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Pearl Izumi E:MOTION Road N3 Review

Standard running shoe whose uniquely high midfoot offset could appeal to some runners, but is otherwise unremarkable. It should last for a season or two
Pearl Izumi E:MOTION Road N3
Photo: Pearl Izumi
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Price:  $130 List
Pros:  Low-key color scheme and design, stable, low heel-to-toe drop, unique heel-to-midfoot-to toe height design
Cons:  Heavy, uncomfortable landing, high price
Manufacturer:   Pearl Izumi
By Ryan Baham ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Nov 15, 2016
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  • Responsiveness - 25% 6
  • Landing comfort - 25% 5
  • Weight - 20% 5
  • Durability - 10% 6
  • Upper comfort - 10% 6
  • Breathability - 10% 6

Our Verdict

The E:MOTION Road N3 is Discontinued as of Fall 2017
Pearl Izumi's EM Road N3 is billed as a neutral road running shoe, but we placed it alongside the stability shoes because of a few of its features, particularly its mostly inflexible midsole and a feature unique within our lineup, a dynamic offset that puts the midfoot stack 3.5mm higher than the heel stack, which sits 4mm above the toe and 30mm in total. We felt that these features created a stability shoe. This shoe may be better suited to runners who wish to have some extra level of arch support. While this shoe received the lowest overall rating among our lineup, it certainly was an interesting design and all of the shoes in our lineup are the best on the market this year, meaning the EM Road N3 is still a great stand-alone shoe.

Our Analysis and Test Results

The EM Road N3 resides in a gray area between stability and neutral running shoe. We consider it a good shoe with an interesting, uncommon design feature, the higher, dynamic offset at midfoot.

Performance Comparison

Marathoner John Stephens (left) in the Brooks Glycerin 14 and the...
Marathoner John Stephens (left) in the Brooks Glycerin 14 and the author (right) in the Pearl Izumi EM Road N3 out performing comparative analyses.
Photo: Tara K.


The EM Road N3's Energy Foam heel is claimed to give energy back to the runner. We did not notice any great return of energy, but we do note that the midsole's rigidity seems to help give it a degree of responsiveness. If you are interested in a more responsive, comparable shoe, we suggest that you check out the Altra Torin 2.5 whose mushy sole seems to give much better kick-back.

The stiff sole of the Pearl Izumi EM Road N3 gives it a good deal of...
The stiff sole of the Pearl Izumi EM Road N3 gives it a good deal of responsiveness and stability.
Photo: Crystal Huffman

Landing Comfort

Despite Pearl Izumi's use of Energy Foam, we did not find the EM Road N3 to have a very well engineered landing. Because of the outsole's uniform, wide, flat surface and the quickdrop from the midfoot to the forefoot, it seemed like the foot was forced into a heel strike, which slapped the forefoot against the ground or applied too much force to the midfoot when attempting to forefoot strike. This could also be partly due to the EVA Strobel board in the footbed, which adds to the shoe's rigidity.

As previously mentioned, this design might fit some runners, but we feel that most runners would be happier with a running shoe with a more comfortable landing, like the neutral Brooks PureFlow 6 or the stability Hoka One One Clifton 3.

The flat carbon rubber outsole and firm Energy Foam midsole of the...
The flat carbon rubber outsole and firm Energy Foam midsole of the Pearl Izumi EM Road N3 can make the ride feel a little awkward or even cause the foot to flop with heel-strikes.
Photo: Crystal Huffman

Upper Comfort

The 3-D Seamless mesh and padded upper are pretty standard. So far as running shoes go, this was a very comfortable shoe, but compared to our lineup this shoe was barely on the chart. If upper comfort is a deciding parameter, we suggest you look at our Best Bang for the Buck winner, the Saucony Kinvara 8, which is a comparable shoe that had a top score in upper comfort along with two less comparable models, the Nike Flex Fury 2 and the Brooks Glycerin 14.

The Pearl Izumi EM Road N3 upper provides good comfort, but is not a...
The Pearl Izumi EM Road N3 upper provides good comfort, but is not a stand-out shoe in the comfort realm.
Photo: Crystal Huffman


The EM Road N3's mesh upper allows for adequate toe breathing, but its padded heel tends to hold moisture. The N3 had average breathability as the industry goes, but relative to our lineup we five better scoring shoes, three comparable breathable shoes, and two less breathable shoes.


At 25 ounces per pair of men's 11, this model runs heavy compared to the rest of the shoes in the lineup. Typically heavier shoes such as the N3 are made up of more durable materials or constructed to be more durable and we found that to be the tradeoff with this shoe. If you are in search of a comparable, but lighter shoe, we recommend you take a look at the Altra Torin 2.5, which comes in at 20.6 ounces for a pair of men's 11.


The EM Road N3 is a fairly durable shoe, scoring near the top of our cohort. Its carbon rubber crash pad proves to be much more resilient than some of the other shoes we tested whose softer rubber composites wore away after just a few runs. The 3D seamless printed upper mesh was also thick enough, inner and outer lining, to hold up and take a good deal of beating, pushing the shoe up near the higher end of the durability scale.

Best Applications

With its wide, flat platform, the N3 is best worn as a road running shoe. It could be taken out on trails, but it might not be as well suited to the trail as would a model like the Brooks Ghost 9.


The EM Road N3 by Pearl Izumi is set at $130, which we feel is too high for this middling shoe. The shoe's dynamic offset with its midfoot stack sitting 3.5mm higher than the heel may be an attractant to some runners, and if you are interested in experimenting with different stances and foot strikes, we suggest you go ahead with this shoe. However, if you are looking for a shoe with better stability performance, we suggest the comparably priced Hoka One One Clifton 3.


Because the EM Road N3 has a unique design feature, the Dynamic Offset from 4mm at the heel to 7.5mm at the midfoot, we feel that this running shoe is worth the consideration of road runners who value arch support, but also enjoy the idea of a racing flat.

Ryan Baham

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