Wednesday, January 17, 2024

VJ Shoes Ace Review: Bring on Ice! 4 Comparisons

Article by Jeff Valliere

VJ Shoes Ace ($180)


Jeff V:  The VJ Ace is VJ’s latest winter running shoe , building upon the Ice Hero (RTR Review), with key improvements being more pronounced and effective studs, significantly more cushioning, a wider toe box and a more waterproof upper.  When VJ advertises it delivers “ the best grip on the planet”, they really mean it!  If you run on icy trails or roads, the Ace is one of the best out there, read on to see why!


Jeff V: Traction, waterproof upper, fit, cushioning, warmth, stability


Jeff V: Measured weight of sample shoe seems out of line with what is advertised.  It would be really nice to have a built-in gaiter.


Approx. Weight: men's 11 oz /312g (US9) 

  Samples: men’s  11.6oz /332g (US10)  ,  oz / g US

Stack Height: men’s 38mm heel / 30mm forefoot ( 8mm drop spec) 

Platform Width: 90mm heel / 80mm midfoot / 120mm forefoot

$180. Available now  

First Impressions, Fit and Upper

Jeff V:  Out of the box, it is notable how wide the toe box (and platform) appears, how much cushioning has been added compared to the Ice Hero and how pronounced the star shaped studs are.  The upper materials are very thick and somewhat stiff, with a beefy toe bumper and stiff heel counter.  While that description may sound negative for some shoes, they are all assets for the intended winter purpose of this shoe.

The upper material is very thick and stiff and is labeled as “Waterproof”.  While it is not Gore or any other brand name waterproofing, I have found it to be equally effective in repelling snow and slush.  As far as breathability, as I have only run them in the winter, that has not been a concern and for its winter use I do not really look for breathability, but instead warmth and protection from the elements.  Even so, I have not experienced any clamminess or wetting out from within, even on days that topped 60 degrees.  While the materials feel thick and stiff in the hand, I have not found it to be an issue while running.

The toe bumper is bombproof, you could kick just about anything and experience no pain.

Fit has changed from prior VJ, as they have a wide toe box that is visually similar to a Topo or an Altra (though more Topo than Altra), to allow for a bit more room for a thicker sock and to eliminate the need to size up a half size.  

Side by side with the Topo MTN Racer 3 .  The shape is quite similar and both have 120mm wide front platforms

I actually did not size up in the Ice Hero and was fine, but having the wider toe box in the Ace is a nice touch and allows for a bit more wiggle room, yet remarkably does not compromise foothold even for my relatively narrow low volume foot.  Overall, I find fit to be true to size and foothold throughout to be very locked in and secure.

Helping with security in the midfoot is the Fitlock strap enhancing the midfoot hold on the medial side of the shoe.  

The Fitlock strap really helps lock in the midfoot and also provides a bit of protection there from hitting rocks or roots.  Lacing is very secure, once and done.

The heel counter is tall and rigid, but is well padded and comfortable.  I appreciate the protection here and it is great for when you want to add Microspikes (I know, sometimes I stack traction higher on the mountain when there is more snow on steeper grades).

The tongue is well padded and gusseted, more booty style even, integrating with the waterproof upper to keep the snow and wet at bay.  

The heel collar is also very well padded and comfortable, resting at just the right height.  

If I could offer one suggestion for improvement, it would be to add a built-in gaiter, preferably one that is thin, light and flexible, just enough to keep the snow out of the collar of the shoe.  As it is, I need to often add a gaiter, especially because we get a lot of wind drift and variability in trail conditions.  In the winter there often is snow and I want to keep it out!

Midsole & Platform

Jeff V:  VJ is using an ETPU midsole material for the Ace, which has a soft and well cushioned feel underfoot, making them comfortable and compliant when running on hard frozen surfaces and ice.  Unlike many EVA midsoles typical in trail shoes, the ETPU midsole does not harden in cold temperatures and thus provides a more forgiving feel underfoot, leaving me more fresh afterward and making it easier to go longer distances.  The foam is reasonably responsive, but I think some of that response is limited just by the shoe weighing in over 11.5 oz in my US10. That said, the Ace is faster than most on slick icy trails given the great cushioning so that you can push a bit more on hard, steep descents given the great foothold and especially the very secure traction.


