Best OCR Shoes
Obstacle Course Racing, or OCR as it’s called, is a unique way to get out there, have fun, and get some serious calorie burning going. You may be wondering what OCR is, as it’s not necessarily the most typical and everyday kind of sport; however, we assure you, it’s an adventure you won’t want to miss once you try it.
In short, Obstacle Course Racing consists of challenges that can be compared to military training. You may come across anything from barbed wire, mud pits, balance boards, and even rope swings, and you are timed against other contestants to finish as quickly as possible.
Basically, when you participate in an OCR, you are a modern-day warrior. It’s tough, but the challenges are well worth it, as the spoils can bring cash and the golden feeling of accomplishment. This guide gives you a list of top 10 OCR Shoes.
In a Hurry? The test winner after 12.5 hrs of research
Top 10 Picks
1. Salomon Speedcross 4
Shoe fits narrow
Shoes could come in more color options
Salomon’s Speedcross 4 Shoes bring you one of the best options in OCR shoes on the market today. Made with excellent traction and durability, these shoes can handle technical trails and obstacle courses so well that you’ll feel a performance boost.Read more
Designed with a molded EVA sole, these shoes will mold to give you plenty of padded comforts and fit snugly so you have enough support and stability to get the job done. These running shoes are lightweight and flexible and do an excellent job of keeping your feet protected from the trails.
The traction on these shoes features a rubber sole with a Speedcross lug pattern to help you handle the hardest obstacle courses and the most difficult terrain. These shoes will help prevent slips and other potential mishaps when you’re active.
Made with techno fabric and a weatherproof Gore-Tex overlay, these shoes are built to last and also come with good weather protection. You’ll get a lot of use out of these shoes.
These shoes come priced in the average range, and for what you get, they are certainly worth it. Salomon’s Speedcross 4 Shoes are built to last many seasons, so you’ll get a good value with these shoes.
2. Inov-8 X-Talon 200
Can run small
Could come in more style and color options
The Inov-8 X Talon 200 is the trifecta of OCR shoes. It's lightweight, flexible, that also delivers great grip for racing. This shoe is meant to be fast and has a strong grip so that you can run on both soft and pavement surfaces, like trail and road.Read more
As far as weight goes, these shoes are about 212 grams, so they are super lightweight, but also, they are built to be flexible to offer your feet a better range of motion. A rand wraps around the upper part of the shoe to offer your feet and the shoes better protection.
This shoe is made for Obstacle Racing, off-trail running, and mountain running, so it offers a wide diversity of benefits. First of all, the 8mm rubber studs that are on the bottom of this shoe makes sure that you stay gripped on looser terrain, but also, they hold steady on firm ground.
It has been said that these shoes take about one week to break in. The rubber and textile fabrics are strong and reliable and will keep your feet safe for many years to come. To top it all off, these shoes also feature water repellent coating that will prevent wet feet.
These versatile and water-repellent shoes have been claimed as one of the best pairs available on the market. Combine that with their affordable price tag and you’re all set.
3. Icebug Zeal
Lots of comfort
Can run small
Doesn’t handle rocky terrain well
Icebug’s Zeal OLX shoes are made for handling trails and obstacle courses with ease and provide you with a lightweight, comfortable shoe. Designed to keep your feet in place with a great fit, you’ll be able to perform well in any obstacle course with these shoes.Read more
These shoes have an EVA midsole designed into them that also uses HGM2 technology to hold your fit snugly, giving you a lot of support and cushioning. The PU upper and reinforced area also help to provide you with the protection you want while you are on an obstacle course.
Icebug’s Zeal OLX shoes come with a rubber outsole that features 16 studs so that you get all the grip you need when you are hitting the obstacle course. These shoes also shed mud and debris easily off the studs, so they’ll give you the traction you want.
Icebug’s Zeal OLX shoes are built to last and are made out of long-lasting, synthetic materials. These shoes have enough durability to last several seasons.
