The VJ Sport IROCK is a lightweight, comfortable and high quality orienteering trainer fairly new to the obstacle course racing scene. The company ‘VJ Sport’ originates from Finland and this trainer has been designed for orienteering, but is also excellent for Obstacle Course Racing (OCR) and Fell/Trial running. It offers outstanding grip, good drainage and good durability.
As an obstacle course racer I have been trying to find the ‘ultimate’ running shoe for training and racing for a while now. Like most of us, I have been racing in INOV-8’s 212’s since last year but the durability let me down so many times. I gave the INOV-8’s another go at the beginning of this year with the new 200’s but unfortunately they fell apart during the winter Nuts Challenge. I spent some time searching the UK market to find suitable running/racing shoes but I was unsuccessful. I had no other option than to race in the new model of the 212’s, which kept shrinking after every run.
I had my eye on the VJ Sport IROCK's for a while and after speaking to Jon Albon about them, I was decided to give them a go. I was concerned at the time about the narrower toe box compared with the Inov-8’s and, as a runner with slightly wider feet, this was a crucial point when deciding weather to purchase them or not.
So when I was asked by Mudstacle to put the IROCK's through the test, I was really excited! I was hoping to have few weeks of running them in but I received them from VJ Sport only two days before the Summer Nuts Challenge. I went for a short run in them around my local trail and they felt very comfortable, snug but not squeezing my foot, which I was most worried about. So I felt quite confident to race in them the next day regardless of the fact I hadn’t really worn them in – yes I know, a bit mad!
So I was stood at the start line of the relentless Summer Nuts Challange, praying that these shoes will offer me the grip I needed around the super muddy and slippery course. I was quite worried, not having any time to test them around home ground course at Nuclear Races, with the most muddy and tough terrain.
After the first set of ditches I knew I was going to be okay grip-wise. I thought the grip on the Inov-8’s was really good, so I was really impressed with how IROCKs compared. The rubber compound of the sole also feels much ‘stickier’ compared to most trail shoes so they offer outstanding grip and contact on wet and slippery surfaces. The drainage was superb; I didn’t notice once that they would feel heavy or too full of water after exiting streams and lakes. I felt really comfortable in them for the whole 4 laps (28km) of the course which I ended up winning!
Although these are not as minimal as most of my running shoes, I still had that close contact feel with the trail, with great arch and ankle support. As an under-pronator I prefer to ‘feel the trail’ under my feet. I think these are between 6-8mm drop so they are suitable for most runners, even the ones not running in minimal shoes.
The IROCK's are not one of the most funky looking shoes, with no colour option to choose from, but they match my team colours so I cannot really complain! I think if you are after comfortable, reliable, grippy and lightweight shoe then the looks shouldn’t be as important.
I do have to say that I did manage to damage them. The stitching on one of the front shoes did tear slightly, which also caused the rubber of the sole to come apart. This problem appeared only on one of the shoes and I put this down to a fault.
I did receive another pair, which I have raced in the elite wave of the Obstacle Course Racing World Championships in Ohio, where I finished as 19th female with no obstacles failed. I had all the confidence on the rocky trails and slippery obstacles I needed. This course was very tough and it took me just over three hours to complete it but these shoes felt so comfortable that I actually ended up leaving them on for the rest of the day after the race! I think the IROCK's are really sturdy and worth the value compared with most trail running shoes. I will not be racing in any other shoes as I feel that these provide most comfort, grip and also have great drainage! I love them!
Easy to use: 10
Value for money: 8.5
Action images used with thanks from Tony Jarvis, more great images available here. Guest review from Dita Kotoulova.
For more information on VJ Sport visit their website here.