Pearl Izumi Trail N2 v3 Review
- No-stitch seamless uppers
- Smooth rockered sole
- Responsive feel
- Roomy forefoot
- Breathable mesh
- Undersized lugs
- Not distinct from other models
The new Trail N2v3 adds to Pearl Izumi’s line of E:Motion trail shoes in between the the low-stack N1v2 and the maximalist N3. It’s a all-around trail runner that can handle a variety of surfaces and conditions, but our wear-testers thought it suffered from not being clearly distinct from the N1v2 or N3.
Pearl Izumi’s line of trail runners is comprised of four similarly-named models. The N1, N2, and N3 are neutral with increasing levels of cushion (22mm, 26mm, and 31mm rear stack height, respectively), while the M2 is a motion-control shoe. All four models are built on Pearl Izumi’s rockered E:Motion midsole. The N2v3 is the first major revamp of this model since its initial release in 2013, with major changes to the outsole and upper. The outsole gets new full-contact blown rubber with lugs that follow a runner’s natural stride, while the upper has 3-D printed overlays for a full stitch-less treatment. Our wear-testers praised the seamless, comfortable upper and sole’s smooth transition, but overall, thought the N2v3 wasn’t particularly distinct from the N1v2, N3, or M2v3. Although the N2v3 is a versatile off-road shoe, runners may find themselves better served by one of the other models in Pearl Izumi’s trail line-up, depending on their local trail surfaces and intended use.
Overall, the Trail N2v3’s seamless, no-stich upper is well-fitting and comfortable straight out of the box, with no break-in period. The 3-D printed overlays provide structure and support, but since they aren’t stitched on, they don’t add subtantial weight or the potential for chafing and hot spots. Fit is dialed in and true to size, with a forefoot that’s roomy without being oversized. The padding in the tongue and heel collar is soft and comfortable without being overstuffed or scratchy. The lower, firm midsole made one wear-tester comment that it felt less comfortable than the more plush Trail N3 model.
The E:Motion rockered midsole encourages a midfoot strike, efficient stride, and quick foot turnover, all of which make the Trail N2v3 feel speedy. The lugs are well-spaced and relatively small, so unlike some trail shoes, it runs quick and light even on smooth, well-groomed trails and pavement. One wear-tester compared it to the beefier Trail N3, noting that the N2v3 feels quicker and less clunky in the foot swing and stride. On the flipside, the lugs are a bit too undersized to inspired confident, fast running through technical sections.
Security of Fit
The well-structured heel cup, roomy forefoot and seamless upper combine to give the Trail N2v3 a secure fit from heel to toe. Our wear-testers really appreciated Pearl Izumi’s “sausage-link” laces, which keep the knots tight without double-knotting or worrying about re-tying in the middle of the trail.
The Trail N2v3 is lighter and more agile than its big brother N3 but not as stripped down as the N1. Our wear-testers thought, however, that the weight savings ought to have been more significant, and that the extra protection offered by the N3’s maximal sole was worth the minor 0.2oz weight penalty over the N2v3. Again, it’s unclear what niche the N2v3 fills. It’s a versatile trail shoe, but not distinct enough from the rest of Pearl Izumi’s off-road line. Eliminating the forefoot rock plate and reducing the size of the toe bumper would shave weight and improve agility, and since this isn’t a burly trail shoe, the changes wouldn’t negatively impact performance.
Pearl Izumi uses proprietary EnergyFoam in the midsole of its trail shoes, which feels active and lively on a variety of surfaces (including pavement). The Trail N2v3 is no exception, although one wear-tester noted that the lower stack height means it’s less responsive overall compared to the more plush N3.
The combination of a flexible forefoot rock plate, toe bumper and full-contact blown-rubber outsole give the Trail N2v3 protection from trail obstacles. One wear-tester was concerned, however, that the undersized lugs seem like a mis-match with these protective elements since the shoe doesn’t perform as well on technical, rocky trails. Another wear-tester noted that the N2v3, “feels like a beefy road training shoe that you could take on smooth trails or converted railroad lines.”
Jason is a trail runner and ultra-marathoner who lives with his wife and children in the frozen tundra of northeastern Wisconsin.