'Pearl Izumi's road-derived shoe is light, cushioned and stable, but it's happiest on smooth, firm trails rather than knobbly stuff'
Outdoors Magic: Comfortable, roomy and easy rolling wth bundle of cushioning, the shoe doesn't feel as big and clumsy as it looks.
Outdoors Tragic: Wobbly on knobbly ground, light tread struggles with slipperiness, slightly clumsy.
Outdoors Grabbit? Light, cushioned and easy rolling with loads of forefoot space, the EM Trail N3 is fine on firm, even trails, but feels tottery and clumsy on gnarlier stuff. Doesn't like softer, slippery surfaces either.
Lightweight trail shoe / Transfer Dry mesh upper / Energy Foam cushioning / ESS forefoot rock plate / Dynamic offset outsole / seamless upper construction with lightweight reinforcement
Full Review Below
EM Trail N3 Shoe - The Tech
Pearl Izumi's background is in road running and the EM Trail N3 is derived from a road running shoe, but with the addition of a grippier outsole and a protective stone-plate under the forefoot.
There's plenty of Energy Foam midsole cushioning - some 30mm at the heel no less - for a softer ride and a state-of-the-art seamless upper with the usual, lightweight protective overlay.
It's also worth noting that the heel's well supported and flared outwards slightly for better stability.
EM Trail N3 Shoe - Performance
The shoe may look big and bulky, but it's actually relatively light. It's comfortable too with the seamless foam and mesh upper giving a really snug, secure heel fit, but with masses of room from the wide toe-box and forefoot.
All that extra volume should suit ultra-runners as well as those with wider feet. Also great for long distances is the soft, cushioned ride. It feels more like a road shoe on hard surfaces with an easy, comfortable, rolling ride and it was ideal for pottering along tow-paths and short stretches of trail-linking tarmac.
We found the shoe less happy on nobbly, uneven, stony surfaces like cobbles, where the shoe felt wobbly and teetery and on fast, rocky, technical descents, they had a bit of a disconcerting 'clown shoe' vibe thanks to the broad sole.
Finally, the lightly treaded outsole, while decently grippy on firm to medium stuff, didn't gel so well on soft and slippery ground, so maybe not idea for grassy UK winter trail runs.
If you think of the Pearl Izumi EM Trail N3 Shoe as an moderately trail-friendly, luxuriously cushioned road shoe with an added stone-plate you won't be far off. The shoe's happiest on firm to medium even surfaces, where the easy roll and cushy ride plus comfortable fit work really well.
The further you get from terra firma though, the less at home it feels. On knobbly surfaces it's tottery and imprecise, in mud, it's slippery. So if you're after a shoe for rockier, more rugged trails or softer ground, there are better options out there, even with cushioning.