Most helpful positive review
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
Great shoe! Hoping for lots more miles.
on November 4, 2013
This shoe, has been another milestone in the search for the perfect shoe (for me). Since I started trail running a little over a year ago I have been all over the spectrum. I had some knee problems and got into studying my stride and my biomechanics. Which I have to say is a wonderful thing to do for any runner at any level for any terrain. I became interested in lower drop shoes to promote a mid/forefoot strike but I mistakenly thought that a low drop shoe also, by default, had to be minimally padded. So I settled into a pair of Inov-8 Trailroc 245s (3mm drop). I absolutely love that shoe but have resigned it to shorter runs (50k and under).
Then without much research I swung the pendulum the other direction and got a pair of Montrail Masochists. Also a great shoe but just not low drop. I have to say that with previously focusing on my running form I could run in the Masochists and feel great focusing on a mid/forefoot strike. I ran in them for a three day 60mi. stage race. That's when I had some what of an epiphany. I noticed that when I wore the Masochists my feet didn't feel as beat up ( this should have been obvious but for some reason it never occurred that more padding might my protect my feet, duh).
So the Masochist became my go-to if I knew I was gonna be bombing down rocky single track or doing long jeep trails in the mountains. It felt great to finish long runs and not feel so beat up. But as I began training for the Mountain Masochist 50 Miler this year I began to notice that I felt a lot faster climbing in my Inov-8s (duh again, its a lighter shoe dummy). I also began to really feel the difference in the drop between the two shoes and started to crave that low drop feeling. This left me in a dilemma. I ran the Mountain Masochist last year in the Inov-8s and got so beat up I had to walk miles 44-48 until the last two miles which are down hill and pavement. So I knew I needed more shoe but I was loving how fast I felt in the Inov-8s.
Enter the Pearl iZUMi N1s (finally something about the actual shoe, sorry). Thanks to several friends in somewhat of the same situation as me I felt good purchasing these shoes. I had a friend pull them out of the box brand new and win a 40mi. race here in Va. I myself received the shoes only five days before the Mountain Masochist 50mi. and only had a chance to run a short, easy four miles before the race. But I could tell when I slipped the shoe on for the first time just to walk around the house that I liked them. Obviously they have more cushion than the Trailroc 245 so immediately I felt more confident about being in them for hours. A few other things I liked even before running in them: The upper. It has been one of the more highly reviewed aspects of these shoes. It's great. It hugs your foot without feeling too tight. It truly fits like a glove. I wear a 7.5 and ordered a 7.5 and it was perfect. When I bend my toe up it actually hits slightly behind the toe guard so I feel like PI built this shoe to be true to size with a little extra toe room. I never felt my toes were crammed up in the front. The mesh that the upper is made from is slightly stretchy and just feels like it molds well around the foot without feeling stiff or cramping. I just had to dial-in the lace tension to better fit my specific foot anatomy. I leave my laces a little looser towards the toe to my toes some room.
Plenty of room in the toe box (for me). No blisters after a long wet 50 miles. I would usually get a few toe blisters in my Montrail Masochists. Great laces as well. Some have referred to them as "sausage laces". I got through 50 miles with a single knot and no re-tying.
The Lower: There's a lot of tech here that Pearl iZUMi talks about on their website. It's worth reading about but they have not made it extremely easy to understand. The main thing is that they don't want people to get stuck asking "whats the heel/toe drop of this shoe?" But if you have to have a number to satisfy you then I've heard it's somewhere between 4-6mm if traditionally measured. They are trying to move away from the classic shoe design where there is a heel section =>negative space in the arch area=>toe section. Their answer to this is the E:Motion line. This means that the traditional "heel/toe drop", "dynamic offset" as they call it, changes as you roll through your stride. In short, it's a somewhat rockered sole. This means a more fluid transition from your heel to toe and a smoother ride when pushing hard downhill. And really it would only benefit you on the downhill where you are more likely to heel-strike if you are a more mid/forefoot runner. I can't say that I really noticed a huge difference in terms of ride with this sole. More padding was definitely noticed and welcomed. It didn't feel rockered. Before I got the shoes I half expected them to feel like Shape-ups. For me, it's a testament to how good the shoe is that I didn't notice any major ride difference. I strapped this shoe on and went out for a 50mi. run. Of course my feet were tired. I don't think there's a shoe out there that will keep your feet feeling like mile 1 at mile 50. I finished the MMTR with guys that were wearing Hokas and they looked and felt just as beat up as me, but the N1 felt solid the whole way.
The outsole is wonderful. Through water, mud, gravel, dirt, single-track, jeep-trail, and pavement this shoe chewed through it all. The lugs are significantly deeper than what the pictures show. The pattern is nice and open and sheds mud very quickly. I appreciate that because my Montrail Masochists, which already felt heavy, would turn to lead when they got caked in mud.
I realize this is a long review that includes a lot of my personal story but I feel like all runners have stories and experiences that others can benefit from. I try to limit my "gear whore" tendency when it comes to buying shoes so I haven't had the opportunity to try every shoe out there and maybe there are much better shoes that I haven't tried. And I'm definitely just a weekend warrior when it comes to trail running. But if you are looking for a fast low/er drop shoe with enough beef to make it through ultra distances then I highly recommend this shoe. Pearl iZUMi has done a lot of things right with this shoe. I can't say I have any outright negative things to say right now. Some folks complained about these shoes being too stiff and needing break in. I experienced none of that. If you are coming from a low drop, minimally padded shoe this shoe will give you a lot more confidence and protection without changing the low drop feel. I am looking forward to a lot of miles in these shoes. Just for reference I ran the Mountain Masochist 50 miler in 11hrs last year and 9:40hrs this year with similar training schedules. I really owe that to the extra protection I didn't have last year in my Inov-8 Trailroc 245s. Thanks for reading. Hope this review helps someone feel more informed.