Irock 2 Review

VJ Sport, the makers of the Irock 2, are a Finish brand that was founded in 1981 to fulfill the need to make durable and grippy shoes for Orienteering. The Irock 2 definitely ticks all those boxes and is a shoe not just for orienteers but, for obstacle course racers, fell runners, cross country runners, trail runners and all those that require a durable grippy shoe.

We first noticed the Irock 2 when British runner Jon Albon left his Inov-8 sponsorship deal to join VJ Sports so he could use the Irock  in the Obstacle Course World Championships, an event he went on to win on three occasions. He also used the Irock to win the Tromso Skyrace. Which is a 44km mountain race with over 4400 metres of ascent. A large part of which is on wet rocky mountain ridges. A terrain where a very grippy and precise shoe is essential.

So, what makes the Irock 2 such a successful shoe?

The first thing you notice is that the shoe is light and flexible with a very aggressive tread pattern. The outsole is made from Butyl rubber which is very grippy and durable. The stud pattern employs ‘superior contact’ technology which makes sure that there is enough of the outsole in contact with the ground to give great traction but also flexibility to shed mud and therefore reduce clogging. This definitely seems to work. I have been running in these shoes for over 6 months now because we like to test brands thoroughly before selling them.

iRock 2 vs Inov-8 X-Talon 210 & 230

My testing of the iRock 2 overlapped with the time I have been reviewing the Inov-8 X-Talon 210 and Inov-8 X-Talon 230. Which have Inov-8’s sticky grip outsole. The Irock 2 is nearly as flexible in the forefoot as the X-Talon 210 but, offers a bit more support in the heel counter. The Inov-8 X-Talon 230 I found to be quite stiff and not as responsive as the X-Talon 210 but, it offered more underfoot protection for those rocky mountain trails. The Irock 2 seams to offer just as much underfoot protection as the X-Talon 230 but, is nearly as flexible as the X-Talon 210. The Butyl rubber is as good at gripping to wet rock and wood as the sticky grip on the Inov-8 shoes. The 7mm long studs on the outsole of the Irock 2 have given me no course for concern while running through deep mud, tree roots in the forest, jumping over styles, wet wooden bridges or crossing wet stepping stones in streams. No outsole grips to everything all the time but, this is as good as the best of the rest in my opinion.

.”.no wear to the upper of the shoes even after 6 months of regular running.”

The fit appears narrow and pointy, which isn’t something that I really like. However, this isn’t the feel when you put the shoes on. The Fitlock pulls the shoe in around the foot so that the shoe takes your foot shape, which might be why the shoes look so narrow. The upper is made from Schoeller®-Keprotec® material  which adapts to your foot shape and doesn’t  absorb any water. This material is highly abrasive resistant and is often used in motor cycle clothing for this reason. Threads of Kevlar are contained within the material to make the upper tier proof. The tiny threads of Kevlar are five times stronger than steel. Not surprisingly there is no wear to the upper of the shoes even after 6 months of regular running. The fit is broader than an Inov-8 precision fit but, not as broad as a standard fit.

“..the studs on the outsole haven’t worn as much as they have on other shoes.”

The heel to forefoot drop is 6mm which makes the shoe fine for the midfoot or the heel striker. The flexibility in the outsole makes it possible to just run hard across broken ground without being thrown around by the shoe. As it is flexible enough to adapt to the curvature of the terrain. The midsole is responsive as you would expect but, soft enough and comfortable enough to wear for a long time. I have done three hour plus runs over the moors in the Irock 2 with no issues at all. On colder days I have worn the shoes with two pairs of socks and although a snug fit the upper still accommodated the socks fine. My feet aren’t broad but, I do like to be able to move my toes and I don’t like a fit that is at all tight.

The other interesting thing is that the studs on the outsole haven’t worn as much as they have on other shoes. This isn’t an exact comparison to other shoes as I am not sure exactly how much time I have spent in all the shoes. However, I rotate my shoes constantly to avoid over use injuries and allow the shoes some rest time so they don’t wear out too quickly. The butyl rubber studs on the outsole of the Irock 2’s show hardly any wear. Yet the outsoles of the other studded shoes I have been using at the same time are showing signs of wear.

Fitwise the VJ Sport Irock 2 is a bit on the small side like Inov-8, La Sportiva, Altra, Topo, Adidas, Hoka. If you use Brooks, Saucony or Mizuno a half size larger would be a better size to try. If in drought send us an email or pop in to try them on.

The Irock 2 is best suited to softer ground when you require aggressive grip and plenty of protection from your surroundings.

Other Suggestions (and How They Compare)

Inov-8 X-Talon 210: Slightly more flexible with more underfoot feel

http://www.northernrunner.com/shoes-c133/fell-running-shoes-c226/inov8-x-talon-210-unisex-precision-fit-fell-running-shoes-orange-black-p4235

Inov-8 X-Talon 230: A much stiffer shoe

http://www.northernrunner.com/search/x-talon-230

Scott Supertrac RC: Stiffer in the forefoot with a more cushioned ride.

http://www.northernrunner.com/search/supertrac-rc

La Sportiva Mutant: A bit stiffer. The studs are quite as good in the mud but, perhaps a bit more versatile on firmer surfaces.

http://www.northernrunner.com/search/muthe studs on the outsole haven’t worn as much as they have on other shoestant

Walsh PB Trainer: Narrower fit. Rubber not as sticky. The upper moulds to the foot nicely once wet and gives a very personalised fit.

http://www.northernrunner.com/shoes-c133/fell-running-shoes-c226/walsh-pb-elite-fell-running-trainer-blue-p13

Walsh PB Ultra: The broad fitting version of the above.

http://www.northernrunner.com/shoes-c133/fell-running-shoes-c226/walsh-pb-ultra-fell-running-trainer-blue-p4162

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