VJ XTRM 2 Review

An in-depth review of the VJ XTRM 2 trail running shoe.

By on February 27, 2024 | Comments

VJ markets the VJ XTRM 2 ($170) as a remarkable choice for obstacle course racing, sky running, trail running, and swim-run events. I would add that the VJ XTRM 2 is a solid running shoe to have around during the early winter months, such as when navigating wet and snowy singletrack trails around southern Oregon where I live.

There are trails, and then there are the trails. There is a difference, and in some cases many differences between trails and the trails, especially if you throw environmental conditions atop the dirt and rock. I generally find myself on trails due to convenience and life constraints, but when there is the opportunity to hop on the trails, I am all aboard and I am most definitely wearing a VJ shoe.


The VJ XTRM 2. All photos: iRunFar/Bryon Powell

VJ shoes scream excitement, ruggedness, and high times as a wannabe mountain goat. Notably, the VJ XTRM 2 is a niche shoe for the trails and suitable for trails spiced up by weather and roughness. They are a sure-footed choice for runs and adventures that will test the outsole on up and the soul. While it isn’t a pavement shoe or dedicated rock slab running shoe, it still finds its traction on layers of rock and unpredictable terrain.

The XTRM 2 keeps the runner and multi-faceted adventure athlete close to ground with a claimed 24-millimeter stack height at the heel and 20 millimeters at the toe for a 4-millimeter drop. But, the 6-millimeter lug height definitely gives the shoes a more lifted feel, nearly on par with the VJ Spark — see my VJ Spark review.

The XTRM 2 has an actual weight of 9.1 ounces (258 grams) for a U.S. men’s size 9. Compared to the other shoes I have run in over the last year, in addition to how much this shoe protects and carries a durable sword out in the wilderness, the weight is light, and it runs light. As a side note, only VJ’s winter shoes come in dedicated men’s and women’s models.

The XTRM 2’s specifications largely contribute to its technical and hard-wearing prowess with a keen ability to feel and grab the ground with pronounced surety.

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VJ XTRM 2 Upper

The VJ XTRM 2 upper deserves acclaim for its construction and its ability to shield and provide a soft armor against the elements. The heart of the upper material is constructed for extreme durability in harsh and rugged conditions. VJ designers used Schoeller Keprotec material, which contains Kevlar, for its protective qualities, lightness, and resistance to the snags, barbs, and sharp rocks.

Schoeller Keprotec was developed for motorcycle racing, but the fabric has excelled across other industry standards such as outdoor sports and construction. I like that fact that the mesh is thick, malleable, and still drains exceptionally. I ran through hard rain and deep puddles, and the water seemed to be of little concern.

VJ XTRM 2 - lateral view

A lateral view of the VJ XTRM 2.

I received both the VJ Spark and the VJ XTRM 2 at the same time. When I took both of pairs out of their respective boxes, I was slightly nervous about the narrow blade-like construction, yet simultaneously excited at their appealing fast and aggressive looks. To my surprise, both uppers provide a comfortable and nonconstricting fit.

Comparatively, the Spark’s toebox is a hair wider at the base of the forefoot, but the XTRM 2 still allows for ample vertical mobility and medial and lateral flexibility. The XTRM 2 runs wider overall than the Spark, and its toebox is further fortified with an amply stitched TPU overly, with an additional heat-welded rubber bumper at the front of the shoe.

The designers are well aware that this shoe needs to perform in rugged locations. There is similar TPU protection granted on the medial and lateral side of the heel, guarding a softer more compliant heel collar, which I appreciate for slight motion control and flexibility.

An interesting and effective attribute of the XTRM 2’s upper, and something I really haven’t experienced on other trail shoes, is the soft and subtle Velcro non-slip material on the heel collar to discreetly provide more effective heel lock. Personally, I think this unique addition worked well for a snug fit at the heel in combination with the midfoot medial Fitlock system.

The Fitlock thermoplastic extends up from the midsole to the laces, which profoundly keeps the foot secure and stable throughout the gait cycle. As with all the VJ models I have tested, the partially gusseted tongue is loose with a tendency to slide down considerably. It hasn’t warranted any major concerns, because abrasion isn’t an issue, but it moves, and I would prefer it stay in place. In the drier months, dust and debris may be more apt to find a path inside.

Overall, the XTRM 2 upper has an aggressive feel and look — the bright red and orange graffiti colorway signifies that the feet will be turning and burning. As someone who normally gravitates toward simple and unassuming designs in my daily trainers, the VJ niche and technical running shoes spark a flash when you slide them on.

