Pearl Izumi EM Trail N2 Review

By MPF Athlete Phil Germakian

This is the latest trail shoe from Pearl Izumi’s Project E:Motion Line.  The first of this line, the (N1), was released last year, and worn by Timothy Olsen during his two consecutive wins at the Westerns States 100.  The Pearl Izumi Trail N2 Running Shoe is a slightly beefed up version of the N1, coming in at 10.5 oz (men’s size 9), offering a little more cushion by incorporating a slightly higher drop and stack height: (Heel 27mm / Forefoot 17mm = 10mm Drop). used for shoe specs rather than the individual shoe company website.  I find it easier to compare shoes at Running Warehouse, because they use the same standardized method to measure all the shoes.  Also, if you are unable to use a Neutral shoe, Pearl Izumi has also released another version of this shoe called the M2, which offers mid-foot stability.

I have covered over 50 miles of trail in this shoe, and so far I can’t find anything I don’t like about it.  I have tested it out on loose sandy-soil, as well as steep technical (rocky) terrain, and it has performed well in both conditions.  Here’s what I like about this shoe:

The Upper

This shoe has a seamless upper construction, which gives it a slipper-like feel, helps prevent hot spots, and makes it one of the most comfortable shoes I have ever worn.  It has a strong and supportive heel cup, which helps lock your foot down and keep it in place.  The N2 uses those balloon laces, which have stayed tied and in place for 2+ hour runs so far.  The upper mesh keeps out unwanted trail dust and debris, but affords great breathability.  A thin toe-bumper covers the entire span of the toes, and offers enough protection.

The Midsole

Has a dynamic offset, which uses a similar rocker-technology found on Hoka’s, which is said to make for a more efficient running stride.  I felt it in action on the flats and slight down hills, and thought it helped smooth out my stride a little.  This design along with the Energy Foam Midsole, is supposed to better absorb impact and transfer that energy back to the runner.  I can’t say that this shoe energized me, but I can say that it does have a soft ground feel to it.  People who have a wider foot, or an orthotic insert like me, are going to like this shoe, and appreciate the roomy toe box and stable platform it offers.

The Outsole

A rock plate covers the entire forefoot, which certainly adds wanted protection.  You can still feel the rocks, but it will keep your feet from bruising.  You can see part of the lime green rock plate in the photo above.  This shoe has a grippy outsole that provides full ground contact.  I noticed very minimal slippage on loose gravel and sandy trails.  The multi-directional lugs allowed me to bomb downhill without worry.  They are also shallow enough to prevent you from picking up and carrying pieces of the trail along with you for miles.

All in all, I think this is a great all-around trail shoe from Pearl Izumi capable of tackling any ultra-distance.  It will be hard to find a shoe that offers the structure, feel, and comfort of the N2 in such a lightweight package.  I hope this review was helpful, and let me know if you decide to give it a try.  I am curious to learn how the N2 performs on our Northeast trails.