Pearl Izumi EM Road N0 v2 Review

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The EM Road N0 v2 is a lightweight, simple shoe that works well. It's not as good as the very best shoes, but it has no real flaws and I enjoy running in it. While the N0 is a little heavier than I'd like given its cushioning, some of the additional weight comes from having more padding in the upper, which may be worthwhile. The N0 is a remarkably natural shoe to run in, and could be compared to running barefoot on a cushioned track. It doesn't get in the way of your natural stride, and makes an excellent every day training shoe. I've rated it as "Highly Recommended". (I use The Science of Running Shoes as the basis of how I test running shoes and what you should look for in a running shoe.)

Pearl Izumi Road N0 v2 top
Pearl Izumi Road N0 v2 bottom
Pearl Izumi Road N0 v2 inside
Pearl Izumi Road N0 v2 outside

1 Characteristics

Pearl Izumi EM Road N0 showing the outsole more clearly where it has attracted more dirt. (This is the original version, but the update is identical.)
  • Why you’d buy it. While it's not the best, the EM Road N0 is a worthy contender for your money. It's a little more padded in the upper than most lightweight shoes, and a better toe box than many.
  • Cushioning . The N0 is reasonably well cushioned, but it's not as good as it could be. For instance, the Asics Gel Hyper Speed is both lighter and better cushioned.
  • Drop. I measure the EM Road N0 at a 5mm drop unloaded, and 4mm when there's a person's weight in the shoe. I find that this level of drop doesn't impact my stride compared with a zero drop shoe, though regular readers will know that I believe the less drop the better.
  • Structure. The EM Road N0 uses a single density of foam with no problematic "arch support". The sole has no gaps that could act as stone traps.
  • Flexibility. The N0 is pleasantly flexible, and it flexes remarkably evenly, unlike many shoes that tend to flex in just one place.
  • Outsole. The EM Road N0 has a few patches of firmer outsole that are well placed. Some of the outsole is obvious by the different color, but there are also patches that are color matched to the midsole, making them harder to spot. When I first got the N0 I thought it was nearly all expose midsole, but that's not the case. Once you've run in the N0 a bit you can see the outsole as it picks up more dirt.
  • Shape. While N0 does not match the shape of the human foot, it's much better than many shoes. There is more room in the toe box and cutting open the toe box is recommended rather than required. (I recommend cutting open the toe box of virtually all running shoes, with the exception of a few shoes like some Altra shoes. When you have some worn out shoes, you should try cutting open the toe box. I've found that it's a big improvement, allowing my toes to move naturally and engage for toe off, as well as reducing the possibility of blisters.)
  • Upper. The upper is moderately thin, inflexible and mostly seamless. There is a reasonable amount of padding around the rear of the foot, plus more around the ankle opening. For such a light weight shoe, it's better padded than you'd expect.
  • Tongue. The EM Road N0 has a traditional tongue that is has a tab to attach it to the laces. The tongue is extremely well padded for such a lightweight shoe .The tongue is nearly as well padded as the much heavier Asics GT 2000.
  • Lacing. The laces on the N0 are one of the few annoyances. While the N0 has traditional flat laces, they are slick and come untied easily. I've had more problems with the N0 laces coming undone than any other shoe I can remember. (This is the only negative change from the original to the v2.)
  • Heel Counter. The N0 has only the slightest of heel counters, and certainly nothing that would dig into your foot.
helping-hand.jpg

2 Comparisons

Here are some direct comparisons with its potential competition.

2.1 Pearl Izumi EM Road N0 Original and v2

The v2 update is relatively minor, but the improvements are worthwhile. The shoe has become a little lighter while getting more cushioning, a nice achievement. I've enjoyed the v2 even more than the original shoe, with the notable exception of the laces that seem to delight in coming undone me to run.

Pearl Izumi Road N0 v2 top
Pearl Izumi Road N0 v2 bottom
Pearl Izumi Road N0 v2 inside
Pearl Izumi Road N0 v2 outside
Pearl Izumi Road N0 top
Pearl Izumi Road N0 bottom
Pearl Izumi Road N0 inside
Pearl Izumi Road N0 outside

2.2 Pearl Izumi EM Road N0 and Asics Gel Hyper Speed

The Asics Gel Hyper Speed is one of my favorite shoes, and it shows up the weaknesses in the N0. While the N0 is a good shoe, it's not as light or as well cushioned as the Hyper Speed. The N0 is better padded, but I've never felt the difference in comfort in practice.

