Pearl Izumi E:Motion Trail M2 Review

The Pearl Izumi Trail M2 ($125) has been a popular option for the bulk of the trail running crowd looking for an everyday trainer. Find out why in the follow in-depth review.

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Pearl Izumi E-Motion Trail M2 Review Transcript

The Pearl Izumi Trail M2 comes from the E-Motion line which was launched this year. The M2 stands for midfoot stability: the “M” is midfoot, “2” tells you the amount of cushioning. Previously on iRunFar, we looked at the Pearl Izumi Trail N1 (N = neutral, 1 = amount of cushioning). This is a slightly more stable, slightly more cushioned version of that trail shoe. It offers a dynamic offset in the heel-toe drop that ranges from 4 to 7.5mm, offers a seamless upper, and has some other great features. So what we’re going to do now is get up close and personal and take a closer look at the Pearl Izumi E:Motion Trail M2.

We’ll start off by taking a look at the outsole. On the bottom here, we can see we have a medium to low-depth tread pattern all the way across the bottom. We have both reverse lugs and standard facing lugs. So whether we’re going uphill or downhill, we’ve got brakes or help with climbing. We can see some cut-outs here in the middle where the rock plate is. This rock plate is not super hard as you can get some twist in here, but it is definitely enough to keep things from poking through. Really, it’s a general purpose outsole. It’s going to work across a variety of different types of trails—groomed trails, technical trails—you’re going to have enough down there that is really going to help you though in mud. And slop, it’s probably not deep enough to help through that. But for the most part, it’s going to get you through 90% of the trail conditions that are out there and should perform well across all of them. I also wore this on the road a fair amount and really felt good about the way that it felt. They didn’t have enough lug there that it would interrupt when you’re on a road section.

Next up, we’ll move into the midsole. The midsole, at first glance, really looks like it’s one piece and one kind of foam all the way around. But what happens as we get into this section right here in the middle, there are actually a couple of spots here where you can see a slightly different type of foam right here under the arch. You really have to look for it even with the bare eye, so I don’t know that the camera will pick it up. Right in here there is a spot where this is actually a different type of foam. You can feel a seam back here and there is one up here. It’s a slightly denser type of foam which is like a post but it’s not significant. When you push your thumb in here, you can kind of feel the difference. It’s going to be more dense here, less dense in the heel and the forefoot, but adding just enough pronation control—more of a fatigue post, I would say—to give you a little extra bit of stability or bounce back when your form falls down later on in a race. As we move through the midsole, it’s a medium cushioning, I would say. It’s above that minimal-type feel. It is firm. It is responsive, but there’s enough there that it gives you just the right amount of cushioning without being too bloated and losing too much feel for the trail.

As we move up into the upper, this is one of the best parts of the shoe, I think. Pearl Izumi has been doing this for awhile now and I feel like they’ve really gotten it right on this shoe, at least for me. They have a seamless upper. As we look around on this upper, we have some welded overlays on here that are adding some structure and stability that are going to use our laces and attach at the top to really make a nice grip on the shoe. But as we move our hand around inside of it, there are very, very few seams. You can hardly feel any at all. They call it a seamless upper, so that makes sense. You’ll notice a little bit of stitching, and there is going to be some stitching here where the tongue is going to attach. This is a non-gusseted tongue here which is a little bit of a let-down. It is a wide tongue and it is fabric so it’s not large foam or anything like that, so I feel that it creates a nice seal inside of the shoe without letting debris in other ways. That tongue goes just below this, a quarter way down this part of the shoe on both the medial and lateral sides. Again, this is a seamless upper. You’ll notice a couple layers of mesh here, so it’s very breathable. My toes were able to move in it well.

Another thing I think is a nice improvement in this year’s E-Motion line versus something like last year’s Peak II was the amount of room in the toe box. This is a size 9. In the previous Pearl Izumi’s, the toe box was very low and very narrow. I had to go up almost to a size 10 before I could really feel like it was comfortable and then I had way too much shoe hanging off the end. These, to me, fit true-to-size and because of the taller toe box and the mesh up here, it really lets your toes wiggle around. So there’s a lot of room up front that allows your foot to expand as needed. Also, there is just enough protection. We have a toe bumper on the front and some kind of suede fabric here on the sides that are going to add extra reinforcement to keep punctures out. This is not hard so it’s not going to really deflect everything. You do have a relatively good toe bumper here on the front that is going to help kick things off to the side if you connect with them head-on.

As we move to the back, we do have a heel cup in here. You can see where that starts as we push this down. It is a molded heel cup. Again, overall feel of this shoe: very good fit, very glove-like fit. This was not something that bothered me going uphill our pounding downhill. I felt like everything held in nice and tight. I didn’t really notice anything too bothersome about it.

