The EM Trail N1 v2 is a high quality trail runner or even trail racer. The offering from Pearl Izumi lacks the flash and gimmicks that many companies resort to, instead focusing on a pure trail running experience.
The Trail N1 v2 offers what you want for your trail run, and nothing more, and that is a good thing.
Pearl Izumi EM Trail N1 v2 General Info
This shoe is produced by Pearl Izumi as an offering for the trail runner who wants the cushioning of their shoes to be between minimalist and moderate.
The Trail N1v2 offers a racer flat feel, with enough padding to be a daily trail runner and hold up to the miles of pounding most trails will throw at it.
Pearl Izumi offers three neutral levels of trail shoes — the N1, N2 and N3 — each one progressively adding more cushioning.
They also price their shoes out depending on the amount of cushioning, so at $115, the N1 is the cheapest of the neutral offerings. Yet, it does not skimp in useful features for a trail runner.
Upon unboxing the shoe I was caught by just how nice and vibrant the color was — a rich deep burgundy almost purple — and happy that a color like that was offered for men’s shoes.
When looking at the design of the shoe, I thought it looked low profile and aggressive — something that rang true on the runs as well.
Then when taking the N1 on their first run, I went 9 miles on mostly crushed gravel trail and loved every moment of it.
Pearl Izumi EM Trail N1 v2 Sole Info
The sole unit of the N1 is a lower profile E:Motion foam — Pearl Izumi’s trademarked foam which advertises a 1:1 energy returns.
Pearl Izumi states that this foam cushions upon impact and returns the same amount of energy back to the runner during propulsion. Standing 22mm high at the heel and 17mm at the forefoot, this offering has a 5mm heel-toe drop.
At this lower heel-toe drop, it is important for a runner used to the standard 9-12mm drop to run a few times at shorter distances before going too far in these, or else risk injury.
The cushioning was enough that I felt fresh after 12 miles on a crushed gravel trail, and just fine after an 9-mile run/hike on rocky single-track technical mountain trails.
Not once did I feel as though the cushioning wasn’t enough for what I was demanding. Also, the actual rubber sole area provides ample grip for most every trail — although I felt some slippage while on the mountain trails.
The grip cannot compete with that of the Salomon Speedcross Pro, but the versatility of the shoe can put it over the top for some.
The actual curve to the sole and the quick, responsive and flexible cushioning allowed the gait of the shoe to feel natural and quick.
Although not necessarily pushing you to the next step, it will naturally let you transition towards the next step.
Pearl Izumi EM Trail N1 v2 Upper Info
The upper is a completely seamless unit that has many stabilizing overlays to keep your foot in place and provide support. The upper is made of a thin, breathable mesh that keep your feet cool during the run.
However, the drawback to this is that it also allows water to enter the shoe if you encounter a stream or are out in the rain.
The upper fits true to size, and has a more narrow heel and midsole transitioning into a room forefoot. The feel is great, as the shoe’s upper is hardly noticeable during the run.
The overlays do their job, as even with the hardest trails I could get to didn’t make my foot slip inside of the shoe.
The only drawback the upper presented to me on my runs was the tendency to let rocks in through the collar of the upper — due to it not being completely tight on the ankle.
Pearl Izumi EM Trail N1 v2 Conclusions
As I’ve come to find out over the summer, there are a varying degree of trail shoes depending on what you are wanting to do.
The Pearl Izumi EM Trail N1 v2 is a mouthful of a name, but one that is well worth looking at if you enjoy running on the roads less traveled. This low profile, but amply cushioned trail shoe can do the job on almost anything you throw at it.
The N1 took on cement — and did admirably well — gravel, cedar, dirt and rocky mountain trails and conquered them all with aplomb.
Now, with that being said, if I was spending all of my runs in the mountains and dealing with mostly rocky terrain or trails with water crossings, I would opt for the Salomon Speedcross Pro, as the grip is far superior on that model of trail shoe.
However, for someone who might take cement to a trail, or live in a city not near mountainous trails, these are a great option for a very reasonable price.
Due to me waiting to take them to the mountains, I actually ran in these shoes for three months and put 125+ miles on them before writing this review.
As of this point, the shoes have shown no substantial wear — other than discoloration. Which means these shoes are made to last.
They are also advertised as Pearl Izumi’s trail racers, and thus are meant to be pushed and meant to be fast — and they deliver.
Bottom line, these shoes are versatile, useful, and cushioned enough for almost any distance. If you are in the market for a trail shoe, I would recommend taking a long, hard look at the Pearl Izumi EM Trail N1 v2.
We thank the nice people at Pearl Izumi for sending us a pair of EM Trail N1 to test. This did not influence the outcome of the review, written after running more than 50 miles in them.