Pearl Izumi Road N0 v2 top
Pearl Izumi Road N0 v2 bottom
Pearl Izumi Road N0 v2 inside
Pearl Izumi Road N0 v2 outside
Asics Gel Hyper Speed 6 top
Asics Gel Hyper Speed 6 bottom
Asics Gel Hyper Speed 6 inside
Asics Gel Hyper Speed 6 outside
helping-hand.jpg

2.3 Pearl Izumi EM Road N0 and New Balance RC5000

The N0 is reasonably light weight, but the New Balance RC5000 is quite stunningly light. The RC5000 is less than half the weight of the N0, but nearly as well cushioned. Of course, the bare bones RC5000 is not for everyone as it provides just enough cushioning to improve Running Economy, but no more. This makes it the most efficient shoe I've found, but the minimal cushioning my not be sufficient for you. However, if that's a problem for you, then the N0 may not provide the cushioning you want either. (Note that the updated New Balance RC5000v2 is slightly heavier than the original, but much better cushioned.)

Pearl Izumi Road N0 v2 top
Pearl Izumi Road N0 v2 bottom
Pearl Izumi Road N0 v2 inside
Pearl Izumi Road N0 v2 outside
New Balance MRC 5000 top
New Balance MRC 5000 bottom
New Balance MRC 5000 inside
New Balance MRC 5000 outside
helping-hand.jpg

2.4 Pearl Izumi EM Road N0 and Asics GT 2000

I tend to compare shoes against my benchmark "normal running shoe", the Asics GT 2000. The GT 2000 weights nearly twice as much as the N0, but most of that extra weight is in the form of over engineered features that The Science of Running Shoes indicate are more likely to cause problems than solve. There's quite a bit more cushioning with the GT 2000, as well as somewhat better padding in the upper. However, the N0 won't attempt to interfere with your stride, or encourage you to heel strike like the GT 2000. The GT 2000 helps show just how good the N0 is; it's just not quite as good as the best shoes.

Pearl Izumi Road N0 v2 top
Pearl Izumi Road N0 v2 bottom
Pearl Izumi Road N0 v2 inside
Pearl Izumi Road N0 v2 outside
Asics GT2000 top
Asics GT2000 bottom
Asics GT2000 inside
Asics GT2000 outside

3 Cushioning and Shoes

It's intuitively obvious that the cushioning in a shoe will reduce the impact on your body when running. However, The Science of Running Shoes indicates that the reality is rather more complex. While slight cushioning may reduce the effort needed to run by improving your Running Economy, most scientific research indicates that more cushioning does further improve Running Economy. In addition, cushioning does not generally reduce impact and may actually increase it. This is counterintuitive, but is likely to be due to the way a runners mind and body adapts to softer cushioning. Unfortunately, the scientific evidence is far from complete and it's hard to give clear recommendations. I believe that some runners will prefer more cushioning, while others prefer less, and typically those running further have a fondness for greater cushioning. I also believe that a shoe should be as light as possible, and a shoe should justify its weight with the cushioning it provides. My advice is to decide what level of cushioning you're looking for, and then find the lightest shoes that also fit well and are comfortable.

4 Visualizing the Attributes of the Pearl Izumi EM Road N0

How Pearl Izumi EM Road N0 compares showing rearfoot cushioning against the performance penalty of its weight. Upper right is better.
How Pearl Izumi EM Road N0 compares showing forefoot cushioning against the performance penalty of its weight. Upper right is better.
How Pearl Izumi EM Road N0 compares showing the price against the benefit (cushioning/performance penalty). Upper left is better.
How Pearl Izumi EM Road N0 compares showing the loaded drop against the benefit (cushioning/performance penalty). Upper left is better.

5 A Comparison with other Recommended Shoes

For a more detailed comparison of these shoes see the Recommendations for Best Running Shoes. This table lists the key attributes of What to Look for in Running Shoes. For more detailed information, on the shoes see detailed shoe comparison.

