Sunday, July 23, 2023

VJ Shoes SpeedHiker Review: Serious Looks and Rough Terrain Performance

Article by Sam Winebaum

VJ SpeedHiker ($170)


The SpeedHiker is a light hiking boot built on the chassis of the excellent VJ Ultra 2 trail runner (RTR Review) one of our team’s 2023 favorites for faster moving on technical terrain and especially on terrain where flawless traction is essential. In addition to the same midsole platform and full length rock plate, it features VJ’s  100% Butyl Rubber outsole in an aggressive 4mm lug pattern. VJ from Finland knows traction. 

VJ started in orienteering and before the Ultra are known for aggressively lugged short distance trail and mountain racing and OCR type shoes with always super secure lockdown uppers. 

The upper heritage continues in boot form here with a mid height profile with lower rear,  VJ’s trademark FitLock medial strap, durable ripstop nylon mesh, a stout toe bumper and miracle of miracles a full lacing to the top.  In tough conditions I find the usual boot hook systems almost never as secure as I would like with constant tightening adjustments to get a good wrap that stays put. Not so here!

I tested the SpeedHiker in the White Mountains of New Hampshire on 2 hikes to Mount Osceola and Mount Liberty, both 4000 footers steep and rocky every inch of the way! Here is what I discovered.


The support of a boot with the agility and cushion of a trail runner

Top of the class traction on wet rock from 100% Butyl Rubber

Highly supportive, easy to maintain well laced, water proof breathable upper with mesh 100% recycled materials

Reasonable $170 pricing for a state of the art full featured waterproof boot.


Reading sizing insights carefully below! Refer to EU not US sizes on the shoe label although website sizing now seems correct. 

Eliminating the waterproof membrane would drop weight at least one ounce and into more runnable territory. 


Approx. Weight: men's 13.48 oz  / 382g (US9) 

  Samples: men’s  13.23 oz / 375g US8.5

Stack Height: men’s 33 mm heel / 27 mm forefoot, 6mm drop

First Impressions, Fit and Upper

All black and serious looking. This is a serious, high performance light boot. End of story but please read on for all the details.

As introduced above, we have a dense ripstop mesh with VJ own bootie Performadry 100% waterproof membrane. I hiked them in moderate temperatures and found the membrane indeed waterproof until that is I forded multiple streams some over the top of the boot. 

Draining was just fine and my feet never got clammy and overheated. Except in full winter or cold wet conditions, I prefer a non waterproof boot for its lighter weight, yet faster draining, and quicker drying but what we have here is just fine.

Foot hold is excellent with the FitLock strap on the medial side really locking the foot to the platform. 

The heel counter is rigid and has a big external clip. 

There is plenty of well held forward flex given the far rear is not overly high although I prefer the Saucony approach in the Ridge GTX with a higher collar that can be laced loose or tight as needed by doing a shoe lace up lower down. 

The collars are well padded and supportive. They work extremely well with the full lacing to the top of boot with never the hook stretch and have to be re-tightened as I find  in most other other light boots even when the boots were totally soaked and the going steep.

The toe box is not particularly broad but it is very high and “held up” by the extensive toe bumper which along with the lacing and FitLock does an excellent job locking the foot to the platform.

I did have some minor bunion pressure and a bit of sore foot until the plate and boot got some flex which was after only a few miles and now the Hiker has plenty of flex and  a flex more like a trail runner than a traditional boot. 

Sizing labeling in my pair is strange.. I received what VJ labels on the shoe as a US10 and EU41. It fits like an EU41 or even EU42. I am usually a US8.5 and between EU41 and EU42. At the provided size I am a perfect true to size with medium to heavier socks. Looking at their website US and EU sizes seem to now be properly aligned with a US9 showing as an EU 42


As the chassis is based on a trail runner the midsole will for sure remind more of a trail runner than a stiff firm traditional hiker. There is plenty of cushion with impacts well protected by the full length rock plate and outsole. I will cover comparative midsole feel to others in its class but it is in the mid range of cushion feel and totally appropriate with plenty of flex after the first hike I do think a touch firmer foam might help with stability with heavier packs but all in all it is a comfortable midsole.


One can argue back and forth and test back and forth as I did between Vibram MegaGrip and Salomon Contagrip, Inov-8’s Graphene Grip and others on wet slippery gritty granite and mud but for me the VJ rubber is likely the most confidence inspiring as not only does it stick but also as it seems slightly softer it also conforms to obstacles as it grips. 

We were on very slippery steep rocks and slabs after heavy rains on Mt Liberty and after “testing” to be sure of grip had total confidence after that.

Ride, Conclusions and Recommendations

Well named SpeedHiker, we have a boot that can move fast. Its strengths are where agility is also in the mix and where total never-fail grip is essential. I do wish for a slightly wider platform to better match the stack height here for side to side stability even though the upper kept me centered and secure, the plate has some propulsion and overall I was arrow-like in motion on any terrain! 

