Sunday, January 23, 2022

VJ Shoes Ice Hero Review

Article by Jeff Valliere

VJ Ice Hero ($160)


After reviewing both the VJ Ultra (RTR Review)  and Spark (RTR Review)  this summer, I was quite impressed with the secure fit, incredible traction and unmatched performance on technical terrain.  When VJ says “Best Grip on thePlanet”, it is not a gimmick.  When I learned they were coming out with a new studded winter model from Finland based VJ, I knew I had to review them.  Winter conditions on the Boulder trails and mountain summits can be quite variable, often including an intermittent combination of different states of packed or loose snow, bare ground, exposed rocks and what we refer to as “death ice”.  When conditions reach “death ice” status, there are few traction solutions that really cut it (see our winter traction round up here)

Pros: Traction, foothold, weight, response, agility, water resistant, cushion/protection

Cons: Studs could be more pronounced.

Tester Profile

Jeff runs mostly on very steep technical terrain above Boulder often challenging well known local FKT's. 


Official Weight:   9.7oz / 275g men’s US9

  Sample: men’s 10.25 oz /290g US10

Midsole Stack Height: 21mm/13mm (8mm drop)

4mm lugs, 18 carbon steel star studs

$160. Available Now at VJ Shoes here  

First Impressions and Fit

Out of the box I am impressed by the light weight of 10.25 oz in my US 10 for what is a water resistant, studded winter shoe as they feel super airy and minimal.  Of course the studs on this shoe are the highlight and I am impressed that VJ features18 strategically placed studs (vs. 12 on the Salomon Spikecross and only 9 in the La Sportiva Blizzard).  

While I often size up a half size for a dedicated waterproof/water resistant winter shoe, my normal size 10 works perfectly for me with my typical mid weight wool socks without feeling at all tight.


The Ice Hero has a water repellent upper that is a weave of aramid fiber and nylon which is very similar to the MAXx (RTR Review), providing excellent durability and comfort.  The Ice Hero also features the FitLock system strap for increased midsole stability, protection and support.  

The heel collar is well padded and the heel counter well structured with good protection and support.  

The tongue is well padded and gusseted, to help with the water resistance.

The toe bumper is substantial and integrates with a 360 rand for protection, durability and water resistance.

Foothold and lockdown are superb, keeping my foot comfortably in place no matter how rough the terrain or how fast I am running.  This level of hold is particularly vital  on tricky, uneven snowy or icy terrain.

Since this is a water resistant shoe, they are not meant to be ventilated, but I have never found my feet to get hot or sweaty even on warmish days and they stay reasonably warm even when running in temps as low as the teens.

While listed as water resistant and not waterproof, I have not yet had them soak through when running on snow covered trails and through slush or puddles.  Since these are low top shoes, I would recommend at least an ankle gaiter if any deep snow might be encountered.


The midsole feels well cushioned, responsive and stays flexible and compliant in cold temperatures without ever feeling stiff, overly firm or harsh.  This is especially welcome, as having a nice compliant and light feeling midsole helps a lot when running on hard surfaces such as ice and rock which is where I turn to a shoe like the Ice Hero.

I could not find any definitive mention of a rock plate.  Either way, the Ice Hero offers excellent underfoot protection and feels as though it does have a protective, yet flexible rock plate although I do not have confirmation that it does.


The outsole is the star of the shoe show here with deep aggressive lugs (listed as 4mm, but seem more like 5mm to me, 18 of which are topped with carbon steel star shaped studs.  

I have run in the Ice Hero through a wide variety of tough, variable winter trail conditions and they have provided excellent traction .  

The sweet spot for the Ice Hero is on hard packed, frozen snow surfaces or on granular ice.  

On the steeper sections of the true infamous bulletproof death ice, they slid and struggled a bit, but I was always able to negotiate the trail safely, even if at a more cautious pace.  

I was also able to take these on a run on neighborhood roads after a recent New England style ice storm where the roads were covered with a ¼ inch of hard black ice and they performed wonderfully.  Durability thus far is proving to be very good, with no visible wear on the studs or tread, despite running across a lot of bare, rocky trail between sections of ice and snow.


I wouldn’t call the ride plush, but it is well cushioned and appropriate for a studded winter ice shoe, providing a nice lightweight feel, with good response, protection and stability.

Conclusions and Recommendations

The VJ Ice Hero is one of the lighter, more lively, responsive and effective winter shoes on the market.  With a very well held upper that is quite water resistant, a nicely cushioned responsive, well protected midsole and a very grippy studded outsole that can handle slippery conditions and rough frozen terrain with aplomb, the Ice Hero is one of the best choices on the market for going fast in the winter.

Jeff’s Score:  9.3/10

Ride: 9 Fit: 9.5 Value: 9 Style: 8.5 Traction: 9.5 Rock Protection: 9.5


Salomon Spikecross 5 GTX (RTR Review)

The Spikecross 5 is a bit more warm and waterproof, maybe better for slower, more casual use, as it is not as light, low, agile, or responsive as the Ice Hero.  The Ice Hero has far superior traction, with 18 studs that are more pronounced, whereas the Spikecross has a mere 12 studs that are not as prominent.

Salomon Snowspike CS WP (RTR Review)

Same exact thoughts as the Spikecross 5, except the Snowspike CS WP has a nice high built in gaiter which is handy.

La Sportiva Blizzard (RTR Review)  

The Blizzard is a more heavy duty shoe than the Ice Hero, a bit warmer and has a nice built in stretch gaiter.  It is heavier, but runs lighter than the weight implies and is relatively quick, agile, stable and responsive.  The Blizzard however only has half the number of studs as the Ice Hero, which is unfortunate and provides noticeably less traction when the ice hardens up.  That said, you can add hobnails to the Blizzard ($50 for a full set of 18 or 9 per shoe) that bolster the traction significantly, making it the most effective shoe I own for sketchy hard steep ice, though at that point, you are up to a cost of $250, vs. $160 for the Ice Hero.

Any shoe adding Kahtoola EXOspikes: (RTR Review)

EXOspikes are an amazing option, where you can simply pick your favorite shoe and add studs in an instant.  This is particularly handy if you want to pick your shoe flavor for the day, anything from a pair of minimal race shoes, to big hiking boots or if you have a long dry approach and then need to add traction.  While there are only 12 studs, they are very pronounced, sharp and effective, not to mention durable.  At $60 they are a steal and everyone who runs/hikes in the winter where there is snow and ice, be it road or trail should own a pair.

The VJ Ice Hero is available from VJ Shoes HERE

Tested samples were provided at no charge for review purposes. RoadTrail Run has affiliate partnerships and may earn commission on products purchased through affiliate links in this article. These partnerships do not influence our editorial content. The opinions herein are entirely the authors'

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