Last year I finally got my hands on a pair of VJ Sport IRock 2 (HERE). I was blown away by pretty much everything about the shoes. The upper, the way they held one’s foot, the durability of the materials used, and the outsole was just incredible – the most amazing grip. The only reservation that I had, was how long I could run in these shoes… They are pretty minimal and although cushioned, the cushioning for me would probably only take me to 3-4 hours of running.
OCR World Champion and Skyrunner World Series Champion, Jonathan Albon, agreed. In some of the longer races, Trofeo Kima for example where the terrain is hard, rocky, muddy, has snow, maybe the odd glacier thrown in and when the male winning time is over 6-hours, although the IRock 2 was perfect on grip, the cushioning made a really long run like this tiring for the feet.
With Jon’s feedback, VJ Sport went back to the drawing board, took all the best elements of the IRock 2 and created a new shoe:
The king is dead, long live the king!
Let me just say in simple terms everything that was brilliant in the IRock 2 has been transferred to the new VJ XTRM and what VJ Sport have done, in my opinion, they have created the most perfect mountain running shoe for when the trails are demanding, rocky and throwing all sorts of variables at the runner.
So, what is new in the VJ XTRM.
- Two new cushioning units have been added to the front and rear.
- A full-length RockPlate.
- A medium last.
- A little extra room in the toe box.
- New Fitlock.
As I mentioned, much of the IRock 2 crosses over. For example, the outsole is the amazing Butyl Rubber which for me offers the best grip I have encountered on any mountain shoe. The outsole studs are 6mm which offers a good compromise between grip on muddy/ wet trails and excellent grip on smooth and easy single-track.
At 250g for a standard UK8, the shoe is light and 4mm drop sits in a comfortable middle ground for the zero drop fanatics and those who like a more comfortable and relaxed 8mm drop.
Kevlar and Polyester make the upper and the IRock 2 has been the most durable shoe I have ever used, so, I don’t anticipate the VJ XTRM to be any different. There is also Fiberclass stability control.
Slipping one’s foot into the VJ XTRM one immediately feels the snug and precision fit. However, the slightly wider toe box is noticeable. Don’t get me wrong here, this is not a wide and spacious toe box, so, if that is what you personally need, this may well be not the shoe for you. Please remember though that this is a specific mountain/ skyrunning shoe that will be used on technical mountainous terrain, so, a shoe for this type of running should be precision.
Pulling the laces tight, the FITLOCK takes hold and provides the most secure and comfortable hold of my foot. It is the best I have tried, no question. The laces are excellent, they pull tight and stay tight.
The upper is a mix of materials and is extremely durable. Although it is too early to comment on longevity of the VJ XTRM upper, the materials and comparisons with the IRock 2 are very close. My IRock 2 have been through everything and are still going strong. The heel box has minimal padding but holds the foot secure and is extremely comfortable. The toe box is well protected and ideal for mountain terrain.
The colours of the upper are a little bright. They wouldn’t be my choice, I certainly loved the red & black combo of the IRock 2, but colours are just colours and after a good muddy run, the colours soon become muted.
Like the IRock 2, the VJ XTRM looks heavy, pick them up and you realise they are not, they are super-light!
The bottom of the shoe is what helps VJ Sport stand out amongst the competition and why they have such a following. The Butyl Rubber they use is the best outsole I have ever tested and on rock terrain, dry or wet, they are the most reassuring footwear ever! The 6mm studs are the same as on the IRock 2 and this is significant, the IRock 2 provided the best grip ever, so, to see this transferred over to the XTRM is superb.
The IRock 2 last-year was the best mountain shoe I have ever used. This has now been replaced by the VJ XTRM and for me, moving forward, I would always purchase the VJ XTRM and not the IRock 2. For me, VJ Sport may well have killed the IRock 2 because the VJ XTRM is so good.
To all intents and purposes, the IRock 2 and VJ XTRM are very similar shoes. One difference is 6mm drop for the IRock 2 and 4mm drop for the VJ XTRM, this may be a decision maker for some? However, the new additions to the VJ XTRM just make it a much more versatile shoe without compromising what made the IRock 2 great, no, superb!
- The added cushioning doesn’t compromise feel for the ground, control, stability for faster shorter mountain running but what it does allow is more cushioning and comfort for longer runs.
- The RockPlate is a no brainier, it is added protection and added comfort for little to no additional weight.
- The new Fitlock holds the foot as well, if not better than the Fitlock on the IRock 2.
- The toe box has been widened to allow for a little more room and toe splay when running longer but not at the compromise of precision and feel.
- The upper is as the IRock 2 with Kevlar and outstanding durability.
- The outsole is the same, 6mm studs in the amazing Butyl Rubber.
The additions make the VJ XTRM the perfect all-round mountain shoe be that for short or long outings. Whereas, the IRock 2 was a shoe that I personally would not want to be out in for much longer than 4-hours.
This is the best mountain running shoe I have ever used. For skyrunning, it is THE perfect shoe and for me, all other shoes that I test for that intended use will be compared to the VJ XTRM. Jonathan Albon’s influence can be felt in this shoe and I am sure his feedback with VJ Sport has been paramount in retaining all that was brilliant in the IRock 2 and then tweaking it to add what Jonathan and many other runners wanted; more cushioning, a RockPlate and a slightly wider toe box.
I personally am unable to find any negatives.
Obviously, the Butyl Rubber outsole works so well because it is soft and grippy, so, if you start running on roads and pavements, be aware, the outsole won’t last.
But the VJ XTRM is a formula 1 shoe and not a Ford Escort or similar. Maybe the VJ XTRM should make an appearance for those special runs or races?
However, if you are like me, I think the shoes are so awesome that if I am going to run anything technical, wet or dry, I want these shoes on my feet.
VJ SPORT website
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