The Menu and Ambience:
The shoes I wore were a size 12 and weighed in at just over 10 ounces. The drop according to the maker is 4mm. The colors on the model I tried out were loud and obnoxious, and they will match nothing else you own unless you are on scholarship to the University of Oregon (The other colors scheme offered is no less gaudy). However, if you want to get noticed or look fast while just hanging out before the gun goes off….then you might like the color scheme.
Getting the shoe on was a bit of trick. The shoe runs a tad small. I do not have a wide foot, yet it seemed as if there was scarcely enough lace to tie them up. Once you get the shoes on they feel great. At ten ounces you feel agile yet protected, and while they are snug, the toe box is roomie. The arch is average and the drop is low yet sane: this suits a neutral to moderate pronator.
The EM Road M3 does not fall into the trap of trying to be all things to all runners (and thus failing to be of any use to anyone for anything.) Pearl Uzumi has clearly spent the time to take input from real runners, and to actually use that input when making this shoe.
Once you start to run in them you quickly appreciate the cushion. The M3 is the highest level of cushion offered. The cushion meets you, but does not give you the disconcerting trampoline effect found in so many other trendy brands. The cushion seems to firm up as you go up- tempo. When I did speed work in them they were too firm. If I were going to race a 5K I would opt for a lighter shoe (If you are going to be uncomfortable, you might as well do so wearing ultra-lights.) I would not want to race any distance over a half Marathon in these, but a training run up to 20 miles would be a joy.
What I loved about the Pearl Izumi M3s is that although designed for paved surfaces, I took them on easy trails and they behaved magnificently. For fun I took them on a run to the top of Mt. Rose. I would not recommend them for that technical trail (I felt every pointy rock near the summit), but they don’t claim to be designed for that terrain anyway. As a bonus, the seamless design makes them idea for anyone who likes to run sockless. I tested them sockless and found no hot spots.
The Whine List:
What I disliked about the EM Road M3: It was hard to find anything truly irksome at all. The sizing issue can be easily avoided by ordering a half size (or full size) up. If you have a Fred Flintstone foot, avoid this shoe until they offer widths. The loop designed to keep the tongue in place is too low and the top portion of the tongue thus ends up sliding down into the shoe (A problem if you are racing a Marathon no doubt). You might also have to buy longer laces if you have the same problem I had. The aforementioned color scheme might also be an issue for people who want to match their shoes to their clothes.
Where these shoes will fit into my rotation will be as a 10K to 13.1 racer, or as a way to have a comfortable paved training run of up to two or three hours. My overall opinion is that Pearl Uzimi is a serious shoe maker, and they make shoes for runners by listening to what runners say they want. The EM Road M3 is a solid effort, and at $125 it is a fairly priced, high quality addition to any runner’s closet. It’s also nice to run in pair of shoes you don’t see on every tenth runner out there.
[ed note: This review was provided by URP guest reviewer Dirk Pearson. I ordered a size 12 and these were well undersized for me so I offered them to Dirk who wears an 11.5 (and as you read, they're even tight for him!) He does a lot his miles on the bike path/road and though he's run ultras and trails, prefers to stick to distances between 3 and 26 miles. His average weekly mileage is ~35 and he's pretty quick, too. Dirk wore these for just over two weeks before he submitted this review. These shoes were provided to him by URP with zero expectation of a positive review, it has not been edited, and his opinions are solely his own.]