The best thing about being sponsored by a shoe store rather than a shoe company is the chance to try out a plethora of trail shoes. Team 7 Hills is being sponsored by Pearl Izumi, Scott and Hoka One One. Phil gave me a pair of Pearl Izumi N2 Trail shoes to try out.
The uppers are plush. Nice fit across the top of the foot and a lacing pattern which makes sense. The bumpy lumpy laces actually seem to work and do not untie. The N2 has a low drop and a bit of a rockered front of the shoe leading to a roll off the forefoot. I find both very nice and they lend themselves to a quicker turnover than a flat format. The only rub I've heard about the N2 Trail is in the stability on slippery downhills. In my testing I found this to be somewhat true. The tread design works great on wet uphills but the knobs seem to be a one way gripper and give ground on sodden downslopes.
My overall opinion of the Pearl Izumi N2 Trail is positive. I really enjoy running in this shoe and would recommend it to serious trail runners. It is light and responsive and would rock on a dry course.
The downside of my experience with the N2 is the squeak. I have had two pairs of shoes in my life which have developed a squeak. My pair of Pearl Izumis developed a squeak in the left shoe after about 20 miles. I love this shoe when I am wearing headphones but without all I can think about is what is causing the squeak. I think it is a production flaw in the rubber. Even off my foot, bending the shoe, you can hear the difference in the sound. Odd. I had a pair of Hoka Stinson Trail Shoes I wore at Wasatch last year which also developed a squeak only on the right shoe. Even my pacers started to be driven somewhat mad by the ever present sound.
I would compare the P.I. N2 to the Scott Kinabalu in nimbleness and support. Both great for races up to 50 miles.
Thanks again to 7 Hills Running Shop, Phil and Pearl Izumi for the opportunity to test drive these shoes. Next up, the remodeled Scott Kinabalu 2.0.