Full Review Name Rating Recommended
price
Benefit Weight
(oz)
Penalty
(sec/mile)
Forefoot
Thickness
Heel
Thickness
Loaded Drop
mm
Cushioning Flexibility
Asics 33-DFA Review 33-DFA Worth considering $90 5.7 10.6 16.5 27 27 0 6.1 5
Saucony Type A6 Review A6 Highly Recommended $100 8.2 6.1 9.5 17 21 4 5.0 7
Adidas Adios Boost 2 Review Adios Worth considering $140 4.7 8.6 13.4 17 27 11 4.0 6
Merrell Bare Access Bare Access Review Pending $95 5.0 7.2 17.8 15 12 -2 3.6 7
Hoka Bondi 5 Review Bondi Recommended $150 6.1 11.6 18.1 38 42 5 7.1 2
Hoka Clayton Review Clayton Best of the Best $150 8.8 8.3 12.9 26 30 3 7.3 4
Hoka Clifton 3 Review Clifton3 Best of the Best $130 9.1 9.8 15.3 34 38 3 8.9 5
On Cloudracer Review Cloudracer Worth considering $130 5.7 8.2 12.8 19 27 5 4.7 7
Hoka Conquest Review Conquest Worth considering $170 5.0 11.9 18.5 28 34 5 6.0 2
Saucony Cortana 4 Review Cortana Worth considering $150 4.4 9.9 18.7 22 28 5 4.3 4
Mizuno Wave Cruise Review Cruise Worth considering $120 6.6 5.9 12.5 17 20 7 3.9 6
Newton Distance IV Review Distance Worth considering $155 7.5 9.1 14.2 26 31 3 6.8 5
Asics Gel DS Racer 10 Review DS Racer Worth considering $110 8.2 7.0 10.9 21 26 6 5.8 5
Mizuno Wave Ekiden 8 Review Ekiden Worth considering $115 5.7 5.7 14.6 13 18 6 3.2 8
Saucony Endorphin 2 Review Endorphin 2 Review Pending $115 7.4 5.5 10.2 15 13 -1 4.1 8
Adidas Energy Boost Review Energy Worth considering $160 7.2 10.0 15.6 20 30 7 7.2 5
Altra Escalante Review Escalante Best of the Best $130 9.1 8.7 13.5 28 25 -1 7.9 6
Puma Faas 100 R Review Faas 100 Highly Recommended $90 8.4 6.1 9.4 15 20 1 5.1 8
Saucony Fastwitch Review Fastwitch Highly Recommended $90 9.5 7.1 11.1 20 22 4 6.8 7
Topo Fli-Lyte Review Fli-Lyte Highly Recommended $100 6.0 9.4 14.6 23 24 4 5.6 5
Nike Free 4.0 Review Free Recommended $120 5.3 8.2 13.6 24 30 6 4.4 5
Saucony Freedom Review Freedom Recommended $160 5.4 10.7 16.6 25 29 3 5.8 6
Asics Gel Lyte 33 3 Review Gel Lyte Not recommended $90 8.0 7.3 11.4 17 24 4 5.8 9
Skechers GOmeb Speed 3 Review GOmeb 3 Worth considering $120 6.9 8.1 12.6 20 24 4 5.5 8
Skechers GORun 4 Review GORun Not recommended $100 6.1 7.5 11.7 15 23 3 4.5 7
Skechers GOrun Ultra 2 Review GRU Worth considering $90 7.5 10.0 15.6 28 34 8 7.5 4
Skechers GOrun Ultra Road Review GRU-R Worth considering $105 6.5 11.3 17.6 30 40 6 7.4 6
Asics GT 2000 Review GT 2000 Not recommended $120 4.8 11.2 17.4 28 35 5 5.4 2
New Balance Hanzo S Hanzo Review Pending $110 7.6 6.9 10.7 21 19 2 5.2 5
Hoka Hupana Review Hupana Recommended $115 6.1 8.9 13.9 31 36 7 5.4 4
Asics Gel Hyper Speed 7 Review Hyper Speed Highly Recommended $75 10.9 6.3 9.8 22 26 5 6.8 6
Altra Instinct 3.5 3.5 Review Instinct 3.5 Recommended $115 4.9 9.3 15.2 24 23 0 4.5 5
Altra Instinct 4.0 Review Instinct 4.0 Worth considering $120 6.0 9.8 15.3 29 25 -1 5.9 5
Asics Tarther Kainos 3 Review Kainos Worth considering $130 10.0 6.9 10.7 17 27 9 6.8 6
