Choosing the best shoe for your next mud run or obstacle course race can make a big difference in how well you perform and how you feel when you cross the finish line.
While it might make sense to wear your oldest pair of tennis shoes, since they’ll end up covered in mud by the time you’re done, you run the risk of wearing shoes that get extremely heavy and cumbersome as the race goes on. You’ll also slip and slide all over the place, and by the time you’re done they’ll likely be falling apart.
The most important things to look for when choosing a shoe for your mud run are durability, traction, and drainage.
Obstacle course racing terrain can take a toll on your shoes. From rugged terrain that includes steep inclines and declines to slogging through water and mud to scaling obstacles, your shoes will go through a lot during your race. Multiply that by many miles, and your shoes absolutely have to be durable. Look for high-quality materials and well-made shoes that come from reputable brands. There are a number of OCR-specific shoes out there now, and they’ve been tested and improved and tested again. A few favorite brands of obstacle course racers are Inov-8, New Balance, Icebug, Reebok, and Salomon.
New Balance Minimus 10v3 Trail
With unpredictable terrain and slippery obstacles, traction is a big key when choosing the right shoe for your mud run. You definitely want to choose a shoe that has deep cleats that can handle running through a variety of terrain conditions. And when it comes to running up the side of an obstacle, such as Savage Race’s massive quarter pipe Colossus, you want to be able to trust your feet. Please remember, though, that shoes with metal cleats can damage obstacles so you’ll want to stick with rubber cleats when choosing a mud run shoe. The Inov-8 Mudclaw™ 300 shoes boast the “ultimate grip” for the muddiest terrain and are just one of many good options for excellent traction during your race.
Inov-8 MUDCLAW™ 300
An obstacle course race wouldn’t be complete without mud and water obstacles! Some shoes have waterproof coatings to help repel water, but you’ll want avoid these because once water gets inside your shoe (and it will) you want it to be able to drain out. Look for a shoe that claims to be “non absorbing” like the Icebug Zeal OLX or go with something like Vibram FiveFingers Spyridon MR that mold to your feet and don’t have room to fill up with mud and water. These ultra-minimalist shoes can take some time to get used to, so be sure to start training in the shoes before wearing them for your next race.
Icebug Zeal OLX
Even though durability, traction, and drainage are very important factors in choosing a mud run shoe, so is your personal preference and comfort level.
Some people prefer a more minimal shoe (New Balance) or a barefoot running feel (Vibram FiveFingers) and some prefer more support from their shoes (Salomon). If you’re going to go with a less-supportive shoe, be sure to slowly increase your mileage over a period of time in order to give your tendons, ligaments, muscles, etc. in your feet, ankles, and calves time to adjust. If you’re used to training in shoes with a lot of support and you switch to a more minimalist shoe right before a race, you’ll be much more prone to injury. Give your body time to adapt.
No matter which shoe you choose, you need to be sure it fits properly and meets your specific needs. Trying a few different brands and designs of mud run shoes on before purchasing will give you a chance to compare how they feel on your feet. This will also give you a chance to be sure you get the right size. Some shoes come with a wider toe box, some have a smaller “drop” (the height difference between the heel and forefoot), and some have a lower cut so they don’t rub the wrong spot on your ankles.
The bottom line? There are many choices when it comes to obstacle course racing shoes, and as long as you pick something that fits well and is also durable, has good traction, and will drain excess water, you’ll be able to trust your shoes no matter what obstacles you face on the race course.