Pearl Izumi EM/N1 Tri v2 – 50 Mile Review

This post was written for and first appeared on One Foot In Reality.

Let’s get this out of the way I am was selected to the Run Champion Team this year and I got a free pair of running shoes from Pearl Izumi back in January.

I decided to get a pair that I normally wouldn’t and it came down to the N0 or N1 Tri. As you can obviously tell by the title I chose the Tri’s. As usual all opinions are my own and your experiences with this product might be very different than mine.

What are these shoe’s purpose in my rotation?

The N1 Tri’s were going to be my fast outside workout shoes and alternate race day shoes.

  • How have they worked out for me?

This is my second pair of Pearl Izumi Tri edition shoes (I like the idea of slip on/off and no tongue). Many of the things I thought about the PI N2 Tri v1, held true for the N1 Tri v2 – which isn’t a bad thing but…After getting two pair of Tri’s, I have finally got through my thick skull that the Tri Models and Road models (whether N1 or N2) are different models of running shoes and have a different fit/feel.

Let’s start off by being completely honest and up front.

When I wrote my first draft of this post a couple of weeks ago, well let’s say it was less than flattering towards the N1 Tri v2’s. I had around 35 miles on the shoes and it had taken 3 months to get that many.

You guessed it, I wasn’t totally thrilled by them.

I love the fit and feel of the N1 Road v2 and the N1 Tri v2 simply is not the same shoe. It wasn’t a bad fit, but not the same and not what I was expecting from the shoe when I first started to wear it. The N1 designation made me think they would be more alike – I was wrong.

That expectation thing.

Which left me less than fantastic first impressions, because I was expecting one thing and getting something different every time I put the Tri’s on.

Plus I found the Tri v2’s in their stock variation to be very fussy about getting the fit just right. The way that I had to cinch down the lacing to get a good heel fit and then could feel of the narrow plastic slide on the top of my feet. Which meant that unless it was just perfect, that the heel would be too loose or that the top of my foot would be uncomfortable.

So I decided to go ahead make a couple of small changes:

First, I cut the stock slides and end caps off the original elastic laces and replaced them with an old pair of LockLace slides and end caps I had laying around.

Second, I soaked them down (filled a bucket with water and dunked the shoes) and then ran in and wore them until they dried.

Those two things made all the difference.

What do you mean Harold?

1. Since I changed the slide I can cinch down on the laces more without discomfort and my heels are locked in the way I want. Another plus is that the end cap doesn’t come loose and flop around giving me another distraction on a run (which happened a few times with the stock end caps and was frustrating).

2. After I soaked them down and ran/wore them dry, the shoe seemed to conform more to my feet and the upper didn’t feel as stiff as it did previously. I have done this with other shoes and for a while I routinely soaked down new shoes to have them fit better – quicker. I am not sure that this works as well with the new uppers and materials being used today, but it seemed to make a huge difference in how N1 Tri’s v2’s felt for me.

Are they comfortable?

I found the N1 Tri v2’s to be wearable out of the box, but nothing special. Like I said before, once I changed to the different slide and wore them dry, the change to how the shoes worked and felt to me was amazing. Enough so that I have put almost 20 miles on them and am enjoying running in them.

So yes, I now run comfortably and well in the them

  • Do they run big/small? From the way they fit me, it seems as though they run a little larger/longer compared to other PI shoes in 8.5. A size 8.0 in the model might be a better fit for me.
  • Are they wide enough in the toe box? The toe box doesn’t bother my tailor’s bunionette on fast or longer runs, but I haven’t done anything longer than 6.5 miles, so they haven’t been tested for that 7-10 mile range where many shoes do not do as well for me or that damn bunionette.
  • How does the heel fit? This is one area that I did have some issues, since the heel cup is stiffer and seems to be a just a tad wider than I want and if I do not have things just right with the lacing it results in too much heel slippage.
  • Feel (different from fit). I like the way they feel when I am running on the roads with them and they felt good on the groomed trail run that I used them on yesterday. With the changes that I discussed above they feel like a pair of shoes that I want to run in now.
  • Do they run quiet or slap the road? as with other models in the EM line-up very quiet.
  • Is the heel-to-toe transition smooth? again buttery smooth.


  • Are they rock collectors? They have the same sole unit as the N1 Roads and while they collect some pebbles during a run, it isn’t any more than most other running shoes that I run in.
  • Are they multipurpose or strictly roads/trails/snow? I wouldn’t hesitate to use them at Quarry Road if it is dry or other groomed trails like UMA or the Arboretum, but otherwise I would stick to the roads or treadmill in them.
  • The sockliner, insert or whatever you want to call it…is removable, which for the most part is a good thing, it allows your shoes to dry more completely after your feet get wet. Only one problem, if you do not wear socks with these shoes, when you attempt to take them off, the insert will fold up and attempt to come out of the shoe with your foot – at least mine did.


  • I love the uppers on all of the newer Pearl Izumi shoes, they do not bother my feet. However, with the tongue made into the upper there is not a lot of padding in the tongue area. Which limits the amount of pressure/snugness you can use to lock-down your heels.
  • Also the top of the shoe tends to want to fold a little as you can see in the photo. This is not as big an issue as it was before I dunked them.
  • The heel counter from just comparing it to the N1 Roads, it is more rigid and feels wider, which makes locking the heel a little more difficult, but I think they did that because it is a pull-on shoe.
  • Is it a good-looking shoe or meh? Personally, I think it is a GREAT looking running shoe and meets all the Harold shoe criteria, bright, multiple colors and did I say bright :-).
  • Is it weather proof, breathable? Very breathable and comfortable when it is warm in the gym and I am sure even better outside where there is a more of a breeze, but this is a double-edged sword in colder weather and requires the use of merino wool socks or choosing not to wear them in the colder weather when it is windy.
  • The lacing is a part of the upper, very briefly and bluntly…I do not like the lace lock system that PI uses in their Tri series shoes. It is fussy, a pain to not have a big loop and you have to use a special knotting procedure and then recut the cordage to get it to lay flat. Also one more than one occasion the plastic tip keeper came loose and was flopping around hitting my foot with each step which was annoying.

Would I get the PI N1 Tri’s again?

Probably…however, it depends on how they work over the next 150 miles or so. It isn’t that I don’t run well in the Tri’s, because I have and probably will, but my experience out of the box was not that “Wow!” I love these shoes.

However, if I did, I would change out the stock lace locking hardware pretty quickly, because for me the stock one is too fussy.
The reality is that
I was really on the fence about liking PI N1 Tri v2’s and was considering taking them out of the running shoe rotation and making them my work/walk around shoes. However, since I changed the lace lock system and soaked them down they are now one of my favorite shoes and I have put over 20 miles on them over the last week.

The biggest issue for me with the N1 Tri is that they are not the same shoe as the N1 Road. I had the expectation that they would be about the the same shoe and should have known better. They might share the N1 classification but are more like fraternal twins than identical twins.  
I think with the adjustments I made to the lacing system that it has changed the fit/feel and and not as fussy as it was with the stock lacing, which has made a big difference in how I look at the N1 Tri. I hate fussy shoes that become a distraction during the run.
Instead of a running shoe that was headed to the dreaded daily wear category, they are back in the rotation and dare I say almost displacing the N1 Roads as the shoe I chose when I want to run a little quicker and will probably use this weekend at my next 5K race.

I have a feeling that my next 150 miles will be a lot better than my first 35 were. 🙂

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