10 Best Obstacle Course Racing Shoes Reviewed

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Having the right shoes is crucial when running. Obstacle course racing shoes can greatly improve your running performance. They can also increase your support and stability. What makes these shoes different than regular running shoes? Namely the amount of traction and the measures that are in place for durability. With so many shoes to pick from, it can be difficult to choose the OCR shoe that’s right for you, so we’ve put together a list of the top 10 shoes on the market to help you make your decision. We’ve evaluated factors such as traction, support, protection, and responsiveness in order to bring you an overview of the best options out there – removing the daunting task of trying to find the right shoe and making it easier to find the best option for you.

10 Best Obstacle Course Racing Shoes

Salomon Speedcross 4
  • Salomon Speedcross 4
  • 5 out of 5
    Our rating
  • Contagrip technology
  • Price: See Here
Altra Superior 2
  • Altra Superior 2
  • 4.5 out of 5
    Our rating
  • Stoneguard rock plate
  • Price: See Here
Inov-8 X-Talon 200
  • Inov-8 X-Talon 200
  • 4 out of 5
    Our rating
  • Rope-Tec rubber
  • Price: See Here

1. Salomon Speedcross 4

The fourth edition of the Salomon Speedcross does a great job of keeping you comfortable, supported, and safe while running on technical trails.
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Comfort
This shoe fits very comfortably and close to your foot. It provides just enough protection for trail running. A molded EVA midsole makes this shoe extra comfortable and supported. This shoe has a 10mm drop and weighs 310g.

Traction
The Salomon Speedcross 4 provides great traction thanks to its rubber sole and aggressive grip, Wet Traction Contagrip.

Cost
These shoes are priced averagely compared to others on the market.
Pros
  • Awesome grip

  • Highly cushioned

  • Protection for trail running

  • EVA midsole

  • Contagrip technology

  • QuickLace system

  • Mud guard

  • Sensifit

  • Anti-debris mesh

Cons
  • Some customers have complained that this shoe feels too narrow.

2. Altra Superior 2

Altra Superior 1 was last year’s award-winning favorite, and now Altra is back with a new and improved version with three color options.
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Comfort
With a thick rubber sole and quick-dry air mesh, this shoes is one of the more comfortable obstacle course shoes on the market. The courtour footbed is 5 millimeters thick. A removable stonegaurd rock protection plate is very helpful in protecting your feet from sharp objects.


Traction
With a TrailClaw sticky rubber outsole, traction is an issue that you’ll never have to worry about. Additionally, Trailclaw technology involves lugs on the bottom of the shoe which provide superior grip on all kinds of terrain.

Cost
This shoe is priced on the low-to-mid range on the price scale.
Pros
  • Available in 3 colors

  • Quick-dry air mesh

  • Comfortable sole

  • Stoneguard rock protection plate

  • TrailClaw sticky rubber outsole & lugs

Cons
  • Some people don’t like the fact that this shoe has no drop.

3. Inov-8 X-Talon 200

Designed specifically for off-trail running, this shoe compliments the foot’s natural movement and only weighs 200 grams.
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Comfort
A rubber toe bumper on the forefront of the shoe works to protect your toes from rocks, debris, and other obstacles. The lacing system on this shoe was designed to be a bit narrower than its predecessor, ensuring for a secure and snug foot all the way across the midsole. The shoe also has a water repellent coating, ensuring that your feet stay dry throughout your entire run.

Traction
The 8mm sticky rubber studs on the bottom of the outsole provide awesome grip on both soft and hard ground. Additionally, hardened Rope-Tec rubber on the outsole protects against burning for when ropes are a part of your workout.

Cost
This shoe is priced moderately compared to others on the market.
Pros
  • Avaliable in three colors

  • Lightweight

  • Rubber studs for traction

  • Water repellent coating

  • Rubber toe bumper

  • Snug midfoot fit

  • Rope-Tec rubber to protect feet from burning

Cons
  • Many people have found that this shoe runs small.

