Pearl Izumi EM Road M 3 Shoes

/ /

Manufacturer Description

The lightweight, supportive, well cushioned Project E:Motion Road M 3 is uniquely engineered to stabilize mid-foot pronation. The innovative E:Motion midsole creates a smooth flowing ride with the perfect amount of lateral release and medial stability for long-distance running without sacrificing that light and lively sensation.


Click to See Larger
Click to See Larger
  • Seamless Upper provides support and security in a lightweight, seamless envelope.
  • Transfer Dry spacer mesh keeps feet cool and dry
  • Biomechanically tuned dynamic offset-shaped E:Motion midsole features our most cushioned and broad midsole platform
  • 1:1 Energy Foam cushions forefoot upon impact and returns energy back to the runner
  • 1:1 Shock Absorption Foam in heel absorbs and diffuses forces upon initial ground contact
  • Blown rubber in the forefoot and carbon rubber in the crash pad combine for great cushioning and abrasion resistance
  • Dynamic Offset – 4mm at initial contact to 7.5mm at mid-stance
  • Tested size 9
    • Weight – 274 g (9.7 oz)
    • Forefoot width – 99.8 mm (3.9 in)
  • Retail – $125

YMMV Review

Pearl Izumi has been one of my favorite brands over the years. This has been for several reasons. I have always liked how they have tiered their offerings to have the top of the line and the different price point options that maintained a great performance value. The other thing I like is that they are looking to do things differently, not necessarily just following what others are doing. That is what is at the heart of the newest project by Pearl Izumi. Project E:Motion.

Top View - Click to See Larger
Top View – Click to See Larger

Pearl Izumi has slowly been taking up market share in running footwear over the last couple of years and this year, they are redesigning the whole collection based on this new project. It is bold, and I am not just talking about the colors.


The EM Road M 3 shoes are part of the road collection. It was not until I ran in them several times that I realized they were the guidance model. I am a neutral runner so this was a bit of a change from what I am used to. I tested them on mainly roads but did throw some packed trails and gravel roads in there for fun. Like always around here the weather was dry with little to no rain or snow. Over the last couple of months, I have been able to test these in temperatures ranging from 25 to 100 degrees.

Side View - Click to See Larger
Side View – Click to See Larger

Design ★★★☆☆

Appearance (20%) ★★★☆☆

Construction (35%) ★★★★☆

Lacing (15%) ★★★☆☆

Sustainability (10%) ★☆☆☆☆

Weight (20%) ★★★☆☆

Project E:Motion was begun looking at the idea that the foot and leg are never static while running. They are always moving so it is important to understand how they move while running. Nearly all companies have been looking at stack height and hell to ball of foot differential as the foot is static. The problem with this is that this is not how you run; the foot moves through the running gait. The heel to ball-of-foot differential changes as the foot goes through the stride. So it would make sense that the shoes offset should also be dynamic to create a more fluid running experience. The idea is fairly basic but much different than what is typically seen. Their goal was to create the world’s most fluid running experience. An experience without gels, air bags, molded waves, grids, or other silly gizmos. I know I can think of plenty of shoes with one of these types of added technologies. Project E:Motion was started from the idea that simpler is better, so they designed, ran, tweaked, and repeated until they found the design they were looking for. Here is a video by Pearl Izumi that describes this process.

Click to See Larger

The Dynamic Offset Philosophy comes from the idea that the foot travels through four phases during the foot strike. Pearl Izumi has looked at each of these phases differently to pay attention how the shoe moves through this process as well. The phases are:

  1. Initial Ground Contact
  2. Loading
  3. Transition
  4. Toe Off

To help these be visually understood I have also included some imagery to the right. This philosophy has crafted a midsole that drives you forward with an intuitive flow and a natural, no-slap, and no-crash perpetual motion effect. Thus making your run smoother and more efficient. The idea is that in phase one you initially contact the ground somewhere back towards the heel and the shoe obviously cushions this impact. It also creates a situation where the heel is compressed and the toe area is not so the differential needs to be taken into account. As you roll forward you enter phase two, which is the loading phase. In this phase, the whole foot is contacting the ground evenly. This is where the “normal” static stack height comes into play. The only problem is that the foot is still moving forward to phase three, the transition. In the transition phase, the heel is now slightly off the ground and therefore there is more offset as seen in the pictures. Finally, the last phase is the push off where the toe is the last place in contact with the ground, and the heel is raised greatly. In the case of the racers, the shoe may have a 1 mm offset at phase 1, 4.5 mm at mid stance (phase 2), 6 mm at transition, and 45 mm at the toe off. Of course, phases 3 and 4 do not have the foot in full contact with the ground so the numbers are much greater. What Pearl Izumi has done is now they give the differential as two numbers, phase 1 and phase 2.

