Pearl Izumi Project E:Motion N2 Trail Shoe (Gear of the Year 2013)

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Editors’ Choice, Fall 2013 and Trail Runner Gear of the Year: Best Trail-Running Shoe / 9.9 oz / 4mm drop / $120


The Dirt: Pearl Izumi’s E:Motion series is engineered to “eliminate forefoot slap” for a smooth ride across burly terrain—and, across the board, smitten testers felt the N2 Trail lived up to the promise, and then some.

A seamless, one-piece mesh upper has just the right amount of reinforcement to hold your foot securely on aggressive climbs and descents. Testers raved about the lack of hot spots and blisters, right out of the box.

In spite of the N2 Trail’s light weight, ample foam in the midsole provides both shock absorption and noticeable energy return on longer efforts; several testers reported that when their legs got tired, the shoe seemed to help propel them forward.

A forefoot rock plate and subtle toe guard protect against rogue roots and rocks. The laces run a tad short, but a beveled/bumpy design keeps them tied tightly.

Best For: Everything, all day long. Said one tester, “Most hundreds, as well as many ultras, cross all types of terrain … this shoe shines when it gets to run everywhere.”

Traction: Low-profile lugs handle a wide variety of terrain—best on dry ground, ranging from rocky trails to hardpack, or even pavement, but it performs adequately in mud and wet conditions, too.

Fit: True to size, if not a smidge snug throughout. The seamless upper comfortably accommodates a variety of foot shapes and sizes, though especially wide-footed runners may want to go a half-size up.

The Downsides: On dry, dusty trails, the mesh upper lets in quite a bit of fine dirt and sand. Toe caps delaminated on one tester’s pair.

Testimonial: The highest praise I can give [the N2 Trail shoe] is to say that I forgot I was even wearing it during my runs.”
–Liz Pickel, Lake Odessa, MI

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