the PI N1, it’s more a case of bad luck. The same thing has happened to me 1km before the finish line of a marathon. Shoes were Kinvara 4, so obviously also a lot of exposed midsole. If you want to be on the safe side you have to chose a shoe with full rubber on the outsole, but maybe even that is not enough to prevent these freakish things from happening.

      • Thanks for your thoughts, Carsten, and sorry to hear about your bad luck 41k into a marathon. I own Kinvara 4s and put monstrous amounts of miles on them on dirt roads, asphalt, and stick-laden trails, but somehow missed all of the noxious items. I’m surprised I haven’t heard of this happening with the Nike Free, especially given the depth of some of the grooves. Blown rubber it is.

    • Agree with Carsten. I don’t think it’s the N1 in particular. I think the same would happen with any exposed EVA outsole. That particular obstacle sounds like it would have eff’d you up regardless of what you were wearing, unless you had a beefy trail shoe with a thick rock plate, but you wouldn’t want that on a paved trail anyway.

  11. Pete,
    First time commenting, so let me just say I am a huge runblogger fan. My question relates to the differences between the N0 and N1. I have almost 400 miles on my road N1s and am going to need a replacement shoe soon. Running warehouse lists the forefoot height of the N1 as 15mm and of the N0 as 16mm (which you confirmed). Do you feel like going “down a level” in PI’s line would be too abrupt a change? It would be as a daily trainer, running 40-50 miles a week.
    Also, how would you compare the N0 to the adipure Gazelle? About a 6mm offset seems to be my sweet spot so I am already looking for other options down the road.

    • Thanks Sam! The N1 is a pretty firm shoe, so I don’t think the change would be too abrupt. The N0 definitely has a more racing flat feel to it, but if you are adapted to that no reason why it can’t be a daily trainer. I think the sole feel of the Gazelle is a reasonable comparison – very different shoes in terms of fit and upper constructions, but both the Gazelle and N0 are low and firm with good ground feel.

  12. Hi Peter,
    Quick question regarding the minimalist / racer comparison.

    This N0 is a “racer”, but it is very similar to let’s say a Merrell Bare Access when you look at the specs. If it had a “springy” plate (like a Zoot Kiawe or Skechers Go Speed) then it would be easy to differentiate them. But when there is no plate can you really make a clear distinction between the two categories ?

    In that case, how would you compare this N0 to a Bare Access ? The reason I ask is because the Bare Access is a shoe I train a lot with and love but it is definitely not the shoe I can run my best splits with, no matter the distance… so if the N0 is the same kind of shoe it would be a training shoe for me as well but not a racing shoe.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this.
    Pierre

    • There’s always been a fine line between minimal shoes and racing flats. The feel underfoot isn’t too different, but I think the N0 fits snugger and has that racing feel to it. I don’t like a big roomy toebox for running fast, I want something that hugs but doesn’t squeeze.

    • I have the N0 and the Merrell BA2. To me, although I love the BA2, it’s a little firm for what it’s supposed to be, and I’d almost rather go with a Road Glove (version 1 or 3)so I could get a better ground feel and run faster/more efficiently. The N0, I believe, is better suited to faster running as Pete has said. I get a good feel for the ground, and it’s not so overly firm that I feel beat up. Also, while I love running in zero drop shoes, I like a mild/moderate heel lift in a racer, and the N0 provides that. Also, the outsole of the N0, like much of the EM road line, contains very little rubber, but it’s grippier than the N1, so I feel I can use it on softer surfaces or wet asphalt with more security. For me, the N0 feels like a cross between the Inov-8 Road-X 155 and the Saucony Grid Type A5. Pete’s review is spot on.

  13. Dawn Salerno says:

    I LOVE THEM TOO!!

  14. Iain Denby says:

    Still lovin’ them, Pete?

  15. Hi, is there a break in period you’d recommend for this shoe? If like to run a half in them with minimal break in.

    • There’s not much sole to break in, so if you get a few runs in they should be fine. Bigger issue is whether you are used to that kind of distance in a thin, firm shoe. If so, you should be good to go.

      • Thank you for your reply and excellent review. I have run Half Marathon’s in thin shoes before like the N0 so I will give it a shot one day. However, I decided to run this Half in some N2′s since I couldn’t even get one run on the N0′s before race day. I’ve only been running in Pearls for about 4 months and I pb’d the Half!! In fact, I shaved 10 minutes off my last years time on same course! Completely love these shoes! so plush.

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