VJ Shoes are known for their tag line #TheBestGripOnThePlanet and I think they backed it up with their XTRM model (read that review here or Ninja Warrior’s Amy “Magic” Pajcic review of the iROCK3s here). However, I wanted to see if the third shoe in their trail/Obstacle Course Racing (OCR) lineup live up to the same quality as the others, so I picked up the MAXx and here’s what I thought of them:
Fit: The biggest difference between XTRM and MAXx for me was the fit. I found the XTRM narrow and ended up wearing them before taking them for longer runs to break them in first. For me personally, the MAXx fit much better and I was able to pull them out of the box and take them on the race course immediately (read the review of KC Timber Challenge Extreme Timber Challenge).
Use: The MAXx is listed as “Made for going long…” on their website. As an athlete who specializes in Ultra-OCR I was excited to give them a thorough test. Longer runs of 13+ miles in them resulted in no hot spots, no blisters and a comfortable rid throughout.
I find that during every ultra-running race at some point I end up kicking a root, rock or stump with full force leaving one of my toes black and blue. VJ MAXx helps protect against this by putting a full length rock plate and a strengthened rubber toe cap ensuring that even as my body fatigues my feet are protected.
Grip: The MAXx has 4mm lugs made from 100% Butyl-rubber giving the bottom of the shoes almost a sticky feeling. The MAXxs lugs are a little bit smaller than the 6mm lugs on the XTRM. From my tests I couldn’t tell the difference in traction, with both of them feeling excellent. As I transitioned from loose dirt and mud onto things like hard packed trails and pavement, I found the MAXx shoes felt more comfortable. VJ delivers the grip they are known for in the endurance model of their shoe.
Specifications: The MAXx has a 6mm drop, which I enjoyed. 6mm is right in the middle of many other shoes so for those who like a zero drop model or one with a larger drop 8+mm, you should be able to transition to their shoe without issues. With OCR shoes one of my big concerns is weight. I don’t want heavy shoes especially for an ultra event. The shoes weigh 8.8 oz which is light for a trail shoe. It is actually the same amount of weight as their XTRM model. Compared to other brands they are on the light side. As with everything if you wanted to go lighter you are going to have to sacrifice some other features like grip and protection.
Style: The shoes only come in one color/style, a primarily black shoe with yellow highlights. Personally I like the look better than the XTRM shoe. I’m not the most fashion forward person, but black generally matches most people’s race apparel so it seems like a great option.
Price: With shoes, you get what you pay for. VJ MAXx isn’t the lowest priced shoe but you are going to get a high quality shoe with insane grip making it worth the price. While $180 may not seem cheap, it is worth the investment (look for my upcoming article on Mud Run Guide, “The Unseen Cost of Poor Traction”). At the end of the day is missing your goal, like qualifying for OCR World Championships or Spartan World Championship, due to poor traction worth the price of saving a couple of $20 bills in your pocket for a cheaper shoe? I know my answer.
Overall: Not surprisingly, VJ Shoes hits another grand slam with their MAXx model. It lives up to the same high quality, grip and standards of their other shoes. However, I this one has a wider fit and a little bit more cushioning. While I haven’t tested them for longevity yet, the fabric is reinforced by Kevlar fibers (i.e. the same fiber used to make bulletproof vests), so I think it is safe to say they are going to last a while. MAXx is an easy 5/5 stars.
If you need more proof just look around you at the start line. I specialize in running Ultra-OCR and I trust VJs to give me that edge. My teammate Scott Wierzycki and I both wear VJs for Conquer The Gauntlet Continuum (5+ hours in length). Between the two of us, we have 9 of the 11 wins in the two year history of the event. It's not just athletes that race Conquer The Gauntlet and Savage race though, you’ll notice top pros from the Spartan world all wearing VJs. The reason is simple, it’s because they are bringing the best shoes for the OCR market currently available.