Col's Blog: Meet the new and improved VJ XTRM 2 for rocky and technical trails



Dearly beloved runners,


It’s been a while since I last reviewed a shoe. The main reason I haven't is because reviews are so subjective. I might love it but you might hate it. And also, hardly anyone online gives a bad review of a shoe, otherwise they wouldn’t get sent any more to try... ”Hey thanks to xyz for sending me this shoe to test and review. It’s shit....”


So are reviews actually worth anything?


Generally, if we stock a shoe in store, then it’s probably got a chance that for someone it’s perfect.


However, I’m sure not many have heard of this brand so I thought I would introduce it to you let you know my honest thoughts about this particular model.


Plus I’ve been looking for a replacement for my retro Walsh PB... I still love them - the grip is amazing, particularly on Dartmoor, where I think they excel, but to be honest, like a young girlfriend, I think need to move them on and realise I’m over 50 and built now more for comfort and less for speed.


That being said, meet the new and improved VJ XTRM 2. A lightweight, fast, technical soled durable trail/ fell/ mountain running shoe. If the Walsh was a TR7 sports car, these are a Mazda MX 5. Ok so maybe I feel younger than I look.


VJ are a Scandinavian brand and specialise in off-road running shoes, particularly for orienteering and mountains.


While we stock the VJ Ultra, a comfy wider long distance trail shoe, and the VJ Maxx, a good all round durable trail shoe, this XTRM version 2 is designed for tougher terrain.


The original had the same iconic super sticky butyl rubber outsole but this model has a new more comfy upper and plush midsole.



Stats


4mm drop (24mm/ 20mm)

267g in men’s size 8UK


The upper is made of a super durable, light and breathable Schoeller Keprotec® material. The soft heel reduces pressure from the heel bone and Achilles tendon yet the heel fit is still snug.


The midsole with an increased stack height and using a new EVA compound, has more cushioning and comfort than before. A full-length rock plate which offers protection to your feet on tough terrain is also welcome for my older bones.


The grip sees no change and still uses 6mm deep butyl rubber lugs that are one of the grippiest around, provided you place your feet properly, as with all shoes.



But how did they feel when running?


I want to love this shoe. I need to love it. I need a shoe I can race in again.


When in my Walsh, I can just run. Place my feet on mud, etc and they don’t let me down. I trust them not to put me on my arse. Will these give me the same confidence?


If the Walsh are so good, why change? To be honest, they are hard underfoot on long runs that take in hard terrain. The new vegan glue isn’t what it used to be and they don’t last as well as they did.


This new VJ XTRM is one option. However, like lots of VJs they are snug. If you have feet like chop sticks, you will love this fit. For me, with a wider shaped foot, they are very close fitting, something that has given over time. This fit isn’t a problem on fast tech ground, as I need the shoe to feel part of me.


Note: just because a shoe fits you snug, it doesn’t mean it’s a poor fit. If you are driving to southern Italy, you might want a wider laid back economic comfy drive such as a SUV, and there are shoes for that. However, if you want to drive round the lanes of Devon at speed, cornering on rails, and want to be supported, then you're going to want to drive a sports car. Not a comfy ride necessarily, but the key here is performance. Running shoes are like that.



For me, they stick like glue on everything. Not as good in the mud as a Walsh but much more comfy underfoot. Yes the last is narrow but there is toe space. I take a 9.5uk and these were fine for size. I think if I had a 10, the comfort would have increased but I would have lost that feel and dexterity.


Shoes are like clubs in golf. You want to hit a long way? You're going to pick a big heavy wood. You want to tickle the ball out of rough ground, you're going to pick an iron with more feel...


You've got to have the range of clubs or you're left with one oversized club that’s great on long drives, but it won't provide you with the fine touches when you need it.


The XTRM3 is the putter.


I’m sure you want to know what alternatives there are out there, if this shoe doesn’t fit you personally.


For a wider foot, look at the inov8 x-talon ultra. Maybe a Scott Supertrac 2 or a La Sportiva mutant.


Finally, when choosing a technical racing shoe, it needs to be durable and built for the conditions. VJ have the reputation for durability. I get tired of folk choosing a shoe such as the Hoka speedgoat for technical trails. It’s not built for it. Yes it’s great at tearing down dirt tracks with little or no sharp turns, but it's built for American trails which are like golf courses. The UK's technical trails generally tear up these type of shoes.


If you're looking for a trail shoe to run the Ridgeway, or around a city, there are shoes for that. The VJ XTRM 2 is not that shoe. It’s more for going off piste, where it won’t break you or itself.


So far I like them but I doubt many of you will see me wearing them. If you happen to do so, then you are probably lost, as these will be used for remote parts of Dartmoor, the Brecons and the Lakes where I want to boldly go where man has barely been before.


The new VJ XTRM 2, available in store at £140


Mind how you run,


Colin