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VJ Shoes Ultra Review
By Contributor David Salas


A relatively new competitor in the trail game (but well known in the Obstacle Course Racing world), VJ brings in their Ultra Model to swing with the big guns for long distance trail running. The VJ Ultra features high amounts of cushioning, an outsole focusing on maximum traction, and a woven Kevlar upper.


Specifications (per VJ Shoes)
Weight:  (Unisex sizing: men's 8.5/women's 10) - 9.3 oz (265g)
Stack Height: 33 mm heel, 27 mm forefoot
Drop: 6 mm
Classification: trail shoe


RUNNING SHOE SUMMARY

The VJ Ultra is an ultra trail running shoe for those looking for durability and good traction. The woven Kevlar upper holds its structure very well throughout and should hold up just fine for those that blow through uppers on the regular. The outsole is also designed with maximum traction in mind as well. The shoe seems to run normal width to slightly wide throughout and may favor those with slightly wider feet as well. 


FIT (LENGTH / WIDTH / COMFORT)

The upper of the VJ Ultra was one that grew on me more as I ran in it. The upper feels performance like in nature, but still leans on the thicker end. This most likely is because of the woven Kevlar interweaved. The upper certainly feels formidable and will not break down very easily at all. The fit throughout is normal width to slightly wide. This is most noticeable in the midfoot. There is a lacing system present that does its job, but you do need to lock the laces down pretty tight. The tongue feels very performance like and reminds me of a slightly thicker Adidas Adizero Pro tongue. The heel is on the firmer end and the counter is not padded significantly. This did not bug me at all, but could irritate some who need some padding in that region. I think the upper could be a little more dialed in through the midfoot, but overall it fits pretty well. 



PERFORMANCE (RIDE / SPEED)

The VJ Ultra is interesting with performance. The shoe certainly is a true trail running shoe. I did road to trail a couple of times in this shoe and found it to be not the most desirable for the roads. In dirt, rocks, and mulchy surfaces the shoe does really well across a variety of surfaces. The lugs are pretty deep and grab well. The outsole itself has good traction throughout, though I'm not sure I would say it provides the most traction out of anything in the market. It seems to match most trail outsoles, though Vibram MegaGrip compound outsoles still seem to have more of stick to me. The midsole is nothing overly amazing with responsiveness, but provides plenty of cushioning. This shoe feels best at controlled efforts and should function well for those longer distance trail efforts. 


STABILITY

The stability is done pretty well with the VJ Ultra. The midsole is not overly soft and uses a full contact outsole with good traction and lugs. The upper holds its integrity incredibly well. My main recommendation for stability here is intertwined with the upper recommendation. The midfoot could certainly be improved with lockdown to prevent any translation of the foot. 


THOUGHTS AS A DPT / FOOTWEAR SCIENCE

Today I am going to take a little bit of a different spin on the DPT section. I'm not a chemical engineer or material science expert but it is known that companies will utilize different sources of rubber for traction. Some of the known materials we have seen are blown rubber, carbon rubber, crystallized rubber, rubberized EVA, and proprietary outsoles from Vibram, Continental, Goodyear, etc. I bring this up because of the big things VJ is marketing is their traction. It is by no means bad. This shoe does have good traction and it will match up to most models out there. The choice of the rubber compound is still important though when looking at stickiness on all surfaces. For me the traction on VJ was good, but not quite as sticky as the softer yet grippy Vibram MegaGrip outsole. Rubber can come with different densities and depending on that density it will react with ground underneath it differently. A rubberized EVA will decompress more, but will grab the road in doing so. The Carbon Rubber will hold its shape more and be less temperature dependent (I believe), but not stick quite as much as say a blown rubber outsole. Durability is also a trade off as well though. Carbon normally will do better than blown rubber, which will last longer than rubberized EVA, etc. This is all just food for thought! 

