What Shoes Should I Wear for my Next Spartan Race?

man wearing shoes for a spartan raceI’ve been doing adventure and obstacle course racing (OCR) for several years now and I’m a Certified Spartan SGX coach, so I’ve seen and experienced my fair share of shoes that are worthy of completing a race in.

First of all, forget about the flashy style or colour. After a gruelling race the shoes will inevitably be covered in mud and dust. What to look for in a good pair of OCR shoes are:

  • Light weight…heavy shoes make you less nimble and get you tired faster.
  • Good aggressive tread/traction; lack thereof will cause you to slip and slide on wet muddy terrain.
  • Low profile so you connect well with the ground and avoid twisting your ankle.
  • Good water drainage. A shoe that retains water becomes heavy fast.

Here are my top five OCR shoes – the first two are tied and the only reason that the Inov-8 is at the top is because they have been in the trail running business longer…but that may soon change:

What are the best footwear to wear for an Obstacle Course?


this is a question that keeps coming up from people preparing for obstacle course races like the Spartan Race, Tough Mudder, Mud Hero or Warrior Dash. This is a great question and very important because having the right shoes can mean the difference between a fun race and a really crappy one, and for elite athletes, can even affect your ranking in the OCR World standings.

Inov-8 X-Talon models 190 & 200

I prefer the lower profile 200 and 190 series over the 212 as I believe you get a better feel and more stability. These shoes are light weight and drain water relatively well. They have medium to aggressive traction. However, I would not use these in winter as they don’t give you too much insulation from the cold, but they are definitely great for racing in Spring and Summer.

  • Weight – Light
  • Traction – medium to aggressive
  • Profile – Low
  • Drainage – Good and dry quickly

Reebok All Terrain Super

These were literally designed for Spartan races. Similar to the Inov-8 X-Talons’ they are light weight, drain and dry easily, have a low profile and medium traction. I think that the Inov-8 X-Talon traction is a bit more aggressive though, but by not that much. Reebok is on the right track with this shoe. Just like Inov-8 X-Talon, I would not run with these in winter.

  • Weight – Light
  • Traction – medium
  • Profile – Low
  • Drainage – Very Good and dry quickly

[su_youtube url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4BRwSLLGFZU” width=”660″ height=”340″]http://www.youtube.com/embed/HuT4W43J_EY[/su_youtube]

Inov-8 Mudclaw

The Mudclaw traction is very aggressive and they are great in mud and snow. The one issue I have with these is that they are a bit heavier and take on a more water that the Inov-8 X-Talon and Rebook All Terrain Super. On a regular trail run you probably won’t notice it much but add water and mud, and after about 5km you may slowly start to feel them getting heavy. I ran all my races in them last year and they were fine but for this year I will go back to a lighter shoe such as the Reebok All Terrain Super. That said these shoes are AWESOME for winter training as they provide more protection and warmth.

  • Weight- Medium
  • Traction- Very aggressive
  • Profile – Low
  • Drainage – Fair

Salomon S-Lab & Mountain Trail

Salomon used to be my go to shoes for my Adventure Racing. Durable, dry easily, aggressive tread and for Adventure Racing back in 2005, were relatively light. For the Spartan Races I personally find them a bit too heavy and not as low profile for my liking, but I am waiting to test one of the newer S-Lab models for myself. For winter training these shoes are great. The tread on the Mountain series is AGGRESSIVE but designed to also let the mud fall off as opposed to clumping up at the bottom. Worth while to look.

  • Weight- Medium-Light
  • Traction- Aggressive
  • Profile – Medium
  • Drainage – Fair to Good

New Balance Minimus 110 Trail

The New Balance Minimus trail shoe series are extremely light weight and dry easily. However there are two kinds; the Minimus Trail with medium size round knobby treads (I personally find these treads too small and not that great for the rigors of an obstacle course but they are great for trail training), and the Minimus 110 with a variation of more aggressive, angular smaller treads. It is the 110 that I would recommend for the races if you could not get or find the Inov-8 or Reebok. I’ve used these in the Calgary Spartan Sprint and Mud Hero races about two years back and they did their job however they are not as good with tackling the muddy terrain as the Inov-8 and Reebok.

  • Weight- Very light
  • Traction- Medium
  • Profile – Low
  • Drainage – Very good and dry quickly

Many shops arry the Salomon and New Balance but can bring in the Inov-8 and Reebok if you give them the model number and size. Up until the writing of this article I did not see any at the Running Room and did not find they had a selection of trail runners that I liked, but if someone finds them there let me know.

A place to try on Inov-8’s for size is Strides in Marda Loop. I have yet to see any of the Invo-8’s that I have mentioned above there but they have other models, so you can at least know what size works for you and go from there.

Your feedback, suggestions or questions are welcome! If you are in Calgary come check out our location as we have a great training program for Spartan/Obstacle Course Races with actual REAL obstacles to train on, or simply drop by and say “hi”…we are friendly people.


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