Saucony Kinvara 8 Review Kinvara 8 Review Pending $110 9.3 8.6 13.4 26 31 3 8.0 5
Nike LunaRacer 4 Review LunaRacer Recommended $90 9.9 7.0 10.9 22 30 7 6.9 5
Nike LunarSpider R5 Review LunarSpider Recommended $125 6.9 6.7 10.4 17 21 3 4.6 6
Hoka Mafate Speed Review Mafate Best of the Best $170 7.6 11.9 18.5 39 40 4 9.0 1
Pearl Izumi EM Road N0 v2 Review N0 Highly Recommended $100 7.9 6.5 10.1 14 20 4 5.2 8
Saucony Nomad Review Nomad Review Pending $110 4.3 10.5 17.2 25 27 2 4.5 4
Hoka Odyssey Review Odyssey Highly Recommended $130 8.5 9.4 14.6 37 45 5 8.0 3
Altra Olympus Review Olympus Highly Recommended $130 5.4 11.8 18.4 27 27 3 6.4 3
Altra One 2.5 Review One Highly Recommended $100 8.5 7.1 11.1 22 25 2 6.0 7
Altra Paradigm Review Paradigm Highly Recommended $130 6.4 9.9 15.4 25 25 1 6.4 2
Asics Piranha SP 5 Review Piranha Recommended $100 10.1 4.2 6.5 11 15 3 4.2 9
Brooks PureFlow 5 Review PureFlow Worth considering $110 6.0 9.7 15.1 26 29 5 5.8 8
Salming Race Review Race Worth considering $130 6.9 6.5 10.1 16 19 4 4.5 6
New Balance RC1600 v2 Review RC1600 Highly Recommended $110 8.8 5.6 8.7 15 21 5 4.9 8
New Balance RC5000 Review RC5000 Best of the Best $125 12.2 3.4 5.3 13 17 3 4.2 8
New Balance RC5000v2 Review RC5000v2 Best of the Best $125 14.2 4.0 6.2 13 21 6 5.7 7
Skechers GoRun Ride 3 Review Ride Worth considering $85 5.9 8.5 13.2 18 28 6 5.0 8
Inov-8 RoadXTreme 220 Review RXT-220 Worth considering $120 5.2 8.0 18.2 14 17 3 4.2 8
Topo ST-2 Review ST-2 Highly Recommended $90 8.2 7.3 11.4 20 18 0 6.0 7
Hoka Stinson Lite Review Stinson Highly Recommended $160 7.3 11.6 18.1 35 40 6 8.5 0
Nike Zoom Streak LT 3 Review Streak LT Best of the Best $80 8.8 5.4 8.4 16 21 4 4.8 5
Adidas Takumi Sen 3 Review Takumi Sen 3 Highly Recommended $160 7.7 6.6 10.2 17 21 4 5.1 5
Altra Torin 2.0 Review Torin Worth considering $125 5.8 9.6 14.9 28 25 -1 5.5 4
Hoka Tracer Review Tracer Recommended $130 7.2 7.4 11.5 21 24 2 5.3 5
Merrell Trail Glove 3 Review Trail Glove Best of the Best $100 2.9 6.9 24.7 11 11 0 2.0 8
Topo Tribute Review Tribute Recommended $100 5.9 7.3 11.4 20 18 -1 4.3 6
Mizuno Wave Universe 5 Review Universe Highly Recommended $125 10.7 3.1 10.6 9 12 1 3.3 9
Merrell Vapor Glove 2 Review Vapor Glove Highly Recommended $85 2.1 6.1 27.6 6 5 0 1.3 10
New Balance Vazee Pace Review Vazee Pace Worth considering $110 6.0 8.6 13.4 18 24 6 5.2 5
Asics TartherZeal 3 Review Zeal Worth considering $140 10.9 6.3 9.8 17 27 9 6.8 6

It's not a running shoe, but I love the Hoka Tor Ultra hiking boot and I've tested the Altra Lone Peak Boot.
Older shoe reviews: Saucony Hattori Review, Mizuno Cursoris Review, Skechers GO Bionic 2 Review, Hoka Clifton Review, Saucony Virrata 2 Review, Brooks PureCadence 3 Review, Brooks PureConnect 3 Review, Brooks PureFlow 3 Review, Skechers GO Bionic 2 Review, New Balance 980 Review, Brooks Transcend 2 Review.
Reviews of shoes that are not worth including on the table: Hoka Huaka Review, Patagonia EVERlong Review.