Since these shoes are built to last and run in the average price range, you do get value when you purchase them. You’ll be able to get a lot of bang for your buck because of their durability.
4. Merrell Glove 4
Great color choices
Runs true to size
Some claim the laces are too short
With a barefoot feel, the Glove 4 is a great OCR shoe. It is impressively comfortable without compromising style. The traction of the shoe is provided by 3mm lugs and a Vibram TC5+ sole.Read more
If there is one thing that (almost) all reviews can agree on, it’s that this a comfortable pair of shoes. They almost have a barefoot feel, which is thanks to their zero drop. They feature 4mm of cushioning and a regular lace-up system that is easy to adjust. The top of the shoe is made from mesh with a thermoplastic urethane covering, proving great breathability and drainage. As a pair, the shoes weigh about 12-ounces.
The traction on these shoes is quite impressive. They feature a Vibram TC5+ sole that performs well on many terrains. Additionally, you’ll be pleased with the 3mm lugs.
Reviewers have been impressed by the longevity and durability of the Glove 4. As mentioned before, these shoes have a Vibram TC5+ sole that helps to make them a long-lasting shoe. Additionally, there is a trail protect pad that provides underfoot protection. They are not waterproof, but because of the mesh, they do drain quickly.
These shoes are averagely priced. Considering the comfort, durability, and protection that they offer, we think they are a great investment. They can be used for OCR, hikes, workouts, or casual exploration.
5. Icebug Pytho 3
Outsoles can feel slick
Built with a lot of comfort, durability, and traction in mind, Icebug’s Pytho 3 shoes are designed to boost your performance on the obstacle course. You’ll both feel great and look great in these stylish shoes, and you’ll be able to get the job done easily.Read more
Icebug’s Pytho 3 Shoes offer a lot of flexibility while still featuring the right amount of cushioning to absorb shock as you move. Even the tongue on this shoe is padded, which adds an extra element of protection to your performance.
Designed with a BUGrip sole, these shoes have a lot of technology built-into them to bring you the right amount of grip. Also, these shoes are very flexible and respond well to what you need while you are active, so you’ll get the right amount of grip and stability with them.
Built to be long-lasting, these shoes have a lot of durable materials manufactured into them to make them handle abuse. You’ll be able to get a lot of use out of these shoes.
These shoes do cost a bit more but offer a lot of good benefits and features for the price. However, compared to some other products on our list, they do run on the expensive end.
6. La Sportiva Mutant Backcountry
Can fit narrow
La Sportiva’s Mutant Backcountry Shoes brings you a lightweight, breathable shoe that can handle obstacle courses well. The stability, control, and traction on these shoes can help boost your performance so that you meet your goals.Read more
These shoes have a lot of cushioning in them, which is impressive considering how lightweight they are. Packed with effective cushioning that will help with shock absorption, you’ll be able to handle all types of terrain with ease.
Designed with a FriXion XF outsole, these shoes are very grippy and hold their own with stability and support. They also feature an Impact Brake System to prevent slips, giving you a bonus traction system.
Built to last, these shoes earned the Editors’ Choice award from Outside Magazine for Trail Runner and Gear of the Year shoes, in part because of their high-quality materials. So, you’ll get an award-winning, long-lasting shoe.
These shoes run in the more expensive price range, but considering their stability and durability, you’ll get a lot of use out of them. So, the cost balances out well with the amount of use you’ll get out of these shoes.
7. Vibram V-Run
Built-in arch support
Can be machine washed
Break-in period can be rough
Not true to size
You'll notice that Vibram is quite a popular name in the trail, hiking, OCR, and walking shoe world. They are famous for their impressively grippy soles. The V-Run is a great barefoot option for OCR. It is lightweight and breathable while providing great traction and energy return.Read more
This is a true barefoot running shoe that is a great option for OCR. The shoes are made from polyester lycra stretch mesh microfiber. This blend of materials offers great breathability and comfort. The Vi-lite midsole features 4mm of EVA cushioning. Additionally, you’ll find 2mm of EVA cushioning in the antimicrobial drilex sock liner insole. It should be noted that the shoes tend to run a size larger than other Vibram models. For a comfortable fit, you should size down. Also, there is an adjustable pull tab closure to adjust the tightness.
