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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VJ SARVA ICEHERO Review

When it comes to grip, there are no better shoes than VJ Sport. If you follow my shoe reviews, you will know that I rave about VJ continually with three key features: Grip, comfort and foot-hold. The iRock, XTRM, MAXx and the recent Ultra offer something for all and they come highly recommended with grip, cushioning and fit to suit you and your needs.

When it comes to winter running, VJ have also been integral in my shoe choice using the Xante and the Xero 5, both shoes offering key VJ features with the addition of winter studs for grip on ice. Both these shoes I gave rave reviews BUT, in both cases, the shoes (for me) were just a little too narrow. If I wore normal socks, no problem, but in winter I often use thicker socks, 2-pairs of socks or even a waterproof sock such as a Sealskinz. Of course, I could go up a half-size but that does not always work as it can impact on the feel, foothold and flex of the shoe.

With the above in mind, for 2022, VJ have released two new shoes. The VJ Sarva ICEHERO and the VJ Sarva Devil 5. In this review we will look at the ICEHERO and later I will review the Devil 5.

VJ SARVA DEVIL 5

Simple comparison stats:

The new VJ Sara DEVIL 5 has less cushioning, 16mm/ 10mm (6mm drop) has slightly more aggressive lugs at 5mm, 17 studs and the same fit scale of 4.

The new VJ Sarva ICEHERO has 21mm/ 13mm cushioning (8mm drop), 4mm lugs, 18 studs and a fit scale of 4.

VJ SARVA ICEHERO

Light-weight, cushioned, wider fit, great foothold and superb comfort, the VJ Sarva ICHERO takes the previous Xante and Xero models to a new level.

For comparison, the Xero had 18mm/ 10mm cushioning (8mm drop) and the Xante had 20mm/ 10mm (10mm drop) with both shoes using 20 studs for secure winter grip.

The new ICEHERO has 2 less studs (18 in total), 8mm drop with 21mm/ 13mm cushioning and more importantly, a considerably wider toe box (4 on the fit scale) which makes them ideal for winter allowing the user to utilize warmer and thicker socks to ensure warm feet.

But the changes don’t stop there. VJ have somehow made the shoe lighter, 285g for an EU 44 which feels superb.

Those who have used VJ before will know how amazing the foothold is from FITLOCK, a feature on all VJ shoes. No other shoes hold the instep like Fitlock providing a tight and secure feel under the arch of the foot which at the same time offers support and stability. It makes the shoes feel like part of the foot.

Known for amazing Butyl rubber, VJ’s SCR (Superior Contact Rubber) is the best on any terrain, be that wet or dry. Winter (particularly ice) brings new challenges and therefore, like other brands, VJ add metal studs to the outsole to ensure grip in the most challenging terrain. VJ’s studs are star shaped and comparison to other studs, they offer increased grip due to extra corners.

No shoes are perfect and, in the past, VJ uppers have shown some wear, particularly in the flex area behind the metatarsals (a common weak area in many shoes) which has torn. This has been addressed with a new upper made of Nylon and Aramid Fibers which VJ say will provide greater durability even in heavy use. A water repellent mesh finishes of the shoe.

IN USE

The colour way for men is classy Black/Yellow/White and the female version is an eye-catcher Pink/Purple.

Slipping the shoes on you have the immediate VJ comfort and then very quickly you notice the wider toe box. They feel great out of the box and are true to size. In comparison to my Xero and Xante the length is the same but the 4 fit almost makes the shoe feel a half-size larger. Exactly what I was hoping for and wanted!

The cushioning is notable as is the low weight.

Lacing up, the Fitlock takes hold, and they quite simply just encapsulate your foot giving the most secure feeling. The option to lock-lace is welcome with the additional eyelets at the top. Lacing is personal, but I find in a winter shoe, I want the laces tight and really holding the foot. The laces gladly stop early allowing great flex at the front and not inhibiting the important propulsive phase.

There is a good toe bumper offering adequate protection.

The heal box as with nearly all VJ’s is minimal put offers great hold and no slipping, especially when climbing.

Out on the trails running in soft snow, ice and a plethora of mixed terrain, the ICEHERO does exactly what you’d expect – they grip everything! When required, the Superior Contact rubber takes over when the studs have done their required job providing the best of both worlds.

The added cushioning makes them ideal for longer outings, particularly when running on harder trails or continuous ice. The comfort level is high… Not something that is usual for winter shoes.

While not waterproof, the upper does keep some water out but I quickly found (as per normal) that Merino socks and/or a Sealskinz waterproof sock offers the best combination especially when running in deep snow. Nothing worse than cold feet.

You need to trust studded shoes and once you do, you will just love running in winter conditions. Don’t be shy, make sure you plant your foot firmly and let the studs with the addition of applied body weight allow the shoe to grip.

SUMMARY

Winter shoes for many are a luxury, it all depends on how much snow or ice you get. If you do get regular ice, a specific bespoke shoe for winter running is so much better than any ‘add-on’ micro spikes.

The ICEHERO has taken what was a great shoe, the Xero, and added more cushioning, a wider toe box and made a lighter shoe. It’s a winner!

Few brands offer specific winter shoes and the VJ SARVA ICEHERO are leading the way for grip and comfort and without doubt, they have become one of two pairs of my ‘go-to’ winter shoes. Highly recommended.

