Top 5 Shoes For Obstacle Racing – 2018

We often get questions like:

What are the best shoes for a Spartan Race?  What shoes are best for a Tough Mudder? What shoes are best for Rugged Maniac, Warrior Dash (or insert almost any race name here)?

At some point this is a question 99% of Obstacle Racers have asked. What we have done at ORM is round up the best shoes we have used, and other OCR Pro’s have used, to give you a simple list of the top 5 Obstacle Racing Shoes from our experience. Here they are, not in order of one to five but, just the top 5.

 

Hoka One One Evo Jawz – Hoka’s first foray into creating a mud shoe is an instant success. The Jawz has a flyweight nylon upper, a surprisingly cushioned midsole, and a heavily lugged Vibram Megagrip outsole. To keep the weight down and keep the shoe flexible, Hoka made cutouts in the outsole which, unfortunately, drastically cuts down the durability of the shoe.The forefoot is a little bit wider than a standard trail shoe but once you get used to it you’ll love them. You’ll also get kudos from Steve Hammond, which makes it worth every penny.
The Evo line is Hoka’s Research and Development team in France working in conjunction with their athletes to quietly pump out some of the highest performing shoes out there.
See our in-depth review here.
(Drop:  3mm  Lugs: 6mm  Weight:  7.2 0z)

Salming OT Comp-They are fresh to the OCR world and have come on strong. Savage Race has made them the official shoe for their race series. They made this shoe just for mud runs and wicked terrain.  The Michelin soles and their extreme lugs hold their own to any shoe out there to the metal while maintaining traction through the mud.
See our in-depth review here.
(Drop:  4mm  Lugs: 7mm  Weight:  9.0 0z)

Merrell All Out Crush 2 –  Merrell really hasn’t pushed it very hard and created a better looking version with BOA. This shoe has decent lugs and it runs pretty well. Honestly it doesn’t do any one thing exceptionally but does everything reasonably well. If I was to get one shoe for training and racing everything between a sprint and a 24 hour race this would be it.
*The BOA version unfortunately has experienced issues with the BOA clogging up and loosening or no longer working altogether.
(Drop:  6mm  Lugs: 6mm  Weight: 8.5 0z)

Inov-8 X-Talon 200 –  This shoe was developed for obstacle course racing after inov-8 botched the update to the classic 190. This super heavily lugged shoe excels in shorter races with lots of mud and grass. It probably isn’t enough shoe for most people in races over an hour.
(Drop:  3mm  Lugs: 8mm  Weight:  7.1 0z)

Altra King MT – If you need a really (really) wide forefoot this is the shoe for you. With a velcro strap across the top of the foot this shoe looks a little funky but goes downhill better than the rest of Altra’s lineup. This shoe has a full length Vibram Megagrip outsole which makes it feel pretty firm and a little rigid.
See our in-depth review here.
(Drop:  0mm  Lugs: 6mm  Weight:  9.7 0z)

Honorable Mention

Inov-8 X-Claw 275 – The 275 is the longer distance version of the 200. More cushion, a little more durable, and a little wider toe box. This shoe would be better for someone looking for more of a traditional trail shoe with some OCR grip.
(Drop:  8mm  Lugs: 8mm  Weight:  9.7 0z)

Salomon S-Lab XA Amphib – Salomon designed this shoe for swim-run races in Scandinavia and accidentally created a phenomenal OCR shoe. A non-removable insole coupled with open mesh drainage ports this shoe drains better than any other shoe on the market. The midsole is on the firmer side and geared for slightly longer races. The outsole is Salomon’s Premium Wet Traction Contra-grip which is not quite as grippy on wet obstacles as Vibram Megagrip. The fit is a little bit on the snugger side in the forefoot and the shoe sports Kevlar Quick-lace to guarantee your laces won’t come untied. This shoe would hold up great for racing and training.
(Drop:  4mm  Lugs: 6mm  Weight:  7.8 0z)

Got a shoe we missed?

 

What is your favorite OCR shoe?

Considering your first OCR?

So, you’re thinking about doing your first race, but you’re nervous about hitting the big “register now” button.

First OCR Warrior Dash

 

Guess what – I’m willing to bet that at least 90% of people who are interested in obstacle racing today sat exactly where you are sitting right now, including the pros. Yes, 90%. I’m not over exaggerating.

You’re probably asking yourself questions like, “what if I’m not ready?” or “what if I’m not good enough,” or *gasp* the worst of all, “what if I embarrass myself?”

I’d like to take a moment to address those questions.

What if I’m not ready?

Let me answer this question the hard way: you’re probably not. None of us REALLY are, and that’s part of the fun!

The thing with obstacle racing is that there are so many different components to it. There’s running, hiking, throwing, heavy carries, coordination, crawling, jumping, throwing, balance, sometimes swimming…and well, you get the picture. There’s a LOT.

It doesn’t matter what your athletic background is, at least one of these elements is going to humble you. You are going to look at the person who is standing next to you and think to yourself, what the $*@?. It’s just a part of racing. Truth is, none of us could be considered “perfect racers.” There is always something that you can improve on. If you are telling yourself that you are going to wait to register until you feel physically ready, well, because there are so many pieces, you’re going to be waiting forever.

