Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Zoom! Pearl Izumi N1 Trail, and Flash Shorts Review

Pearl Izumi EM Trail N1

Hey all!  Hope you are having a great week!

Ok, this week, I'm returning with a review of some great gear from Pearl Izumi.  In the past I've reviewed their "Fly" running hat, as well as their Elite Thermal compression pants, and Select soft shell running gloves.  

I've found that products from Pearl Izumi have always been high quality, and high performing.  So, when I found out they had branched out with some near zero drop trail shoes, you know I had to check them out!

Pearl Izumi Men's "Flash" Shorts

And in addition to checking out the N1 Trail, I also logged a lot of miles in the Pearl Izumi "Flash" shorts as well.

So, stick around, and read my full review on both the N1 Trail shoes, as well as the Flash shorts.  And, thanks to the awesome folks at Pearl Izumi (and Outside PR), I'll be giving away a pair of each to one of you!

Ok... so first up are the Project E:Motion N1 Trail shoes.  As you know by now, I only run in minimalist footwear, and using my personal definition of minimalist shoes, I look for these features (in order of priority):

1. 0mm or near 0mm drop
2. a wide/comfortable toe box that allows my toes to be able to wriggle and spread
3. a low and flexible stack height to allow a natural foot strike, and proprioception or ground feel.

That being said, the Pearl Izumi N1's have a 1mm drop, and a decent toe box that is comfortable.  However, it is here that I will note that these are the thickest shoes I have run in since reviewing the Go-Lite Dart Lite trail shoe over two years ago.  With the in-sole included, the N1's sport a stack height of 23mm.  Ok, so while they aren't Hoka's, they are a bit more of a shoe than I am used to.

As for the construction of the shoe, I really like the seamless upper that keeps things nice and comfy inside, especially in the toe box area.  The toe box isn't super wide, but for my "average" feet, it was decent, but even roomier if you remove the insole.  The tread pattern is great for providing good traction, but without grabbing and holding onto lots of mud etc.   The N1's come in around 9.6 oz, which is fairly light considering how much shoe there is.  They feel very light and nimble on the feet.

As I noted above, the shoe has a really comfortable upper and tongue, and they lace up firmly.  In my first few runs in them, I felt like I could use a little more room for my toes, so I removed the insert (which comprises 3-4mm of the stack height), and this also provided a bit more ground feel and less cushion.

As of today I have logged just over 100 miles on the N1's.  I eventually put the insoles back in, as the upper loosened up a little bit, and I started wearing thinner socks as the weather got warmer.  Also, I have to note that the N1's were my "backup" shoe for both 50K's this summer, as well as my 50 miler.  I wanted a more cushioned shoe as backup, in case my feet really started to complain...  however, I ended up not needing them, but was glad to have them with me just in case. 

I like running in these, however there is a definite trade-off with the additional cushion in the stack height and composition of the shoe.  While the feel is cushy, and the shoes can absorb a lot of nasty sharp rocks and missteps on the trail, the feedback from the ground is obviously muted.  However, I didn't have any issues with tripping, or turning an ankle or anything like that.  The base while running is very stable.  Another draw back is that you can get lazy, and just plow over nasty terrain, that would normally require extra mindfulness in a more minimal shoe.  It is for that reason that I have these shoes as a back up for ultras, because at some point, that may be just what I need when my mind is gone!  

Anyway, the bottom line is, these are terrific trail shoes if you are ok with a taller stack height, or just need extra protection in lieu of proprioception.  

Men's Flash Short

Ok.. now on to the Flash shorts!  Now, before I get into a review of these shorts, I need to let you know that I do have a "favorite" pair of shorts, like I am sure most of you do.  What's funny is that the shorts I love (From FILA) are actually tennis shorts I think.  They have huge pockets and are kind of long, and they don't have a liner..   anyway, I of course need to have more than one pair of shorts so I don't have to schedule my runs around laundry, so here you go!

Women's Flash Short

In a nutshell, the Flash shorts from Pearl Izumi are built really well, and are really comfortable. What I like best about these shorts is the super comfy soft waistband, much like the waistband on a comfortable pair of underwear.  It's soft, doesn't pinch, and performs well.  As far as the highlights/specs on the shorts, here is the info from the website:


Transfer Dry fabric provides optimal moisture transfer and stretch with superior hand feel
• Plush elastic waistband sits flat on your waist for maximum comfort
• Zippered back pocket 
• Transfer Dry built in liner
• 5” inseam (size medium)

Main Body: 84% polyester 16% elatane
Liner: 88% polyester 12% elastane


The Women’s Flash Short has 4-way stretch, Transfer Dry technology, and a wide waistband
• Transfer Dry fabric provides optimal moisture transfer and stretch
• Extra wide gathered waistband
• Zippered back pocket
• Transfer Dry built in liner
• 4” Inseam (size medium)

Color in video may not be available

Main Body: 84% polyester 16% elastance, UPF 50
Liner: 88% polyester 12% elastane
Splice: 96% polyester 4% elastane

So why aren't these now my favorite shorts? Primarily because of the lack of pockets... I've grown accustomed to trail running with pockets for storage, which I love, and the Flash shorts only have a zippered pouch on the back (which works great).  Also, I could use just a little bit more length, but again that's just me..   those things aside, these are terrific shorts, built to last a lot of miles, and super comfortable... definitely worth a look when you are ready to retire your current shorts!

Ok!  As always, please let me know if I've missed anything, or if you have any questions.  Leave me a comment below, or on the BI Facebook page.

Now, if you like what you've read, and you want to win a pair of the N1's and Flash shorts, enter below!  I'll run this contest until 10PM MST, Monday November 3rd, 2014.  Contest open to residents of the U.S. and Canada only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck and happy trails!!



  1. I'm not sure I could run in such thick shoes...but the shorts look interesting! I could use another pair, and don't mind the minimal pocket space.

  2. these would be great 'transition' shoes for those moving down to minimal from those high heels...shorts sound super comfy, do they do them for women? As always, great review!

    1. They do! I'll update the review to show them :-) http://shop.pearlizumi.com/product.php?mode=view&pc_id=94&product_id=2109465&color_code=021&outlet=0

  3. I like the ground feel when running on simple surfaces, but on the trail, it's nice to have a bit more underneath my feet. These look like a dream.

  4. I like to feel the ground and do some barefoot running on grass, but run into issues with too much pounding. My gait will never be "perfect" and I tend to run on the outsides of my feet, so, for runs over 6 miles, I want a bit of cushion there. These look like a great trail shoe! I am curious if you have thicker or wider feet..
    Thanks for reviewing! The shorts look fantastic too!

    hello from smalltownrunner.com :)

  5. I haven't run in a true minimalist shoe but am always looking for a good one to try. Based on your review, this sounds like it could have potential.

  6. i've always messed around with insoles to try to reduce stack height and even level out the drop a bit more than originally intended. as long as i have decent proprioception, i prefer a 'deader' feel to my shoes.

  7. PI has come a long way from a triathlon brand to one really taking trail running seriously.

  8. I've been so curious lately about different trail shoes - I wish I could try them all out! I currently run in a more minimalist trail shoe but I am looking for something with more cushion as I get into longer and longer distances (leading up to American River 50 in the spring)

  9. I'm a huge fan of Pearl Izumi's EM line & think it's very underrated so always happy to see some positive words in it. I've got quite a few trail events on the schedule these next couple of months (including an ultra), so these would see lots of use & be very appreciated!

  10. Thanks Jeff!! Winning this made my week! Happy trails :)


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