What are the others?

The ASICS Gel Fujisetsu 3 G-TX is a heavier shoe, has less studs, has 10mm drop and more cushioning, 28mm/ 18mm and it’s a great winter shoe. It’s worth a look.

Please support this website. I believe everyone deserves to read quality, independent and factual articles – that’s why this website is open to all. Free press has never been so vital. I hope I can keep providing independent articles with your help. Any contribution, however big or small, is so valuable to help finance regular content. Please support me on Patreon HERE.

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VJ Sport XANTE Winter Running Shoe

VJ Sport XANTE

Winter often creates apathy in many a runner. Especially when the white stuff starts to fall from the sky and when the temperatures drop, ice is not the friend of a runner. It actually forces many to turn indoors for cross training or treadmill running as the fear of cold and a potential fall is not something to be contemplated.

There is no such thing as cold. Just bad clothing. Winter is actually a great time to run, so, don’t be put off. Read an article HERE for inspiration.

Shoe choice however is a serious consideration for winter, and it may come as a surprise to find out that brands such as VJ Sport produce specific winter running shoes.

Combing the best elements of the XTRM and MAXx trail and mountain running shoes, VJ Sport have produced the XANTE, the ultimate winter off-road running shoe when snow and ice play a key factor on a run.

Xante has 20 metal studs and 5mm lugs.

Just like the MAXx which is designed for a more cushioned ride with a slightly roomier fit (fit scale 4) for long miles, the XANTE brings cushioning 10mm front and 20mm front (10mm/ 16mm on the MAXx,) 5mm lugs (4mm on the MAXx) and the addition of 20 carbon steel studs to guarantee grip in the trickiest conditions. While there is room in the toe box, it is not super-wide as this would compromise on what makes VJ great off-road shoes; precision! However, in comparison to say iRock or XTRM, there is a little more room for toe splay.

VJ Sport Xante with Nylon/ Polyamide upper.

The upper is Nylon/ Polyamide and although not 100% waterproof, it is designed to protect against the wind, wet and extreme conditions one will encounter during winter months. It is extremely durable and resilient, as with all trail shoes, cleaning after use will ensure that they last longer.

Fitlock offers the best foot hold of any shoe I have used.

As with the iRock, XTRM and MAXx, the XANTE uses FITLOCK which of all the run shoes I have used, provides the most secure and reassuring hold of one’s foot. It feels like a part of the foot and not something extra. This is especially important when running on any technical terrain. You do not want any question marks when it comes to foot hold and precision. Integrated with the shoes lacing system, the FITLOCK tightens the shoe on the inside of the arch and provides incredible hold. It’s the best there is!

5mm lugs and 20 studs.

VJ have the tag line, #bestgripontheplanet and anyone who has used a VJ shoe for mountain, ultra or trail running confirms, the Butyl outsole VJ produce really is the best out there. It grips pretty much anything, wet or dry and the addition of the 20 metal studs provides the ultimate reassurance for tricky winter conditions. The secret of winter running is to trust the shoe, the outsole and the studs.

Superior contact.

The XANTE requires you to run with confidence and it’s the reassured application of your body weight pressing through the shoe and making contact with the ground that provides the grip. The more confident you are, the better the shoe grips. Taking inspiration from the car industry, the carbon steel studs are not round, but star shaped thus guaranteeing better grip in trickier scenarios. Protection to sharp objects and rocks is superb.

At 300g for UK 8, the XANTE is a light shoe. My UK9.5 (EU44) is 330g.

The 10/20 mm cushioning is plush and welcomed. Winter running, particularly on hard packed snow or ice can be tiring, especially with a studded shoe. The XANTE manages to combine the best of both worlds and although a 10mm drop may seem high, especially these days, it does provide a more relaxed run without a compromise on grip or the ability to handle technical trail.

Sizing is true to size; I use an EU 44 for all VJ shoes and the XANTE sizes the same. I rarely size larger for shoes and the XANTE adequately takes a Merino sock which guarantees foot warmth even when wet.

A solid toe bumper.

The toe bumper is reinforced and offers great protection against obstacles and elements without adding bulk. The heel box on all VJ shoes is relatively minimal and unpadded, the XANTE is no difference. The hold is superb. I get no slipping or movement, even when going up the steepest of hills.

Summary:

If you have used VJ before, particularly iRock, XTRM or MAXx you will already be sold on the XANTE. In terms of comparison, the MAXx is the closest to feel but the grip and foothold is across the board superb. The cushioning is superb for longer winter runs, particularly on ice. The studs just grip – superb! The 10mm drop is relaxed and works well, out of choice, I would have preferred 8mm, but it is a minor quibble.

Should the XANTE offer too much, the XERO 5 is worth looking at. This has a slightly narrower fit (3) less cushioning, 10mm/18mm (8mm drop) and still has 20 studs and 5mm lugs.

If you have not used VJ before, do yourself a favour and try them out.

If you have not used winter shoes before, take the plunge. A specific winter shoe will suddenly open up running opportunities that did not exist before.

Please support this website. I believe everyone deserves to read quality, independent and factual articles – that’s why this website is open to all. Free press has never been so vital. I hope I can keep providing independent articles with your help. Any contribution, however big or small, is so valuable to help finance regular content. Please support me on Patreon HERE

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