I am a fickle character, no one can deny this. However, something strange has happened. I think I have fallen in love.
I've been searching for the one for over 12 months now, I've been through some tough times. Mistreatment, false promises, and plain old boredom.
Just when I'm starting to give up hope, I see a glimmer of hope. After getting through three pairs of Reebok All Terrains, several New Balance, Inov-8 200s, 212s (both precision and regular), I was starting to wonder when I would find Nirvana. After Icebugs had been pushed down our throats, I'm far too contrary to try something that is so obviously being sold to me (and to be honest, doesn't appeal to me to start with), I was running out of options.
Enter the VJ Sport IRocks. Unwilling to try these at first, because you know, Jon Albon. I didn't want to be one of those people. However, when spectating at World War Run, I found myself bored and wandering over to the Muddy Kit stand, where I decided to try a pair for size.
The first thing I felt was the arch support. These are not heavy clunky trainers, but they cushioned my high arches like no other shoe has done before, it was pretty heavenly, I'm going to be honest.
Aside from this, the fit felt good, I was slightly concerned about the seam across the top over the toe, but they felt comfy. I didn't buy them as at that moment it felt a bit impulse but I knew they were a option.
Fast forward to August. Suddenly I'm in a position where I find myself needing new shoes, to put it simply “For a variety of sporting activities, in neutral colours and no branding”. What followed was a mad rush to find the IRocks in my size. There are two companies in the UK that I know who stock this shoe; Muddy Kit, and Ultra Sport.
My first port of call was Muddy Kit, unfortunately they were out of stock in my size, after a few conversations with them we attempted a half size down, but I definitely needed the 6. Thank fully there is another stockist in the UK, and so I turned to Ultra Sport who had the shoes with me the very next day.
For the next month I put these shoes through their paces. To make life easy I'm going to break this down so you can see what I experienced.
Comfort: Straight out of the box and onto a 3km trail run in 38'c heat. My worries about the toe seam were totally unfounded. This shoe didn't once give me any inkling of pain or discomfort, and in fact was actually a pleasure to wear. I continued to wear this shoes every day, and even as a regular shoe, it's incredibly comfortable. I since wore them for the Spartan Beast south, roughly 24km, again, no issues, perfectly comfortable and a pleasure to wear. An interesting fact is that since wearing these shoes I have not suffered the knee pain which has stopped me racing properly since Dirty Weekend. Whether this is due to the less minimal drop I am not sure, but it appears that this shoe suits my style of running.
Grip: From climbing a very wet and slippy mountain, to that slippy section with the bricks on the Spartan Beast, and everything in between. The grip on the IRocks is sublime. I can honestly say I put perfect faith in the grips as I hauled myself over the mountain. I chortled to myself as I walked up the very muddy brick hill, as those in their ice bugs fell around me. Unlike the Inov-8 200s which get clogged up with mud very easily, the IRocks appear to shed this, meaning that you're not carrying around clods of mud, making your shoes slippier, and your feet heavier. Unlike the Reebok All Terrains, I also found that the IRocks worked well on not wet surfaces, such as stone, tarmac, and wood, acting like a normal shoe in these environments.
Drainage: I had heard that drainage wasn't great on the IRocks. For me, it far surpassed that of the 200s. From day one I found the 200s heavy when wet. From very wet conditions, such as swimming, to very muddy, such as thick bog, the IRocks were back to normal very quickly, and allowed me to keep running with ease.
Weight: I don't have the technical details to hand, however I have never once complained that these shoes were weighing me down, held on to mud, or held onto water. What's interesting with shoes is that people quote the dry weight at you. 200s are lighter that 212s, but for me, the second they are wet, they are clunky and heavy. Reebok all terrains are heavier still, but they are so minimal that they don't hold one drop of water. All I can say here is that with the fitlock system, the IRocks clung to my feet and never weighed me down.
Durability: Here is the only place I would say they let me down. The IRocks are supposedly indestructible. Well, I destructed them. I had an issue with the sole coming away from the shoe, however one quick phone call to Ultra Sport and they promised me that a new pair would be dispatched on the same day that they received the old pair. I did not however have any issues with the fabric on the body of the shoe which is a pretty common complaint on many other brands.
Cost: Full price these retail at £85-£100, depending on discounts. This compares to the average price of Inov-8s, and for me the quality is far superior.
Size: I now take a size 6 in all my trail shoes, despite taking a street shoe 5.5. The size 6 fit me in the same way 6 Reebok and Inov-8 do.
Looks: One of the reasons I bought the IRocks at the time that I did was because they were reasonably neutral. These are not flashy, or girly. You cannot get them in a range of colours like the icebugs, they are not distinctive like the 212s or all terrains. In fact, often they can be confused for the cheviot more mile as the colours are similar. Aesthetically, they are not exciting, which is why I think not many women are wearing them yet, but actually, once you realise how much they do for you, you'll love the way they look.
I am waxing lyrical about these shoes, but that's what happens when you are infatuated. They saw me through a lot, and I have grown very very fond of these things. I never once had to think twice about where I was putting my feet, as I totally trusted in the shoes traction and support. I bored everyone senseless with my admiration of these shoes, to quote my good friend Charly: “Man...You DO talk about shoes. A lot”. I think this is it, I think I've found the one.