Michael Sommers is a Tennesse native who works as an in-house attorney for BBC-Chartering, but likes to spend his extra time training for triathlons and trail running in the Smoky Mountains. He also writes for the Try Hard Club, an online journal that focuses on community, inspiration, & intention. Follow them on Instagram: @try.hard.club.
If you typically run in a neutral and/or minimalist shoe on the trails and the thought of running in a pair of high-profile kicks seems like a bad idea, think again. The Trail N3 is a highly cushioned trail runner that belongs in everyone’s quiver of running shoes. As an aside, I highly recommend owning running shoes for specific purposes. This not only allows your shoe’s internals to recover between runs, extending the life and performance of your shoe, but you can also reap the benefits of owning shoes built for specific purposes i.e. racing, short distance, and long distance training.
My go-to trail shoe has been the E:Motion series by Pearl Izumi for the past couple of years. I’ve never given high-profile shoes like the Hoka One One and N3 a chance, but curiosity got the best of me.
In short, this shoe has found a place in my above mentioned quiver of running shoes. The Pearl Izumi N3 is not overly bulky, it’s wonderful for long runs, you maintain your feel of the trail, and you can really smash technical down hills late in a long run when your feet start to tire. Now let’s get into the specifics.
Sizing: Pearl Izumi shoes, in my opinion, are true to size across the line. I typically wear a 10.5 in all running shoes including Pearl Izumi.
I’ve put about 100 miles on these shoes and the upper shows no sign of wear. I’ve run in the N1’s and N2’s for years and the upper seems to hold up really well. The first tear you will see will be the side where your pinky toe sits. Don’t worry, this tear won’t show up for a few hundred trail miles.
Ok, so I’ve been a minimalist runner when it comes to shoes for quite a while now. But now that I’ve integrated the N3 into my rotation for long runs I’m not going back. To be honest, I didn’t think I would ever wear a shoe with high platforms, but it turns out that the extra cushioning coupled with the integrated rock plate are a huge factor in helping keep up the intensity late in a long run.
- As I said before, the N3 provides a substantial, but balanced amount of cushioning which allows you to really attack downhill portions late in a long run when your feet are tired. The extra weight compared to the N2 is minimal, and for me, outweighed by the benefits.
- I’ve found that the high-profile design has no noticeable effect on my feel for the trail on technical ground. I mainly run in East Tennessee, also known as “Rocky Top” and have felt reasonably stable on loose rocks and roots.
- In addition to long training runs, the N3 is also good for your slow, shorter runs, since they provide extra cushioning
I personally wouldn’t use the shoe for all of my workouts because I believe they are best suited for long and/or easy runs, but because I like to give my shoes a day’s rest to allow the foam to recover, this trainer has found a lasting spot in my closet. If you’re not into having more than one pair of running shoes, then this shoe may be a little much. But hey, that may not be a bad thing if you don’t mind the extra weight, or are solely training for ultras.
If you currently own, or plan on owning, two or more pairs of running shoes, I recommend adding the N3 to your collection. It’s great for long distances (10+ mile runs) because they keep your feet fresh late in the game so you can maintain your intensity through your run.