4. Inov-8 X-Talon 212

4. Inov-8 X-Talon 212
Inov-8 prides themselves on the durability and comfort of their athletic gear. Since launching in 2003, it’s become one of the fastest growing running brands in the country.
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Comfort
Weighing only 212 grams, this shoe is relatively lightweight and flexible. It does a great job of complimenting the foot’s natural movement and also working to increase speed. A water repellent coating ensures that your feet remain dry, even when running through streams and puddles.

Traction
The 8mm sticky rubber studs do a great job of providing traction on all kinds of terrain, from soft dirt trails to rough and rugged rocks.

Cost
These shoes are priced moderately compared to others.
Pros
  • Lightweight and flexible

  • 8mm sticky rubber soles

  • Water repellent coating

  • Compliments foot’s natural movements

Cons
  • Some people have found that this shoe fits a bit too narrow.

5. Reebok All Terrain Super OR

5. Reebok All Terrain Super OR
Reebok has engineered this shoe with more cushioning and more stability for longer distance runs. This shoe has been designed in partnership with the participants of the Reebok Spartan Races, which are “innovating obstacle course races on a global scale.”
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Comfort
Mesh drainage ports which were strategically placed in order to make water dry easily and quickly. The Duragrip upper also helps protect the shoe from damage, as it provides durability in high-wear areas. An underfoot rock guard protects your feet against sharp objects such as rocks and other debris.

Traction
Midfoot teeth do a great job of providing traction and protection during your obstacle course routine. Additionally, square lugs on the bottom of the outsole provide 360 degree traction.

Cost
This shoe is priced similarly to other quality trail shoes on the market.
Pros
  • Mesh drainage ports

  • 2 colors available

  • Duragrip upper

  • Square lugs for traction

  • Underfoot rock guard

  • Midfoot teeth

Cons
  • Some people have stated that this shoe rubs the backs of their ankles.

6. Merrell All Out Crush

6. Merrell All Out Crush
If you do a lot of running in low-light conditions, the Merrel All Out Crush is a great option for you. With reflective details for visibility, you’ll never have to worry about safety issues at nighttime.

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Comfort
M Select Fresh, a long-lasting technology that prevents sweat and moisture from damaging your shoes, contains antimicrobial agents. These help prevent odor and the growth of bacteria. Additionally, the shoe’s Uni-Fly impact absorption system provides you with a soft landing. It then disperses the impact and encourages a strong and stable takeoff.

Traction
This shoe consistently delivers slip-resistant stability and heavy-duty traction over mixed terrain.

Cost
The Merrell All Out Crush is a bit more affordable than others options.
Pros
  • Protective toe cap
  • Drainage ports
  • Uni-Fly impact absorption system
  • Great traction
  • Reflective details for visibility
  • Antimicrobial lining
Cons
  • Some people find that there is not enough padding in the midsole.

7. ASICS GEL Fuji Runnegade 2

7. ASICS GEL Fuji Runnegade 2
ASICS got their name from the old phrase “A Sound Mind in a Sound Body.” The acronym of this quotation became the company’s name. This shoe does great in all types of conditions. Whether you’re going through deep mud or conquering intense terrain, you’ll be happy with the GEL Fugi Runnegade 2.
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Comfort
Featuring PlasmaGuard, this shoe stays protected from rain and mud without the loss of flexibility and breathability. The rubber sole and rear foot gel cushioning system allow for a comfortable fit and a smooth transition from the impact phase to midstance. Additionally, a gusseted tongue construction prevents gravel and other debris from entering the shoe.

Traction
This shoe has a very rugged outsole, which is great for terrain such as dirt roads. Specially designed lugs provide traction in even the most extreme conditions.

Cost
This shoe is priced on the low-to-mid range on the price scale.
Pros
  • Gusseted tongue to prevent gravel
  • Affordable
  • Rugged outsole
  • Specially designed lugs for traction
  • PlasmaGaurd technology
  • Rear foot gel cushioning system
  • Flexible and breathable
Cons
  • Some people find that the tread wears out easily.

