While they may be more known in the cycling world, Pearl Izumi is no stranger to all things running. I guess you can say that for Pearl Izumi, running and cycling are both favorites and the newly-revised EM Trail N2’s show just how much they know about trail running.

Pearl Izumi E:Motion Trail N2 V2 Features:

  • Seamless uppers deliver a supportive fit for technical trail running
  • Dynamic Offset shaped E:MOTION™ midsoles are biomechanically tuned for a neutral-to-supinator running gait
  • 1:1 Energy Foam in forefoot
  • ESS forefoot rock plates
  • Multidirectional carbon rubber outsoles
  • Dynamic Offset: 4mm at initial contact to 7.5mm at mid-stance
  • 24.5mm heel stack height
  • MSRP: $120

Pearl Izumi Trail N2 V2 Review

The N2’s are built to rock and run

As a core part of my testing protocol for shoes, I always go from box to trail. Why? Well, even though all shoes do require a break-in period, that period should not include blisters or discomfort. Shoe designs are past that stuff — or at least they should be. The new Pearl Izumi Trail N2 v2’s passed the box-to-trail test with flying colors and my feet are grateful.

Going from the box to the trail can amplify any manufacturing inconsistencies and will shake out any fit issues in a hurry.  I only had one small tight spot in the upper on that first run, but have had absolutely nothing since that time. So, you can expect a quick break-in with these.

When Pearl Izumi launched their Project E:Motion lineup a few years back, it was a major departure from their shoes of the past. This time, the N2 Trail underwent a more modest refinement by dialing in the midfoot fit via an all-new upper and an enhanced outsole for better traction in wet conditions. The rockered midsole design remains as a core feature of the E:Motion line and frankly, is one of the best features of this shoe.

Now that we’re post-minimalist, it’s OK to talk about cushioning and comfort again — all our collective joints are thanking us. Don’t get me wrong, for the right runner and the right conditions, minimalist shoes are great, but most of the time the extra cushioning is appreciated and welcome.

Pearl Izumi Trail N2 Review

With these shoes, Pearl Izumi delivers a rockered outsole with ample cushioning for extended training or ultra distances. That subtle rocker is fantastic as it propels you forward with every step. When I have my druthers, I always choose a rockered sole and these shoes fit the bill quite nicely.

That rockered comfort doesn’t come at the expense of performance as these shoes deliver ample traction and forward motion under all trail conditions. Even though they feature a meaty tread pattern, the swing weight is low and the treads are surprisingly smooth on the road, when occasion requires. Breathability remains superb to boot — even in ultra-humid conditions.


Traction in all terrain is superb as the lugged pattern really grabs. But, the tread is not so clunky as to feel awkward on the road. I’ve run on loose hardpack, pavement and everything in-between and have appreciated the sure-footed traction of these shoes. Both uphill and downhill are met with a stable and consistent feel that inspires confidence.

The comfortable midsole is squishy when it needs to be squishy and also firm when it needs to be firm. As an all-purpose trail trainer, this shoe leaves little to be desired. While Altra has the widest toebox, these are wider than most with enough wiggle room to accomodate a broken pinkie toe (yeah, not fun) and Injinji toe socks. Now that the toe has healed, I still appreciate the large toebox that allows my toes to spread out in blister-free comfort.

With the comfortable midsole and generous outsoles, these do offer a good mix of underfoot protection and trail feel. They are certainly on the more protective end of the spectrum, so you may not get as natural of a trail feel as some shoes, but it’s a fair trade-off for comfort.

Unfortunately, on my second run in the shoes, I kicked an exposed root to the outside of my forefoot. That root had its way with the exposed midsole and put quite a gauge in the foam. It in no way affects the performance of the shoe, but it quickly reminded me how vulnerable exposed foam can be.

The Good

  • Traction aplenty
  • Out-of-the-box comfort
  • Rockered sole offers a smooth stride
  • Ribbed laces stay put

The Bad

  • Exposed midsole foam is easily damaged

Bottom Line: Pearl Izumi N2

The new Pearl Izumi Trail N2’s are an excellent training shoe that brings comfort on long distances. With a rockered sole and extra cushioning, my feet are really appreciating the smooth stride and sure-footed traction of the new N2’s.

Buy Now: Buy from REI

About Author

A native of the Pacific Northwest, Jason quickly developed a love for the outdoors and a thing for mountains. That infatuation continues as he founded this site in 1999 -- sharing his love of road biking, mountain biking, trail running and skiing. That passion is channeled into every article or gear review he writes. Utah's Wasatch Mountains are his playground.

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