VJ Sport XTRM2 Shoe Review

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A new VJ Sport shoe is always exciting, this time, the XTRM2, which I guess is not really a new shoe but a re-working of a VJ classic. The XTRM has been a popular shoe in the trail, fell and mountain running world for a very long time, sitting in the middle ground of the aggressive iRock and the MAXx.

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The key to any VJ shoe is the outsole and the incredible grip that this outsole provides. The XTRM had 4mm lugs, the same as the MAXx but not as long as the iRock and therefore it was the ideal shoe for say skyrunning.

However, two things were often heard when fellow runners discussed the XTRM:

  1. I just wish there was a little more cushioning.
  2. I wish they could be just a little wider.

Well, the XTRM2 addresses both these issues and brings a couple of newer developments.

THE SHOE

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You should never judge a shoe by how it looks, and yes, some of you may love the look of the new XTRM2, I do not! Red is always great and when combined with black, superb. Look at the VJ Sport iRock HERE – now that is a nice-looking shoe! But this XTRM2 looks like someone had a little too much alcohol and dope in Hawaii and then designed the shoe. It’s a ‘me’ thing. Sorry.

Gladly, I can get past the looks because I know that a VJ Sport shoe will do all that I want and do it well.

As mentioned, the XTRM2 is designed to fit between the iRock, which is a short distance and soft-ground shoe and the MAXx which is a longer distance trail/ mountain shoe. Of course, there is now the ULTRA too. That is for the long stuff.

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Quite simply, if you loved the XTRM, the XTRM2 is going to make you smile. I had no issues with the original version, however, straight out of the box I welcomed the extra cushioning and the slightly rounder, more spacious toe box.

Drop is 4mm with 10mm cushioning at the front and 14mm at the rear. For perspective, the iRock has 8/14mm and the MAXx 12/18mm.

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With a reshaped last, CMEVA cushioning and a rock plate, the XTRM2 is the perfect mountain/ skyrunning shoe.

Pulling the shoe on there is a notable difference with the tongue, it is fastened on both sides. One of the issues in the previous XTRM and MAXx for that matter, was the tongue would move when running – often moving to the left or the right. This has now been addressed and in all my test runs so far, the tongue has remained in place and secure.

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Fitlock is a VJ Sport secret weapon and is one of the USP’s of the VJ brand. Once you have put your foot in the shoe, as you tighten the laces, the Fitlock grabs hold of the instep/ arch and holds it tight and secure – exactly what is required in mountainous and technical terrain when you need the shoe to be precise. With the more spacious XTRM2 toe box, this new Fitlock is even more welcome. I was initially worried if I would lose some of the precise feel at the front end, not so, the Fitlock compensates.

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The lacing is classic with 6 eyelets and the addition of a 7th eyelet on both sides should you require to lock lace or similar. There is reinforcement here ensuring that the laces can be pulled tight without causing any issue to the upper.

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The upper is Swiss Schoeller Keprotec® which is more durable than previous incarnations of the XTRM and it is also more pliable, allowing it to fit the foot better. Look at the old XTRM HERE – I reviewed this shoe back in 2018. Notably look how different the upper is… The original XTRM had many reinforced panels on the upper with a solid extension from the toe box and heel area. It’s a major change. I wondered, by contrast, if the new XTRM2 would feel less secure and sloppy – no. Foot hold has been excellent. The upper is excellent and repels moisture, water and mud.

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The heel area is slightly padded but not excessively, importantly it holds the foot and there is no slipping when climbing.

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Toe protection is adequate but could maybe be a little more? Certainly, in a skyrunning scenario when rocks, boulders and hard mixed terrain will be encountered.

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The outsole is a notable difference, the previous XTRM had 4mm lugs, they have now been increased to 6mm and in doing so, they now match the iRock. This is a key and notable change. For me, I would now only need an XTRM2 and MAXx (which has 4mm lugs). I do appreciate though, that the narrower and more precision fit of the iRock would be preferable for some.

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The outsole pattern is newly designed to optimize grip on all terrains and with the 6mm lugs, you now have an outsole that can handle softer ground. There is little to say about the grip of the outsole, VJ have the tagline ‘bestgripontheplanet’ and it is. No outsole from any other brand matches the grip, wet or dry, of a VJ outsole. However, be warned, that grip comes from a wonderful soft and grippy superior contact – it will not last and last and if you run too much road, that longevity will be reduced greatly. You cannot have amazing outsole grip and long life.