8. La Sportiva Mutant Backcountry

8. La Sportiva Mutant Backcountry
This award-winning shoe is extra cushioned to prevent your feet from getting sore.
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Comfort
An air mesh lining ensures that your feet stay cool and dry throughout your whole workout as well as works to prevent blisters. A ‘Spryratongue’ design wraps around the shoe for added stability and comfort. The adjustable Fusiongate lacing harness provides much more security than traditional lace-up shoes.

Traction
Lugs made of La Sportiva’s FriXion XF rubber give you a sturdy grip with the ground, even on wet rock or slick trails.

Cost
This shoe is one of the most expensive options on this list.
Pros
  • 6 colors available

  • Spryratongue design

  • Lightweight

  • Well-cushioned
  • Fusiongate lacing harness
  • Air mesh lining

  • FriXion XF rubber lugs

Cons
  • Some people find that this shoe fits small.

9. Icebug Pytho3

9. Icebug Pytho3
If you're looking to invest a little extra for a super high quality, durable shoe, check out the Icebug Pytho 3.
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Comfort
This shoe’s rubber sole does a great job of providing the foot with support and responsiveness. Also, the tongue and collar of the shoe are both padded for additional comfort. The shoe’s upper is made of nylon, which is water-repellent.

Traction
With a BUGrip sole for superior traction, this low-profile shoe remains flexible while allowing for a good terrain feel.

Cost
This is the most expensive option on this list.
Pros
  • Flexible

  • Water-repellent upper

  • Supportive and responsive

  • Padded tongue and collar

Cons
  • Some find that this shoe’s outsole is a bit too slick.

10. Icebug Acceleritas5 RB9X

10. Icebug Acceleritas5 RB9X
This shoe is one of the lightest trail shoes on the market. Runners have described wearing this shoe as feeling barefoot!
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Comfort
Quick-dry mesh helps assure that your feet stay comfortable. With an upper made of polyester mesh, this shoe is super lightweight and doesn’t irritate the skin. The midsole is made of compression molded EVA foam, making for a supportive footbed.

Traction
Rubber 9 Extreme technology is used on this shoe’s outsole. The outsole is designed with a special pattern that optimizes traction on hard as well as soft surfaces. Around the outsole is RB9X, providing the shoe with even more grip. This innovative compound provides incredible traction on all terrains.

Cost
These shoes are a bit on the expensive end of the scale.
Pros
  • Polyester mesh upper

  • Compression molded EVA foam

  • RB9X Rubber

  • Lightweight

  • Great traction
  • Soft and airy upper
Cons
  • Some people find that this shoe is not heavy-duty enough.

The Factors We Used in Our Evaluation of the Best Obstacle Course Running Shoes

Comfort

Comfort is key when choosing a shoe. If a shoe’s midsole is made from EVA foam, it’s most likely super comfortable. Also, take into consideration if the shoe is supportive enough around the ankle. This is especially important in a trail shoe. Support is very important with this type of activity. Without the proper support, you put yourself at risk of joint injuries. It is also important to keep in my mind if you are prone to joint injuries that this aspect is especially crucial. It is important to not only have it feel comfortable but to also to give you enough support in the long run. The lacing system also affects the way the shoe feels on your foot. Many shoes use QuickLace technology, while others still use a traditional lacing system. This is purely a personal choice; it’s strictly based on preference. However, many runners find that the QuickLace systems provides the foot with more support than does a regular shoe. Again, this will very important if you are prone to joint injuries. It will also factor in how much stress and pressure you may put on your feet with various activities.

