The Pearl Izumi EM Road N0 is somewhat disappointing. On the surface, this looks to be a pretty perfect shoe—light, fast, and beautiful in its straightforward simplicity. However, the overly loose fit and the underwhelming “spring” had me searching, maddeningly, for some kind of foot placement that didn’t make me feel like a duck out of water. If you can run on a hard-packed dirt surface, the shoe begins to shine. But it’s a little harsh for pavement, and a little too loose for faster track workouts.
The Pearl Izumi EM Road N0 is PI’s lightest, most minimal road shoe, designed for the most biomechanically efficient runners who want nothing (or virtually nothing) to come between them and the pavement.
The N0 is probably best suited as a racing flat, albeit with a wider forefoot than most racers want.
Where it disappoints, however, is in the unforgiving slap you get as your foot first hits the ground. Other shoes with similarly slim midsoles still manage to inject some liveliness into the ride, but the Pearl Izumi EM Road N0 feels flat and harsh. It’s particularly noticeable on pavement, the very surface it was designed for. If you can find a nice dirt trail, the ride improves dramatically—I enjoyed the runs on the trails around town; the roads, not so much.
The Pearl Izumi EM Road N0 is best for light, biomechanically efficient runners who do best in a high-volume shoe. If you have a slimmer foot, size down or take a pass. Likewise, this could be a great race day shoe for shorter distances, say 5k or 10k.
At $100, the N0 is right in line with other race day shoes such as the Saucony Type A.
It’s hard to find a high-end running shoe for $100 these days, so the price is right for N0. However, the corollary to lightweight is lack of durability—I wouldn’t expect these to be anything other than a race-day or short tempo run shoe.
Comfort You really don’t expect a minimal shoe to be all that comfortable at initial try-on in the same way that you don’t expect a little MG or Alfa Romeo to feel like a Buick. But this is a high-volume shoe with a very roomy forefoot, so low-volume feet might consider sizing down.
Responsiveness In the sense that the N0 is meant to be a fast shoe, there’s no question it answers the call for quickness; however in the sense its reboundiness (new word!) it figuratively and literally falls flat.
Speed If this shoe fits your foot and you are so inclined, this could be a great race day shoe; it was definitely built for speed.
Durability After the 150-mile wear test, our lab confirmed the Road N0 had excellent durability overall, showing very little compression of the midsole (in fact there was a slight softening in the heel), limited outsole wear, and only 1mm of compression in the ramp angle—it fell from a 4mm drop to 3mm drop. Not bad.
Pearl Izumi Road N0 midsole pressure map: The blue areas are low pressure zones and the red areas are high pressure zones.