As expected from Vibram, the traction of these shoes is impressive. The specialized grip pattern mimics your foot, but with more grip. The flexibility of the shoe allows you to uniquely grab walls and hills.
This is where things get tricky. Many reviewers rave about the craftsmanship and durability of these shoes, but others are less impressed. It seems as though if you have a wide foot or the wrong size, you can quickly rub holes in the shoes. However, these shoes offer the user a bit more durability in themselves. The shock-absorbing cushioning allows you to run longer without outputting all of your energy.
Whether you think it’s fair or not, the bigger the size, the higher the price. So, price-wise, the value of these shoes depends on your shoe size. Overall, this is a great OCR shoe that can also be used for running or trail exploration.
8. Inov-8 Terraclaw 250
Firm foot placement
Toe box can run narrow
The Terraclaw is a beauty of an OCR shoe. These shoes feature a unique lug release system that minimizes debris from getting caught in the bottoms stay clean of distracting pieces of debris.Read more
The Inov-8 Terraclaw for women features a mesh upper that is covered with a thin film to allow maximum airflow but keep debris out, and this is just one feature of the Terraclaw shoes that will have you ready for your race.
They feature a Terraclaw rubber sole that delivers optimal grip and stability for you.
The 3 Area Shoc-Zone makes sure that your feet stay stable, while the shoe provides shock absorption. This allows your running experience to be as gentle as possible, without too much strain on your feet when you hit the ground running.
These shoes are about average price.
9. Reebok All Terrain
Good protection on obstacle courses
Shoes can rub on ankles
Could come in more style and color options
Made for handling long-distance obstacle course trail runs with ease, the Reebok All Terrain Super OR Shoes have a lot of cushioning and stability to help boost your performance. With effective shock absorption and a great fit, you’ll get a lot of comfort out of these shoes.Read more
To help breathability and assist with the shoes staying dry, these shoes feature drainage ports which help give great ventilation.
Designed with a grippy rubber outsole, these shoes have a lot of traction that will keep you safe on the trails. Designed with mid-feet teeth for extra grip, you’ll feel a lot of stability and support.
Made with a DuraGrip upper, these shoes have technology built into them that help to extend the life of the shoe and protect it from damage. Since these shoes can handle a lot of abuse, you’ll get a lot of use out of them.
This shoe is priced in the average range, and considering the amount of technology you’ll get out of them that increases their shelf life, you’ll be able to use them for a while. So, with the amount of durability here, these shoes are well worth the price.
10. Altra Superior 3.5
Great traction system
Excellent comfort and support
Even with sizing upgrades, some found them to be narrow
One of the most popular shoes on the market today for technical terrain and obstacle course runs, the Altra Superior 3.5 Shoes will give you the comfort and grip you need to help you succeed. With good traction and an affordable price, you’ll love these cost-effective, high-quality shoes, check the best Altra running shoes, here.Read more
These shoes should keep you comfortable as they are designed to allow for natural foot positioning and toe splay. To ensure maximum comfort, the platform is designed with ZeroDrop technology.
If you find that your Obstacle Course Running takes you onto a trail, the sole features a TrailClaw, and there is also a StoneGuard to protect you from rocks.
These newly designed runners have returned with accurate sizing to assist you in your choices with minimal trouble. The upper has also been made to be stronger so that you're feet are properly supported. On the sides, there is a tiny lateral flare to assist in overall stability.
Altra takes it's customer feedback very seriously, and this is why they have made so many adjustments to the new Superior 3.5's. Coming in at a similar price point but with more advanced features, these shoes are quite impressive.
