Gear

First Look: VJ XTRM Shoes

Lightweight, stiff, great traction and moderately priced.

XTRM Trail Shoes by VJ

Materials: Kevlar/Polyester blend Upper, EVA midsole, Butyl outsole
Lug depth: 6MM
Weight: 8.8 ounces
Drop: 4MM
Price: $160
Best Features: Very lightweight, great traction
Room for Improvement: Little cushioning

For decades, the Finland-based VJ Sport has been making shoes for obstacle course racing and orienteering, with a loyal following in Europe. Now, they’ve entered the trail running market. The XTRM is ‘claw’ type trail-running shoe with minimal cushioning but lots of traction.

The upper is made from a 48% Kevlar/52% polyester blend. It’s durable and water resistant. The laces are what VJ calls a ‘Fitlock,’ holding the midfoot in place and giving a snug feel around the instep and offering more room in the toe.

The EVA midsole is fairly minimal. What sets the shoe apart, however, is the outsole. The butyl outsole bristles with aggressive 6mm lugs, designed to give the shoe excellent traction in muddy conditions. A full-length rockplate and a rubber toe cap offer additional protection. The XTRM weighs in at a svelte 250 g/8.8 oz.

I live in a relatively dry area in Western Colorado, so I experience very little mud. So when a week of snowy and rainy weather made my local trails damp and slick, I jumped at the chance to take the XTRM for a test ride.

The shoes performed as expected. In soft mud, the thin cushioning was not a problem and the tread kept me from slipping and sliding. The shoe also kept my foot pretty dry, given the wet conditions and they felt very light on my feet.

If you run and race mostly on hard packed clay and slickrock trail, these might be a poor choice for you. But if the trails you usually run or race on are damp, soft and/or muddy and traction is an issue then the XTRM might be a great choice. Another setting in which they make sense would be races that are all uphill, like a Vertical K.

Will Fisher, age 47, chooses training runs and races for their scenic value. He’s a relatively large runner who cross trains a lot and is excited to run in the 2019 Western States 100 Endurance Run.