The designers did an outstanding job at matching the shoe’s mission and personality to its outward appearance, which impressively mirrors how you feel on the inside. I write this without hyperbole.

VJ XTRM 2 Midsole

The VJ XTRM 2’s midsole uses the same dense EVA foam as the VJ Spark, but is fortified with a full length yet flexible rock plate. The two are very similar shoes, but differ in nuance and overall protection and technical aptitude.

Both the XTRM 2 and Spark flex exceptionally well, which abets the outsole with ground feel and tactical expertise, while balancing out the firmness of the midsole. The midsole isn’t your typical cushioned ride, attracting swarms of trail runners these days. But this construction is warranted given the mission of the XTRM 2.

It is, however, designed with soft pads in the forefoot and the heel, referred to as Poron, to extend the longevity of both the adventures and the midsole. It allows for navigating swift and quick singletrack and tight turns. The midsole doesn’t give back tremendously, but it is light and agile. It adds pep and really inspires some turning and burning when the trail opens up.

VJ XTRM 2 - medial view

A medial view of the VJ XTRM 2.

VJ XTRM 2 Outsole

Similar to the other VJ outsole masterpieces, the outsole on the VJ XTRM 2 certainly upholds the company’s motto as having “the best grip on the planet.” Sure, it is tacky and loud on pavement and hard surfaces, but when it comes to performance on the trails — this outsole, outshines.

The XTRM 2 comes equipped with a full butyl-rubber outsole and more lugs at the midfoot and forefoot compared to the VJ Spark. Standing and running in both of them, you can feel the grip and traction difference, and while both are excellent, the XTRM 2 is slightly edgier. That is largely because the XTRM 2 carries 6-millimeter aggressive lugs with heightened ground contact, full heel-to-toe support, and quick mud and snow release. Considering all the mud and rocks I ran through, very little material — if any — was left on the bottoms of the shoes post-run.

VJ XTRM 2 - outsole

The outsole of the VJ XTRM 2.

I did quite a few intervals in the XTRM 2 — it just inspires that kind of training run. One rainy, snowy morning, I laced up the XTRM 2 shoes for some trail running intervals and I encountered the gambit of mud, new wet snow, and then finally a crunchy deep layer of white the higher I went. All my intervals were uphill and without hesitation.

The integrity of the outsole — grip and lug design — were on point for surefooted hard uphill singletrack running along with equal confidence on the descent.

VJ XTRM 2 Overall Impressions

I am head over heels for the VJ XTRM 2. As winter storm after winter storm came through southern Oregon where I live — in the form of snow, wintry mix, and then rain — this shoe excelled across the board on trails and the trails I could get access to.

VJ has carefully designed each layer of the XTRM 2 to perform optimally for its intended purposes. I did solid speedwork on snow and soft granite, as well as many hill repeats on a very rocky and sloppy muddy trail to put the outsole, midsole, and upper to the test, which included running through many mud puddles. I was sure-footed and felt securely protected.

The XTRM 2 isn’t the VJ Ultra. See our full VJ Ultra review; it’s designed with more cushion for longer outings and typical ultra-races. But the XTRM 2 can definitely push a 50-kilometer distance if needed, although I would generally keep the XTRM 2 and Spark to roughly 20 to 25 kilometers, especially if there are expanses of soft trail to cover.

The overall firmness and hard rubber seem to limit the shoe to ultra experiences rather than ultra distances. I am looking forward to taking this shoe on more exposed mountain top running — in the vein of sky running. The XTRM 2 is also adequately fashioned as a swim-run shoe, which can navigate rocky shorelines and scramble rugged beaches.

Based on what it is capable of already, I am wholly confident that its performance will reign supreme where grip and stability are of the utmost importance.

Shop the VJ XTRM 2

Call for Comments

  • Have you tried the VJ XTRM 2? What were your thoughts?
  • Have you tried any other shoes by this brand?
VJ XTRM 2 - top view

A top view of the VJ XTRM 2.

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Molly Schmelzle

Molly Schmelzle is a gear reviewer for iRunFar. She is relatively new to the reviewing scene but is a veteran competitive athlete, ultrarunner, and writer. Molly has authored biology-based research papers and numerous grants for funding opportunities. She has been coaching runners of all abilities with a particular focus on strength and conditioning training over the last 7 years. Together with her partner, a sports chiropractor with a specialty in running and endurance athletes, they are in the beginning stages of building a mobility and strength program for runners. Molly is a dedicated biologist for the state of Oregon and is a strength coach on the side. She enjoys running ultras in remote mountainous areas and will occasionally hop into road half and full marathons.