As an OCR (obstacle course race) enthusiast, I have struggled for years with what shoes to wear. My go-to tended to be whichever running shoes were past their prime, because I didn’t want to ruin my good shoes in the mud. I checked out what everyone else was wearing, read reviews on the best shoes for OCRs, but just couldn’t decide. Then I heard about VJ Shoes, a company in Finland that had created several trail shoes that were OCR specific. I was ridiculously excited to get the opportunity to try out the VJ MAXx.
I met with Matt from VJ Shoes and learned that VJ shoes were initially created in 1981 by a Finnish orienteering enthusiast who wanted a better shoe for his sport – designed for rough, slippery terrain. Over the years these well-made shoes also became popular for sky running and other all-terrain sports. Sky runner and OCR racer Jon Albon was a fan of VJ shoes, but could not use them in OCR racing due to the spikes in them. He requested that VJ create an OCR specific shoe and, with Jon’s help, a new breed of VJ Shoes was born.
VJ Shoes have seen a recent spike in popularity among the OCR community in the U.S. In fact, VJ Shoes were just named the Official Shoe of Tough Mudder – a well-known obstacle course race. And, many OCR pros are now donning VJs as their official racing shoe. After seeing the list of pros wearing these shoes, I have to admit, I felt a bit out of my league. But, wearing a shoe that professional racers wanted to wear had me eagerly awaiting my next Spartan Race.
I broke out my VJ MAXx for a few trail runs in advance of my Spartan Race to make sure they were broken in and felt OK on my feet. From the first run they felt great. The shoes were true to size and fit nicely. No extra movement or strange lumps or bumps that could create blisters.
On race day, I slipped into my bright yellow and black VJ MAXx with all the excitement of a kid on Christmas morning. With the tagline of #BestGripOnThePlanet, these had to be amazing on the course! I got my first taste of that grip of the Butyl-rubber when I hit the Rolling Mud obstacle. After stepping into a thigh deep pit of mud and water, I had to step out of the pit onto a steep incline that was covered with wet, muddy, black plastic. Typically, this feels like trying to walk up a slip and slide. I took one tentative step, expecting to slip, but my foot stayed put. I easily climbed up the slippery plastic and out of the pit. In my head I screamed, These shoes are awesome! The other thing I noticed as I stepped out of the muddy pit, was that my shoes did not feel water-logged and heavy. Yes, they were wet and muddy, but they drained well and I didn’t feel like I had to drag my feet along. In fact, it didn’t take long for me to forget that my feet had even been in muddy water.
Next I had to climb a long, steep incline with powdery dirt and lose rocks. This incline can be challenging for footing at times, but I felt confident in my climbing. I was impressed by the ability of this shoe to handle the loose, awkward terrain – both uphill and down. My other I love this shoe! moments were on the Rope Climb and the Slip Wall. Even though I have yet to conquer the rope climb in a race, I had my best attempt with the smooth, slippery rope. When I wrapped the rope and locked my feet in, the rope didn’t slip at all. It felt pretty awesome to make it farther up the rope than I ever had at a Spartan Race. (Now if these shoes would just help me conquer my fear of heights . . .) The Slip Wall, while not muddy at this desert-like venue, was an easy climb. My shoes gripped that wall like it was nothing and I cruised up without any slipping at all. Have I mentioned that I LOVE the VJ MAXx for OCR racing?
What else do I love about these shoes?
- The laces. I can’t tell you how many times I have had to re-tie laces on other shoes during a race. These laces stayed put the entire race.
- The stability. Part of this event involved running through a cow pasture that had ruts and holes everywhere. Terrain like that always has me fearing an ankle twist, but I didn’t even experience a slight ankle roll the entire time.
- The look. I may not have tons of dressy shoes like most girls, but I have a whole lot of athletic shoes. So, I’m a bit girly about having fun colors and styles for my athletic endeavors. With the bright yellow and contrasting black these shoes stand out – even when they get muddy. In general, they just look sharp. Not a requirement, but definitely a plus.
If you are looking for a trail or OCR shoe, I highly recommend the VJ MAXx. VJ Shoes also makes 2 other shoes for OCR running: iRock 3 and VJ XTRM. (Stay tuned for a Run Oregon review on the VJ XTRM – coming soon!) There are so many things to like about VJ MAXx, I could go on all day. But, I’ll just say, I am a convert. Don’t even think about taking my VJ Shoes away from me. Give them a try. If it’s grip you want, you won’t be disappointed.
Company: VJ Shoes
Product and Price: VJ MAXx, $160
- Built on a larger than medium last with just a little more space in the toe box.
- Cushioning units in front and heel.
- Fiberglass stability control.
- New FitLock
- Outsole 100% Butyl-rubber. #THEBESTGRIPONTHEPLANET
- Full length RockPlate in midsole
- Strengthened rubber toe-cap
- 4 mm cleats in outsole
- Drop 6 mm
- Weight (US 8.5): 8.8 oz (250 g)
More About VJ Shoes:
Today, VJ still follows the standards we set all those years ago. Using cutting-edge technology, high-quality materials, and uncompromising values we produce shoes with the best grip on the planet. Our shoes have helped many athletes in various all-terrain sports including trail running, OCR, sky running, and orienteering achieve their dreams and win world championships. With us, it’s all about pure performance and well-designed products that will stand the test of time. That’s why the worlds best athletes and adventurers choose VJ shoes.
Thank you to VJ Shoes for providing us with shoes. Please read our transparency page for info on how we do our reviews.