Covered Seam - Click to See Larger
Covered Seam – Click to See Larger

The EM Road M 3 is part of the guidance collection in the new road line. It has been designed to be used for training while providing midfoot pronation support. Looking at the shoes you will first notice the color. Pearl Izumi over the last couple of years has not been shy about color, and this is no exception; they are bright. They are fairly simple looking but there is more going on then you can tell. The upper is made of Transfer Dry spacer mesh. This breathes well to keep your feet cool and dry. Over the top of the upper there are synthetic overlay and logos that add strength and support to the upper to keep your foot secure while not adding much weight. In the heel, there is a reinforced heel counter to add structure and control to the heel of the foot. There is also a toe bumper and some more overlays to protect the rest of the toes.

The shoes have a standard design when it comes to the lacing and tongue. The tongue has been made of a padded mesh to add comfort to the top of the foot while still allowing it to breath. There is a loop halfway up to connect to the laces and keep the tongue in place. The lacing has a normal eyelet pattern with a double one at the top to allow for different lacing techniques. The inside of the shoes have been finished with a seamless mesh to eliminate discomfort and potential rubbing problems. The shoes have a removable EVA foam midsole that adds a little cushioning. If you prefer something aftermarket, you can easily use these in the shoes.

The Outsole - Click to See Larger
The Outsole – Click to See Larger

The midsole is where the bulk of the new design of the Project E:Motion shoes happened. By design, the midsole and outsole are a basic design with the idea to keep it simple. The EM Road M 3 Shoes use a combination of 1:1 Energy Foam and 1:1 Shock Absorption Foam to cushion the foot while providing return energy to help you forward. These foams have been combined with strategically placed blown rubber in the forefoot and carbon rubber in the crash pad to balance a blend of durability and weight. This simple design has made a shoe with a consistent flex profile from phase 1 through 4 while not sacrificing the cushioning and durability you want in your shoes. From what I can tell the stability support in the shoes has been created from strategic placement of the different density of foams. I cannot see any external pieces of material as this would go against the principles of this project.

My one knock on Pearl Izumi is still in regard to sustainability. In footwear, it is difficult to make a product that is sustainable as those materials are generally not as high-quality as the ones currently used. With that in mind I would look into the corporate initiatives towards sustainability and there is not much mention of this on their website. I do know that they just broke ground on a new North American headquarters that will be very efficient and state of the art. It will be located in Louisville, Colorado just like the current one is.

Fit ★★★½☆

Comfort (25%) ★★★½☆

Foot Length (15%) ★★½☆☆

Foot Volume (15%) ★★★☆☆

Heel Width (15%) ★★★★☆

Midfoot Width (15%) ★★★½☆

Toe Box Width (15%) ★★★½☆

This is when it is good to be the sample size. I am normally a size 9, so I was able to get a pair of these to test way before they hit stores. They actually still have not, but will in February. I tested a size 9 in the Pearl Izumi EM Road M 3 Shoes, and I liked the fit all the way through the shoe except the length. The shoes do run a little on the short side. I am not quite between sizes but feel like I am on the large side of a size 9. I have found that if I wear a thin sock, then the 9 feels great but a thicker sock makes the length a little tight. If you are on the line between sizes, then definitely size up. If you are like me, then you may need to decide if you like a shorter shoe or one with more room beyond your toes. I played years of soccer, so I got used to a snug shoe so the 9 works for me where others might feel tight. The overall volume of the shoe is good, however. The shoes really felt good in all other aspects of the fit. The toe box had some width to it, and the midfoot hugged the foot without constricting it. I really liked the fit around the heel as my foot stayed in place very well.

Protected Toe - Click to See Larger
Protected Toe – Click to See Larger

One of the things that Pearl Izumi has done an excellent job with over the last couple years is their seamless upper. You can even see where they have taped over the one spot where the two fabrics come together. This upper has been able to create a very comfortable inside of the shoe, whether you choose to wear socks or not. I generally do wear socks but was able to get these out on a couple of short runs without socks for testing purposes and had no issues with blisters or rubbing. The interior mesh kept moisture to a minimum and kept my foot comfortable without socks. I do, however, still prefer socks but to each their own.

