Obstacle course racing (OCR) shoes need certain qualities you may not look for in other shoes.
They must be able to help you climb over walls, through mud, and up rocky and rugged hillsides, be it rain, snow, or shine.
For a shoe to be OCR-worthy, it should have great traction and quality drainage; this will keep your shoes from slipping on obstacles and terrain and from getting bogged down by mud and water. They should also provide a good amount of stability and a rock plate or some cushion to keep your feet safe and secure.
Every foot is different, and so are the needs of every person, so exploring various options is a great idea.
If you plan to do something like a Spartan Race and have never done one before, figuring out what you need in a shoe can be daunting.
There are several things to consider when searching for the best shoes for a Spartan Race.
What To Look For In Best Shoes For A Spartan Race
If you are familiar with OCR, then you probably know that these races are well known for putting their participants through water and mud obstacles.
You might find yourself knee-deep in a creek or underwater completely for a dunk wall.
This leads most people to believe that they need waterproof shoes. It is quite the opposite.
When a shoe is waterproof, the exterior may be able to repel water from rain or snow, but when submerged in water, it can still get into your shoe through the ankles!
If it gets into your shoe, you will want it to get out, meaning it needs to be drainable.
Many OCR shoes have mesh uppers. For this reason, some even have small holes manufactured into the soles so that water can escape.
Having a shoe with a mesh upper and drainage hole will keep your feet from being bogged down and allow them to dry more quickly when they do get wet.
This also makes the shoes very breathable, which is great for people who don’t let to feel like their feet are overheating.
Now we covered some unusual truths about OCR shoes. Let’s talk about the aspects that people are more familiar with and concerned with.
Spartan Race and other OCR events are well known for taking quite a long time and taking place on unusual and rough terrain.
If you are new to OCR, you may find yourself out on the course for up to 2 hours, even for the shortest events.
When on your feet for a long time, you want to ensure your feet are not cramped and well supported.
It is common for trail and OCR athletes to purchase shoes that are a half size bigger than usual.
Doing this allows room for your feet to move and not feel cramped when running down steep hills. This also allows space for your feet to swell if you are doing a longer event.
Support is also very important.
Some people prefer a very stiff shoe that keeps their foot straight forward and does not allow it to move with the terrain too much, and others WANT a shoe that has some give and moves with the terrain.
This is critical to consider if you have a history of foot and/or ankle injuries.
A rock plate is found in most OCR shoes.
If your feet are prone to injuries, or you will be on very rough and rocky terrain, you will want to double-check that your chosen shoe has one.
If you run an OCR event, you will run on ungroomed trails through shrubs, thorns, rocks, and mud.
It is important that your shoes can stand up to all the elements.
Having a durable shoe is important because this will help you be less likely to walk away from the event with a huge rip in the upper of your shoe, a chunk taken out of the sole, or foot abrasions due to your shoe becoming punctured.
You should ensure the shoe you pick has some type of toe protection! Often, shoes with mesh uppers will have some reinforcement around the toe box to help prevent injury.
One of the MOST important specs of an OCR shoe is the grip.
You will often crawl up and over walls, descend on slick trails, and scurry over slippery rocks.
You should strongly consider the tread of the shoe you choose to go with.
OCR shoes often have tread that is made from the same materials as tires. This is a good thing! Perfect for the no-slip grip you need!
The tread should be able to grip wet wood, rocks, and metal.
Lugs are another component of the shoe tread and an important part of the grip.
The lugs on OCR shoes vary a lot. Some are very aggressive and meant for mud, while others are more minimal but will still be grippy on various surfaces.
#1: Inov-8 X-Talon G210 V2
-Super-durable mesh upper
-Super grippy for soft and muddy terrain
The Inov-8 X-Talon G210 V2 is a great shoe choice for extra sloppy OCR events with lots of mud and unpredictable terrain. You have to check out these OCR shoes.
It claims to have the world’s toughest grip.
With 8 mm deep lugs and graphene-enhanced rubber, you can worry less about staying upright at your next Spartan Race.
The Inov-8 X-Talon G210 V2 is a lighter-weight shoe and won’t cause you to feel weighed down when shuffling over obstacles or coasting downhill.
It has a precision fit that will keep your foot feeling secure and a breathable mesh upper with proven durability.
