I ran most of my orienteering practice with VJ XTRM in Guardamar Dunes.
Photo: Heikki Virekunnas.
Text by Anton Kuukka
Still, a couple of years ago, there was a simple choice to make; do I take metal studs or rubber dobs to an orienteering competition. Now there are many different dobs to choose from; VJ has four on the market: Irock 3, XTRM, MAXx, and Xspeed. During a three-week training camp in Spain, I was able to test these extreme shoes, which were new to me.
I have used VJ Irock 2 shoes for some years, so they are familiar to me. These shoes are the best shoes for various environments because of their superior grip. The grip is also perfect in boreal forests and on dry, bare rocks due to its butyl rubbers lugs, even better than metal studs. New 3rd generation Irock 3 is even safer but still as lights as Irock 2 (240g / UK 8). Irock 3 shoes are absolutely all-rounder-shoes, and therefore it is used by many professionals in orienteering, sky-, trail- and mountain running.
XTRM shoes were new to me, but from now on, they are in active use. They are like IRocks cushioned big brother. Even though the shoes are more cushioned, they are not too big, only 10 grams heavier than Irock (250g / UK8). The front and heel cushioning are made with a full-length RockPlate, which offers comfortableness. I did quite a lot orienteering with XTRM in Guardamar Dunes here in Spain. The shoes have a bit wider last than IRocks, and new Kevlar upper kept sands out of the shoes. XTRMs are perfect training shoes for me, and if I would get hooked with trail running, I know what to choose for a race.
In a Runnersworld.com shoe review XTRM was described as a good choice for technical paths. You can read the review here: https://www.runnersworld.com/gear/a28689944/vj-xtrm-obstacle-course-racing-trail-shoes/
VJ Xspeed is made for fast sessions and sprint races. The most significant advantage against other VJ shoes is Xspeed’s lightweight, only 195 grams (UK 8). An outsole of Xspeed is butyl rubber, similar to other VJ’s rubber dobs. The lugs are shorter, keeping the weight light, but the grip is good enough for the urban environment. With Xspeeds, you can squeeze the last seconds off from your performance.
VJ MAXx is the choice for them who run far or a lot. Those are just the right shoes for trail ultra or frequent training. It’s well-cushioned, safe, and also covers sharp stones on the ground. Sometimes, for example, in a steep downhill, you can’t avoid every hit. Therefore, it’s better to have shoes that cover your legs.
Last Saturday, I ran Costa Calida long-distance race here in Spain. The ground had rocks here and there. I did well with IRocks but decided to run Sunday’s chase start with VJ MAXx because it’s the superior safe outsole. Even though MAXx’s 4 mm lugs are a bit shorter than IRock’s longer ones, I didn’t notice a big difference in the grip.
Runnersworld.com also tested MAXx and according to their review it’s a perfect partner to a rocky ultra-trails. You can read the review here: https://www.runnersworld.com/gear/a31077592/vj-maxx-trail-running-shoe-review/
I will select MAXx shoes whenever the terrain is rocky enough like it sometimes happens to be in Spain inland terrains. In Scandinavia, the ground is often covered by ground vegetation, so the ground is mainly softer. Therefore, I choose IRocks or Bolds as my race shoes for orienteering competitions where the grip is a critical requirement. Sometimes in running camps, I’ve been able to visit stony mountain paths. For that kind of terrain XTRM or MAXx is undoubtedly the best solution due to their cushioning outsoles.