Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Product Review: Pearl Izumi Project Emotion N2

Pearl Izumi Project Emotion N2 Women's $120

I think Pearl Izumi had the best intentions when creating this new line of shoes, Project Emotion. Mostly, I think they were trying to catch up to their competitors who are launching minimalist lines of shoes (namely the Brooks Pure Project, which has been selling wildly so says the local running stores). 

I got a very cool opportunity through Boulder Running Company to give these a 3-mile test run. But before I give you the scoop, let's talk what I like.

About a year ago I switched from the Brooks Ghost (a neutral trainer) which I had been running in for almost 3 years. Generally, I'm a die hard Brooks fan. Way back when I started in Brooks, and when I moved to a more minimal shoe, I switched to the Pure Flow. I also had a brief stint during which I trained in some Mizunos. While I have a pretty neutral stride, my right ankle sometimes gives out (it's really cool and helpful like that) and I think I benefit from being in those neutral to mild guidance shoes. In fact, when trying on the Pure Connects a while ago, I ran a little oddly. I've tried them on since and did ok, but decided to make a change to the Saucony Kinvaras because of a slightly wider toe box. I raced a number of triathlons in the Pure Flows and they tore up my feet a number of times. So - that's my background: Neutral shoe. Lately in lighter, 4mm offset shoes.

Immediately when I put on the Project Emotion N2s, they felt clunky and heavy. To someone who hasn't been running in super light shoes (pure flows and kinvaras weigh in around 7.5 oz/shoe), they might feel like socks. I'm not sure. I did like the one-piece, no seam upper, which from what I understand, is a Pearl Izumi thing. The seams in my Pure Flows tore apart my feet when I wore them without socks for a sprint tri. I imagine this would solve that problem. The shoe generally felt pretty inflexible and the material also felt very thick. I'm always an 8.5 and the shoe fit very snug. One of the people who worked at the store even said that he usually wears them a size up from his normal size. I stuck with me 8.5s nevertheless. I almost never size up from there... if anything I'll go down to an 8.

I headed out on the run, which started mostly downhill. Definitely a quiet shoe as I pounded down some pavement. We turned off on a trail and my right lace came untied. I ran through the trail and the shoes really did just feel kind of clunky. As I began to warm-up, I thought the material didn't breathe well. It felt like I had two pairs of socks on. as we looped around, the rest of the run was uphill. What I enjoy so much about both the PureFlows and the Kinvaras is how I feel like I want to run on my midfoot to get up those hills. I feel like it keeps the impact down and feel lighter on the uphills. Again, I have to complain about how clunky and inflexible the N2s felt.

Overall, I'm a little disappointed. Looking into more neutral, low offset shoes, I was excited to see what Pearl Izumi came up with. In the end, not for me... and I wouldn't recommend them to any runners who already run with lighter shoes like I do. That said, I could see them being a great transitional shoe between a trainer and something like the Brooks Pure Project or Saucony's Kinvaras. 

Seamless upper
Aesthetically nice design
On the heavy side for a light shoe
Not very breathable

I'd be interested in trying out their N1s (lighter, even less of a drop) and their tri shoes for this line in February. They felt more breathable and lighter when I looked at the sample shoe. That said, if they're still inflexible, I'm still skeptical.

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