Pearl Izumi EM TRI N1 Review

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Tri Season is almost upon us again, and it’s time to take stock of all your gear – especially race day gear. Pearl Izumi, long known to triathletes across the planet for it’s excellent gear offerings, has updated its’ race day shoe selection to include a must have for all short course competitors. The Pearl Izumi EM TRI N 1 is fast, easy to get on and off during the transition, lightweight, and promotes quick foot turn over due to it’s construction.


Lightweight construction throughout the shoe is the hallmark feature of the Pearl Izumi EM TRI N 1

First take on the Pearl Izumi EM TRI N 1

Right out of the box, it was easy to see just how functional the Pearl Izumi TRI N 1 would be on race day. I couldn’t help but notice first and foremost the lacing pattern. Numerous triathletes (both amateur and professional) remove laces from shoes in favor of bungees – not needed here. What’s annoying about that system is the inability to clip the bungees down. Pearl elected to end the integrated bungee system in a hook which attaches securely to the bottom most row of lacing, holding it securely in place. Pearl didn’t stop there, though, and added a secure thumb stop/lock at the top of the bungee. The thumb lock slides securely down in place with one swift pull, and away you go. What’s nice is that this will totally eliminate that awkward T2 transition moment in which you try to cram your foot into a pre-laced shoe. The lightweight of the Pearl Izumi TRI N 1 was also immediately obvious. This concerned me a bit at first; at 8 oz, the featherweight design of the shoe doesn’t seem to offer much in the way of protection. Also, gone are the vents in the sole. I appreciated this function, unique to Pearl Izumi – it was nice for those swim/run practice days, as they helped shed water.

The lacing design on the Pearl Izumi EM TRI N 1 is well designed for quick entry/exit.

Running in the Pearl Izumi EM TRI N 1

The primary function of the Pearl Izumi EM TRI N 1 is the run, so I elected to put them through their paces on the road/track prior to any swim/runs or swim/bike/runs. As I mentioned above, I was skeptical of the lightness of the Pearl Izumi EM TRI N 1 in terms of the amount of protection it would offer, and also was skeptical of the extremely flexible upper – I tend to prefer a shoe with just a bit more structure, and my initial walk around the house revealed that the upper is much closer to a slipper than to a traditional running shoe. The Pearl Izumi EM TRI N 1 made both of these features work together, however, to create a race inspired feel which works well for short distances. During track workouts, I especially liked how the midsole/outsole combination felt during sprints. Pearl advises that the Pearl Izumi EM TRI N 1 is specifically designed to promote quick turn over, and I really found this to be true during my testing phase – the shoe feels most comfortable at and above race pace with a shortened stride. This is due to what Pearl dubs their project “Emotion.” This technology, present in the combination of outsole/midsole, is what creates the nice, rolling motion that the shoe delivers while running fast.

The Pearl Izumi EM TRI N 1 also features “Project Emotion” technology, providing for a very smooth heel/toe transition.

Transitions in the Pearl Izumi EM TRI N 1

The race inspired feel doesn’t stop at the midsole/outsole, however.  As mentioned above, the lacing/upper combo feels race ready from the moment you slip on the shoe. In terms of transition, the Pearl Izumi EM TRI N 1 is superb. I ran through my transitions both with and without socks, and also from varying events. I had the opportunity to do both bike to run transitions and swim to run transitions. To begin with, I very much like the feel of the Pearl Izumi EM TRI N 1 without socks. The sock liner and upper are seamless, and sit well on your foot to avoid hot spots/blisters. You wouldn’t think blisters would develop on short courses (typically 5k), but with wet feet from a swim, anything is possible. I didn’t receive any blistering or hot spots from the Pearl Izumi EM TRI N 1, even during my swim/run workouts.

Note therounded construction on the outsole of the Pearl Izumi EM TRI N 1 which is responsible for the easy transition, especially when running with quick foot turnover.

The best part of the shoe, however, is how quick the transition becomes with the integrated lacing system. The shoe can remain loose until needed, slipped on, and then tightened very quickly. At first, I fiddled with the tension on each lace after pulling the top tight. I needn’t have done so, however, as I later discovered that you can just pull them tight and go – the pressure evenly distributes throughout the shoe after only a couple of steps.

Final thoughts on the Pearl Izumi EM TRI N 1

Overall, the Pearl Izumi EM TRI N 1 is a great choice for both race day and training, especially for the Sprint distance. The Lightweight design is fast, rolls smoothly with a quick stride turnover, and assists with quick transitions by having a simple yet effective lacing system. While dedicated runners may wish for a bit more cushion/support, short course triathletes will love the feel for the road it provides. Head on over to Pearl Izumi’s website for more info on both the Pearl Izumi EM TRI N 1 and Project EMotion.

Zachary Rodasti: Zach's been testing gear with Active Gear Review since day one of the site, and just generally loves being outside doing any outdoor activity. He and his wife race year round, prefer long distance endurance events, and have raced marathons in multiple states nationwide. Recently, Zach added triathlons to his list of endeavors, and has competed in all distances up to a half iron. He has two young boys who are full of energy and get into all sorts of trouble on a regular basis - just like him.
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