Jeff V:  The outsole is the “star” here, as the VJ Ace features VJ’s Superior Contact rubber with aggressively shaped 4mm lugs, with 17 of them on each shoe have carbon steel star shaped studs.  While the Ice Hero has 18 studs on each shoe, the studs on the Ace are more pronounced and thus provide significantly better grip on icy trails.  

I find I can run confidently on steep icy trails, hard packed snow and any other winter surfaces and conditions.  

They are also great on steep dirt and off trail, with the studs providing extra bite without getting in the way.  

The studs are of course noticeable on rocky surfaces or pavement, scratchy, but not overly obtrusive.  So far durability is proving to be very good, with no appreciable wear or degradation after ~40 rough miles.

Ride, Conclusions and Recommendations

Jeff V:  The VJ Ace might be the best studded trail shoe on the market , providing impressive grip on icy, packed snow and frozen trails, a roomy fit in the forefoot to allow for thicker socks, impressive cushioning that does not harden in the cold and it is topped with a durable, protective and waterproof upper.  The ride is smooth and well cushioned and is reasonably quick and responsive despite the overall weight of the shoe.  If you run on steep, frozen icy trails and off trail, the VJ Ace is a top pick.

Jeff V’s Score:  9.6/10

Ride: 9.5, Fit: 9.5, Value: 9.5, Style: 8.5, Traction: 10, Rock Protection: 10  


Mike Postaski's VJ Ace Video Review (14:34)

4 Comparisons

Index to all RTR reviews: HERE Roadtrailrun 

VJ Ice Hero (RTR Review): 

Jeff V:  The Ice Hero is lighter and faster feeling because of its lighter weight, but is not as well cushioned and is not as waterproof, nor is traction as good.  If uphill only, I would choose the Ice Hero, but for an up and down, especially if especially icy and slick and wanting to go fast, the Ace is a better pick.

Hoka Speedgoat 5 Gore Tex Spike (RTR Review)

Jeff V:  The Ace is lighter, has 6 more mm of stack, 5 more studs and a wider fit in the toe box.  That said, the Speedgoat Spike feels light and quick on the foot and at least equally, if not better cushioned underfoot.  I do find the Ace provides a slightly better grip on ice.

Norda 001 G+ Spike (RTR Review)

Jeff V:  The Norda has slightly less stack, but really amazing cushioning and is about an ounce lighter than the Ace.  The Norda feels notably faster and lighter, but the upper is not as protective or as waterproof.  The spikes on the Norda are good for frozen snow and moderate ice, but when the ice gets steeper and harder, the Ace has superior grip.  Also of note, the Norda is double the price.

La Sportiva Blizzard (RTR Review)

Jeff V:  The Blizzard is one of my favorites, as I love the built in gaiter, comfort and overall winter functionality of the shoe.  Fit of the Blizzard (or any Sportiva shoe) is tricky and for winter shoes you must size up.  The Blizzard is nearly an ounce heavier (but again, does have the gaiter),  with its stack height  roughly half of the Ace and is not as soft.  While the Blizzard is studded, the studs are only moderately effective on moderately slippery frozen trails and require adding hobnails (an additional $50) to make them an effective option on truly icy steep mountain trails.

Kahtoola EXOspikes (RTR Review)

Jeff V:  While not a shoe, the EXOspikes deserve mention here.  For a mere $65, the EXOspikes are essential for any trail runner or hiker who regularly negotiates icy trails, or even just hard packed snowy trails.  The EXOs can fit on any shoe and it is nice to have the option of taking them off on a road approach or what you know will be a long dry section of trail.  The grip on ice is better than anything out there and they are exceptionally durable, as I have a pair that is 5+ years old that I have beat on and they still likely have another 5 years left in them (or more).

The VJ Ace is available at VJ Shoes HERE

Tester Profiles

Jeff Valliere loves to run and explore the mountains of Colorado, the steeper and more technical the better. He has summited all of the 14ers in the state and can be found on mountain trails daily, no matter the weather, season, conditions or whether there is daylight or not.  On the side he loves to ski (all forms) bike and hike, often with his family, as he introduces his 12 year old daughters to the outdoors. Jeff was born and raised in New Hampshire, but has called Colorado home for over 25 years. He is 5’9” and 145 lbs.

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

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