Pearl Izumi N2 Trail - Initial Review
Ever since I joined the Hoka club I've been looking for an out. The Hoka is a lot like eating a twinkie. A Twinkie is soft and comforting and exists solely for one purpose, to satiate a desire for a very specific pastry, the Twinkie itself. It's as if the desire for the snack cake and the cake itself were created in the same instance.
Hokas are soft and comforting and exist to allow a person to run 100 miles without turning their feet and legs into mush. I shouldn't even say 100 miles, races that take someone (namely me) over 24 hours to complete.
I resisted it for a long time, I tried wearing minimal shoes to soak up the ground feel till the ground feel made me want to cry, then I slipped them on. I found that my feet were still destroyed and my plantar fascia remained swollen and loud. Eventually I was a full time user.
My next race (and final 100 for some time) is the Superior Sawtooth 100. I desired a replacement for the Hoka that would provide protection and bounce between a Hoka and my Trailroc 245s but with more agility. After pouring over some reviews I settled on the Pearl Izumi N(uetral stance) 2 (Cushioning Level) Trail (Rugged outsole that enjoys twilight hikes, vegan rice patties, bathing in streams, and the state of Colorado).
Amazon.com had them and with $3 (!!!!) overnight shipping with Amazon prime, I ordered a 9.5. For comparison the best pair of shoes I've ever worn (See "Super Fans" SNL skit) was the New Balance MT110's (Onnnnneeee tens). The 2E Wide 9.5 fit my feet puuurfectly. I think all the Vibram Five Finger running has caused my feet to get ugly and wide as typical width running shoes with "average" toe boxes usually end up with me blowing the seams out the side.
The fit of the N2's is okay, if a bit snug. They actually feel a little more snug than the Hokas. The one big difference being the upper on the N2 feels like it has more give and forms a bit like spandex on the foot. This concerns me a bit when it comes to foot swelling. They definitely feel like less of a shoe then the Hokas (as is to be expected) but the weight doesn't wear any different on the foot.
I took them for a 4.5 mile road + trail romp in my hood. I wasn't really feeling the "bounce back" factor till I started down some hills on pavement and noticed the response from the foam. I ended up blasting the first 1 mile trail loop pretty quick and the shoe felt surprisingly capable. I didn't feel a single rock even when I was trying on a steep downhill. There were almost no instances of turned ankles like I do constantly in the Hokas.
In the beginning my foot was swimming around inside the shoe but I think the insoles are still a little slimy so that is bound to happen. The second lap I did some walking and tightened them up and it was much better. Traction felt good up dirt/rocky hills.
I'll try to get a few more runs in them before Superior but will keep the Hokas in a drop bag in case things turn sour.
Update - Review of the shoe after a hundro - http://selfinflictious.blogspot.com/2013/09/pearl-izumi-trail-n2-100-miler-review.html