Criteria Used for Evaluation
Comfort is one of the most important factors to consider when selecting the best OCR shoes since obstacle courses require a good deal of impact training, and you want the right cushioning and shock absorption to prevent fatigue.
Many of the shoes on our list are built with EVA midsoles, which do a great job of absorbing impact and keeping you going strong all day long. You’ll also want to make sure your shoes provide a lot of ankle support and stability as well. If your shoes don’t help you with the support and security you need, you’re likely to wind up with injuries from the impacts you encounter, and nobody wants to experience that.
The lacing system on your shoes can also affect your comfort level. Most shoes either use a quick lace system or a traditional lacing system, and while neither one is better, you want to pick the lacing system that makes your shoes feel like they fit well. The snugger and the better the fit, the better performance you are likely to get out of your shoes in the long run.
Fit becomes a critical thing to think about when you want to buy a comfortable pair of OCR shoes. Making sure your OCR shoes fit well is important because the better the fit, the better you are likely to feel when you’re hitting the obstacle course. You don’t want shoes that fit too large since they are likely to rub and create other problems. If you aren’t sure what your size, make sure you get this checked out by a professional, so you get the right fit for you.
The support level you need will also be a comfort factor, but this can vary widely from person to person. Some obstacle course racers need shoes that have a great cushioning system if they suffer from injuries or know they perform better with more cushion. Better cushioning systems in shoes also offer you more stability and support and can help prevent fatigue. Sometimes there is a tradeoff in OCR shoes between comfort and weight, but if you know you need the cushioning more than a lightweight shoe, then go for the support.
A sound traction system becomes a real necessity on obstacle courses since you don’t know what type of terrain or obstacles you might have to hit depending on the races you intend to participate in. Since you don’t want to climb over challenging terrain and lack good grip and traction in your shoes (which can cause you to slip and fall), you’ll need to look into shoes with a sound traction system.
After all, not only does nobody want to fall when they are participating, nobody wants to experience injuries because of these types of mishaps. When looking for an excellent traction system, check out the lugs on the outsole area of the shoes. Most good OCR shoes are made with rubber outsoles that feature durable lugs on the bottom of them for extra grip. The bigger the underfoot and traction system on the shoes, the less slippage you are likely to experience when you hit the obstacle course.
So, lugs become an essential factor since they are meant to give you more grip, which can prevent slips and falls on steep terrain. However, you also want to make sure your shoes feel right, and like the grip you get on them is controllable, so you can always trust the way your feet feel during your races.
Try to avoid shoes with metal lugs, since those can damage obstacles, and go for shoes with a grippy rubber outsole and good lug pattern design. If you have both of those things in the shoes you want to buy, then you are likely to wind up with a good pair of shoes that can grip well when you’re actively participating.
Participating in obstacle course races means you’ll need a durable shoe since this type of activity will expose your shoes to lots of abuse. Most OCR shoes are built to handle these difficulties, but some still come with more durability than others.
High-quality materials designed in your shoe is one vital factor to look for when selecting your OCR shoes. Also, making sure that you purchase shoes from a well-known brand such as Salomon should give you more peace of mind about how long your shoes will last when you use them in obstacle course racing.
When you’re looking for high-quality materials on your shoes, you need to focus on the outer area of the shoes. You want shoes that won’t quickly get holes ripped into them, or that can’t handle rocks well, because that can affect the lifetime of your shoes (if interested in climbing shoes make sure you check this guide). Many shoes feature durable protective materials on the outer area of the shoes which protect not only your feet but also your shoes, from the type of abuse you’re likely to encounter on the trails. Shoes made for OCR activities should have some features on the outside of the shoes that help boost the overall durability.
