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.
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.
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.
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.
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