Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Pearl Izumi Trail N2 and M2 Review

I decided to review these shoes together since they have quite a bit in common. Both the N2 and M2 are part of Pearl Izumi's E:Motion trail line with "level 2" cushioning (1=minimal, 2=moderate, 3=maximum). The N standing for neutral and the M standing for Midfoot Stability (more on that later).
Pearl Izumi states both shoes weigh in at 10 oz with a 4mm dynamic offset (a heel to toe drop that is constantly changing throughout foot strike). While Running warehouse measures a 10mm drop/10.5 oz weight for the N2 and a 9mm drop/10 oz weight for the M2. Anyways, let's get down to business.

Pearl Izumi E:Motion Trail N2

Pearl Izumi E:Motion Trail M2

Just like the EM Trail N1, the upper is a simple work of art (on both models). It is seamless and breathable by using bonded seamless technology. Though slightly different overlay and mesh designs on both models, the feel of the upper is the same. It fits like a soft flexible pair of performance slippers (if there ever was such a thing). There is plenty of room for toe splay and the mesh provides ample airflow yet it still locks your foot down to the platform. 
One word of caution: unlike other shoe laces the sausage type laces on these do not loosen up during the course of a run, so make sure you have them tied exactly how you want them. I made the mistake of tying my left shoe too tight at Weaver Basin 50K, but didn't want to stop running to loosen it for fear I'd lose the lead. It ended up causing some serious pain in my left foot and shin; user error.

The ride Pearl Izumi provides in this line of shoes is nothing short of phenomenal. I mean, it is SMOOTH! This surprised me a little bit after my initial thoughts on the N1. Like all of the shoes in the E:Motion line, Pearl Izumi uses Dynamic Offset technology, so the stack height of the shoe is constantly changing from foot strike to toe off providing a smooth transition with incomparable energy return. Both models also feature a rock plate in the forefoot for push through protection.
The N2 is neutral cushioned with arguably the smoothest transition I have ever felt in a trail shoe. I love the extra boost provided by the midsole when I'm feeling fatigued and have a sloppy stride. I wore the N2's at Weaver Basin 50K and they performed like a dream. In fact they've been my go to trail shoe lately.
The ride of the M2 is comparable and Pearl Izumi still classifies it as a neutral shoe, but with "light stability" features; bi-lateral medial support. The M2 is a great option for runners with mechanical issues needing a little more support, just keep in mind the midsole feels a little firmer. The M2 could also be viable option for later on in an ultra when your stride breaks down, just like Nick Clark did at Leadville. That way you could start out wearing the N1's or N2's and switch to a new shoe (M2) with stability features without having to worry about fit and the problems that arise when switching brands mid race (I've heard horror stories).

The outsole on both the N2 and M2 are identical. They feature multi-directional "self cleaning" lugs which provide fantastic grip on varied terrain. I found them to perform well on every surface I've encountered from mud to scree to loose dirt to concrete, though I haven't run in the snow yet. The outsole seems to be very durable as well with not much visible wear after 100 miles.

For me the N2 fit true to size, while the M2 was slightly shorter. I've gotten away with wearing the M2 in my normal running shoe size, but like I mentioned in my N1 review if you're on the fence about sizing or if you like a little extra space in the toebox, I would order 1/2 size up. Both models fit snug in the heel and midfoot with ample room in the toe box and no rubbing, irritation or hot spots whatsoever.

Pearl Izumi's E:Motion line continues to impress me. They seem to have a shoe for every athlete at any level with practical, functional features and a smooth-as-hell ride. The N2 and M2 are no exception. They can be used for anything from race day performance kicks to work horses for monster mileage training weeks. I'm completely sold. Grab a pair and see what all hype is about!

Thanks for the ride, Pearl Izumi!

What are your thoughts on the N2? M2?

Feel free to follow me on twitter @koreykonga

As well as Instagram for daily shots of beautiful trails and other nonsense: koreykonga


  1. Have maybe 50 miles on a pair of N2s. Agree with you that the upper is a work of art and the dynamic offset provides a phenomenally smooth ride -- I've heard others say that when you get tired they "run for you!" The traction is superb, and I can bomb techy downhills in them unlike any other shoe I've worn.

    My only problem with them (and it appears similar in the N1s though I haven't actually run in them) is the stiff, inflexible sole. Maybe I'm just used to a much more flexible shoe (e.g., NB 110s, 1010s, and LS Helios), but I've been getting some uncomfortable compensatory pains in my feet and ankles which, I think, are related to the stiff ride. Wonder if anyone else has had similar issues. Too bad because otherwise I love the shoe, and was hoping it would be the go-to for really long runs. Still trying to "break them in" and hoping they don't break me first!

    1. BTW - re sizing: I think the N2 is cut bigger than the N1. Compare them on Runningwarehouse's sizing app. I went up 1/2 size in the N2 compared to my NBs and the fit is great.