The value of a product is always in the back (or at times, the forefront) of our minds. No one wants to invest or overpay for a sub-par product. For this reason, we took a look at the overall value of the shoe, and not just the price. We considered the materials used, features, and durability. All of these factors, then compared with the price, gave us the overall value of the shoe.
On this collective list, we have included a few expensive shoes with every feature imaginable and a few more basic, but more affordable, versions. Depending on what you are looking for and knowing in which terrains and hardships you will be using the shoes will help you decide which pair will be the most valuable to you.
Expert Interviews & Opinions
While the lacing system you’re likely to prefer will depend on your personal preference, you do want to make sure you lace the shoes correctly, so you get the right fit and cut back on possible injuries. Make sure you lace your shoes up correctly and tightly, and never tie your shoelaces behind your ankles because this can cause more room for injury. Most shoes have additional lacing holes on the tops of your shoes that allow you to put any extra lace length away.
Fabrics on your shoes will dictate a lot about durability and quality as well as overall comfort and protection. The shoes you select need to be strong enough to protect your feet well while also shedding off dirt, mud, rocks, and other debris you might encounter on the obstacle course. Having shoes that also drain well, repel water, dry out quickly, or are very breathable will help your feet stay dry, prevent your feet from getting wet and rubbing on the inside of your shoes, and also keep your shoes from getting wet and heavy, which can weigh you down. So, as long as your shoes can protect your feet and repel water and other trail debris, then they should help boost the quality of your performance when you are on the obstacle course.
Weight also adds to the comfort level of your shoes, since the lighter your shoe is, the faster you will run. Lightweight shoes also help prevent awkward movements or other issues that might slow you down, and can also help boost your performance level.
Properly fueling your body before an OCR race is essential. Make sure that you don't eat anything too heavy or that might upset your stomach the day before. In the morning, easily digestible carbs will fill you up and keep you energized. A few breakfast examples would include lean meat, rice, bananas, potatoes, oatmeal, or egg-whites.
Other Factors to Consider
Some other factors will be important for you to think about when you select your OCR shoes, but what you do need to consider is what you’ll feel comfortable with, and what your personal preference needs are. For some, the minimal shoe works the best because it has a more natural, barefoot running feel.
Minimal shoes don’t typically have as much cushioning on their interior designs, which can be something you want to avoid if you know you’re prone to injuries. However, some people like to “feel” the trail and the course, and minimal shoes do typically provide this option.
If you prefer minimal shoes, then you’ll need to make sure you slowly adapt your body to the shock you might experience when on the trail so that you can avoid injuries when you compete. Taking some time to adapt to the shoe will be a necessity if you want to prevent injury and make sure your muscles still benefit from the OCR footwear you purchase.
If you are more prone to injuries or feel more comfortable and confident in a shoe that has a better cushioning system, then avoid the minimal shoe option. You’ll want to feel good in your shoes, and if cushioning helps you feel better as you train and compete, then stick with your comfort level.
Also, if you are prone to injuries in your ankles or have foot problems, then you want to stick with OCR shoes that have a better cushioning system to help absorb shock and prevent both fatigue and injury, which can really benefit you if you have weak muscles.
Also, you need to think about the level of water resistance. As long as you have OCR footwear that dries quickly and that can also ventilate well, you should be fine. However, if you can’t stand the thought of wet feet, then consider buying a pair of these shoes that have the level of water resistance you really want.
Some of these shoes also offer weather-resistant and water-proofing features that can make them more effective at repelling water and will also keep your feet warm and dry. Depending on the obstacle courses you like to partake in, this will probably depend more on your personal preference.
Weather-resistance is a nice added feature, but not always a necessary one for everybody. Being sure-footed as you race on challenging terrain in an obstacle course full of surprises can help you out not only physically, but also psychologically, and allow you to reach your maximum potential when you race.
