Robust, solid, great looking, aggressive outsole, Fitlock, good lacing, toe protection, red and black and the iRock 3 follows on from the iRock 2 with another winning shoe.
Quite simply, VJ Sport make the best outsole for trail and mountain running of any shoes I have used. They are what I compare all other shoes to, and still, several years on from testing the original iRock, no shoes have come close to giving the grip of a VJ.
The IRock was followed with the XTRM (review HERE) and then the MAXx (review HERE). Quite simply, when you line the iRock, XTRM and MAXx you have three shoes that cover all the needs from soft, sloppy and muddy trails to the harder, longer, more rocky trails of a longer trail and ultra-race. Be it fell running, skyrunning or ultra-trail, VJ have with the iRock, XTRM and the MAXx the perfect shoes for each terrain.
The IROCK 3 is a precision fit shoe with a narrow toe box. They are designed to hold and compress the foot so that there is no movement when running. Think of them as ballet shoes. You squeeze your feet in, benefit from the precision and hold when running and when done, you take your foot out and let it relax again. Of course, for some, they IROCK will just be too narrow. VJ list the fit as a 2. For comparison, the XTRM is a 2 maybe 3? and the MAXx a 4.
14mm cushioning at the rear and 8mm at the front gives a 6mm drop.
The outsole (Superior Contact -kumipohja) is the hero of the shoe with 6mm lugs of super grippy butyl that works like a dream in wet or dry conditions.
Weighing 240g (UK8) the shoes are like Formula 1 cars for the trails and as such, they are not a shoe for everyday outings.
The upper is bullet proof with a mixture of DuPont Kevlar and Nylon and the other notable element of the VJ shoe, be that IROCK, XTRM or MAXx is the Fitlock which holds the foot like no other shoe. In addition there are overlays stitched on to add additional support.
Toe box is reinforced with a solid bumper. The heel area is minimally padded but fits like a glove and holds the foot secure.
Lacing is very secure, and the tongue is reinforced and made of a very durable and flexible material.
Solid build, aggressive outsole and great looks. This is a shoe for shorter outings, racing or training, when grip is paramount, especially in soft-ground and snow. It’s a favourite for orienteers, skyrunning and OCR.
So, what is different from the IROCK 2?
Improved toe protection, lighter Fitlock system and improved laces.
The IROCK3 is not a jack of all trades, this shoe has a specific purpose.
I wrote about the IROCK 2 – “The easiest way to explain this is by looking at say, Formula 1. You wouldn’t go to Monaco Grand Prix and race in an MPV car, a saloon car or a bus, you’d have a very specific vehicle, low to the ground with incredible speed and awesome agility with incredible grip. The IROCK2 is the Formula 1 for fell and mountain running.”
That stands true today and why VJ made the XTRM and MAXx to offer more comfort and less aggressive grip.
Road is not a friend of the IROCK, or should I say, the outsole. Too much road between trails will wear that soft rubber down quickly, so, it is best avoided as much as possible.
Needless to say, VJ’s hashtag of #bestgripontheplanet is not a lie. VJ really do offer the best grip and the IROCK is flawless in soft ground, on rocky trails and in the mountains. It makes no difference if wet or dry, they just grip like no other shoe. In mud, particularly soft mud, they dig in like football boots offering the best grip I have encountered.
Fit is precision. Once laced up and tightened. You feel the Fitlock hold the middle of the foot, add support to the arch and when switching direction on the trail, there are no question marks or doubts. The IROCK holds the foot rock solid.
At the front, the toe box is precision, but it is not super, super tight. I can happily run in the IROCK for multiple hours in comfort.
Feel for the ground is excellent and of course, the cushioning is relatively minimal keeping that all important contact with the surface so that one can respond to the terrain. Worth noting, this shoe is designed for soft ground, so, much of the cushioning can actually come from the ground that you are running on too.
In many respects, I am surprised the IROCK is 6mm drop. It works for me and I am happy, however, for a shoe designed to be fast and low, I am surprised it is not 4mm?
The fit is neutral and true to size. I am a EU44 and the IROCK is perfect in that size.
On the trail I feel the Fitlock and heel box working together holding the foot, be that in soft mud or running up rocks. The grip is superb.
Slabs of wet rock even covered in water do not make me question if the IROCK will be secure. I just run as normal and let the outsole do the work.
The combination of durability, fit, cushioning, precision and unmatched grip confirms what I said in 2017 about the IROCK 2, they are the best fell/ mountain and short distance skyrunning shoes out there!
Mud, rock, fell in wet or dry conditions, the IROCK 3 is the most complete mountain shoe I have used over shorter distances.
VJ Sport have been making secret weapons for the orienteering world for many years, but now the secret is out.
VJ are now seen at OCR races, Skyrunning, fell races and with the addition of the MAXx, we are even seeing them at ultra-trail.
If grip, foothold, precision and light weight are priorities for soft, muddy and wet ground, the IROCK 3 is for you!
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