Over the years Pearl Izumi has built a reputation for making trail shoes that just plain work. When I heard that there would be a new trail shoe in 2013 I was pretty excited.
My initial thoughts on the E:Motion Trail N1 were that the shoe was both roomy and light. The mid-foot to heel width was bigger than comparable models and plenty of room in the toe box without your foot slipping.
The upper of the shoe adds to the comfort by being completely seamless. The material used is a two way mesh which gives you excellent breathability while keeping most trail debris out. The shoe saves weight by having minimal overlays which only occur in the back two thirds of shoe and seem to solely be for some added structure and stability.
One thing I will say about the upper is that it drains exceptionally well, but I still would have liked a gusseted tongue to add to the overall protection from trail debris.
The real innovation in the Trail N1 is in the mid-sole. Pearl Izumi uses 1:1 Energy Foam which is supposed to provide the runner with a return on the energy placed into the foot strike. I don’t know much about the science in this claim, but the shoe itself does feel “springy” when you are rolling along the trail from my experience.
With no medial post for stability the shoe gives the runner a full feel for the trail, while allowing you to guide your foot through technical sections. This allows for micro recalibrations of foot falls with minimal interference from the shoe.
Now the way that the Trail N1 rides can only be described as smooth and fast. How it does this is the physical geometry of the shoes strike pattern. Most racing flats are minimalist in strike pattern, meaning they are for the most part zero drop from heel to toe and assume the runner will strike close to the ball of the foot. What Pearl Izumi has done is move the strike zone further back near the mid-foot of the shoe and from that zone to the fore foot it appears the shoe is rockered. This geometry gave the sensation that the shoe rolled me forward effortlessly. This was universal at any pace, but not quite as noticeable when picking my way through more technical trail sections.
One last point about the sole was the lugs which felt at home on almost all types of terrain except for the most muddy trails. The lug spacing and depth shed trail debris effectively and provided excellent traction and grip.
Overall the Pearl Izumi E:Motion Trail N1 is an exception trail shoe. Considering the lightness (sub 10 ounces in a US 9), durability and price (115$) you will be hard pressed to find another full featured shoe on the market that will leave you satisfied on the trail every time you leave the trailhead.
Pearl Izumi E:Motion Trail N1 shoes available from: http://www.jrhuntersports.com/jrhuntersports_004.htm
~Keith Iskiw is a trail and ultra runner from Kingston, Ontario. Find his blog at http://keithiskiw.wordpress.com/