Most OCR shoes also offer some drainage feature that helps keep your feet and shoes dry when you hit the obstacle course. If you don’t have shoes that can repel water well, they can start weighing much more after getting wet, and slow you down. Since most obstacle courses do have water obstacles in them, you’ll need to consider this factor. The last thing you want is a pair of wet, sagging OCR shoes to slow you down. For this, you can also check our guide on the best water shoes for hiking.
Also, how well your OCR shoes can handle mud and other trail debris can impact your comfort level when you are on the obstacle course. Many of the OCR shoes on our list are designed to protect your feet from rocks, trail debris, and mud, and many have outsoles that repel mud off of the shoes. So, if you are worried about what might wind up on the inside of your shoes as you hit your next obstacle course, then you might want to look into shoes that offer these types of features, and we recommend checking our guide on the best sneaker cleaner.
Frequently Asked Questions
q: What are the top qualities that my OCR shoes should have?
Proper OCR footwear need to be tough. Because you will be dragging your shoes through the mud and many other strenuous activities, you need shoes that are made of quality materials and are constructed well, so that they stand the test of time and don’t fall apart mid-race.
Secondly, an essential thing to consider is the fact that you may submerse your feet in water many times throughout the course, so make sure that your shoes can drain well. Alternatively, you can consider getting water-resistant shoes.
Lastly, because the race is varied, you will want shoes that offer versatility and can perform in many different situations or terrains. But overall, and most importantly, make sure your shoes are comfortable and that you have broken them in. Nothing is worse than performing in an important race, but you have huge blisters from breaking in shoes that feel a bit stiff.
q: What is the best type of traction system found in OCR shoes?
The best types of traction systems usually have OCR shoes made with sturdy rubber outsoles and rubber lugs for extra grip. Spacing is also an important factor since the more spaced out your lugs are on your shoes, the better traction you’ll get overall. If you are concerned with getting excellent traction, then look for shoes that have pyramid lug designs on the bottoms of their shoes. Pyramid designs are usually more extensive in space, and therefore help boost your overall grip when you are on the obstacle course.
q: What do I need to look for in an OCR shoe to get good ankle support, especially if I have an injury?
Some people know they have weaker ankles that can experience injury and fatigue easily. If you fall into this category, then you do need to look into a shoe that will give you the ankle support you need to help keep you going. Many of these shoes nowadays feature a built-in ankle support system that’s meant to help with shock absorption, and this is usually stated in the manufacturer’s description. Also, a good cushioning system is also important if you are prone to injury, so you want to find an OCR shoe that’s effectively cushioned for shock absorption to better assist your needs.
q: How should my OCR shoes fit?
Your OCR shoes need to be made, so you have a snug fit to them. Good OCR shoes typically hold your feet well in place, adding more stability and support and also providing more excellent protection from impacts. Also, a snug fit is vital because loose shoes can either rub and create blister issues (see more about blister treatment here), or allow an excess amount of trail debris and rocks into your shoes as you compete. Since you don’t want these things inside of your shoes as you are trying to move, you’ll want to ensure that your shoes fit comfortably enough and tight enough to keep trail debris out of your shoes.
Also, shoes that fit too small can create other issues, like cutting off blood circulation, which can significantly affect how well you feel and impact your performance. So, make sure your OCR shoes are comfortable enough to protect you from trail debris and also help provide you with the support and stability you need. If you’re not sure about how well you need your shoes to fit, then you’ll want to get your feet measured, so you know where you stand, and you purchase the right size of OCR shoes for your feet.
q: What should I wear in an OCR race?
Tough question! In an OCR race, you need to be prepared for anything and everything. To start, we will tell you one thing you definitely should NOT wear. Cotton.
Cotton is the devil in an OCR race. Cotton does not dry quickly and is easily stretched out and loses its shape. You may show up in a cotton shirt but leave in a cotton dress.
Now, onto some things, you should wear. It's quite simple- less is more. In the case of OCR races, you don't want any loose or excess fabrics draping from your body. For this reason, accessories, such as necklaces, hats, or sunglasses, are not recommended.
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