This multitude of elements is what makes racing so entertaining. It’s fun to take a look at some of the things that you totally suck at and work on them. Then, when you try again, you can take a step back and say “wow, I used to only be able to make 2 rungs of twister, and today I made five!” It becomes an addiction, and almost like a game of How Good Can I Get?  I’d also like to go ahead and add that it is TOTALLY OKAY to be proud of yourself for completing a race. Good vibes are encouraged!

Races can provide an awesome opportunity for you to see what you’re really made of. Not only are there things that you can do in a race that humble you, but there are going to be some opportunities for you to surprise yourself. Yep, there are things that even you, the complete newbie, are good at, you may just not know it yet. Maybe, you can’t run for shit, but you are a lady who can carry the men’s weight sand-bag carries like a champ. You go, girl! Imagine racing as an opportunity to show you where you are awesome–come on, aren’t you a little curious to find out what you’re good at?

What if I’m not good enough?

I promise you; you are good enough. The thing about obstacle racing that I’ve learned is, the value of racing has nothing to do in the race itself. Racing is about the confidence that you learn along the way.

One thing I’ve learned about obstacle racing is that, for most people, tackling the challenge often deals with overcoming obstacles that are off the course. More often than not, you can listen to people tell you stories of how racing has helped them accomplish things that they have never imagined. I’ve talked to several people about how racing has helped them understand that they are better than their depression. I’ve heard how people say it’s made them feel strong enough to get out of abusive relationships. For some, they may have less serious things, like running OCR has made them feel “less bored with fitness.” Some people want a challenge, and you better believe they get that. Personally, running obstacle races has helped me have a better understanding of myself. It’s helped me come to terms with who I am as a person, it’s helped me gain the confidence I needed to say when I made a mistake, and it’s helped me gain the confidence of acknowledging when I am good at something.

Because of this trend of people-overcoming-personal-obstacle-racers, I’ve also noticed that everyone at races is SUPER friendly. Just like everything, there are exceptions, but people show up to support each other. People may offer you tips and tricks, or hey, even let you join their group. Racing often means traveling, and traveling can become opportunities to spend time with other people similar to yourself. I’ve met some of my best friends racing. It’s very exciting to listen to everyone’s stories–there are some pretty interesting people out there!

First OCR Warrior Dash 2

 

I know what you’re thinking, and sure, there’s the physical piece of it, too. If you’re reading this, you’ve probably been watching a lot of SPARTAN: Ultimate Team Challenge or other shows that just feature the elites. You know what, sure, there are several people that appear to be god-tier athletes. But most people aren’t like that. I would never try to sit here and tell you that those people don’t exist, because they most certainly do, but that should not be your determining fear factor. Most of the people who come out to races are those who are looking for a challenge, or they are looking for a unique experience. But, OCR is meant to be more mentally challenging than physical. It’s meant to make you feel good, not make you feel like you can’t accomplish something. Not to mention, most bigger OCRs have some sort of “opt out” option–whether it’s burpees, a penalty loop, a lost wristband, whatever. Some race series (I’m looking at you, Terrain) don’t even care if you walk past an obstacle, as long as you are not in a more competitive wave!

 

What if I embarrass myself?

Ready for another blunt, disappointing answer?

Nobody. Gives. A. Fuck.

Really, they don’t.

 

The thing is, OCR is about building confidence. With an event that attempts to build up your confidence and character, the people try to build you up, too. With that being said, as long as you try, you really shouldn’t be embarrassed. People you’ve never met before will sit there and cheer for you when you accomplish things. If you show fear, they’ll cheer you on. If you show excitement, they will cheer louder. Volunteers will dance with you and even help you get over certain obstacles, if allowed. You will see smiles all throughout. You will be encouraged. You will be pushed and held to high standards. Why? Because the people who are out there will believe in you. It doesn’t matter if they’re your friend, someone you’ve never seen before, or someone you will never see again. Everyone believes in you. If you’re surrounded by people who believe in you and want to help you, could you really be embarrassed?

 

So, Sarah, what do YOU think it takes to be ready?

I guess I’ve told you that you’re both ready and not ready for your first race. I stand by both of those comments. Physically, there is a challenge and truthfully, there is not benchmark you must hit before you get started. You’ll have areas you’ll excel, and you’ll have areas where you are weak. Everyone does, and quite frankly, if you wait until you’re ready, you’re probably going to be waiting forever. So don’t wait, go ahead and register; use your first race as a benchmark! Mentally, if you are willing to take on the challenge, then you are absolutely ready. There isn’t as much pressure to be a total beast as you may think; especially not if you are a first-timer.

Truth is, your first race is going to be uncomfortable. It’s probably going to humble you in at least one area, but, it will also give you a sense of accomplishment that doesn’t compare to anything else. If you’re willing to take on the challenge, you are going to be great. You’re going to meet some amazing people who believe in you. You won’t find a more uplifting community. So, please join us. On behalf of the OCR community, know that you are welcome to join us, and we are cheering for you!