Traction

Traction is very important especially when faced with adverse weather conditions. Traction also plays a key role when moving on a difficult terrain at a higher speed. You will want to keep in mind how quickly you will be moving and what type of terrain you might encounter. Typically, you want to look for a shoe that has rubber lugs on the bottom of the outsole. These lugs “dig” into the ground with every stride, giving you the best traction possible. Today, most of the trail shoe brands on the market do use these types of lugs. They’re efficient in muddy areas, dry trails, grassy terrain, you name it. This is especially important during or after adverse weather conditions. Another factor that contributes to traction is whether the shoe has a tread design on the bottom that is specifically in place for grip. Traction is an important factor in any running shoe, but especially so for trail shoes. With the rough, rocky, sometimes unpredictable terrain, your shoes have to be designed to last. The better the traction the more stability you will have.

Durability

When you’re running through an obstacle course, you need a shoe that’s going to hold up, allowing for quicker movements. Many trail shoes use a heavy-duty rubber outsole to provide extra support. This is great to have, as is a mud guard. Exposed to the type of conditions that you are during an obstacle course race, durability is pretty important. Many shoes have a water-repellent coating or feature a water-repellent mesh material. This can greatly increase the life of your shoes, so it’s a good idea to check if a shoe has this feature before you make a purchase. It is also important to note that it will also increase your balance and stability in adverse conditions.

Additional Factors to Consider

Cost

Cost can play a big role in purchasing your next shoe. You probably don’t want to break the bank in the process of purchasing a pair of OCR shoes. If you’ve never owned a pair in the past, you may be even more hesitant. While there are some relatively expensive OCR shoes out there, many quality shoes are priced fairly considering the craftsmanship and durability. The other thing to weigh in is the length of the shoe life. The initial cost may seem a little overwhelming, but weighing the cost over time will make it seem more cost effective. Understanding that it is investment that will have gains long after the initial cost.

Water-Repellent Properties

It’s relatively important for a trail shoe to have some degree of water-repellent properties. This is very important especially if you will be using the shoes in harsh weather such as rain or snow. With obstacle course races, you never know when you’re going to come into contact with a puddle, for example, on the ground. This is also useful when faced with various weather conditions. When the upper of a shoe is water-repellent, it prevents your shoe getting logged down with water, becoming heavy and uncomfortable. Typically these water-repellent areas of the shoe are made of a mesh-like material. This also helps to keep your foot cool and ventilated. When you have a breathable shoe it will reduce that considerably. It will also allow the shoe to dry quickly so that you may continue to increase in your athletic performance.  Having a breathable shoe will also help in prolonging the life of the shoe. Odors and bacterial can decrease the life of the shoe. This may also affect your speed and balance.

Breathability

You’re going to want a shoe that’s breathable for a few reasons. First, the more ventilated a shoe is, the cooler your feet stay during your run, helping to reduce sweat and moisture. Ventilation also helps prevent the buildup of bacteria and odors. Some shoes even use a special anti-microbial fabric to further eliminate other bacteria. A breathable shoe means that your shoe dries quickly, which is a huge advantage to have. If a shoe does not dry quickly, it gets weighed down with moisture, which effects your athletic performance. This also helps prolong the life of the shoe.

Drop

Just as with regular running shoes, drop heights vary across the board. Shoes with a low drop are lower to the ground and typically have minimal cushioning. The low drop shoe typically allows the heal to sit at shoe level. Higher drop shoes are different than the “minimalist” low drop ones in that they provide much more support and cushioning.  The choice between a high drop shoe and a low drop shoe is strictly a matter of personal preference. That is why its very important to choose which is more comfortable for you. A good idea is walking around in both types to ensure which one feels better.

FAQ

Q: What is the difference between an OCR shoe and a regular running shoe?

A: A good OCR shoe is necessary for racing success. Obstacle courses, such as Tough Muddle, are typically full of rough terrain, puddles of water, and inches of mud. With such extreme conditions, you need a shoe that’s a bit more durable than your typical running shoe. Since OCR’s are specially designed to handle these types of terrain, it’s recommended that you are always equipped with a solid, specialized shoe. OCR’s provide more protection to the foot, increases traction, and repels water. This enables you to have firm traction with keeping the pace and keep up your endurance. This will also ensure stability preventing joint injuries. Along with accidental stumbling or falling, this might also be ideal for those that run in adverse weather conditions or may hike in more difficult terrains.

