The Right Racing Shoe

Get a step ahead with performance footwear

If you are new to racing, you’re probably wondering what shoes are best to wear to an obstacle course race or mud run. You may have assumed that your gym shoes or cross trainers would work. But, just as soccer has cleats and Olympic lifting has it’s own shoes, the obstacle course racing and mud run market has unique performance footwear.

The Right Racing Shoe - Get a step ahead with performance footwear


The company that has dominated the market is Inov-8, a small, originally British company that was once only known for there fell (running down mountains) shoes. These shoes have a lot of grip under the foot designed to tackle the muddy terrain of the United Kingdom. Inov-8s are also lightweight and drain water—two aspects that make them perfect for OCRs. Today, these are the only shoes that I will race in (either the Trailroc 236 or the X-Talon 190). However, my preference for Inov-8s came after a lot of trial and error with other shoes.

The Right Racing Shoe - Get a step ahead with performance footwear


That said, if you are not ready for a more minimalist shoe like the Inov-8s, below are a few highlights of what to look for in a OCR/mud run shoe.

No Gore-Tex. Gore-Tex is great at repelling water, but when you have a completely submerged shoe, it also does a great job of holding water. The shoe you want should have good drainage, be made of mesh, and be as lightweight as possible, because it will get wet!

Protection. Choose a shoe that will protect you from rocks and other debris that will be on course.

Good Tread. Leave your CrossFit flat or cross trainer at home. Choose a shoe that has some grip on the bottom. As the course gets muddy, it also gets slippery. The extra tread will help you crawl or climb your way up steep mud and out of watery pits.

Pair your shoe with a good sock. The best pair of shoes can still be a pain on race day without the proper socks. Choose a non-cotton alternative that wicks water, such as Drymax socks. A wicking sock will help reduce the risk of blisters and make for a much more fun experience.

The Right Racing Shoe - Get a step ahead with performance footwear


Whatever shoe you choose, be sure to wear them around prior to race day. The rule of thumb is nothing new on race day—this is especially important with your shoes. So, wear them around, get them dirty…make sure they are comfortable!

Also, see the video on our creative way to get clothing and shoes clean after an extra muddy race! Finally, if you have an old pair of shoes, bring them to the race. Most mud runs and races have shoe donation centers where shoes are cleaned and donated. Many make the mistake of running in a pair of old shoes, but I strongly encourage you to donate them, don’t race in them. Wear the shoes that match the sport!

That’s all the dirt for this week. Next week, we talk about incorporating weights into your workouts in a unique way!

Margaret Schlachter

Margaret Schlachter, the first professional female obstacle course racer, is a top ranked athlete in the Reebok Spartan Race series. She is also an endurance athlete specializing in ultra trail running races, a Spartan SGX Coach, and a CrossFit Level 1 Trainer. She founded, a leading source for all things obstacle course racing and endurance sports. For more information on Margaret, her upcoming book and online coaching services.

Margaret's book "Obstacle Race Training: How to Beat any Course, Compete Like a Champion and Change Your Life" is available for PRE-SALE! Click HERE to reserve your copy.

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