Best Gloves for an Obstacle Course Race

Running Spartan Races, Tough Mudders, and other Obstacle course races can be tough business for the hands. You might train for hours a day in a gym or at the box but nothing can simulate crawling through rough muddy rocks under barbed wire or doing a hundred plus burpees on terrain ranging from mud to pavement. I workout a few hours a day, I feel tough, and my hands feel tough but after some races without gloves I realized my hands were not that tough. Here’s our top suggestions for the best glove to get you through a Spartan Race and to let your stop asking, What are the best gloves for an obstacle course race?

 

6. Mad Grip Pro Palm Glove ($14.99)

best-gloves-obstacle-course-race-4These made the list mainly due to the low cost and simplicity of them.  The plus side of these compared to the ones in hardware stores is that they’ve managed to mold in some more aggressive grip.  They are also cheap enough that when they become saturated in mud and debris you can discard them or relegate them to garden gloves.  Unfortunately, they are very low performing because when they get wet the gloves will hold all that water in the cotton backs of the gloves.  They also don’t cinch with any type of wrist strapping so they could possible fall off.

 

 

5. Mechanix Wear M-Pact Gloves ($25.00)

best-gloves-obstacle-course-race-3Mechanix is a glove brand you will see all over all Spartan Races, Tough Mudder, and so on.  They are durable and made out of synthetic materials that don’t absorb water too much. Another benefit to Mechanix type gloves is that there is so many versions to fit your personal preference.  This version is basically the most bad ass type of them.  They have rubberized palms, protected knuckles, wrist strap tighten-able, and they are made of a breathable material.  I’ve thrown away other versions of the lighter kinds in the past but these are some of my favorite for the colder weather. When it’s warmer they also have the fingerless version listed below.  When in doubt of your specific needs buy these gloves in your size and favorite color.

Fingerless Version: Mechanix Wear M-Pact Fingerless Gloves

 

4. Spartan OCR Neo Grip Gloves by Fit Four ($29.95)

These are a collaboration between fit four and Spartan Race. They took an interesting approach by throwing out all of the “extra” part of the glove and just adding the grip part where you hands would mostly grip on obstacles. Fit Four also made them of neoprene similar to wetsuits which was a great choice and I wish that more OCR type gloves would take this approach.

Full Review on ORM: Fit Four Glove Review

 

 

 

3. Warrior Elite II Half-Finger Gloves ($25.00)

Warrior Elite II gloves are a another new entry to the obstacle racing glove world. They are a glove designed just for adventure and obstacle course racing. The overall glove material is meant to not absorb water and shed it when it does. They also used grip similar to wide receiver gloves in the NFL which has its obvious benefits.

Full Review on ORM: Warrior Elite II Glove Review

 

 

 

2. Under Armour Men’s CTR Trainer HF Gloves ($29.99)

best-gloves-obstacle-course-race-1Under Armour always manages to come through with the best performance gear and these are no exceptions.  If you see me racing there is a very good chance I have these on.  They are super thin all around so even when the quick drying material gets soaked there isn’t much to absorb it with all the mesh panels.  On the fingers and palms they also have little strips of this sticky type material that is comparable to the stuff on football players gloves to help them catch footballs.  But they didn’t stop there with all the features you might need, they added a soft place on the back of the thumb so that you can wipe your nose or brow without scratching it too bad. The only possible rub against these gloves is that the wrist is just a tight elastic material and doesn’t have the ability to cinch.  I’ve never had a problem due to this but it’s worth noting.  If you want a performance based glove that makes it feel like you have almost nothing but a second skin on your hands you should get these.

 

1. Under Armour Men’s Flux Half-Finger Training Gloves ($22.99)

under-armour-flux-glove

These are still conceptually the same glove as the CTR with a few slight differences. Most notably they grip pattern on the palms has changed to a more spread out pattern instead of stripes.

Another change is that the palm is not the same mesh but instead just a perforated section which seems like a nice improvement since it means less seams.

The final change is the wrist enclosure is a little longer and more elastic based than previously. This has the added benefit of the glove staying on your hand even better. I suggest you buy the old gloves (CTR) while you can and these to test out which work best for you. I prefer the updated version and like that Under Armour didn’t just scrap the entire concept of these gloves since they are uniquely fit for obstacle course racing.

 

Honorable Mention:

Under Armour Men’s UA Nitro Football Gloves – These gloves have great grip and are lightweight but they don’t deal with mud and water as well as the gloves mentioned above. They are also less breathable and more expensive.

Gloves to stay away from:

Mechanix Wear 0.5 Original Style Glove– Held water like you wouldn’t believe and provided almost no grip when wet.  I would even go as far to say they felt quite a bit more slippery than bare hands.
True Grip Suede Cowhide Glove with Mesh Back – These are gardening gloves, not obstacle course racing gloves. Unless you plan on planting tomatoes by the nearest wall jump please avoid these. I have seen people wearing all types of gardening gloves at the beginning of races but never at the end of races; this is not a coincidence.

Got a glove you like, or hate? Comment below!

If you enjoyed this article you may also like our article on Best Shoes For An Obstacle Course Race.