NVii Ultimate Review
This week we’re reviewing the NVii (pronounced “en-vee”) Ultimate, which comes with rubber or metal studs. NVii are an orienteering and trail shoe brand from Finland. Their shoes are designed to be light, nimble and durable across very technical terrain. We reviewed the NVii Terra TT back in October 2020 here. The Terra TT is a light, nimble and surprisingly cushioned for such a flexible shoe. The NVii Ultimate is more of a soft ground trail, orienteering or fell running shoe.
The NVii Ultimate upper is a sock construction. This reduces the chance of getting debris into the shoes and gives a lovely soft, comfortable feel to the upper. Shoes designed for rough, broken ground tend to offer a very snug fit. This is so that your foot is held by the upper, so it doesn’t turn inside the shoes. Although when laced up the NVii Ultimate does have a nice snug fit, there is more room in the toe box than there is in toe box of the NVii Race or Forest. The heel cup is plastic to give a firm stable fit around the heel. The padding around the heel cup is light compared to road shoes, but a little bit more than you would normally get in a shoe of this type. This adds to the slipper like comfort of the NVii Ultimate.
Covering the inner sock is a protective layer of ‘Superfabric’ that is a thin, strong, abrasion resistant material. The instep of the foot is protected further by a piece of Kevlar. There is a very thin protective rand around the base of the shoe and over the toes, which further reduces abrasion and protects from the mud. Despite this protective upper, the shoes only weigh 250g in a men’s UK8. The upper also holds very little water, so this weight won’t increase by much during a wet, muddy run.
The drop is 4mm from heel to forefoot, which promotes a more midfoot landing. This makes you more agile on rough terrain and together with the high level of flexibility also reduces the chance of twisted ankles or knees, as the shoe will mould to the shape of the ground. The midsole is made from 3 different compounds to give a firm, responsive and flexible feel.
The outsole is made from a natural rubber called Butyl rubber. This is used by a lot of the Scandinavian brands as it provides excellent grip in the wet and is also durable, unlike a lot of other soft grippy rubbers. The lugs range from 6.5 to 7.5 mm in length and are small and pointed. They bite very effectively into soft, muddy ground. If you prefer to use a studded shoe for cross country instead of a spike, then the NVii Ultimate would be an option. The outsole has no smooth parts to it, so whatever part of the outsole hits the ground first, it will provide some traction and reduce the chance of sliding.
I am a UK 11 in most brands (including VJ Sport), UK 11.5 in the smaller brands like Hoka, Icebug and La Sportiva. I found that a UK 10.5 in the larger feeling Ultimate gave me a similar fit.
NVii shoes come in two outsole options. A rubber stud made from Butyl rubber and a Butyl rubber studded shoe with metal dobs in some of the studs. Dobbed shoes are designed to be used when running through woods, where you need some traction on wet wood. They are popular with orienteers for this reason. They also provide good traction on ice or frozen ground, which is why Kim Collison chose to use a pair of metal studded shoes when breaking the Bob Graham Round winter record back in December 2019.
The difference between the NVii Forest and the NVii Ultimate is the sock style upper that the Ultimate has. This doesn’t just make the upper feel more comfortable and reduce debris getting into the shoes. The reduction of overlays on the upper makes the shoes a lot more flexible. They feel a lot more responsive and feel faster. Although your foot is held securely, I felt that my toes where able to spread and function a bit more which made toe off feel stronger.
I was excited to try the NVii Ultimate. They are designed for the type of running that I like best. A shoe of this type should be used on softer ground. Although the Butyl rubber is a durable sticky rubber, the small studs that are designed to bite into soft ground will wear down if you use them on tarmac, so I parked down by the river each time I used these shoes. This gives me access to a hilly terrain that climbs up from the river over rough fields, through sections of woodland and around the edge of farmers fields. In winter the tracks are often so muddy that your shoes are completely covered in sections while you try to skip through the mud. The nice warm weather that we have been enjoying meant that the ground was a complete contrast to this muddy terrain. However, it still supplied a good test for the NVii Ultimate as it’s nearly all single track, rough ground with tree roots and fallen trees to negotiate.