While very light for such a substantial boot, I wish it was lighter, maybe non waterproof to make it more runnable as the weight is the only thing keeping it from those duties.  There are many low top trail shoes I can easily hike just about anything in so a high top needs to add value.  Here it is in carrying a heavier pack than the usual day pack when moving fast and for the protection and support on very technical terrain where running is barely possible. 

While I knock the weight of the waterproof protection in the heat of summer,  come winter it will make an excellent winter hiker/runner and snowshoe boot or for that matter snow shoveling and commuting, if not to the office and out about town in its all black  At $170 value is excellent for a state of the art, any terrain boot that should prove very durable with a solid waterproof breathable membrane that performs as well as the branded ones. 

Sam's Score: 9.3 / 10 (deductions for waterproof bootie adding to weight and sense that a slightly wider platform would make them yet more stable. Strong pluses for value and traction.


Index to all RTR reviews: HERE

Saucony Ultra Ridge GTX (RTR Review)

 The Ultra Ridge is one of my favorite “shoes” of 2023 for its versatility. It is for sure a hiking boot but is totally runnable . It shares the platform of PWRRUN EVA/TPU foam with the supercritical PEBA Pb foam core of the Xodus Ultra and its woven rock plate as well. Thus, the chassis is that of a top notch trail run shoe. At  12.72 oz in US9 for a 32.5 mm heel / 26.5 mm with 4.5mm lugs (so almost the same as the VJ) it is lighter by 0.7 oz. It’s upper with Gore-Tex is lighter and more pliable (my sense not as durable or as overlay reinforced as well as the SpeedHiker’s) The ability to lace them as one would a run shoe down low knot and all with the hooks at the collar easily allow a boot tight fit or looser more forward flexing for running with no compromise in lower foot hold.

Aku Selvatica GTX (RTR Review)

More classic boot than new age trail runner platform with a boot top at 485 grams/ 17.01 oz the Aku is considerably heavier and also yet more supportive. Its foam is denser and its platform lower and more stable. It is a better choice for heavy loads in rough terrain. It is the only shoe of the four covered here with Vibram Megagrip. I found VJ's rubber at least as good with its lug platform a bit more aggressive.


RocLite Pro G 400 GTX v2 (RTR Review soon)

Sitting slightly heavier at 14.2 oz  / 402g (US9) and with about the total stack height at  33mm heel / 25 mm forefoot,  the Inov-8’s Graphene outsole has big 6mm lugs. Its upper is similar in being a dense ripstop with a breathable waterproof bootie membrane, in the Pro Lite a Gore-Tex. It is a warm boot with a thicker upper than the VJ as we found out trekking them in Tuscany 80F heat earlier this year. They have a great ride underfoot, even on pavement, but are very warm.  Unlike the VJ, lacing to get a good top hold is quite problematic.  Not only is the shoe broad in width up front, broader than the VJ, so great for higher volume fee,t but its mesh doesn’t wrap the foot as well and its collars and hook arrangements do not stay snug for long requiring frequent adjustments. This is unlike the lace to the top in holes all the way once and done SpeedHiker lacing arrangement. My pair was a half size up from my normal but that is only part of the issue. 

The underfoot platform is somewhat more stable and I would say more forgivingly cushioned than the VJ. as there is no rock plate in the Inov-8, and none is needed either . Grip  on wet rock is comparable and great but I would give the VJ a slight edge due to its lower profile lugs and somewhat softer and stickier Butyl rubber.  

Sam is the Editor and Founder of Road Trail Run. He is 66 with a 2018 3:40 Boston qualifier. 2022 was Sam’s 50th year of running. He has a decades old 2:28 marathon PR. These days he runs halves in the just sub 1:40 range if he gets very very lucky, training 30-40 miles per week mostly at moderate paces on the roads and trails of New Hampshire and Utah be it on the run, hiking or on nordic skis. He is 5’9” tall and weighs about 164 lbs, if he is not enjoying too many fine New England IPA’s.

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

Comments and Questions Welcome Below!
Please let us know mileage, paces, race distances, and current preferred shoes

Men's & Women's SHOP HERE
FREE 2 Day Shipping EASY No Sweat Returns

EUROPE Men's & Women's SHOP HERE

Europe only: use RTR code RTR5ALL for 5% off all products, even sale products 


Men's and Women's SHOP HERE

Men's & Women's SHOP HERE

Men's & Women's  SHOP HERE

Men's & Women's  SHOP HERE

Men's & Women's SHOP HERE
Use RTR code RTRTOP4 for 5% off all products, even sale products

Men's & Women's  SHOP HERE

Men's & Women's SHOP HERE
FREE Shipping on most orders over $40

Men's & Women's SHOP HERE

Men's & Women's SHOP HERE

Men's and Women's SHOP HERE


Find all RoadTrailRun reviews at our index page HERE 
Google "roadtrailrun Shoe Name" and you can be quite sure to find just about any run shoe over the last 10 years

Enjoyed this post? Never miss out on future posts by Following RoadTrailRun News Feed

Please Like and Follow RoadTrailRun
Facebook:  Instagram: @roadtrailrun
Twitter: @RoadTrailRun You Tube: @RoadTrailRun

No comments: