VJ Sport MAXx Shoe Review

I get asked a great deal what is the best shoe for trail, ultra and mountain running? Of course, there is never a definitive answer as so many variables come into play – gait, drop, persons weight, running style and so on and so on.

It comes a so secret that VJ Sport make two of the best shoes for running in the mountains, the IRock 2 (here) and the recent XTRM (here).

I thought with the XTRM that VJ had excelled themselves taking all the stunning features of the IRock2 and then adding them to the XTRM and providing a shoe that was better for running longer in the mountains.

The above two shoes were designed in collaboration with OCR and skyrunning World Champion, Jon Albon. The XTRM was specifically designed to meet Jon’s needs when running longer both time and distance.

Well, VJ and Jon have now collaborated again and come up with the MAXx.

Going back to that original question, ‘what is the best shoe for trail, ultra and mountain running?’

My answer will be now, go look at the VJ Sport MAXx first.

I have been in these shoes for a month on all sorts of terrain and they are now the only shoe I am using. VJ have nailed it once again. I don’t know how they do it…

If you like IRock2 and XTRM then the MAXx is just going to be immediately added to your shoe selection and quite simply you will then have a shoe for the following:

  • Fell and short mountain races – IRock2
  • Medium distance mountain and skyrunning – XTRM
  • Long distance mountain ultra, trail and skyrunning – MAXx

To put the above in context, Jon recently raced the 73km Transvulcania on the island of La Palma, he used the MAXx.

Everything that is perfect in the IRock2 and XTRM is replicated here in the MAXx – the only difference coming with the notable bounce and cushioning – I love these shoes!


  • Medium last
  • Rubberized and protective toe cap
  • Rockplate for the length of the shoe
  • Kevlar breathable upper
  • 6mm drop
  • 4mm Butyl rubber outsole
  • Cushioning front 10mm and rear 16mm

Quite simply, VJ Sport make the best outsole for trail, mountain and skyrunning, no other outsole comes close to the sticky compound that VJ create. Many sponsored runners agree, and they use different brands!

The XTRM has 6mm outsole and here on the MAXx we have 4mm – this makes a logical sense to reflect the trail and ultra-objectives of the shoe. So, if you need a shoe for really muddy ground, you will be better off with the XTRM. However, if running long on trail, mountain, snow, ice, rock (wet or dry) then the MAXx is the shoe for you.

Feel when sliding the shoe on is just like the XTRM, the toe box is medium and works perfect for me. Sizing is true to size, I am a UK 9.5 and these are perfect with a thumb nail width above my gig toe. Toe box is wider than the XTRM.The upper is arguably the most durable there is without losing flexibility or breathability. Kevlar is going to outlast the outsole and several years of using VJ shoes, I have never had an upper fail or tear.

FITLOCK is just amazing as I have mentioned previously with the IRock2 and the XTRM. Here the FITLOCK is the same, it pulls in on the middle of the foot creating the most comfortable and secure feel of all shoes I have tried.

Toe box is really substantial and protective and ideal for any mountain race when collision with rocks is a high risk. The heel box is as on all previous VJ shoes, snug and secure.

The cushioning is the marked difference in the shoe, and it is noticeable immediately. I intentionally landed with my heel on some runs and the cushioning compressed beautifully and gave a lovely bounce and push in the transition phase. On road and hard trail, the shoes move along wonderfully and feel a great deal like my Nike Wildhorse (another favourite shoe). The cushioning does not lose feel for the ground though. I still have that contact and sensory perception that is really important for me when running off-road, especially if on technical terrain. Of course, there is less feel than the IRock2 and XTRM. There is more cushioning! On stoney ground, the rock plate is spot on providing that all important protection, especially important when running longer. We can all tolerate a little discomfort for an hour or two, but if running for 4, 5, 6, 7 hours or longer we need more protection and for many, more cushioning.

The great thing about the MAXx is its ability to be an everyday trail/ mountain shoe and this is a huge selling point. The MAXx will work perfectly for racing and everyday trail running, that for me is just perfect.


I said I couldn’t find any faults with the XTRM and the same applies here with the MAXx. In all honesty, I think (for me) the MAXx is now my ‘go-to’ trail/ mountain shoe. The combination of elements makes it perfect. If I was a racing snake, I would line up the IRock2, XTRM and MAXx and decide on a weapon that best suits the race. But I am not, I am runner who loves to play in the mountains and the MAXx is just perfect for 1-hour runs or full-day outings. I think it’s worth noting that races such as the Dragons Back, Cape Wrath Ultra or say, Ultra Tour Monte Rosa when runners must spend long and multiple days in the mountains, the MAXx is perfect for this. This shoe is a complete winner and it is going to take a truly amazing shoe to come along and make me choose it for my mountain/ trail runs in the future. Yes, this VJ Sport MAXx is that good!



VJ was founded in 1981 to produce light weight and fast shoes for orienteers for all circumstances.

During the years we have built up our shoes in every category through feedback and continuous trial runs. Nowadays there are more sports we want to serve but our mission is still the same: we want to offer light weight shoes, which at the same time protect your feet and have #thebestgripontheplanet.

So whether your sport is orienteering, trail running, skyrunning, swimrun or obstacle course racing we are here for you.

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38 thoughts on “VJ Sport MAXx Shoe Review

  1. How would you compare the stickiness of Butyl rubber to the Inov-8 graphene outsoles? And what about durability? This year there should be graphene version of Inov-8 Trailroc 285 and it seems to me that those two shoes will be very similar. I admit that Inov-8 will have probably a bit less durable upper. Unfortunately it’s still hard to find VJ shoes in my country, thus I’m interested in the comparison between VJ and Inov-8 (with graphene). Thanks.