As we move around here and look at the laces, you can see they have these sausage link-type laces which are going to help the shoes stay tied a bit better. It creates these little gaps here where the laces interlocks with each other and gives a nice tight hold. If it does start to come loose, it unloosens slowly versus all at once which keeps you from tripping over your feet if it does happen to you. The ankle is slightly padded but not overly padded. It’s definitely padded enough to provide security, protection, and comfort. Lastly, we’re able to tighten that up and cinch that down very tightly as we can see that this piece of fabric from both sides links around back of the shoe so we can create that tension here and give us a little bit of extra security around the cuff. Again, this shoe felt great out-of-box, and has a good, secure fit for someone like myself. I was really pleased overall with it.

In closing, this is one of the best first-feel shoes that I’ve put on, maybe ever. It was one of those shoes that I put on and right out of the box had a great feel with the seamless upper and just really felt great on my foot. It offers a great midfoot wrap. It offers adequate traction. It offers just enough stability for someone like me who is not a fully neutral runner or is not able to run a lot of big miles in a neutral shoe. The dynamic offset just feels good. I don’t know if it’s a 7.5 or a 4mm, but I’m coming from running most of my miles in a 10mm drop trail shoe. I didn’t feel like this put an extra load on my Achilles or made me do extra work for lack of a better term. It just felt right. So if you’re like me and need a little bit of stability and a little bit more cushioning over the neutral or the minimal type shoes, go check out the new Pearl Izumi Trail M2.

If you have any questions or comments, leave them below the video and thanks for watching. We’ll catch you next time.

Travis Liles

resides in Portland, Oregon where he is a husband, father, and a technical specialist for a software company. In his spare time, he is exploring his new home in the Pacific Northwest, getting more vertical but still not living in the thin air, while producing "Trail Trials with Travis Liles" video gear reviews for iRunFar.

There are 32 comments

    1. panos from greece

      The trail N2 is the best trail shoe i have ever tried.

      I run a very technical and wet ultra recently, with 184k and 12k elevation gain and i was wearing it for the whole race. Good cushioning from the first to the last minute, good traction, dries quite fast, excellent fit, great colour.

      The N2 is the best trail shoe for an 100 mile race.

  1. Patrick

    Thanks for the review Travis!

    How many miles have you put on this pair of M2s?

    I've been running the road N2 for the past month and am a big fan of the smooth ride and seamless upper. The outsole has been wearing away rather quickly however and the upper does seem a bit frail so I was hoping to get a better sense of what kinds of miles these things can take before committing to the trail version.

    Thanks!

  2. Cody C

    Travis, would you say that the stability/fatigue posting is comparable to the MT1210 Leadville? Also, would you say that the cushioning is more or less than the 1210?

    Thanks

  3. George Harris

    I tried both the N 1 and N2 trail and didn't have much luck with either of them. Maybe I should have tried this one as it does have some control features. However, I have had great luck with their EM Road H3 shoe which has given me the control features I need. Great review of this shoe.

  4. John

    "This is a slightly more stable, slightly more cushioned version of that trail shoe."

    Would someone care to explain what is meant by a "more stable" shoe? What makes a shoe stable or unstable? I guess I don't always understand shoe technology.

    1. Chris Cawley

      Running shoes described as "stable" are built to help control excessive pronation. Shoes with mild pronation control often have slightly firmer midsole foam under the medial heel and posterior arch, and/or midsole features in those areas shaped to support tired feet.

  5. rms

    For lack of a better forum: Anyone else tried the MT1010v2 yet? On my 3rd run two of the vibram pods on both shoes are ripping off, and I'll be returning them for a full refund and trying one of these PI models. It's not a quality control issue any more with the v2, it's a design issue: they insist on putting isolated lugs in critical areas with no webbing to support them or deflect impact.

    The v2 is a definite improvement over the MT1010v1, no question. The upper looks trouble-free, the 'floating arch' is mostly filled in with outsole (yay), but the designers were not aggressive enough in addressing the durability of the sole. I put a full tube of shoegoo into patching the v1 over and over, but not again :)

  6. Michael Jones

    I didn't think the 1010v2 was even released yet. It's not on NB's website or any other retailer's website I could find. Are you sure you haven't been running in a pre-production version that isn't the final release?

  7. Yup

    Really great review of a really great shoe! A couple of things I think Travis forgot to mention that I feel makes this shoe so special is that there's a denser rubber section not only on the midsole side, but the lateral as well. This dense rubber is split in the middle and allows both sides to flex independently while remaining stable for uneven terrain as well as form fatigue. The laces also lace through the top part of the tongue to help keep it in place and keep that seal tight around the foot. I've been doing all my long runs (20+) in this shoe and I'm as neutral as it gets. I love this shoe and I love the feel. It's also my go to light hiker and back packer as well. I've got around 400 miles so far on them and they are still ragging!

  8. yup

    M2 all the way. Im a Cascadia convert and once I finally purchased a pair of the M2s last season I was hooked. Such a better shoe all the way around. Just as stable, just a durable, but way lighter, more flexable (with plenty of lateral and medial support), and you get the seamless upper, the sock like fit, the rounded toe box, the minimal tread (so it kills off road and on road) and breathes so much better then the Casciada. I wore the Cascadia for years and I'll never go back now that I've run in the M2. Its my shoe of choice for 90% of my outings, whether hiking or running. Bomber.

  9. Matthew

    Anyone have any experience of how this shoe performs for low arch or flat foot types with mild (as opposed to motion control levels) over-pronation issues?

  10. Digga

    My guess is that you will want the m2….. Although you may enjoy the easy transition to the n2 since the jump is mild…. Just my two cents..

  11. Digga

    I just got these shoes thanks to this review …. Pretty happy so far can't say very happy til after I go on a 4 hour approx 25 mile run in them, To really judge them …. .. So far very fun to run in…. Downhill is more fun for sure….

  12. Sam

    I'd like to hear about the feel for flat feet as well. One of my arches is so flat I am often bothered by any bump or structure under the arch where it meets the upper.

  13. JFC

    Does anyone have any experience taking the M2 trail on roads as well? Some of the longer routes I run require I spend some intermittent miles on asphalt and I wanted to know how these felt.

    I have been running in the Saucony Xodous until now and have not had any problems, are these more / less cushioned that the Xodous would be?

    Or should I look into the N1 Trail?

  14. Sam

    I'm happy to report these worked great on my super flat feet on my first run. I could slightly feel pressure under my arches when standing flat, but the sensation was gone once I started running. No soreness in the arch area of either foot after finishing the run, which I've experienced with other shoes as well. Equally adept at a root and rock covered single track and a paved path. Great shoe!

  15. John

    I have tried both. My opinion is the 1210s have more cushioning and the uppers are more slipper like and have more room in the toe box. The M2s feel faster, more stable and more responsive. I also like the traction on the M2s better. Overall both are really good shoes.

  16. Paul

    How was the transition from Cascadia (12mil drop) to the M2? Did you have to ease into the lower drop?

    I've worn Cascadias for many years, and two years ago shifted to the women's version which has a smaller toe-box.

  17. Scott

    I could definitely feel that these were a lower drop than the Cascadia, but it was a pretty easy transition. Nothing as extreme as jumping into the PureGrits…

    That said, they aren't as roomy in the toes as I would have liked, or would have expected. I am thinking of getting another pair 1/2 size bigger to change halfway on longer races…

    Overall they are much better than the Cascadias in terms of overall comfort and running.

  18. Stephen

    I've just bought a pair of the M2 but haven't ventured outside the front door with them yet as I'm not sure whether to return them or not.

    They feel great except that while they feel the right length (I take a US11.5), I can feel my big toe pushing against the mesh above it, which is slightly annoying wearing them around the house and will probably just get more annoying on running in them!

    I must confess that I was a bit surprised that there wasn't more toe room generally. I don't have wide feet but the whole fit is very very snug.

    Has anyone else had issues with the toe box being quite low?

    Do the uppers stretch much over time?

    Thanks for any feedback.

  19. Scott

    I had the exact same thing happen, only I'm wearing the N1. I am a 12 and my big toe was pushing against the side. I went up to a 12.5 and the shoe is now my favorite thing ever. The only thing I've had trouble with is some discomfort at the ball of the foot during long runs >15 miles. But the shoe performs awesome. For next season, I'm going to the M2 for that extra cushion for the long runs.

    1. Different Scott

      I ran my first 100 in these shoes, and have to say that they performed phenomenally.

      I usually wear 11.5 running shoes and wore 11.5 M2's. Thanks to everyone above that recommended them to me when I originally asked. They are more lightweight than the Cascadias and SO much more comfortable. They do fit quite snug… I could always feel the toebox against my feet, but I guess that's just the "sock-like" fit.

      I am going to lose a big toenail, but I kicked a lot of rocks, and I think it has more to do with that than any shoe fit issues. That said, I would definitely buy a pair of 12's to have for the back half or quarter of the race when my feet are really swollen.

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