10 Best Obstacle Course Racing Shoes Reviewed

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If you’ve never done an obstacle course before, or are new to it, it’s important to remember that our average daily running shoes (even if they are trail running shoes ) are not meant for the extreme terrain, exercise, and overall environment hat an obstacle course requires.

Obstacle courses require shoes that can cope with complex challenges—like climbing ropes, scaling slippery walls, extreme water conditions, mud, slippery surfaces, wet logs, deep inclines, to name a few. In order to make it through, we need a shoe that allows for speed as well as high levels of traction, grip, and protection. The best obstacle course racing shoes should also provide runners with adequate cushioning, flexibility and serious support and durability.

With all of the OCR shoes out there to choose from it can be difficult to weed out the good from the bad. Lucky for you, we have taken the time to it for you. Below you will find our list of the top 10 best obstacle racing shoes out there! We hope we help you on your search, happy mudding!

Last Updated: July 14, 2018
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By Giselle Killebrew:

Our most recent update brings the Inov-8 Terraclaw 250 and Icebug Zeal OCR shoes. Both of these are excellent options for your next race and come highly recommended by many runners.

Salomon Speedcross 4
  • Salomon Speedcross 4
  • 5 out of 5
    Our rating
  • Contagrip technology
  • Price: See Here
Icebug Zeal
  • Icebug Zeal
  • 4.5 out of 5
    Our rating
  • Great traction
  • Price: See Here
Inov-8 Terraclaw 250
  • Inov-8 Terraclaw 250
  • 4.7 out of 5
    Our rating
  • Unique lug system
  • Price: See Here

10 Best Obstacle Course Racing Shoes

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. Icebug Zeal

2. Icebug Zeal
The Icebug Zeal shoes are a lightweight and comfortable pair of shoes for your favorite obstacle races. They will help you handle rough terrain and provide you with the protection and stability you need.
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Comfort

As far as comfort these shoes hold their own. They have an EVA foam midsole and provide you with a secure and supportive fit. They are

Traction

These shoes provide excellent traction thanks to the 16 lugs on the outsole of the shoe.

Cost

The shoe price is above average.
Pros

• Excellent traction

• Lightweight

• Comfortable

• Durable

• Secure fit

• EVA foam midsole

Cons

• Sizing runs small


3. Inov-8 Terraclaw 250

3. Inov-8 Terraclaw 250
Inov-8 has quickly become known for their high-quality OCR shoes, and this model does not disappoint. They are also the best affordable shoes out there and offer features you need to succeed in your race.
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Comfort

These shoes are extremely comfortable and provide the comfort and support you need during your race. Their 3 Arae Shoc Zone tech provide stability, responsiveness, and excellent shock absorption.

Traction
These shoes offer a unique lug release system that will help you trek through your obstacles.

Cost
These come at a great affordable price and will last just as long as many other options.
Pros

• Flexible

• Affordable

• Durable

• Unique lug system

• Comfortable

• Great shock absorption

• Provides great stability and support

Cons

• Sizing runs narrow


4. Altra Superior 3.5

This shoe gives dependable cushion factor, very nice longevity via durability, a level of traction which can deal with whatever surfaces are in its path,  the shoe is built for protection and performance while being light-weight.

Use this shoe regularly for racing off-road or all trail running conditions and of course the shoe will work for running obstacles courses.
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Comfort

You get comfort as a result of the creative design work built into the shoe, runners can appreciate the light-weight of this shoe because it ensures the shoe performs well for racing, even in challenging environments while also giving a good all-around comfortable FIT. When running in muddy environments feedback states that the shoe effectively dispells wet clingy mud. Reviews are positive regarding the very good level of stability which the shoe gives, ground feedback is consistent and helpful for runners, the shoe gives reliability in very challenging environments, in the past, there were issues with rips occurring in the upper and this issue has been fixed through now designing in a more sturdy mesh which is very durable.

Traction

Runner feedback has been constantly popular regarding the outsole, the shoe is performing satisfactorily on muddy, wet and uneven trail surfaces, the overall feeling is that traction is superb.

Cost

When you buy this, you invest more to get more.

Pros

Very good traction

Protective

Gives stability

Durable

Very comfortable

Cons

Runners suggest wider width options would be nice


5. Reebok All Terrain Super 3.0

5. Reebok All Terrain Super 3.0
This new version of the shoe is a revamped update on the previous shoe model, you get this shoe available for both men and women. Let's get straight to the point on the previous shoe version, durability caused concern among runners, ripping issues have been flagged up in the past. Reinforcement is evident in the uppers in the areas where ripping was a cause of interest.

Reebok heard the feedback and they have reacted, this fourth shoe model has had major updates to the upper to put right previous problems with ripping. It's true to say that Inov-* and Icebug shoes are still hot favorites but Reebok is determined to get back to the top group. 

This shoe like its previous version is tops when it comes to draining water, on obstacle courses we will get wet feet, this shoe is very effective at dispelling water.

Why did the previous shoe model have ripping issues? Runners suggest it was due to the narrow FIT and this issue has also been addressed through updating.

The previous shoe had a popularity among runners for many positive reasons, issues have been addressed and updated to counter previous ripping issues. Read our review and see if you want to try out this updated version.
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Comfort

Reebok was first to build factory-drainage-ports into running shoes and this innovative approach was very well received by runners. This standard of comfort is continued. There were comments about debris in the drainage runoff when water is dispelled, debris will flow with it, better out than remaining in the shoe.

Another update for comfort and secure hold is the updated lace system, the laces no longer thread through the shoe, instead, they pass through a stand-alone rubber system which is fitted separate from the shoe tongue. For runners who like a low cut shoe, this will be fine, for others, they will need to try the shoe to see how good stability for the ankle is for them.

Durability

Durability is enhanced through the update to reinforce the toe-box to address previous tear concerns, Reebok responded to concern for ripping in this area and updated the shoe.

The “Dura-Grip” rubber is reinforcing the toe box where the previous models were widely known for tearing. It looks like Reebok heard the call for correction(or got tired of replacing shoes for this issue)

Traction

Traction is superb through Rope-Pro which is a tread system which flows from the lace area all the way down to around and around the mid-sole. A high performing tread with good sticky factor is also built into the interior-outsole for grip maximization even for complicated rope climbs on obstacle courses, in fact, the grip system works well on walls and other obstacle course challenges.

Cost

Priced at a similar amount to other high performing shoes for obstacle courses, the updates make this a worthwhile investment.
Pros

High performing dispelling of water through drainage ports.

A new Upper system built into the shoe

High performing tread system-Rope Pro

An updated reinforced toe-cap

Rock Guard system designed into the mid-sole

Cons

A new updated stand-alone lace-up system, will runners appreciate and will the new reinforced upper be enough?


6. La Sportive Mutant Backcountry

6. La Sportive 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.


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. Inov-8 X-Talon 212

8.  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.


9. Icebug Acceleritas 5 RBX9

9. Icebug Acceleritas 5 RBX9
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.

10. Merrell All Out Crush

10. 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.

 

 

The Factors We Used in Our Evaluation

Before choosing your obstacle course running shoes there are several factors you should consider–after all, you will need a high performing you that you can get you through all of the obstacles you will be facing, such as scaling walls or wading through deep muddy water.

You won’t get far without the right type of running shoes.

The best obstacle racing shoes have the same capabilities as trail running shoes, are lightweight and durable, protect you from the elements, and provide you with the traction you need. Before making your selection make sure to consider the following:

Upper shoe construction: The upper should be thin, lightweight, and breathable while also providing optimal durability, protection, stability, and that repels water/

Minimalist vs Non-Minimalist: Most high-quality obstacle racing shoes are minimalistic shoes, but there are several other options to choose from if you really don’t want minimalist shoes. We recommend you consider brands like Reebok, Icebug, New Balance, and Inov-8 when starting your search.

If you are set on a non-minimalist shoe, we recommend you shoes by Salomon. If you go with this option look for a lightweight shoe that can withstand water and still help you perform.

Comfort

Comfort is another important factor to consider when looking for your next OCR shoe. If they have EVA foam they will most likely be very comfortable. When analyzing the shoe’s overall comfort also make sure they provide you with the right amount of support. If you don’t have the right amount of support during your obstacle races you will underperform and risk getting injured. Lastly, overall comfort is also affected by the shoe’s lacing system and while we recommend QuickLace systems, this feature is based on personal preference.

Traction

Traction is the most important feature in an obstacle running shoe. Obstacle races have difficult terrain to plow through, slippery walls to get over, and muddy water to trek through–which is why you need to make sure your shoes provide the traction you need. Furthermore, shoes with rubber lugs on the bottom of the outsole dig into the ground with every stride. This provides you with traction to plow through anything thrown at you during your race.

Durability

Running obstacle courses require durable shoes that can take everything being thrown there way. The best options will use heavy-duty rubber outsoles to provide extra support as well as a mudguard for added protection. Many shoes also have a water-repellent coating or feature water-repellent mesh material which extends the life of the shoe and provides you with additional comfort.

Back view of woman climbing up dirty wall from puddle
Drainage
You absolutely want a shoe which gives serious drainage performance, the challenge for shoe brands is to create a shoe which can take a serious soaking, give top performing drainage capability while retaining durability and not ripping at the seams due to weight and wear. Reebok is a good quality shoe and they are constantly updating and adding innovative shoe tech to tackle shoe durability while giving good drainage. If you’re looking for good shoe drainage it’s a good idea to keep an eye on Reebok shoes, especially as they regularly update.
 FIT
We cannot stress how important the right FIT really is. Without the right fit, it doesn’t matter how good the shoe’s durability, protection,  or traction is because without the right FIT you won’t receive any of the benefits the shoe provides. Make sure you have some wiggle room for your feet to expand, but not to much–you don’t want to chafe or develop blisters.
Value
We all like a bargain but when it comes to obstacle racing shoes this should not be your main concern. If you are on a budget we recommend you set it and look for the highest quality and most recommended shoe within your prices range.

 

 

Additional Things To Think About

Cost

If you have never owned an OCR shoe in the past then you may be hesitant when you see how much some of the best options cost. However, you need to keep in mind the durability these shoes provide–most normal running shoes won’t make it past 1 or 2 hardcore races–which is why some of the best of the best OCR shoes cost a bit.

Water-Repellent Properties

Water-repellant properties are an important feature for OCR shoes, however, if you find a pair with this feature make sure their drainage capability is also evident. This is especially important if you are racing in the rain or snow–or if you have to trek through water at some point in the obstacle race. Most water-repellant shoes use a mesh-like material to ensure that they are still breathable as well as capable of drying quickly.

Breathability

Proper ventilation ensures your feet stay cool and help reduce the accumulation of sweat and moisture. Breathable shoes also help prevent bacteria and keep odors at bay–some shoes often utilize anti-microbial fabric to further eliminate other bacteria.

Drop

Just like regular running shoes, drop heights vary across the board with OCR shoes. Like the name suggests, low drop shoes are lower to the ground, typically have minimal cushioning, and allow the heal to sit at shoe level. Higher drops provide much more support and cushioning, so this choice depends on your personal preferences and specific needs.   

FAQ

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

OCR shoes are specifically designed for obstacle races–like the Tough Mudder. They are meant for extreme conditions and provides the features you need to succeed in these races.  They are designed to handle all types of terrain, protects you from everything you will encounter, gives you optimal traction, and repel water. Along with obstacle races, these shoes are also a perfect option for those of you that run in adverse weather conditions.

Q: How do I choose the right size?

Choosing the right size is a difficult feat, especially with all of the brands you have to choose from. To in find the right fit make sure you consider how wide your feet are, your arch type, and whether you need a low or high drop.

Q: What gives a shoe great traction?

Traction is very important when purchasing an OCR shoe because it’s what gets you through most of your obstacles and challenging terrain. Many have outsole lugs for optimal traction–similar to spikes on track shoes

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

Not necessarily. The QuickLace system is efficient at holding the foot securely 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?

It varies, but the majority of OCR shoes are priced roughly in the $100-200 range. To some may seem expensive but considering their lifespan and durability, they are definitely worth the cost.

 Q:  I prefer non-minimalist shoes and I’m thinking that the shoes will wear out faster when I run regular obstacle courses, is it ok to just get a cheap pair of shoes as they won’t last long anyway?

 While you can do this if you so choose, we definitely don’t recommend it–especially if you plan on participating in obstacle races for the long haul. OCR shoes are specifically designed for obstacle races and give you the right levels of protection, durability, performance, and comfort. In the long run you will be saving money if you invest in a good quality shoes.

 

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