Footwear for Obstacle Course Racing

After my introduction to Obstacle Course Racing (OCR) article, I have received many comments and questions via Facebook.  It seems like many people are very interested in trying out one of these events.  I personally believe that anyone can enjoy an OCR depending on your goals.  If you are just looking to run for fun and do not care about time, you are ready to roll.  If you are looking to give it your best, then start training now.

I received a few comments from people who also shared the same view on running as I had: “I hate running!” Put me on a track or pavement and within the first ¼ mile I will be waving a white flag.  Put me in the woods and you will have to beg me to slow down.  The two are totally different.  I hope everyone reading this will go for a nice run through the woods.  You don’t have to go crazy.  A nice steady pace will be both relaxing and great exercise.  It is also a bizarre form of therapy for me.  I can’t wait to wake up and run through the woods at the crack of dawn.

This brings me to a good topic: what sort of shoe should I wear?

I have a bad left ankle.  I have to fit a McDavid Level III ankle brace in whatever shoe I wear.  That immediately eliminates the Vibram 5 finger shoes.  These tend to be the most popular amongst the OCR runners.

When I first started, I did as the websites tell you to: wear an old pair of sneakers that you don’t mind throwing out.  Personally, I think that is the worst advice ever.  I wore an old pair of sneakers twice.  Both times I had foot injuries afterwards.  Your sneakers will get wet and muddy, but they won’t fall apart.  I have always been able to hose down my sneakers when I got home and they look brand new afterwards.  Wear the shoe you train in.

I have become a huge fan of minimalist shoes.  These shoes offer no protection at all, but they are extremely light.  They’re great for running through water and mud.  It’s true that you feel every rock you step on, but toughen up.  You are about to crawl under barbed wire and conquer insane obstacles—are you really scared about stepping on some rocks?

new-balance-minimus-trail-mt10

I have run in good trail sneakers, but still prefer minimalist shoes.  I have become more conscious of footwear and have taken a good look around at these events and see that this trend is widespread.  I have two pairs of minimalist shoes.  For non-mountain events, I wear New Balance Minimus 10 Trail shoes.  These are super light and have average grip on the bottom.  For mountain or real rocky runs, I wear Inov-8 X-talon 190 shoes; these are my favorite.  They’re pretty much ultra light cleats.  They have made running in the woods almost effortless.  And yes, I can fit my McDavid brace in these shoes.

It is very important to be comfortable in the shoes you wear.  I prefer to run in minimalist shoes.  You may prefer to wear something that feels more protective.  If that’s the case, I suggest Inov-8 Roclite 285.  These are more like a true sneaker but still pretty light.  Inov-8 brand manufactures great shoes for trail running.  I would suggest going to their website and finding a retailer to try these on in person.

Always train in the shoe you want to wear on race day.  As I finish up preparation for my race on Saturday, I have been focusing on race week nutrition and training.  I will eat more carbs than normal, stay hydrated, and increase my glucose levels.  I will also slow down my training by week’s end to be fresh for Saturday’s race.  Updates of the race will follow next week.


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