Pearl Izumi EM Road N3

6.0
6.0 score
[Editors rating (6.0)] = Runnerclick score (6.0)/10

Our RunnerClick score is based on our editors overall rating compared to the user ratings in order to generate the most accurate and unbiased score of each product we review.

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Editor rating: 6.0 / 10
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Pearl Izumi EM Road N3 Review Facts

Pearl Izumi promises the eMotion Road N3 is the ultimate in training comfort, and fans of the brand don’t think they’re exaggerating.  These shoes get strong reviews both from marathon runners and from those getting back on the road after some time off.  They’re designed for a neutral runner, but could almost be considered stability shoes because of a few extra tweaks the company made, after getting feedback that the rides on the N1 and N2 were a little hard.   When the Pearl Izumi first introduced their eMotion series, some athletes were underwhelmed by the amount of cushion the shoes gave them, and the creators decided to rectify that with the N3.  One reviewer was so pleased with the changes she called the design a “hug for the feet”.  The company, meanwhile, calls these shoes a “must have” for the high mileage neutral runner.   The initial price for these trainers was a little on the high side, but they have come down since the company discontinued production.  This gives runners with a limited budget a chance to get in on the remarkable quality the company puts into its line.  This isn’t the first time RunnerClick has bragged about the N3; the shoe also made our list of the top Pearl Izumi running shoes.

Editor's Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Abrasion-resistant toe guard
  • Premium cushioning
  • Dynamic off-set shape
  • Variety of colors
Cons
  • Stiff heel
  • Limited breathability
Outsole
Outsole

Outsole

Check out this shoe straight on from the front and you’ll see the abrasion-resistant toe guard curling up to the top. This is designed to give the runner extra protection over the toe, and athletes who have an issue with their big toe pushing through mesh are allowed a little extra coverage here. Reviewers say the outsole compresses lightly on impact, and they love the way it is somewhat rigid, to give the runner a strong response off the ground. The crash pad on the N3 is part of what could make this shoe lean toward a stability shoe; it alters the angle of the touchdown and gives the ankle more stability during heel to toe strides.
Midsole
Midsole

Midsole

Get ready for a science lesson here at the midsole. The company has had great success with their eMotion series, which is the technology they use again on the N3. Pearl Izumi says the midsole is biomechanically tuned to the neutral runner, and it also got high marks from those who need a little extra arch support. It's more foam than the company's used before, but it's still firm so the runner isn't sinking in and slowing down.
Upper
Upper

Upper

The upper of the N3 is made of seamless mesh. The idea is that the lack of seams and stitching gives the runner an agitation-free experience. A few reviewers complained about the narrow midfoot, and others said they really had to tighten the laces for a secure ride, which means the shoe probably falls somewhere in the middle. One reviewer said the laces were too short for him to tie up for ankle support, so he purchased an extra pair of 60-inch laces. If you're also picky about laces, you can find our review of the best ones available here. Several users noted that the tongue does have a tendency to slip to the side during runs, and has to be tugged back into place.
Weight
Weight

Weight

Pearl Izumi’s goal for this shoe was to stay true to their brand promise to make athletes better, by providing a little more cushion than they had in earlier versions, but keeping their lightweight status. The men’s version weighs 11.7 ounces, and the women’s shoe weighs in at 10.2. Those who ran in the N1 shoe will notice it’s a bit heavier, but runners still found they could enjoy a light and lively sensation.
Breathability
Breathability

Breathability

One area where this shoe does see some flack is in the area of breathability. Runners said this version doesn’t have a ton of ventilation, and emphasized the importance of taking the shoes off immediately after a run. They can tend to hold onto foot odor, especially if not taken care of properly. If you do run in hot climates or on rainy days, you’ll want to be sure to clean your shoes regularly. The company advises users to clean off any mud with a damp sponge, and then stuff the insides with paper to help absorb any remaining moisture. Air dry your shoes inside, away from a fireplace or other heating element. Direct heat can cause the materials to crack.
Comfort
Comfort

Comfort

Most reviewers said they took the shoes out of the box, and immediately hit the pavement with no comfort issues, but a few others said they did need to break them in a bit. Some runners said the mid-foot was a little tight and were hoping for a wider option. People who usually run with insoles reported they didn’t need them with the N3, saying the extra cushion on the midsole was plenty comfortable. One athlete noted that there was a bit of discomfort on his longer runs when he felt some rubbing on the bottom of his arches.

