Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Shoe Review: Pearl Izumi E:Motion Road M3

I've been struggling to buy shoes these days.  My mind is practically blown on stats and opinions...  differential, stack height, support, weight, energy transfer, natural running...  who can keep it all straight?  All i want is a shoe that fits right and feels as good on mile 25 as it does on mile 1.

The shoes I run in tend to fall into what I've heard called the "moderate minimalist" category.  To me, this means they are slightly lighter with less differential between the heel and toe (say, 4-8mm)... and possibly some claim to more ground feel.

Why on earth would I pick up a pair of Pearl Izumi E:Motion Road M3's then, you might ask.  I don't really have an answer for you...  other than I certainly believed the hype.  The problem is, the hype got the better of the data in this case.  I've heard and read claims that the differential on these shoes is anywhere from 4.5mm to 11mm.  They claim to have a "dynamic offset" which indicates a lower differential at various times in the running gait.  I think this is common sense... any shoe will compress under the weight of a runner during the various stages of foot strike, changing what the differential is.

When the shoes arrived, my immediate reaction was to their appearance:
Photo: Pearl Izumi

I must say these shoes look sharp.  That doesn't matter much to me, but it is certainly remarkable.

The next thing that was clear was that these were not even moderately minimal.  These shoes were very beefy, with a heel well higher than what I have grown accustomed to running in.  I tend to believe the 11mm data more than any other.

But they were comfortable, initially.  The seamless upper is nice and they are surprisingly light relative to their bulk.  I only ran in them one time, so here are my brief observations:

- The "gimmick" in these shoes (in my opinion) is that there is a blade of harder plastic/foam running through the outside that is slightly raised.  It runs from the heel to the toe, curving inward.  I think this is why the shoe has such a smooth transfer, or "rock" from heel (or mid-foot) to toe-off.  I could have it wrong, but that is my best guess.

- The out-sole is very soft and compresses quite a bit, hence the "dynamic offset".  I didn't like this feeling.  Your initial foot plant feels squashy and then when the shoe bottoms out, it's sort of dramatic.  

- The upper is very light and the seamless design is nice, but my heels were not secure in the shoe and almost came out a couple times.

- The shoe is not very wide and, while having stability, definitely rolled a couple of times (maybe due to the high heel/toe differential?)

- My achilles did not enjoy either the spongy-to-hard outside, or the 11mm, or both.

- The shoes are quite light considering their relative bulk.  And, quite honestly, when not running, these are some of the most comfortable shoes I've ever had on. 

All in all, there were things I liked, but for the most part i did not like them.  I did not decide to keep them as I cannot take the chance that I will get used to them.  They were too far off the mark from the outset for me.

So, my search for new shoes continues....


  1. Thanks for the review as I've been looking at these. I have a high arch and need a very cushioned shoe. Wondering if these would fit the bill.

    1. I think it's highly dependent on what sort of shoe you are looking for. What do you currently run in? what do you like about your current shoes and what don't you like, or what are you looking for improve upon with a new pair of shoes?

      These shoes are certainly well cushioned, but i think there is more to the story than that.