An injected EVA FUSION cushioning will keep your feet comfortable, and the 3 mm drop is a great starting point for new races.
Overall, this shoe is a great choice for any Spartan Race due to its made-for-OCR durability and grip.
#2 VJ shoes XTRM 2
-Made stable and durable for tough terrain and conditions
The VJ XTRM 2 is meant for technical and challenging trails, making it one of the best shoes for a Spartan Race. This shoe was literally designed for OCR!
Made of 100% Butyl rubber, the sole of this shoe is meant for gripping any surface you can think of, and the extremely aggressive lugs will get you through and over any obstacle.
The VJ XTRM 2 is light and breathable yet plenty durable.
You will feel comfortable on whatever terrain due to the Soft Heel technology that keeps pressure off your heel and Achilles, providing a fit-like-a-glove feeling.
To top it off, there is a full-length rock plate for ultimate foot protection and comfort.
There you have it. Another made-for-OCR shoe that will help you succeed in your next Spartan race.
#3 HOKA SPEEDGOAT 5
-Lightweight, extra traction, durable mesh
-Extra cushioning for longer events
The HOKA Speedgoat 5 is perfect for technical trails and feeling fast which is exactly what makes them one of the best shoes for a Spartan Race.
A lighter model than before, you will feel like you are coasting during your next race.
The recent update of Vibram® Megagrip is the perfect grip enhancement. This shoe bottom is an ideal match for all things OCR.
You will be able to work your way over slip walls and then send it down muddy trails to the finish line.
A comfortable stack height of 4 mm and a neutral and balanced midsole will make it easy to stay on your feet for longer events.
And regardless of how rugged the terrain is, the double-layer jacquard mesh upper will protect your feet and keep your shoe in one piece.
The meta-rocker provides a smooth ride on the trail, and the protective toe cap will protect you from rocks and trail debris.
If you want to feel fast yet protected and stay upright, give these a go at your next OCR event.
#4 Salomon Speedcross 6
-Ultra protective, neutral foot support, grippy on wet surfaces
– EnergyCell+ midsole compound, foot-hugging upper
The Salomon Speedcross 6 is one of the oldest shoes in the OCR game, a go-to shoe for many new Spartan racers.
Not much has changed about this shoe over the years because it has all the key components of the perfect OCR shoe.
Superb grip, lightweight, and compete with standard width perfect for most feet! The Speedcross is known for its comfort. It fits like a glove.
The Mud Contagrip® is meant for gripping on all types of surfaces. With extra deep and sharp lugs, adhesion is not an issue!
Want to move fast? EnergyCell™+ is a high-rebound midsole compound that provides exceptional energy return and is paired with quality cushioning in this shoe.
Plenty grippy, quality fit, and just the right amount of cushion, this shoe is the OG of OCR and trail shoes. A great shoe for both beginners and experienced obstacle course racers.
#5 Altra Superior 5
– Super versatile, grippy MaxTrac™ outsoles, minimal cushioning
– Durable mesh outer and unique foot shape with a wide toe box
The Altra Superior 5 may not be the most cushioned shoe, but with a StoneGuard™, sleek design, and grippy outsoles, they will keep you quick and upright when sending it down unpredictable trails with slick rocks and roots.
The 0mm drop of this shoe may take some getting used to, but it might be your key to success if it is a good fit for you.
The minimal style of this shoe makes it great for short and speedy OCR events, but also acceptable for longer events with steep descents and rugged trails. The perfect shoe for a Spartan Race.
Your feet will be protected as you navigate various obstacles, and you will be stuck to them like glue thanks to the multi-direction lug pattern.
Overall, this minimal-style shoe with a locked-in fit is the perfect choice for your next OCR event. They look great and perform even better.
The 5 Best OCR Shoes: Key Takeaways
The best OCR shoes for you at your next Spartan Race can vary greatly depending on the specific venue you are racing at, your foot shape and needs, and overall shoe style and fit preferences.
If you have a wider foot and prefer toe wiggle room, you might love the Altra Superior 5.
If you have previous foot and ankle injuries and enjoy a secure fit, a shoe like the Salomon Speedcross 6 or VJ XTRM 2 may best suit you.
Is extra cushion your thing? Then the HOKA Speedgoat 5 is your go-to shoe for a Spartan Race.
No matter what shoe you choose, make sure it is durable, grippy, and comfortable!
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