Since Chuckanut in March I've only been wearing Pearl Izumi E:Motion shoes. It started with the Road M3 and after running in them for a week in Moab I came back to the Pacific Northwest and immediately tried out the Trail N2 at a local shop. Done. Perfect for me. Purchased.
More than eight months later and I've come up with quite a little collection of them.
|LEFT, from top: Trail N2 (brand new), M2 (60mi), N2 (350mi), N2 (375mi). |
RIGHT, from top: Road M3 (300mi), Road N2 (200mi)
All the technical details can be found on the PI website or an online retailer like Running Warehouse. And if you're reading this you probably already know about their "dynamic offset" and all the other doodad advertisements they talk about. Just for a refresh, the "N" models are neutral, while the "M" models provide some midfoot support for mild pronation.
Here I'll talk about some of the more practical things that someone wearing them is likely to notice, or not notice, and my opinion on the various models.
Since all the E:Motion shoes have a "seamless" upper, I'll start there
No, they are not seamless. They are seam-taped (same like a gore-tex rain jacket). You do not feel the seam that runs vertically between the midsole and the top of the shoe, about halfway down the foot, so this is just me being picky about language. It really makes no difference if it is seam-taped or truly seamless, you don't notice it.
However, one thing you may notice is that the interior of some models does have some structural material built in. This is found in the Trail M2 and Road N2, and not present in the Trail N2 and Road M3.
|Clockwise from top-left: Trail N2, Road N2, Road M3, Trail M2. Note structural material in Road N2 and Trail M2; only mesh in Trail N2 and Road M3. All shoes have the one seam sufficiently taped.|
Does that structural material make a difference? Only a little, in my opinion. It may help retain the shape of the shoe a little, but I don't really notice it keeping my foot more secure.
Some of the shoes have different mesh uppers too. The Trail M2 and Road M3 have the same material, which feels a little more plasticky. The Road N2 mesh feels the same, but is a little different pattern. The Trail N2, though, has a completely different mesh that feels more like a cloth material (it sort of piles if you wear it through devil's club, which I don't suggest doing).
However, I think they all work equally well. I haven't worn a hole in any of the uppers and they all breath and drain water well. Yes, they do let trail dust in, but I think that comes hand in hand with draining well.
The Trail versions also have a wider forefoot with a more bulbous shape. The Road models are more torpedo-like, having nearly the same width from the midfoot through the forefoot. I have regular-width feet, so I haven't had any issues, but I've heard people with wide feet commenting that they fit narrow.
I do not get blisters in these shoes, but I also use good socks (Drymax or Smartwool) and almost always use Bodyglide for long runs.
Support (M) vs Neutral (N) and cushioning
I'm a mild heel striker (more on roads than on trails) and very mild pronator. So far, however, the Trail N2 works much better for me than the M2. Why? The M2, while offering support, is much firmer than the N2. The support really is a chunk of much denser, harder foam that makes up the midsole from just in front of the heel up to the forefoot. The heel and toes of the M2 is made up of a softer material. The Trail N2, though, is made up entirely of the softer material for the entire length of the shoe.
For me, it just makes it that much smoother to have the same, constant material for the length of the shoe. I like the M2, and have only put 60mi on it, so maybe it'll feel better after wearing it more. I do like the firmer feel in soft conditions (mud and snow) and the softer, N2, on harder surfaces.
What about the road versions? Similar, I think, but both road models are firmer than the Trail N2. The Road M3 does have a similarly-firm material through the midfoot, where the Road N2 is one material throughout. The M3 does have more foam, and thus a little more cushioning, but I think it's slightly firmer than most shoes that fall into the well-cushioned category. The Road N2 is semi-firm, and feels good when I mix it up running on pavement, dirt/gravel city trails and a rubber track. However, running solely on concrete in them would be a bit tough for me as I like softer surfaces.
The Trail N2 midsole is my favorite, hands down. I think it's weakness is snow as it's soft and harder to kick steps in, but everywhere else it's great. The other midsoles are good too, but the feel of wearing the Trail N2 feels different (better) than all the other models.
And in terms of support, the Trail N2, M2 and Road M3 all are good. The Road N2 works well too, even with my very mild pronation, and I don't find myself wishing it had more support. It does feel like the one with the least support, though, for obvious reasons.
The Road versions are similar enough. The picture below shows slight differences, but they aren't noticeable. I think they work fine on pavement, groomed city trails and a track. In the rain, on a steep, mossy street, though, I'd pay more attention.
The outsole rubber holds up pretty well on the road versions as there still is a ton left after 300 miles on the M3. The only noticeable wear is in the heel-strike area.
|Road N2 (left) and Road M3 (right). I usually strike just outside of center, and slightly on the heel, as you can tell from the wear in that area.|
The Trail versions have nice outsoles: I don't find things stuck in the bottom and they grip really well in everything but hard snow/ice. My one issue is that where I strike they wear down very quickly if you have to cover a mile or two of pavement. If you're truly out in the mountains they are fantastic, but if they need to be used door-to-trail, and you heel strike, even a little, you'll notice that area wear down quickly. Nowhere else on the outsole will wear down, just your favorite heel striking spot.
|Left to right: N2 (new), M2 (60mi), N2 (350mi), N2 (375mi, first pair)|
Seriously, the outsoles show almost no wear except the spot where I strike, and that's only if you run on pavement (even just a couple hundred meters will start wearing them down). I sort of wish a harder compound would be used in the heel, but the grip on the rest of the shoe probably can be attributed to the soft rubber used, so maybe it's just a compromise if you heel strike and sometimes have a couple miles of pavement to move over. I guess the other thing is, I don't slip in them either, even with the heel getting more worn down than other areas, so maybe it's just a little pet peeve for me.
I get about 350 miles out of them
Once I start to get in that range the midsoles (more prominently on the Trail N2) starts to feel a bit dead. I haven't gotten there yet in the road models, though, and I could see them lasting a little longer as they already are more firm than the Trail N2 and I might not notice them firming up.
The rest of the shoes, however, are still in good condition. No material, seem or sewing failures. The toe protector on one pair of Trail N2 is starting to delaminate, but it's only for a 1cm section and it never was an issue for me.
Other cool things
- Lace tunnels on the tongue of the Trail versions keeps the tongue in place and not shifting around.
- Sausage-link laces (also trail version only) keeps them tied tight and not coming undone.
There probably are some small tweaks that can be made, but overall I think they are very good, simple shoes. I wish the road versions were able to feel as good as the trail models, but for some reason their comfort level is a little behind the trail shoes. If I wanted to go through shoes really fast, I'd wear the Trail N2 on pavement as well as I think it's by far the most comfortable, regardless of the surface.
Did I forget anything....?
- I haven't tried the Trail N1, Road N1 or Road H3.
- I use "biosoft" insoles from Super Jock 'N Jill in Seattle in all of my running shoes.
- I average 40-60 miles per week (15-20 on road/city trails and 20-40 on real trails).