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.
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 Sport HERE
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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