Performance ★★★★☆

Breathability (20%) ★★★½☆

Cushioning (30%) ★★★★☆

Durability (20%) ★★★½☆

Flexibility (20%) ★★★★½

Traction (10%) ★★★☆☆

Actually running in the shoes is where I truly expected to find a difference. With all the talk about redesigning the process of how the shoes move through the different phases, I was curious whether or not I would be able to feel a difference. One thing that did slightly worry me was that I was testing the M 3 model. I am normally a neutral runner, so I wondered if the stability would affect my running. I have also been dealing with some IT issues so I hoped this would not reaggrivate this. As you can see there was a lot going on. =)

Basic Insole - Click to See Larger
Basic Insole – Click to See Larger

My first run in these was a 100 degree day and while it was ridiculously hot out, I wanted to get in some miles just to test the shoes. I am always looking for the next cool thing and just could not wait to see if these were them. I was surprised when I actually could tell a difference when running in these. The shoes have a very smooth feeling in them as they just flow through the gait cycle. They remind me a bit of the Altra Instinct Shoes as those have a very uniform cushioning that is also very consistent. The difference is these have been engineered to address different phases of your running, not just a generic static stack height. It has taken some time, but this idea is something that really needed to be addressed. It just makes sense to look at the whole process rather than just standing flat. In this particular model, the shoe has an initial contact of 4.5 mm stack height and progresses to 7.5 mm at mid stance. This is a little more than I prefer as I have found my sweet spot to be 4 mm. Hopefully down the road I will be able to test an N 1 model as that looks to be about perfect for me.

Even in the M 3 the shoes felt very smooth and like Pearl Izumi states, there was no slapping. It truly is a fluid experience. I am more of a midfoot striker, so I wondered how this would affect the phases, and I believe (and could be wrong) that where you make contact will become your starting point in the process. For me this meant that I skipped over part of Phase 1, and my initial contact is more around 1.5 or 1.75. Like I said, I can be wrong here, but this is what makes sense if you look at the gait cycle and how a more midfoot strike would alter that. I felt like the shoes had a good amount of cushioning, enough so that there was virtually no ground feel. I personally like some ground feel so once again I would be curious to test the N 1. One of the things that I like is how the shoes have a decent amount of flex. Most of this is found in the forefoot as the heel section is stiffer. The shoes felt flexible compared to similarly cushioned shoes, when compared to more minimalist options they would not even compare.

As for the other aspects of the shoes. Not only are the uppers comfortable, but they do breathe well too. I tested these in high temperatures and never felt like my feet were too warm. That being said I generally do not have any problems with this happening anyway. Since these are road shoes, traction is not really a big focus. I did get them on some dirt roads and even in some snow without issue. I think ice or mud would have been a much different story. The traction is interesting as it has just strategically placed rubber section for a blend of durability while note impacting the flex and flow of the shoe. This is also where durability could become an issue. If you run on too many of these trails the rocks will beat up the EVA portions of the outsole. I have seen just a little wear, nothing to be concerned about. I figure these shoes will have a lifespan of 400-500 miles depending on how the cushioning holds up. The upper feels solid, and I feel like that will be very durable. Gone are the days of the mesh I had in the first Pearl Izumi Peak XC Shoes. Great shoes but the upper was not very durable.

Overall ★★★½☆

Overall, I think Pearl Izumi is on to something here. Looking at how a shoe reacts through the whole gait cycle makes complete sense to me. These shoes may be the start of something new in the industry. I know from my running they are definitely one of the smoothest running shoes I have worn. They have a flow to them from when you land to push off. It is hard to truly describe. Since I am a fairly neutral runner it is hard for me to comment on the stability of the M 3 Shoes. I can say that it did not affect my running stride enough to notice, which is good. I have had enough dealing with a nagging IT Band to aggravate it any further. I would be very intrigues to test one of the N 1 models or triathlon racer. I think those could potentially be a favorite. The lower stack and more flexible shoe seems like it would be right in my sweet spot. If you are looking for a comfortable shoe with good cushioning and a very smooth feel. Check out the Pearl Izumi EM Road M 3 Shoes. I think people will be impressed with the full Project E:Motion line. The Pearl Izumi EM Road M 3 Shoes will retail for $125 and be out in February of 2013. As always, your mileage may vary.


  • Lightweight for a stability shoe
  • Seamless upper
  • Very fluid running experience
  • Even flex
  • Love the concept of analyzing the phases of the gait cycle


  • A bit bright for some
  • Length is slightly short

[button url=”” style=”black” size=”small”] All Pearl Izumi Reviews [/button]

[button url=”” style=”black” size=”small”] All Road Running Shoe Reviews [/button]

The Clymb Ad

About the Author

I am an avid runner, cyclist, swimmer, hiker, climber, skier and many other activities that would make this list too long. I started Your Mileage May Vary Reviews in Early 2011 to combine two of my passions: sports and gear.

Leave a Reply

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>