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.

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VJ Sport Xero 5 Winter Studded Shoe Review

If you read my shoe reviews on this website, you will already know how much I appreciate VJ Sport shoes, the trio of iRock3, XTRM and MAXx for me, set the bar when it comes to running shoes for mud, rock and mountain terrain. I have yet to find shoes by any other brand that matches them… Admittedly, Scott and inov-8 do come close with some recent offerings, in particular the Supertrac RC2 and the Terraultra G270.

In October 2020 I reviewed the Xante by VJ Sport, a winter studded shoe that excelled in snow and ice bringing all the many attributes seen in the MAXx and providing an awesome winter shoe. My only negative of the shoe was a 10mm drop BUT in all honesty, it never impacted on my running experience. I did mention however that a lighter, 8mm drop shoe was available, the XERO 5.

The Xante was a fit 4 with 10mm/20mm cushioning and 20 carbon steel studs, 5mm lugs and weighs in at 336g for my EU44/ UK9.5.

The Xero 5 is a fit 3 with 10mm/18mm cushioning and 20 carbon steel studs, 5mm lugs and weighs in at 294g for my EU44/ UK9.5. A significant weight saving between the two shoes considering the cushioning is only marginally different.

Further Reading:

Ice Running HERE

Winter Running HERE

Embrace Winter HERE

Winter Camping & Fastpacking HERE

The XERO 5 first off looks great in black and orange with a hint of red. Although listed as a fit 3, I personally have found little difference between the Xante and Xero and in all honesty, I would even say the Xero may be a little wider in the toe box? Feels more like a MAXx.

Light, agile and responsive, the Xero are a real pleasure to run in and not at the compromise of comfort.

Like the Xante, the upper is windproof and has a water-resistant upper but it is not insulated. While insulation is not absolutely necessary, it does make more sense, particularly for a winter shoe. Having said that, I compensate by using neoprene socks by inov-8 or Sealskinz. This ensures warm feet, even in the coldest and trickiest conditions.

VJ uses FITLOCK on the upper which provides the most secure and reassuring hold. The upper feels like a part of the foot and not something extra making sure there is no unwanted movement, especially important when running on any technical terrain. 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!

The 5mm Butyl outsole lugs grip both in the wet or dry and the addition of the 20 carbon steel studs provides the ultimate reassurance when running in snow and particularly ice. The secret of winter running is to trust the shoe, the outsole and the studs. The studs perform superbly gripping as and when required, the only time for caution is after rain and then a quick freeze. If the ice looks shiny and like water, take care, I have yet to find a winter stud that grips 100% in these conditions. In 99% of cases, the reassured application of your body weight pressing through the shoe and making contact with the ground is what provides the grip.

Sizing is true to size; I use an EU 44 for all VJ shoes and the Xero 5 sizes the same even when using a neoprene sock or thicker merino sock. The lacing system is so good, there is incredible flexibility to loosen or tighten and there is the option to lock lace if required.

Toe protection is excellent and the heel box, as on all VJ shoes is relatively minimal and unpadded but has superb and reassured hold.

IN USE

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.

The Xero 5 as with all VJ shoes just holds the foot wonderfully and there is an extra comfort in this incarnation that I have not found in the XTRM or MAXx.

The cushioning is balanced and the 8mm drop ideal. The 10/18 works well allowing feel for the ground without any compromise. Ice running can be tiring but I have found the Xero 5 a pleasure.

The upper does its job protecting from wind and water but insulation would be nice.

Summary

There is nothing not to like in the Xero 5, well, ok, maybe a lack of insulation… Other than a lack of insulation, this VJ offering is everything the Xante was and is but in a lighter and lower-drop package. Of course, winter shoes for many are a luxury, it all depends on how much snow or ice you get. But trust me, if you get regular ice, a specific bespoke shoe for winter running is so much better than any ‘add-on’ micro spikes. You get a true real run feel, and the Xero 5 give me everything that a XTRM would give me but with 20 carbon steel studs. I personally get to run for 3-5 months on snow/ ice so I can expect a pair of winter shoes to last one or two winters, for many though, winter shoes will last several years basically down to the fact that snow and ice does not really impact on the outsole. Just make sure you clean the shoes and dry correctly after use. And don’t worry if you see the studs go rusty, that is normal! 

I have been using five pairs of winter shoes with studs over the last 3-4 months and two are standouts, the Xero 5 being the winner and the Icebug Route a close second.

Light, agile and responsive, the the VJ Sport Xero 5 are a real pleasure to run in and not at the compromise of comfort. The 20 carbon steel studs provide grip in snow and ice conditions all with great cushioning and an 8mm drop. They are a winner!

These shoes were purchased to test, this is not a paid review.

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.

Follow on:

Instagram – @iancorlessphotography

Twitter – @talkultra

facebook.com/iancorlessphotography

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