  2. Hey Andy,
    Thanks for reading and giving feedback!
    Out of the shoes you've mentioned, I've only run in the 110 which didn't work for me (I had a problem with the arches). But everyone's foot is different. Truth be told I've never run in many flexible shoes. I think the most flexible shoe I spent a substantial amount of time in was the montrail rogue fly.
    I will say that I get some pain and soreness in the N2 if I tie them too tight (which I do on occasion). I have to wear them pretty loose around the collar or I get pain in the top of my foot and sometimes up into my into my shin.The N1 is much more flexible to me, but has much less cushion and energy return. Either way I do love both shoes. Maybe the N2 will grow on you. I wasn't a fan of the N1 one at first, but now I find myself reaching for them regularly!
    Maybe the Patagonia EVERlong would be your cup of tea? Middle ground.

    1. Yeah, I saw Tom's review on iRF and they look like they're worth a try. I agree with you about the tightness of the lacing for the N2s, though they are so stable you can get a way with leaving them a bit loose. For now I'll just keep rotating my 1010s, Helios, and the N2s and see how I fare.


  3. Hi Korey,
    Great reviews you have here! And great race reports as well!

    Considering the cushioning, stability and overall protection, how would you compare/rate PI M2, Cascadia 8 and Kinabalus (if such comparison is possible somehow)?

  4. Hey Gabriel!
    Thanks for reading, I really appreciate it.
    So I don't think I would compare the Kinabalu to the Cascadia and M2, just because the Kinablu are a neutral shoe, so they have no "stability" features. They still offer a stable ride in my opinion, but they have no motion control features. However, out of those 3 shoes I'd say they have the softest cushioning.
    For me, the Cascadia's and M2 are pretty comparable as far as stability features and protection are concerned. Where the Pearl Izumi M2 Excels is weight and ride. The M2 are almost 2 ounces lighter than the Cascadia and the ride is just phenomenal. So so smooth, especially if you're a heel striker. I also feel like the upper is superior; it's really comfortable.
    But the good thing about Cascadia's is that you can get 600-1,000 miles out of them.

    Hope this helps!

    1. Thanks a lot! That really helps. I'm going to the U.S. soon and I'm planning on buying 2 pairs of trail running shoes (they don't sell these shoes here in Brazil...). Since I'm a heel striker with a slight overpronation and a real passion for highly soft and cushioned shoes, I guess I'll give Kinabalus and M2's a try!
      Thanks again!

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    3. You're welcome. I see the M2 all around here in the US, but keep in mind those Kinabalu's can be tricky to find. You can use the SCOTT dealer locator when you get here.


      Happy Trails!

  5. Great blog Korey!
    Just jumping on the back of the M2 vs. Kinabalu chat. I have both shoes and think they're great.
    The M2 is certainly a firmer, more responsive ride. The Kinabalu is my 'shoe of the year' ... great balance of weight and cushion. Just brilliant! I also rotate the NB MT1210 Leadville for when I want the most cushion. Great shoe also.
    Quick sizing question ...
    Did you go for the same size in the N1/N2/M2 and Kinabalu?

    1. Hey Nick! Thanks for your feedback!
      I totally agree with you, the M2 is much firmer. As time has gone on I've actually found that the stiff medial support in the M2 actually bothers my arch slightly if I wear them too long. I still love the fit, just not sure that I personally would wear them for a long race. I've actually decided to go with the N1 for my upcoming 50 Mile in December.
      As for sizing, I went 9.5 in all shoes. Though I almost went up a half size for the Kinabalu. My buddy bought a pair last night and he said he had to size up. What about you?

  6. No problem. It's great to be able to read excellent reviews. Helps make shoe selection that much easier ... and of course fun! Ok, I wear the Kinabalu in a size 12 and it's a perfect fit. Was tight at first, too narrow, but broke in after about 30 miles. Interestingly I've had both colour ways and the new green one fits looser than the turquoise - almost sized up but glad I didn't. The PI shoes are a mix - 12 in the N1 and 12.5 in the M2. But again as they wear in, they are becoming looser in the upper. All in all, I'm pretty much a 12 across the board. Thanks again!

  7. Hey Korey! So I have chewed through a couple pairs of N1s now, and have found I get some decent pain in my arches after longer runs. I noticed this pain after I ran a 50 in them last September. I have always had flat feet, but I have fallen in love with the Pearl Izumi line. Given that I have flat feet, I know I should go for a shoe with a little more stability/cushioning (I have slowly been reverting from training exclusively in Vibrams to shoes with more and more cushioning). This being said, I noticed above in a comment you mentioned arch pain from wearing the M2. Is this because it has enough stability to cause pain in someone who does not need support? I am wondering if, given my case, you would recommend the N2 or M2, or if you have any other suggestions.


  8. Hey Mason! Thanks for reading. For me that pain is caused by supportive shoes because I've had a weird problem with PF in that foot for a while so certain supportive shoes irritate it for some reason.
    That being said, at least half of the runners I've talked to prefer the N2 and half prefer the M2. Some people say that can't tell a difference, but to me the M2 is a firmer ride while the N2 feels more pillow like. The M2 has a slightly wider toe box too, but it's a little shorter so if you order online, definitely order the M2 a half size up. I'd also wager that you'd get at least 200 more miles out of a pair of M2's
    They really are comparable shoes though. I think you'd be happy with either. Maybe start with the N2 since you're transitioning up from barefoot ?
    I know I'll be using a mix of the N1 and N2 this year.

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