We study possible impact of a softening of the equation of state by a phase transition, or appearance of hyperons, on the spin evolution of of isolated pulsars. Numerical simulations are performed using exact 2-D simulations in general relativity. The equation of state of dense matter at supranuclear densities is poorly known. Therefore, the accent is put on the general correlations between evolution and equation of state, and mathematical strictness. General conjectures referring to the structure of the one-parameter families of stationary configurations are formulated. The interplay of the back bending phenomenon and stability with respect to axisymmetric perturbations is described. Changes of pulsar parameters in a corequake following instability are discussed, for a broad choice of phase transitions predicted by different theories of dense matter. The energy release in a corequake, at a given initial pressure, is shown to be independent of the angular momentum of collapsing configuration. This result holds for various types of phases transition, with and without metastability. We critically review observations of pulsars that could be relevant for the detection of the signatures of the phase transition in neutron star cores.