UltraRunning Magazine

Review: VJ Shoes ACE Winter Trail Shoe

Amy Clark
01/24/24

Winter conditions have been ideal for testing traction devices and the UltraRunning testing team has been busy putting miles on winter gear. VJ Shoes’ ACE is trail shoe that we tested on snow and thick ice which recently blanketed the Pacific Northwest. The harsh elements presented a chance to test the durability, fit and traction, and have a little fun in them, too. VJ’s ACE is a studded trail shoe designed specifically for winter running. Fortunately, conditions were just right for our team of testers.

A waterproof, one-piece upper is breathable and provides protection in frosty weather. Our feet were warm in sub-freezing temperatures while the upper stayed soft and flexible for a springy toe-off. VJ’s Fitlock system on the ACE keeps the foot secure so there is less opportunity for the foot to move around inside the shoe. This allowed our testers to confidently stride across icy spots, especially while descending.

A roomy toebox and midfoot accommodate thicker socks, and while we didn’t feel the need for added warmth, running through wet, sloppy snow might be the right time for gaiters or longer socks, as we did have some ice and snow find its way inside the shoes.

The ACE also features a midsole ETPU cushion that provides a bouncy return once the studs hit the surface. We found that the sticky tread / stud combination created a solid foundation which, with the ETPU foam midsole layered on top, gave us a stable, comfortable ride.

The ACE is equipped with 17 carbon steel star-shaped studs on the tread of each foot. With VJ’s grippy tread (their tagline is “the best grip on the planet”), the studs kept our testers upright on thick, ice-covered trails and asphalt on steep ascents and descents. We experienced minimal-to-no slipping during our winter miles, and felt confident throughout the rolling, diverse terrain that included solid stretches of ice and packed snow. The number of studs also contributes to an excessive amount of noise (think studded tires on asphalt) when running on solid surfaces. There’s no sneaking up on anyone in these shoes. Fortunately, this quiets down on a softer snowpack.

VJ Shoes were originally founded in Finland 40 years ago with the need for a trail shoe that could traverse through the slippery and rough terrain of central Finland’s dense forests. With an additional location recently added in North America, VJ Shoes is focused on producing the best shoes for trail running in their new location in the Pacific Northwest and beyond. We found that the ACE proved to be durable in traction and comfortable when putting on miles in winter weather, and gave us increased confidence when traversing icy (and dicey) winter conditions.

The VJ ACE is available in men’s and women’s sizes at vjshoesusa.com.

Features:

  • Weight: 9.7oz (men’s) / 8.3 oz (women’s)
  • Stack height: 38 / 30mm
  • Heel-to-toe drop: 8mm
  • Lug depth: 4mm
  • Midsole: ETPU cushion
  • MSRP: $180
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