Q: How do I choose the right size?

A: It’s often very difficult to find these types of trail shoes in common sports stores. This leads to people buying from an online source. We do not recommend purchasing OCR’s this way. This makes it difficult to choose the right size considering you can’t try on a shoe via the internet. If you do purchase it via the internet make sure you keep all receipts so that you can exchange for a different type of shoe if needed. The typical rule of thumb is to order OCR’s one size larger than your regular shoe size. The reason for this is that your feet swell when you’re working out! You don’t want them to be so tight that your foot becomes uncomfortable and feels restricted. This will also help increase the life of the shoe ensuring longer lasting wear for the long term.

When trying on shoes we suggest you try on several different pairs to compare which feel most comfortable to you. You might want to try on a different shoe on each foot to compare the difference. Walking around the store up and down the aisles or even being able to run if it is allowed. We recommended this so you can get a good idea of how the shoe will feel and hold up before making your purchase. There are many different brands to choose from which can make the task even more daunting. We suggest researching what types of brands you are wanting to purchase. Often when we enter a shoe store the salesperson is looking to sell us something. To have an idea prior to purchasing will help make the task a little less stressful. This will also help prevent you from being distracted by a salesperson.

The shoe drop is also something to consider. While its a personal preference understanding the difference between the high and low drop of a shoe will help in finding the right fit. Trying on both types to see what might feel more comfortable for you and offer the best support.

Q: What gives a shoe great traction?

A: Traction is very important when purchasing a shoe. When a shoe has a design on the bottom of the outsole that’s specially designed for traction, that shoe is going to do great on trails and essentially all sorts of terrain. When there’s the addition of lugs to the bottom, traction is increased even further. The lugs serve as little “spikes”. They dig into the ground with every stride to really make sure that you’re stable and planted firmly on the ground. Since traction is especially important in trail running or obstacle course racing, this is always a huge factor to consider when looking to purchase a quality shoe. It will also ensure that whatever terrain you may face you are well prepared. This will allow you to flow through various terrains effortlessly. Allowing your athletic performance to not be hindered.

It is very important to keep in mind the type of activities you will be using the shoes for. Will you being using the shoes for obstacle courses primarily or will you be using the shoes for track running? It is also important to consider what type of terrain you might encounter. Could you be using the shoes in diverse weather conditions? Maybe you will be using the shoes for muddy obstacles courses. This is where traction will play a key factor in the type of shoe you purchase. It is important to take into consideration the level of comfort you may be needing. As an example, if you have weak joints or prone to knee injuries looking for a shoe that offers more comfort and support will be vital in your shoe selection.

Q: Is a QuickLace lacing system better than a traditional one?

A: Not necessarily. The QuickLace system is efficient at holding the foot down and in place, but some prefer the traditional system. This is essentially a personal preference. Sometimes the lacing system can affect the way the tongue feels against your foot, so consider this before buying. QuickLace may be ideal for those who have weaker joints and need a more supportive shoe. Keep in mind comfort is the key!

Q: How much does a pair of OCR shoes typically cost?

A: It varies, but the majority of OCR shoes are priced roughly in the $100-200 range. To some this cost may feel like it will break the bank. Considering the over all cost with the length of the shoe life. The investment cost up front will out weigh the cost over time. A lower cost shoe may need to be replaced twice or three times as quickly. The cost in the end will be well worth it! The cost of a shoe can be a factor in determining which one you may select but we encourage you to think about the more quality of a shoe the longer it will last. The investment you make now can save you in the long run. It will not only be easier on your wallet but it will also ensure you will you have the right shoe. This will also decrease the result of stress and injury.

 

If you take into account these key factors when purchasing your OCR shoes, the process will go much more smoothly.  We hope that this makes the task of finding the right shoe a little less daunting. Happy shoe buying!

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