Shoe Review: Pearl Izumi E:Motion Trail N2

This shoe review appears in the latest edition of Trail Run Mag (Ed #18), downloadable for FREE here. You can also purchase a subscription on iTunes for your iPad/iPhone or Kindle Fire.

A Pearler Performer

It says it on the tongue of these: “Run like an animal.”

So I do. Or I can. Because these shoes let me. They give me the confidence to.

And not just on any old trails but knarly, rocky, bitely, slashy, trippy ones like the Larapinta Trail, in the harsh but beautiful desert heartland of Australia. They were worn out of the box, too. And damn did they perform.

I’ve been waiting for Pearl Izumi to hit our (Australian) shores for a while now, first being exposed to the brand overseas. With origins in Japan and the United States, now based in Colorado and Germany, Pearl Izumi has a background in cycling, triathlons and road running, but has successfully extended to off road running, its shoes finding favour from the moment they hit the market. The secret – a focus on innovation in materials and design without too much of the waffle for the sake of sales, and with a dose of punk attitude. I like that.

There are two models for trailites in the main, the N1 and N2 (pictured), the former being a racing shoe and the latter a training, although they are essentially the same shoe with a few key point differences, so you can use both interchangeably. I mainly tested the N2 (pictured). Billed as a neutral shoe, the last has been dialed to accommodate a neutral to supinator running gait in the main (okay they use a bit of waffle here dubbing it the E:MOTION – why do marketeers always feel the need to capitalise!?).Mt Buller

From the outset these shoes felt sublime on. The mid-foot fit and feel benefits from a foot-hugging upper with a seamless inner meaning no-socks is possible (not for this stinky duck, though).  The thin mesh upper breathes beautifully (it got warm up in the Red Centre), the fine fabiric again providing comfort feel. The no-fuss, broad and flat(ter) outersole, is composite carbon rubber, which proved incredibly durable against the seriously rippy terrain. The grip at first glance seems less aggressive than the best performers in this sphere, with lower and more spread out lugs. But the set up works nevertheless, the shoe locking on anything I leapt upon.

Underfoot protection is high, yet balanced by reasonable trail sensitivity and superior foot stability. It seemed to hit a sweet spot between feedback and protection, delivered via a 24.5mm stack height (including mid and outsole), with a dynamic offset of 4 mm at initial contact to 7.5 mm at mid-stance. Double take? Doesn’t a shoe usually just have one figure for it’s heel-toe differential? Not the Izumis. Designers pushed back the ‘spring’ action of its cushioning about 2cm towards the mid foot, and created a dynamic range of offset that changes through the stride. So this is a heel-toe that ranges from minimalist 4mm to getting more traditional at 7.5mm (traditional rated as being in the 12mm+ range).

The result is a smoother ride than I have ever experienced throughout the foot strike. I believe this especially suits me as someone who tries to strike in the forefoot but falls back a touch (maybe by 20mm?) as I run long. The foam used throughout the sole gives good energy rebound – how that plushness plays out in durability, or disintegration of the stack structure over time, is still to be judged.

A rock plate in the forefoot adds further protection making it idea for the super techy trails we tested this on.

What about the N1 ‘race’ version? Differences? It has a more minimalist trail cushioning platform with a dynamic offset of 1mm (rather than 4mm) at initial contact to 4.5mm (rather than 7.5mm) at mid-stance. It’s lower profile with a heel stack height of 19.7mm (includes midsole and outsole), 4.8mm less than the N2 and it has been on a slightly better diet, at 261gm (size 9), 22grams lighter.

TassieTrailFest_SIMON MADDEN-7612Overall both shoes seem to strike the perfect chord across all the major checkboxes: comfort, grip, stability, trail feel, durability. Fittingly, then, Pearl Izumi literally translated, means, “fountain of pearls.” And as we know, a pearl has long been a metaphor for something rare, fine, admirable and valuable. Spot on: this certainly is a gem of a trail shoe.

Great for: Everything. Seriously. Everything.
Not-so-great for: pronators at a stretch – but there is a pronator version. Otherwise, they are all round goodness.
Test Conditions: Larapinta Trail – rough, sharp, super technical, hard underfoot
Tester: Chris Ord, Trail Run Mag editor
Tester Mechanics: mid foot striker, tends to more technical style running routes, mostly 15-30km range outings.
RRP: AUD$199 / $209
Website: www.facebook.com/pearlizumiaustralia

This shoe review appears in the latest edition of Trail Run Mag (Ed #18), downloadable for FREE here. You can also purchase a subscription on iTunes for your iPad/iPhone or Kindle Fire.

Larapinta strip

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