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There is a torsional rigidity in the shoe that is very noticeable when running on uneven and rocky terrain. If you have the Fitlock laced up and tight, the XTRM2 gives superb precision.

Flex and life are superb, and the propulsive phase is superb. There is a real ping behind the metatarsals when pushing off.

Weight is incredible, VJ list 250g for a UK8. My UK10 is 289g.

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I am always a UK9.5 in test shoes, however, I have noticed with extended use in VJ that I have often wished I had gone a half-size larger, so, with the XTRM2 and SPARK (review to follow) I decided to go to UK10. It was a good choice; I have found that extra space welcome. So, you may want to check this when purchasing.

CONCLUSION

Fitlock and a VJ outsole and you have a perfect shoe when precision and grip are required. The XTRM2 with a new upper, a new last, more cushioning and lugs increased to 6mm, and you now have the perfect trail/mountain and skyrunning shoe for short to middle distance. There are few shoes out there that can compete with VJ when this combination of elements is required. It is highly recommended.

Are there any negatives? I found prolonged running on hard surfaces (gravel road a good example) eventually tiring, but that is no real surprise. The outsole is soft and sticky and if you use on the wrong terrain, it will not last. I really dislike the look of the shoe, which is a petty thing to say, but the ‘look’ could put some people off before ever having the chance to run in the shoe and then find out how good it is. However, I may be alone in finding the look displeasing?

Ultimately, the XTRM2 is a superb shoe with incredible fit and grip.

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inov-8 Roclite Pro G 400 Gore-Tex Review

Runner’s strive for the best of all worlds in one shoe – lightweight, feel for the ground, cushioning, support, lack of support, grip in mud, grip on rock, low drop, high drop, grip in the wet and the list goes on and on. The reality is, there are few run shoes that will be a ‘one stop’ package and this why so many variables exist. 

When possible, we choose specific shoes for a specific task.

Boots are not something that a runner would usually look at unless going on a specific hike. Even then, if moving fast and light, a good durable run shoe is usually preferable.

G370 boot at the summit of Galdhøpiggen, Norway.

In 2018, I was once again planning a fastpacking trek in the Himalayas but this time, my journey would take place in December. Previous trips had taken place in November and more often than not I had used the inov-8 Trail Talon which was perfect for long days. December in the Himalayas and I knew I would encounter snow and on occasion would need to use micro-crampons. I was reluctant, very reluctant, to use a boot, especially for long days… Too heavy, too cumbersome, too stiff and the list goes on.

I was introduced the Roclite 345 GTX with Graphene grip and the 325 GTX boot. These boots were a revelation providing all the feel, grip and upper of a conventional run shoe but with the addition of ankle support that was designed in a way that would facilitate running with very little compromise.

In 2019 and in 2020 I have been using the Roclite G370 for specific trips, by way of example, the Himalayas in November, Toubkal in Morocco (January) and the mountains of Norway for occasional trips when snow and tough conditions would challenge. A prime example being the highest summit of Norway, Galdhøppigen at 2469m with snow conditions. With 6mm studs, 9mm drop, 9/18mm cushioning front and rear and only weighing 388g for an EU44.5 (I went 0.5 size bigger than usual to allow for winter socks.) These have proven to be great boots when I needed more warmth, grip and comfort in extreme conditions without compromising a run shoe feel. They are highly recommended!

When I heard about the Roclite Pro G 400 I was immediately interested.

On first impressions this version of the Roclite does not look like any previous Roclite that has come before, the look and feel is completely different, especially in the stealth black look. Almost looks like a boot for the SAS or Special Forces. 

Weighing in at 421g for an EU44 the boot is also more substantial than previous incarnations. But I need to clarify here that the new Roclite Pro G 400 is designed for a different purpose in my opinion. It is much more akin to a normal hiking boot but at a fraction of the weight.

The fit scale is 4 just like the Roclite G 370 listed above, however, I would disagree here. The G370 is more of a 3 fit and the new G 400 a 4. There is a distinct difference in feel between the two boots, the G400 most definitely allowing for more toe splay.

Drop is 8mm which is ideal for long days, the lugs are 6mm which provide great grip on a multitude of surfaces, especially with the addition of Graphene which extends outsole longevity. Cushioning is notably plush with 12mm at the from and 20mm at the rear.

