VJ Sport were already well established in the world of orienteering and in their native Finland when they were first seen adorning the feet of Jon Albon at Tough Guy in 2015. Since then the VJ Sport Irock and their shiny successor the Irock 2 have been a firm favourite of the OCR community.
Renowned for their almost bulletproof durability thanks to a kevlar weave, and fantastic grip in all conditions and surfaces thanks to their butyl rubber and 8mm lugs, the Irocks were an almost perfect shoe for anything you wanted to throw at them. They fit like a dream with their Fitlock system holding your foot securely in place. If there was one downfall it was that, on longer runs, the level of cushioning could be found lacking.
This year, with input from the 4 time OCR World Champion, VJ have released the XTRM, no you haven’t been taken back to the 80’s it really is called the XTRM and no, Marty Mcfly was not involved in the naming process.
The XTRM hasn’t thrown the baby out with the bathwater in their redesign but have built on the success of the Irock. They've streamlined it, given it a bright new paint job and a shot of nitrous before sending it out into the world. So what’s new and what has stayed the same?
43% Kevlar upper to tackle all you can throw its way
6mm Butyl rubber lugs (2mm shorter than the Irocks)
Carbon fibre torsion control
Full length rockplate
New cushioning for heel and forefoot
The XTRM feels comfortable right out of the box, the Fitlock hugs your foot and holds it firmly in place without feeling restrictive. There is now a slightly larger toe box to give you a little more room but this is still a precision fit shoe so bear that in mind.
I’ve logged a number of miles in the XTRM across varied types of terrain; from Tough Mudder’s slick and sloppy mud to rocky trails and streams. So far I am yet to find anything that the XTRM doesn’t conquer with ease.
Wet or dry, the butyl rubber outsole grips on any surface, giving a great level of reassurance when hurtling downhill over wet rock, flying round slick muddy corners or running full paced at Everest (I almost went over the top at London South this past weekend). The slight reduction in the depth of the lugs is yet to be noticed during my time with them and I have tried to push them to the edge.
The change from a 6mm to a 4mm drop is a welcome one for me and I think helps retain the ground feel that may otherwise have been lost with the addition of the cushioning and the rockplate. Speaking of, these additions make those longer runs so much more enjoyable and there has been no compromise in control or stability. They are a joy to run in. The addition of the rockplate is something i’m surprised didn’t happen with the Irock 2 and is a most welcome addition; helping to protect the foot on any rocky technical trails.
100 miles in and they still look the same as they did the day I opened the box, the kevlar upper in the Irock 2’s was almost indestructible and the XTRM feels like it is going to be much the same. At this rate the sole will wear through to my socks before any damage shows on the upper. Even with that durability they still deal with water fantastically; draining quickly and hardly absorbing any, keeping your feet comfortable and the shoes light.
After a month in these shoes I struggle to find any flaws, the precision fit may not be suitable for all but is more accommodating than some thanks to the wiggle room allowed by the slightly enlarged toe box and the adjustability thanks to the Fitlock.
These are a supercar of a shoe and have the look to match, gone is the understated black and red that came before. The XTRM again channels the 80’s with a lime green and red combo meaning that you will stand out on any startline and trail - just make sure you scream 'Cowabungaaaaa' at everyone as you fly past.
The XTRM is better than the Irock 2 in every conceivable way, which means it is better than the majority of other trail shoes on the market. If you are looking to take your love for OCR and expand that to trail and mountain running then you should definitely be looking at the XTRM. If you just want to stay racing OCR then you should be looking at the XTRM. If you run you should be looking at the XTRM. VJ sport have produced a stellar shoe for all situations and I am looking forward to the next time I get to lace them up and go for a run.