With companies like Nike, Adidas America, Columbia, Keen, and Danner; Portland is home to some of the largest athletic shoe and apparel companies in the world. Now another shoe company is trying to fit its way into this competitive market. Finnish shoe manufacture VJ Sport has established US distributorship in the area as well.
VJ got its start several years ago when a shoemaker and orienteering enthusiast could not find the right shoe for his sport. So he decided to make his own shoes specifically designed for the rough and slippery terrain. Using cutting-edge technology, high-quality materials, VJ produces shoes with the claim as the best grip on the planet.
VJ really got started in Obstacle Course Racing (OCR) and trail running with the iRock 2 and Jon Albon wearing them for his Sky Running and OCR races. The shoes started gaining popularity with this non-spiked super grippy shoe when Albon started winning the top Sky Running and OCR races in Europe
The XTRM model was co-designed by Jon Albon to help him become the world’s best technical runner. The shoe is built with features for stability and control and protection over technical terrain. The butyl rubber and aggressive lugs help both uphill and downhill grip. The tough Kevlar weave uppers make sure that the shoes last for a season – not just a couple races. FitLock connects your foot to the sole of the shoe with ultimate control. It has a full-length rock plate for rocks, roots and other challenging obstructions.
The XTRM is taking the OCR world by storm this year, with an incredible acceptance from the best athletes in the OCR competitions. VJs are on the feet of 3 of the top 5 males in the Spartan North American series. With that success, the age group and open runners have been switching over to XTRM to help them achieve their goals.
VJ Shoes USA is now starting its growth with the non-OCR trail running crowd. With the XTRM claim to be perfect for muddy and gnarly technical ascents and descents. The grip and control of VJ shoes got my attention, and I was able to try out a pair.
I normally wear size 10.5 XTRMs, and decided on size 11. If you have wide feet like me, I would recommend going up a half size to allow more room in the toe box. I checked them out for a 4-mile run just before Hagg Lake Mud Runs 50k and 25k. and chose to test them in the 25k that Sunday. If anyone has run around Hagg Lake in February, you’ll know how challenging the mud and slick wooden bridges can be. The course also has some asphalt and gravel roads, so most types of territory a trail running might encounter.
I was a little cautious at the start of the race, but as I got more comfortable, I started challenging the XTRMs. I had no problems getting through the section called “the Pig Pen.” Many runners have lost shoes in this ankle-deep sticky mud of this section. The course also has rolling hills that challenge any runner from sliding away from the direction I wanted to go. The shoes held up. The mud did not stick between the lugs of the butyl rubber soles like my Innov-8 Talons on the 50k the day before.
The real test was the wet wooden bridges that cross several streams that feed into the lake. I’ve fallen many times with various shoes, which has made me very vigilant each time I cross one of these bridges. I started running harder and faster after each bridge and never fell, gaining confidence along the way.
I finished the 25k with no problems with my feet. The mud easily washed off the Kevlar uppers and the rubber soles, ready to run the next day.
I decided to rotate the XTRMs into my shoe rotation. Because the new size is a little loose in the heel, I laced them with a heel lock. I’ve put another 100 miles on them now with no blisters or any other problems. I’m looking forward to putting many more miles on the XTRMs. If you are looking for a lightweight shoe to handle difficult terrain, I recommend you give them a try.
Currently, the XTRM is the only model offered in the US. By the end of May, VJ will add the MAXx – a more cushioned, wider and somewhat less aggressively lugged shoe, as well as the iRock 3 – the next iteration of the classic. This fall, VJ will bring a small quantity of a studded, winter running shoe called the Xero 5.
The XTRM can be purchased in the US and Canada – direct from the website – or on Amazon. VJ Shoes USA is proud to continue the shoe tradition in Portland OR. The US team are longtime area residents and has offices and a warehouse in the Tigard area.
VJ Shoes is currently looking for retail stores to carry the line. They will be attending Outdoor Retailer Expo in June and looking to sign up reps and retailers across the country.
Upper is 42% Kevlar
Separate cushioning for both for front and heel
Butyl rubber sole
Heel drop: 4mm
Total weight: 250 grams
Athletes currently represented by VJ: