10 Best Obstacle Course Racing Shoes – 2023 Buying Guide
Obstacle course training shoes are designed for extreme terrain and the added challenges that obstacle course races bring. They need to be able to handle complex challenges, wet and muddy terrain, and exposure to water.
The best obstacle course training shoes take it a step further and do all of these things without sacrificing comfort, durability, or breathability. They provide all of the protection you need without weighing you down or holding you back.
Take a look at our top 10 picks below! Happy mudding!
Criteria Used for Evaluation
Obstacle races have difficult terrain to plow through, slippery walls to get over, and muddy water to trek through...
Obstacle course races will test your endurance, your technique, and your overall performance--which is why it is important to have the best obstacle course racing shoes. The most important factor to consider is traction because without it you will slip, fall, and maybe even get injured. We prioritized traction because this is by far a make it or break it feature.
Take a look at what we accounted for in each pair of shoes we chose:
Lugs for added grip and traction
Not all of the obstacle course racing shoes on our list have hardcore lugs on them--some may not even have them at all (you'll have to check out our reviews to find out!) However, lugs are a common feature in OCR shoes because they optimize your traction and ensure that you have a firm grip on the technical terrain you will be running in.
That being said, you don't need the hardcore metal lugs, instead, you want to look for the lugs that are made for the outdoors--which all of the shoes on our list are, so you won't have to worry about that. You will also need to consider the race you are competing in because they all differ in terms of how technical the obstacles are.
Also, consider the climate and geographical location you will be in before choosing the type of logs you need.
How effectively do the shoes prevent slipping and sliding?
To accurately let our readers know whether or not the shoes we choose would effectively protect them from slipping and sliding and provide them with the grip and traction they need, we had to take a look at countless reviews by real-world users to see what they had to say. Sometimes you don't know until you put the shoes to the test and this is the best way to find out without having to buy them first.
Rock plate for more stability and protection
Although the rock plate is put in place to protect you from the rocks and debris you will encounter and to give you more stability, we also took it into account when it comes to traction. This is because the rock plate protects your feet from having the lugs dig into your feet when you run--so you get added traction without sacrificing comfort.
...the challenge for shoe brands is to create a shoe which can take a serious soaking...
You absolutely want a shoe that provides you with serious drainage performance. The challenge for shoe brands is to create a shoe that can take a serious soaking, give top-performing drainage capability while retaining durability and not ripping at the seams due to weight, wear, or overexposure to water.
Up to date drainage systems
One thing we paid close attention too was whether or not the shoes featured an updated or outdated drainage system. All of the obstacle course racing shoes on our list feature updated drainage system and are innovative and effective in design. The shoes on our list are fast drying and will keep your feet as dry as possible and won't weigh you down during your race.
Additional water-resistant features
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 the water at some point in the obstacle race. Most water-repellent shoes use a mesh-like material to ensure that they are still breathable as well as capable of drying quickly.
Brands to check out
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.
Make sure you have some wiggle room for your feet to expand...
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 too much--you don't want to chafe or develop blisters.
Make sure you get the right size from the beginning
If you are able to go in-store that will be your best option because you will be able to try them on right then and there. Remember that sizing can vary between brands, so just because you are a 7 in Reebok doesn't mean you will be 7 in Inov-8 shoes. If you are ordering online, make sure to measure your feet and refer to the sizing chart before placing your order.
Check out the lacing system
Nowadays, there are different types of lacing systems to choose from. Some of the shoes on our list feature standard system while others feature more innovative systems. The point of the matter is that you need a lacing system that will adjust to your specific needs so that your shoes fit securely. After all, nothing is more annoying than stopping every 20 minutes to redo your shoelaces.
The best options will use heavy-duty rubber outsoles to provide extra support...
We all want to make sure we invest in a pair of OCR shoes that are built to last and that we can rely on for more than just one race. And, running obstacle courses require durable shoes that can take everything being thrown there way. This is why we prioritized durability when we took a look at each pair of shoes that made our list.
What is the outsole made of?
The most durable OCR shoes feature durable outsoles. This typically means that their outsoles are made of heavy-rubber that can take anything that comes their way. The best obstacle course racing shoes will often also have a mudguard for extra protection to the outsole and the rest of the shoe in general.
Reinforced toe box
While reading our list of reviews, you may have noticed that a lot of the obstacle course racing shoes on our list also feature a reinforced toebox. This added feature will not only boost the overall durability and life of your shoe, but it will also protect your toes from getting injured when you come across debris or obstacles that deliver an impact.
Waterproofing and water resistance features
Some of the shoes for OCR on our list are completely waterproof and those that are not, still offer exceptional water resistance and drainage. The shoes with the water-repellent coating will help keep your feet nice and dry as well as allow your shoes to dry quickly. They will also increase the shoe's durability with added protection from water damage.
We all like a bargain...but the price is not the only thing to look for when it comes to value.
We all like a bargainbut 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 price range. 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. And, although there are some affordable options out there, you don't want to just pick a pair of shoes because they are the cheapest
Many obstacle course racers have learned this the hard way. They might save a lot by buying a cheap pair of shoes, but by the end of the race, they have to throw them out because they are completely destroyed and cannot be worn again. In the end, this will end up costing you more than if you just spent a little more the first go around.
10 Best Obstacle Course 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. These are at top of our list because they come highly recommended and reviewed by real-life users and have proven to live up to everything they claim!Read more
The Salomon Speedcross 4 provides great traction thanks to its rubber sole and aggressive grip, Wet Traction Contagrip.
These obstacle course shoes have an excellently designed drainage system that will ensure your feet stay as dry as possible and that your shoes do not remain soaked and weigh you down at any point during your race.
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.
As far as durability goes, these OCR shoes by Salomon are exceptionally designed and built to last. The outsole features a seamless design and the lugs are perfect for technical outdoor terrain—just make sure to keep them off the road so you don’t wear them down. The upper is breathable but woven exceptionally well for added durability.
These shoes are priced averagely compared to others on the market.
2. Merrell All Out Crush 2
We previously had the All Out Crush original model listed here--so it comes to no surprise that we decided to upgrade this selection with its newest, and more improved model. Like the original version, this one is still an excellent option for those of you who do a lot of running in low-light conditions--because thanks to their reflective details for visibility, you’ll never have to worry about safety issues when it's dark out.Read more
This shoe provides excellent traction for obstacle course racing and their gripping ability is top of the line when compared to other options out there.
Providing better drainage than their predecessor, these shoes will effectively get rid of the water so you can keep moving at the same pace until the very end.
They fit great and also provide you with excellent shock absorption thanks to their Uni-Fly impact absorption system, which disperses the impact and encourages a strong and stable takeoff.
Just like there predecessors, these shoes feature the M Select Fresh technology--which adequately prevents sweat and moisture from damaging your shoes. They are also equipped with antimicrobial agents that help prevent odor from forming and bacteria from growing.
Since this is a newer Merrell model, this one is a bit on the pricier side. However, it is well worth the investment--and we highly recommend you consider its predecessor if you aren't willing to shell out what these shoes are worth.
3. Reebok All Terrain Super 3.0
This new version of the Adidas running shoe is a revamped update on the previous shoe model, you get this shoe available for both men and women. Durability is enhanced through the update to reinforce the toe-box to address previous tear concerns, Reebok responded to concerns for ripping in this area and updated the shoe.Read more
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.
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. 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.
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. 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).
Priced at a similar amount to other high performing shoes for obstacle courses, the updates make this a worthwhile investment.
4. 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!Read more
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.
As far as drainage goes, these shoes do a good job at keeping water out—which is imperative when it comes to OCR shoes.
The quick-dry mesh helps assure that your feet stay comfortable. With an upper made of a 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.
When it comes to the overall durability of these shoes, these shoes are built to last multiple obstacle course races and you can count on them for the long haul.
These shoes are a bit on the expensive end of the scale.
5. 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.Read more
These shoes offer a unique lug release system that will help you trek through your obstacles.
In terms of drainage, these shoes offer an innovative and effective drainage system that will ensure you won't be held back by a "little" water.
These shoes are extremely comfortable and provide the comfort and support you need during your race.
Their 3 Arae Shoc Zone tech provides stability, responsiveness, and excellent shock absorption--all without sacrificing the durability of your shoes.
These come at a great affordable price and will last just as long as many other options.
6. Salomon S/Lab Ultra 2
The Salomon S/Lab Ultra 2 is an excellent option for those of you looking to run an obstacle race in the coming future. They haven't been out to long and we highly recommend them for serious obstacle course racers since they are a top of the line option.Read more
These OCR shoes offer optimal traction thanks to their Premium Wet Traction Contagrip technology. This ensures you conquer your obstacles and win your races without risk of slipping or falling all over the place.
In addition to being incredibly water-resistant, these shoes also offer a highly effective and efficient drainage system that will keep the water out and the dryness in.
There Sensifit technology, Endofit capability, and Quicklace features provide you with a secure, customized fit as well as ensure you stay blister free during all of your races.
Their skin guard also makes them highly durable and ensures you get the protection you need from the elements and obstacles you will encounter.
This shoe is one of the most expensive options on this list. As far as comfort, we can assure you these shoes will keep you comfortable during your races. They utilize a Profeel Film chassis to provide you with maximum levels of support and keep your feet stabilized on even the most technical terrain. They are also equipped with an EnergyCell Plus midsole for optimal cushioning levels as well as sufficient levels of energy return. There Sensifit technology,
7. Altra Lone Peak 4
The Altra Lone Peak 4 trail running shoes are also a great pair of OCR shoes that are versatile, durable, and comfortable. They feature more breathability than its predecessor and the lugs will give you excellent traction. If you want to win, these are a great pair of shoes that will help you do just that!Read more
These shoes offer optimal traction and grip. They feature the brand’s MaxTrac rubber outsole, which is designed to protect you from slipping. The outsole is perfect for muddy and wet terrain and the lugs allow for even more traction and grip,
As far as drainage goes, these shoes are one of the best. They have holes for drainage in the toe, heel, middle, and lateral areas of the shoe—so it’s drainage system is both effective and efficient. Overall, they have an excellent drainage system.
Thanks to the shoe’s padding in the heel, these shoes wrap around your ankle securely and comfortably. Although their sizing runs off, the FootShape tech used in the toebox of the shoes will allow your toes to splay the way they are supposed to.
Although these are not the most durable shoes on our list, they should still hold up between 100 to 300 miles depending on how well you take care of your shoes. The midsoles hold up pretty well but by a hundred miles, a lot of users start to notice some wear and tear.
Exceptionally pricey, these are definitely an investment. However, they are worth every penny if you need a pair of shoes with a serious drainage system and that provides traction for evert and any terrain.
8. Salming OT Comp
Salming is a well-known brand in the outdoor sporting world, so it is no surprise that we chose one of their shoes to be featured on our list of best obstacle racing shoes list. Not only do these shoes look and feel great—but they are perfect for multiple obstacle course races!Read more
These shoes were made for seriously technical terrain and are designed to take on obstacle after obstacle. They have 7mm lugs for optimal traction and grip without sacrificing for responsiveness.
When it comes to drainage, these shoes are perfect for encountering water. Their drainage system is effective and will get the water out almost as quickly as it came in.
Although the sizing is off on the shoes and you will need to make sure to measure appropriately if you can’t go into a store to try them on, they still provide a secure fit. At 9 ounces, they are really lightweight and their 4mm drop is perfect for those of you who like to be lower to the ground.
As far as durability goes, these shoes are built to last. Their lugs are highly durable and they shoe itself is self-cleaning! The outsole is made of durable rubber and the rest of the shoe is made of high-quality mesh and synthetic material.
Yes, these shoes will cost you a pretty penny—but they are worth every cent if you find they cover all of the basis for you as well as offer the features you are looking for.
9. Salomon S-Lab XA Amphib
Made for the water, these are the perfect shoes for obstacle races. OCR shoes need to be able to go in and out of the water without sacrificing performance or comfort—and these definitely get the job done. These are lightweight and flexible as well, so you can get through all of your obstacles with ease.Read more
As far as traction goes, these shoes feature the brand’s Contragrip rubber outsole which ensures the best traction for all technical terrain. They are made for the outdoors and trails—so they are perfect for obstacle course races—and will prevent you from slipping and sliding even when you step out of the water. It is important to note, however, that these will wear down quickly if you take them on the road or pavement.
As we mentioned earlier, these shoes are made for athletes who go in and out of water. They feature an effective and efficient drainage system that will get the water out as quickly as it gets in. Combine this with its fast-drying capabilities, and these shoes are perfect for obstacle course races.
When we took a look at the fit, we found that the Sensifit and Endofit tech ensure a secure and comfortable fit that will feel like a glove. The shoes are cushioned enough for neutral runners and the Profeel Fill adds additional support. As a plus, these shoes feature lace pockets for you to store the shoes QuickLace system.
These are some of the most durable shoes on our list. They feature a rubber sole and are designed to take a beating on any terrain. It is important to note, however, that they are a little less durable than other options featured above.
If you are okay spending a pretty penny, you will love these. With a 4mm drop, these are closer to the ground and more minimalistic. Their additional features are worth every penny but only get these if they will fit your needs and preferences.
10. Inov-8 X-Talon 212
Since launching in 2003, it’s become one of the fastest-growing running brands in the country. It does a great job of complimenting the foot’s natural movement and also working to increase speedRead more
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.
A water repellent coating ensures that your feet remain dry, even when running through streams and puddles.
Weighing only 212 grams, this shoe is relatively lightweight and flexible.
Inov-8 prides themselves on the durability and comfort of their athletic gear.
These shoes are priced moderately compared to others.