The RW Takeaway: A firm, toothy trail shoe that will keep you on your feet when the ground gets ugly.
- Tough rubber lugs are widely spaced to shed mud
- The indestructible upper is made with Kevlar threads
- The midsole is thin, making the ride harsh on hard ground
Weight: 9.5 oz (M), 7.5 oz (W)
Never heard of VJ? The company is based in Finland and has been selling trail shoes in Europe since 1981. The XTRM is its first shoe sold in the U.S. One look at the shoe tells you what it’s designed for—the gnarliest, muddiest trails you can find.
“This shoe definitely lives up to its claim of best grip on Earth,” says one tester who wore the XTRM on snowy, slippery, and steep sections of the Appalachian Trail. Credit the very toothy sole made of hard, durable rubber that bites hard into soft ground.
VJ designed the XTRM to excel at mud runs and obstacle course races (OCR), so it’s no surprise that the 6mm lugs are widely spaced to shed mud as you move. That same design, however, makes for an exceptionally rough ride on flat, hard ground. Testers unanimously said the shoe felt too firm for any high-mileage runs. Contributing to the stiff ride—and protection on technical terrain—is a full-length rock plate. It’s a necessary feature—without it you’d feel every jagged edge on rocky singletrack through the shoe’s thin foam.
No Mud Too Slick
Built with input from OCR champ Jon Alborn, the XTRM is designed for artificially challenging courses—barriers you have to hustle over, shoe-sucking mud you have to plow through. So the XTRM is built to be virtually indestructible. It starts with the outsole, made of a hard, durable rubber with 6mm lugs. If the ground is loose, sloppy, or rocky, this shoe is going to grab tight and keep you upright. But that same rubber compound means the shoe is going to be a little slick on broad wet rocks and wooden planks.
Between that rubber and your foot is a thin, firm layer of foam and a full-length rock plate. That’s not a problem when you’re motoring along technical trail, hopping over rocks and dashing over soft ground. You’ll appreciate the extra protection from jagged rocks. But, if you find yourself on long stretches of gentle, gravel trail, you’re going to wish you had more cushioning underfoot and find the rock plate unnecessary.
Contributing to the stiff, jarring feel is a fiberglass shank in the midfoot—if you yank out the sockliner, you can see it. That torsion unit helps keep the shoe stable as you work over variable ground.
A Straight Jacket For Your Foot
Because you’re going to be wearing this to get up (and over) technical trail features, it has to lock your foot in place. And the mix of materials here does just that, while adding incredible protection. The Kevlar-bolstered upper won’t stretch as you conquer off-camber trail, but the shoe still has traditional stitched-on overlays and a beefy midfoot saddle on the medial side for extra security.
We appreciated the sleek fit and roomy but not loose toe box. “The toe box was adequate for my wide foot by going up a size,” said one tester. “I didn’t end up with any black toenails while running in these.” The shoe’s waist is much narrower, though testers found that the “Fitlock” feature—a thick saddle on the inside of the arch—could be pulled snugly with the laces for a comfortable, slip-free fit.
The XTRM is available in unisex sizing, so women will need to order a men’s shoe 1.5 sizes smaller than their usual women’s size. For example, a women’s 9.5 is a men’s 8.
What One Tester Said
Renee H., tester since 2013
Arch: Medium | Gait: Neutral | Footstrike: Midfoot
“On technical terrain they felt great. I could run on any terrain and not feel a thing thanks to the rock plate. But on flat trails or road sections, I noticed they did not give much, and felt stiff. The longer the flat section was, the more I noticed they didn’t have whole lot of cushioning. In my opinion these shoes are screaming for rocky, technical trail runs no longer than 3 hours—not recommended for road or rail trails at all.”
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