- David Salas, PT, DPT, CSCS



RECOMMENDATIONS

My main recommendations for the VJ Ultra lie within the upper and fit of the shoe. The midfoot certainly can be improved with lockdown. There is a lockdown mechanism present but it is on the firmer end and the laces really need to be locked down in order to use it effectively. The heel also is pretty firm throughout and could irritate those with sensitive Achilles tendons. I think that padding that area up a little bit would benefit this shoe, especially since it is designed for longer trail distances. 



WHO THIS SHOE IS FOR (Conclusion)

The VJ Ultra is a trail running shoe for those looking for a traditional feeling midsole coupled with a nearly indestructible upper and semi deep lugs with good traction. The fit throughout is normal to slightly wide and should work pretty well for a good amount of people. The foam itself is nothing overly impressive, but will serve its purpose very well for controlled longer efforts on the trails. 



GRADING (SHOE CATEGORY)

David
Fit: B (A decent fit throughout but lacing system could be improved, midfoot could lockdown better, Kevlar is good durability while still being breathable)                    
Performance:  
(A good trail shoe with nothing overly standing out, but enough protection for long efforts and good at controlled efforts) 
Stability: 
B+ (Traction is good throughout, upper holds its integrity, midfoot could be improved to prevent translation) 
DPT/Footwear Science:  
B+ (Rationale for grade) 
Personal:  
(A good trail shoe for controlled efforts or long efforts, nothing in this shoe is necessarily revolutionary but it is reliable and will work well for most) 
Overall:  B/B+ (A good trail shoe that will work well for most, good durability, nothing overly revolutionary about the VJ Ultra)        

SHOP | SUPPORT DOR

VJ Shoes is currently available through their site here: https://vjshoesusa.com/

Interested in shopping for trail running shoes? Visit Running Warehouse's trail runners here. Using the link helps support Doctors of Running.

Are you an international reader? Visit the following to shop! 

Running Warehouse EU | Running Warehouse Australia

FURTHER READING

Looking for more shoe reviews? Visit our shoe review page.

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TESTER PROFILE:

Dr. David Salas is a 135 lb male with notable PRs ranging from 3:54 in the 1500m to 1:08:36 for half marathon. He typically runs 60 to 70 miles per week and trains from about 7:30 recovery runs to fast shorter efforts at 4:30 pace. He normally prefers neutral shoes with a firmer ride, but is completely open to other types of shoes.  He is a footwear enthusiast at heart and will always appreciate a high quality shoe when it comes around. For updates on training or testing, IG handle: @docsofrundavid

Editor's Note: As always, the views presented on this website belong to myself or the selected few who contribute to these posts. This website should not and does not serve as a replacement for seeking medical care. If you are currently injured or concerned about an injury, please see your local running physical therapist. If you are in the Los Angeles area, I am currently taking clients for running evaluations.

Matthew Klein, PT DPT OCS FAAOMPT
Doctor of Physical Therapy
Board Certified Orthopedic Clinical Specialist
Fellow of the American Academy of Orthopedic Manual Physical Therapists

Nathan Brown PT DPT MS
Doctor of Physical Therapy 
Masters in Anatomy and Clinical Health Science
Movement Performance Institute Certified in Advanced Functional Biomechanics 

David Salas PT DPT CSCS
Doctor of Physical Therapy
Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist

Bach Pham MS
Marketing and Social Media Manager
Master of Arts in Cultural Anthropology

***Disclaimer: These shoes were provided free of charge in exchange for a review.  We thank the  people at VJ Shoes for sending us a pair.  This in no way affected the honesty of this review. We systematically put each type of shoe through certain runs prior to review. For trainers and performance trainers, we take them on daily runs, workouts, recovery runs and a long run prior to review (often accumulating anywhere from 20-50 miles in the process). For racing flats we ensure that we have completed intervals, a tempo or steady state run run as well as a warm up and cool down in each pair prior to review. This systematic process is to ensure that we have experience with each shoe in a large variety of conditions to provide expansive and thorough reviews for the public and for companies. Our views are based on our extensive history in the footwear industry and years testing and developing footwear. If you are a footwear rep looking for footwear reviews or consultations on development, we are currently looking to partner with companies to assist, discuss and promote footwear models. Partnership will not affect the honesty of our reviews.


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