Like the G 370, the G 400 is Gore-Tex and this does a great job of protecting against the elements, especially wet, mud and snow. The weak point is always where the shoe stops and quite simply, if water or snow goes over the top of the shoe, you will get wet feet. This is where Gore-Tex can be a problem; there is no way for the water to escape! Therefore, a key recommendation, from experience, is to use Merino socks that manage to retain heat and warmth when wet. Use Nylon socks and you risk cold/ wet feet. Merino wicks sweat excellently too… Also, a risk with a Gore-Tex product as they are obviously warmer.

The upper uses Schoeller® ceramic-coated fabric which is an abrasion-proof, heat resistant fabric which sees ceramic particles – said to be as hard as diamonds – coated onto polymers for applications in the likes of protective, outdoor and military apparel. In simple terms, this fabric is incredibly durable to the wear and tear that one would encounter in extreme and harsh environments.

NOTABLE POINTS

There are many notable differences in comparison to the G370 and like I said previously, I see the two boots having different uses with some crossovers.

The G370 for me still feels like a run shoe. It laces up like a run shoe, feel for the ground is like a run shoe and the overall structure is more shoe like – there is less shoe if you know what I mean.

The G400 is considerably more robust in key areas:

The toe bumper is harder and more substantial.

The laces start higher up the shoe keeping the all-important flex area behind the metatarsals free.

The lace eyelets are solid/ robust metal with 5 on each side, the upper 2 have the inov-8 foot on, a nice touch!

The tongue is gusseted and maybe(?) a little more padded.

The heel protection is more substantial and padded.

Support for the heel area is considerably more reinforced and spreads down the left and right side of the shoe.

Cushioning is increased.

The outsole is completely different.

The G400 is a lightweight hiking boot that manages to combine all the great features of the previous models and then beef them up in a more robust package.

IN USE

The G400 works alongside one of the other Roclite boot models, be that the G 286, G 335, G 345 or the G 370 but does not replace them. Important to consider that the choice provided (G 286, G 335, G 345 or the G 370) all have different drops, fit, uppers and cushioning, so, that is also an important factor.

The G 400 is just a great all-round boot that is light enough for fast hiking, fastpacking, daily jaunts and day-to-day adventures. It manages to combine all the features and support of a boot double the weight. By way of example, I have a pair of lightweight Haglofs which are still over 100g heavier per shoe without the level of protection the G 400 offers.

I have been using the zero drop Terraultra G270 run shoe and although the outsole configuration is different, the grip is comparable with comprises coming in very sloppy mud – the lugs are just not aggressive enough for these conditions and I would not expect them to be. This outsole needs to perform on a multitude of surfaces, and it does that exceptionally well.

The cushioning is very notable and on a couple of long days this proved to be really welcome, especially with the 8mm drop.

The shoe has ‘Meta-Flex’ which is designed to allow the front of the shoe to bend behind the metatarsals for that all-important propulsive phase. In the G 370 this works really well with plenty of flex. The G 400 less so. The sole is much stiffer, and it is here that there is a notable difference between say the G370 and the G 400 and why the G 370 feels more like a run shoe and the G 400 like a boot.

Sliding one’s foot into the shoe, it feels plush and the room in the toe box is notable. The lacing is fixed for the first 3 eyelets and the top 2 are open allowing ease for tightening, loosening or different lacing configurations. With the laces pulled tight and adjusted around the ankle, the foothold is spot on and the padding is superb. The back of the shoe drops away slightly avoiding risk of irritation on the achilles.

The back end of the shoe is beefy with a great deal of support to help reduce ankle roll. This is really noticeable to the G370 which has minimal additional support. Again, this is the run shoe v boot comparison.

CONCLUSIONS

The G 400 is a really great boot that is absolutely ideal for long mountain days when you need all the support and features of a traditional boot but in a considerably lighter package. It has great grip, durable upper, great comfort and superb weight. It’s hard to find a fault, especially when one compares to the competition.

Despite all of the above, the G 400 would not replace my G 370’s which feel lighter, faster and more like a run shoe.

Quite simply, I am in the fortunate position to have both and I can gladly mix between the two.

So, if you can only buy one, which should you go for?

If you are primarily a runner looking for a durable winter solution for all elements that will allow you to still run and cover ground fast, then one of the G 286, G 335, G 345 or G 370 models will more than likely be preferable. Make sure you check cushioning, drop and other key features.

If you are a hiker or fastpacker who will do a little running, the G400 would be a better choice and serve you for a multitude of uses.

Ultimately, whichever way you go you will win. The inov-8 boots have worked well for me for the last 2-years and the new G 400 is working exceptionally well now alongside my G 370’s.

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