When it comes to sizing, reviews were very mixed. Some claimed the N3 shoes ran true to size, while others felt they ran about a size small. Still, others commented they had to really pull the laces snug to feel like they had a secure fit! Bottom line: you may need to physically try these on to be sure. If you buy from the company online and do need to return them for a different size, keep in mind the company will only accept returns within 30 days of your purchase.
Style
Style

Style

Pearl Izumi got creative with the styling of this shoe, and with the naming of the colors! For the men, the N3 comes in black and fountain blue, shadow grey and fountain blue, black and spicy orange, and shadow grey and blue methyl. Meanwhile, the women have options of smoked pearl and purple wine, shadow grey and aqua mint, honeysuckle and cerise, and shadow grey and algiers blue. The company logo is on the outside, and the name of the company is on the tongue, along with a tiny N3 in the middle of the laces. Pearl Izumi no longer has these shoes in production, so they can be tough to find, but if you’re a fan of spicy orange, you’re in luck. That’s the design we found the most of, but you’ll still be able to find the other color combinations if you’re willing to do some searching.
Durability
Durability

Durability

The company designed this shoe with comfort in mind, but they also wanted it to be a favorite of the long distance runner, which means it needs to be built to last. Their combination of rubber and mesh seems to have done the trick. One reviewer stated his N3s lasted 400-500 miles, which is what most runners want at this price point. Keep in mind that your shoes' durability will vary depending on your mileage and particular gait, so you’ll want to eyeball them every so often for signs they’re giving out. Running in a shoe that’s no longer supportive can lead to early fatigue, or even injury.
Protection
Protection

Protection

The cushion we’ve been talking about in this trainer is great for those who just a want a little extra impact absorption on training runs, or for those who are nursing a mild injury. The softness is there, but it’s not an extreme form. The N3s will still allow you to feel the ground, it just won’t be as jarring when you get there. When it comes to protection, the N3s got positive reviews from those with high arches. They said the shoe helped protect them from shin splits.
Responsiveness
Responsiveness

Responsiveness

The trick to adding cushioning to a shoe is to make sure runners who want to feel the ground can do so. The biomechanical midsole does have some give to it, but the shoe gives back upon ground impact. Runners noticed a nice rolling contact with the ground, which is also due in part to the unique drop on this shoe, which we’ll address a little later in this review.
Support
Support

Support

A few runners particularly noticed a little extra support in the N3 compared to other brands they’d tried. One self-described 200-pound man said he usually felt his extra weight was rough on his feet, but that these shoes offered the extra support he needed. An under-pronator claimed this style was perfect for correcting his foot placement. And lastly, those who are working to decrease their stride might want to give the N3 a try. One reviewer says the eMotion technology is ideal for those with a short stride.
Terrain
Terrain

Terrain

This is a road shoe, and should stick to pavement. Not only is this shoe not built with the support for off-roading, it also has a tendency to get little rocks and debris stuck in its outsole. If you’re set on the Pearl Izumi brand but want to incorporate trail-running into your program, take a look at their trail running line. It also gets good reviews from athletes who prefer a more varied terrain.
Price
Price

Price

This shoe was originally priced at $130, but Pearl Izumi has dropped it on their site, which means sporting stores likely did also. When companies halt production on a certain product, it is often good and bad news. The good news is, the price usually drops. The bad news is, athletes know that and the products fly off the shelves. The company website does still have the EM Road N3s for sale, as do online retailers such as Amazon. You might also be able to find them on clearance racks in some sporting goods stores. The most common sizes usually get snatched up first, so if yours is an outlier you’ll probably have better luck.
Traction
Traction

Traction

The outsole of the N3 is made with abrasion-resistant rubber that allows the shoe to grip the road without slipping. There’s nothing stopping you from taking this shoe out for a rainy day run, but no mention was made in reviews of how it performs in rough weather and wet pavement.
Flexibility
Flexibility

Flexibility

The addition of the cushion in the midsole did take away a bit of this line’s flexibility. Some reviewers found it a bit stiff for running on pavement. The designers focused on creating a shoe that allowed for a natural rolling through of the foot, and the N3 is certainly flexible enough to do that.
Stability
Stability

Stability

This is not a motion control shoe, but some runners did feel it helped them correct their positioning. One noticed that the unique shape of the midsole causes the runner to lean forward a little in his or her stride. Leaning in properly can be a great way to achieve better balance and less fatigue. It can also help increase speed, and several reviewers noted that as a reason to choose these shoes on race day.
Drop
Drop

Drop

Pearl Izumi’s stance on drop is unique. The company says the runners’ foot is always moving; the leg and foot are never static. So they designed a drop that allows the foot to roll through all the steps of the stride, from initial placement, through the contact with the midfoot and into the toe off. The midfoot stack is 3.5mm higher than the heel stack, which is 4mm above the toe. Some reviewers said the shoe felt a bit like a platform, but most recognized the design as helpful for that steady glide through miles.
Key Features
Key Features

Key Features

• Seamless upper
• eMotion midsole
• Energy foam
• Abrasion resistance
Bottom Line
Bottom Line

Bottom Line

Pearl Izumi says their mission is to make athletes better, and runners who took off in the EM Road N3 appreciated that effort. Most say they enjoyed long runs and all-day comfort in these trainers. Those who tried the earlier versions of the brand were pleased to see the company took their feedback to heart and created a more cushioned midsole that didn’t add unwelcome weight. A mixed group of runners with high arches, mild injuries, or just a few extra pounds, have made the N3 their shoe of choice for their road runs.
The company abandoned their running shoe line in January of 2017 to focus on its first love, cycling. You can still find these shoes at sporting stores and online retailers, but if you’re ready to try a pair you’ll have to move quickly. Fans of the brand are scooping them up while they still can.