VJ Shoes exploded on to the OCR scene in early 2019 with their incredibly popular XTRM shoes. With a signature design and color scheme, super grippy butyl rubber (#thebestgripontheplanet isn’t just a hashtag) and athletes with names like Albon, Webster, and Woods wearing them, it’s easy to understand why they because so popular.
VJ Shoes haven’t slowed down yet, though. Next up they brought the MAXx to the masses, with a wider toe box, and cushioned heel. Then it was the iRock 3, with a precision fit on a lighter design.
As we closed in on the winter months, VJ shoes has just released their 4th US design – The Xero 5. The Xero is an all-weather studded shoe with aggressive treads, and 20 carbon-carbide studs for traction in all conditions. The Xero 5 also has enough cushion to make any terrain feel like you’re running on tiny little clouds.
Xero 5 Features
Poron Cushioning – The first thing I noticed when strapping the Xero’s on was the cushion and padding around my foot. The XTRM and MAXx shoes are definitely more “rigid” and less forgiving than the new Xero 5’s. I felt like my feet were wrapped in thick comfy socks.
20 Carbide Studs – Being know for amazing grip and traction is sort of VJ Shoes’ modus operandi. The Xero 5’s are no different. I took them out in the dead of New England winter on frozen dirt, ice, and snowy trails. I quickly realized that I could trust in the grip, and confidently gazelle my way through the woods focused on speed instead of footing.
FitLock – In the previous two models of VJ Shoes that I’ve worn, a 12.5 fit either perfect, or a bit snug. The Xero’s had some extra space in the toe box and mid-foot. I could probably have sized down without much issue. The Xero’s had a wider width in all 3 parts of the shoe, which is great for winter running. You’ll be able to wear some extra layers without any issue or crowding of your toes.
Xero 5 Usage
As I walked through the parking lot, sounding like a golfer wearing spikes heading to the 19th hole, I was eager to get some miles on these shoes considering the terrain. I went out and put a handful of miles on my Xero’s which included some ice covered fire roads, harder than cement frozen muddy sections, and some fresh snow pack through the woods. The water-repellent membrane in the upper will help keep out any errant water, snow or slush you plow through.
If you’ve never run in a shoe with studs before, they can take some getting used to. I could feel the studs on the bottom of my feet as I landed on the frozen trail. The focus on that quickly shifted to how easily I could run over questionable terrain with confidence, thanks to those same 20 studs on the shoes.
Studded shoes may have a place out on the frozen trails of New England, or the snowy mountains of Colorado but the one place they may not have a place? Your favorite OCR course, as most races will rule out running in studded shoes for its competitors. For training though, no longer do you have to take a day off because the ground is a little too treacherous, unless you would rather just stay inside and enjoy some grilled cheese and tomato soup.
These shoes are a perfect addition to your closet to ensure that you can conquer any terrain and any weather that you come across while getting miles in. But when it comes to race day, keep them in the trunk and opt for VJ’s core models – the XTRM, MAXx, or iRock.
VJ Xero 5 Pros and Cons
- Incredible cushion and fitting. The most comfortable VJ Shoe model I have worn, by far.
- 20 carbon-carbide star studs make your grip almost invincible even on the sketchiest terrain.
- Waterproof membranes protect your feet against moisture while out in the snow and mud
- The first obvious con – is an inability to wear these on course. Studded shoes are banned from most races.
- Landing on studs while running can be uncomfortable to some, or at least take some getting used it.
- With a 19mm stack in the heel and 11mm in the toe, and 8mm drop is larger than other shoes offered from VJ.
VJ Xero 5 Conclusion
I’m slowly acquiring a small arsenal of shoes in my closet. Much like machines at the gym, each has a function. The Xero 5’s have a spot in my training regimen – these winter months when I am trying to avoid running outside due to weather or temperatures, the Xero’s give me a little bit more courage to get out on the trails. Just because they may not be allowed on every course, doesn’t mean they won’t have a spot in your lineup as well.
While I wouldn’t normally go out and hunt down a pair of studded shoes, now that I have them, I’ve noticed my runs in inclement weather have gotten better just due to the fact that I’m not worried about footing as much as I would with my more worn down trail shoes.
If you need a shoe that won’t relent on the most atrocious of conditions, offers a cushioned landing, and can survive the elements, the Xero 5 is for you and your feet.
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