The soft comfortable feel of the upper is a bit of a contrast to the firm feeling that you get from other shoes of this type. Your foot is held firmly, so you won’t slip around inside the shoes, which concerned me at first. I need not have worried. Even when descending fast into sharp corners I felt that the upper held me onto the shoe. As mentioned previously, there was some freedom for my toes to spread and function more naturally, which makes the shoes feel roomier. I find this is an advantage and I am nimbler in the shoes. The firmness and flexibility in the forefoot make the shoes feel very natural, like you are running with the grips attached to the soles of your feet rather than your foot being in the shoe. Just like when I compared the grip of the NVii Forest to the flatter studded Terra TT, I can feel the difference in the grip between the NVii Ultimate and the Terra TT, which I use more often. The longer stud and firmer midsole combine to give a lot more positive push off which makes you able to run faster. This also makes it easier to skip over obstacles like fallen trees. The grip of the studs on the dry broken ground was great.
In summary the NVii Ultimate is an ideal shoe for running on any soft ground, be it cross country, fell running, orienteering or a jaunt over the farmers’ fields! They are light and responsive, which gives them a fast, nimble feel. If you have narrow feet and are used to the vice-like fit of other fell or orienteering shoes, then the freedom that your toes have might feel a little different to what you are used to. A lot of the shoes I (and a lot of our customers) run and walk around in now have a more rounded toe box. If you are enjoying that ability to spread out and function naturally but want something grippy and precise for soft ground, the NVii Ultimate is a fantastic option.
If you are looking for a light nimble trail shoe that would cope with a bit harder packed tracks and even a bit of road then the NVii Terra TT is worth considering. Scout Adkin put these shoes to the test while picking up a bronze medal at the European Trail Running Championships earlier this year. As you can see from the pictures mine are still going strong. I like a nimble, flexible shoe and the NVii Terra TT allow me to run from home to the woods/farmers fields. Giving me enough traction to enjoy the terrain on all but, the wettest of days.
VJ Sport Irock 3: VJ also use Butyl rubber to make their outsoles. The Irock 3 would be the nearest shoe in VJ’s range to the NVii Ultimate as it has the longest studs and is designed for use on soft muddy ground. The upper isn’t as soft and supple as on the Ultimate. The Irock 3 is a 6mm drop. The studs are a little more spread out so may clog less easily in sticky mud:
Icebug Acceleritas8: The rubber is equally as grippy. The studs are larger and so don’t bite quite as well into soft muddy ground. They are vey flexible giving hem a very natural feel. Here is a link to our review for more information:
La Sportiva Cyclon: The studs are equally as sticky but, larger so they don’t bite as well into muddy ground. They are also a bit shorter so would be my choice for Cross Country Racing. The cuff is higher and will prevent more debri getting in the shoes than on the Ultimate. A rival to the Ultimate if you are looking for a shoe for fell racing. Here is our review:
Inov-8 X-Talon 255: These are made on Inov-8’s standard last which is their broadest. So, they offer a soft ground shoe in a wider fitting. The studs are off a similar length to the studs on the Ultimate and well-spaced out to prevent clogging. The rubber is less durable than the butyl rubber. This is only a problem if you are using the shoes on any firmer ground that would cause abrasion to the rubber studs: northernrunner.com/inov8-m6/x-talon-t131
Walsh PB Trainer: These are the original fell running shoe. Still made on Bolton. The rubber is a soft sticky rubber designed to be used on soft ground. The studs are designed to bite into soft ground to give a good level of traction. The upper is made of a material that will mould to the shape of your foot. Which once broken in gives Walsh’s a unique slipper like feel. northernrunner.com/search/walsh
Scott Supertrac RC 2: The studs on these aren’t as long as on the NVii Ultimate so they don’t give the same level of traction on really muddy soft ground. However, on more mixed terrain they will supply enough traction and give a little more support and protection for the foot. Here is our review: northernrunner.com/blog/scott-supertrac-rc-2-0-review-trail-fell-running-shoes