One of the first concerns someone has when planning their first obstacle course race or mud run is what kit they need. Often the biggest question is “What are the best shoes for OCR”. Whilst no one can tell you what the best shoe for you is, we can take a look at what options there are out there.
It can take a long time to find the right shoe, and they are always developing and changing, so whether you’re looking for the best shoes for a spartan race and getting you up the rope climb, or the fastest draining shoe for your military mud run, let’s take a look at the most popular OCR shoes.
A long-time trail shoe manufacturer, VJ Sport burst onto the OCR scene relatively recently. The day Jon Albon turned up at Tough Guy wearing a previously unknown brand, the OCR crowd went crazy and everyone was after them. Championed by the 6 times undefeated OCRWC winner, and Skyrunning aficionado, and later, Canada’s sweethearts and first couple of OCR, Lindsay Webster and Ryan Atkins, this brand has a good heritage and promises a quality shoe with excellent grip.
There are two key shoes to choose from VJSport; The XTRM and the IRock. Key differences between the two are drop and width: the XTRM offers a 4mm drop and more space in the toebox, whilst the IRock offers a 6mm drop and a precision fit. Both feature the fitlock system which beautifully hugs the foot, they are both similar in weight at 250g to 240g, and are manufactured from durable butyl rubber for excellent grip for any obstacle course race, and Kevlar for an extra long-lasting shoe.
If you’re after something for the tougher, rockier trails the full-length rock plate and strengthened rubber toe cap of the XTRM will serve you well, but for most of us, the 2mm difference of drop on the IRock is what makes all the difference.
Without a doubt, the most exciting things to happen to OCR Shoes in recent years is the introduction of the Inov-8 Graphene grip. In their own words:
“Previously athletes had to choose between a sticky rubber that works well in wet conditions but wears down quicker, and a harder rubber that is more durable but not quite as grippy…athletes now no longer need to compromise. The new rubber we have developed with the National Graphene Institute at The University of Manchester allows us to smash the limits of grip”
For those wanting to combine the epic grip of graphene with an OCR specific shoe, the Mudclaw G 260 is the one you are after. Featuring insane 8mm studs with a 4mm drop, as well as a Kevlar enhanced upper, and weighing in at just 260g this shoe is one to knock VJSport off its top spot. These shoes were debuted by Leon Kofoed at OCR World Championships 2019, and he said:
“I found them light, fast, and tough. I was a little worried about the stronger mesh because it normally leads to worse water drainage, but they’re great.”
Aside from the G-series, Inov-8 offers a range of shoes for every foot shape and every wallet, so you will definitely find something to suit your needs within their collection.
There are few companies in the world who understand grip and durability like international tire manufacturer Michelin, so it should come as no surprise to see them pair up with shoe creators Salming, to offer the Salming OT Comp, an excellent option for your obstacle race kit.
Promising to deliver legendary grip, the self-cleaning soles are inspired by the mountain bike and motorbike tires Wild Mud and Starcross 5. The shoe is lightweight and agile at 256g, with reportedly excellent draining, enough cushion to provide comfort, but thin enough for proprioception. With 7mm lugs they offer heavy-duty traction, and the use of Michelin’s OCX – Extreme Outdoor Compound and Fiber Lite Technology indicates supreme endurance and quality.
All-round multi-sport kit suppliers Salomon has been on the OCR market for years, with their S/Lab and Speedcross being the two most popular obstacle race shoes they offer.
For those who prefer a less neutral running stance, the Speedcross 5 GTX offers a drop of 10mm, with a weight of 340g they are not the lightest shoe out there, but for those with wider feet they can be more comfortable. The innovative quicklace system means you can get in and out quickly, a must with cold and stiff hands. With some really good bargains to be found, and fit and drop more similar to a regular road trainer, Salomon Speedcross is a great entry-level option when you’re looking for your first shoe to wear for obstacle racing.
The S/Lab Speed 2 is a more aggressive shoe for harder racing, with a slim fit and utilizing Salmon’s EndoFit to hug the foot, a drop of 4mm, and a lightweight of 265g. Salomon has the sporting heritage and knows what they are doing when it comes to quality race kit.
Brought to you by Spartan and Craft is the RD PRO Trail Running Shoe, with the tagline “Built for the OCR athlete by the OCR athlete”. With a 12 month guarantee, this shoe promises to be heavy-duty and hard-wearing. The RD PRO TRAIL are designed to be the best shoes for a Spartan Race, and you can see this in several places.
The mid-sole features smaller but definite lugs perfectly placed to get you whizzing up a rope climb successfully, a stalwart of all Spartan Races. The 5.5mm-6.5mm lugs promise traction over a variety of terrain, and the hydradrain technology allows for fast draining so you won’t get weighed down. This shoe features a wider toe box than most so should be comfortable if you need a little bit more space, and the 6.5mm drop will suit most runners out there. Weighing in at around 295g this isn’t the lightest shoe, but drainage makes all the difference. With a similar lacing system to Salomon, the Spartan Craft shoe is a speedy option for elites and weekend warriors alike, and comes in a range of awesome colorways, including a trifecta theme, which we all know is irresistible.
With any shoe it’s always recommended to try on before buying, and the gospel advice is to go up at 0.5-1 size for your trail shoes if you want to avoid losing toenails (I know yuck, but it happens, a lot). Ultimately the answer as to what is the best OCR shoe is individual, but with so many options out there, you are sure to find your ambrosia faster than you might think.
Francesca is an avid obstacle course racer, TV host, and blogger at Mud Is My Makeup. Follow her Instagram at @MudIsMyMakeUp and @FranChiorando.