    • Am using the Trailroc at the moment. You must remember that Graphene is a compound that makes the outsole last longer. It’s not the actual grip – it just mixed with the inov-8 outsole. No shoe I have ever used comes close to a VJ. Nothing! The fit of the MAXx and Trailroc is completely different. Any shoe with soft outsole will not last. That is why they grip… So you can’t have both worlds! Of course inov-8 are trying to get around that with Graphene. Spending my own money? VJ every time!

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      • That is the drop between heel and toe, but how tall/high is the heel off the ground (excl./incl. Knots)?

      • I contacted VJ Sport directly about this. XTRM has 20mm heel and 16mm forefoot. They said “…outsole 7mm is soft and also part of the total cushioning…” if that helps at all.

      • Be careful here with heel/ forefoot measurements the XTRM is not 16/20 in reality, you are talking 9/13 if the sole of 7mm is to be considered. The MAXx is a more cushioned shoe, without a doubt, and VJ confirm that cushioning is 10/16 – that is cushioning, not the outsole. So, if you added the 7, it would be 17/ 23.

    • argh Roman, not comparable really. But look, hands down, the VJ MAXx is the best shoe I have ever used IMO. That is a bold claim but the MAXx does all I want and has the best grip on any shoe I have used on rock and wet rock. The added cushion of the MAXx and the drop makes it perfect for everyday and / or racing.

    • Hi Roman. I’ve been weighing up a similar choice – between the Supertrac RCs and the XTRMs. Both look excellent. If it’s any help I contacted an elite runner who has used both and she said “I love them both. VJs best of rock. Scott are a great all round mountain shoe.” So perhaps we have to save up and buy both! And the MAXx too. This hobby is getting expensive…

      • Fo me, no question, the best shoe out there and my ‘go to’ is now the MAXx – If I wanted more grip for shorter runs, then the XTRM. No shoe fits me as well as VJ, the FITLOCK is superb and the outsole is what all other trail shoe makers aspire to.

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  4. Hi Ian, how you doing? I was just wondering about the heel counter of the Maxx, compared to the Irock and the XTRM. I have owned both the Irock and XTRM. I love the fit, feel and grip of both, but struggle with them as I have a very prominent heel on both feet (akin to haglunds), which just rubs intensely after a very short time, even after steam moulding the heel counter, which makes them pretty much unwearable for me. Could you give me an insight into the feel of the heel counter in the Maxx? More/less padding etc. I’d be very happy if I could wear them. Cheers for your time. Ewan

  5. Hi Ian, how’s it going? I was just wondering if you could give me some insight into the fit and feel of the heel counter in the Maxx? I have owned both the Irock2 and the XTRM. I loved the grip and fit of the them, but can’t really wear them due to excessive heel rubbing (I have very prominent heels, akin to haglunds, and even with steam moulding they both rubbed to the point where I can’t wear them). Would you say the Maxx has more/less padding on the heel counter, how does it feel, what’s the shape like etc.? Appreciate your time, cheers, Ewan.

  6. Hi Ian, thanks for your Review!!! How do compare the sizing MAXx to the Xtrm.
    I am fine with a UK 8,5 in my Xrtm and the MAXx would next.

  7. Hi Ian, can you tell me heel to toe stack height?? Shoes are looking great, are they cushioned like Hoka or something like Salomon??

  8. Thanks for the review, I really like the look the VJ shoes but they don’t get much ‘airtime’ on review sites. How would these cope on longer road runs? I need to get a new set of trail shoes for longer fell races on hard ground (my Inov8 Terraclaws and XClaws leave my feet sore) but also need a new set of shoes for my next marathon which is mainly blacktop but does have a few miles of trail including a steep section in the last couple of miles that can be treacherous when wet in road shoes so thought that maybe these could work for that given their weight, cushion and drop. I’m also hoping to do my first Ultra next year that will include a few road sections amongst the mountains.

  9. Thank you Ian for two great reviews on two great shoes made by VJ. I was torn between the Maxx and the XTRM and after I read your review I went with the Maxx. I have been a long time Salomon S/Lab Sense Ultra wearer, but wanting to try something new for a change (not because anything is wrong with Salomon). Can’t wait until they arrive!

    • I know I am replying to my own post, but now that I have run in them a half dozen times I can say that I love these shoes. I cannot say out of the box I felt great comfort, but after two or so runs they came into their own. Super grippy, I am still testing their limits and increasing my comfort zone. They were stiff at first, but now molding more to my feet. I found that I need to lace them pretty snug or my foot pronates in a painful way, my foot kind of rotated in the shoe a bit as I turned a corner, not good. But now with a little more snug lacing that problem disappeared.

  10. Hi Ian,
    Recently I tried the Vj xtrm for my mountain and technical trainings. Couldn’t be any more positively surprised by what these shoes can help you achieve. Wearing size 11.5 UK (I have pretty narrow skinny feet) I was wondering if I should opt for the same size in the Vj maxx or a half size down.

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  15. I have the VJ Xtrm and the grip is insane, also bullet proof uppers, only negative is the colour scheme, and the tongue is a bit thin for my liking. Inov-8 shoes are crap. Sorry

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  17. Bought a pair of VJ MAXx on your recommendation Ian (I also have XTRMs). They arrived yesterday. Today I did 40km on everything from road, muddy paths, rutted stoney tracks to steep ascents on chalk & flint.
    They didn’t disappoint.
    Def my choice as a race day shoe for my upcoming 100k

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