Spartan Races, Tough Mudders and other adventure races fall into Obstacle Course Races or OCR. Races tend to be between 3-5 miles for the Sprints, 8-10 miles for the Supers & 13+ for Beasts & Ultra Beasts. You can do anywhere between 20-50 obstacles in a single race. Obstacles include 20’ rope climbs, monkey bars, jumping over walls 3-8’ tall, carrying sandbags, Atlas Stones or Wreck Bags up and down mountains.
Competing in OCR requires endurance, power, strength, agility and speed. During a race, you will crawl, carry, climb, jump, hang, lift, pull, push, squat and run. OCR is basically Ninja Warrior but up a mountain with 3-13 miles of running.
The right gear matters quite a bit for training and competing in OCR; without a question, the most important piece of gear you’ll purchase for OCR is shoes. We have compiled a list of what we recommend for shoes and gear that can aid you in your race. Items are available at Skirack, but subject to availability.
Interested in starting or improving Obstacle Course Racing? Check out our OCR classes at The EDGE (information is below).
|1. Salomon Speedcross 4 - overall best OCR shoe|
The Salomon Speedcross 4 is by far the most worn shoe at obstacle course races. This durable shoe has plenty of protection from the elements and has a great grip pattern on the bottom to scale walls or climb ropes. It’s patented Salomon Quicklace system works really well at tightening your shoes quickly and you won’t have to worry about your laces coming undone mid-race. I highly recommend this shoe! This shoe does have a 10mm drop, so make sure whatever shoe you are coming from is similar in drop.
|2. Altra King MT - best SPRINT or short course shoe|
I am on my 3rd pair of Altra King MT’s. This is my favorite trail shoe of all time. It’s a light weight shoe clocking in under 10oz. with an amazing rugged sole by Vibram. This MegaGrip rubber sole is a very sticky rubber which allows you to stay on the walls & not slip on wet surfaces. These shoes are also highly breathable, so if you get them wet they will dry quickly. The Altra FootShape Toe Box allows your foot to spread out naturally without your toes being crunched together. The MTs combat your laces coming undone with a strap across the laces which helps tighten your foot into the shoe. I love my King MT’s! This shoe is also a Spartan Race approved shoe. 0mm drop, 290g
|3. Altra Lone Peak 4.0 - best BEAST or multi-surface training shoe|
I love my Lone Peak’s, as well. These are the King MT’s bigger brother. A little more cushion makes this an ideal shoe for longer runs on the trails or even the roads. Same Altra FootShape Toe Box makes this a very comfortable shoe to hit the trails in. The top of the shoe is made of a quick-dry air mesh that breathes really well and drys very quickly. The Grip on the bottom comes from all angles so whether you are hiking up Killington in the Beast or fell running back down, the lugs on the bottom will help you grip the mountain better. I highly recommend this shoe!
|4. Hoka One One Speedgoat 2 - these trail shoes are ideal for longer OCR events because of the extra cushion they provide|
Many trail shoes lack this extra comfort, which can take a toll on feet, ankles, knees and hips. The Speedgoat 2 boasts superior traction, key for navigating technical terrain and scaling obstacles.
|5. Garmin Forerunner 235 GPS watch - best watch for OCR racing and training |
Garmin is the Gold Standard in GPS watches for runners. The Forerunner 235 has a built in Heart Rate Monitor, but also pairs with chest strap, if desired. It will track your steps, calories burned and even your sleep patterns. It has many smart watch features that the Apple Watch has, Texts, lets you know if someone is calling you, emails, etc. Garmin’s watch batteries are long lasting (up to 9x longer than the Apple Watch) and you get up to 11 hours in GPS mode, so plenty of battery life for the Beast or Ultra Beast. This watch also doesn’t break the bank at $249.99.
|6. CamelBak Rogue 85oz Hydration Pack - great hydration choice for 10+ miles|
If you are racing the Killington Beast or a trail half marathon, you are going to want a Hydration Pack that can carry at least 2L of water. The Rogue 85oz (2.5L) is a great choice that does break the bank but also has a big water reservoir and plenty of storage for Gu Packets and other electrolyte products.
|7. Nathan SpeedDemon Hydration Belt (SPRINT) - Great hydration choice for 3-8 miles|
The SpeedDemon Hydration Belt is the perfect accessory for a 3-5 or 6-8 mile Obstacle Races. They are easy to tighten to your waist and they don’t loosen once you start running. With 2 flasks available, you can load them with water or electrolytes. Races will always have water stations throughout the course, but sometimes you are just thirsty and can’t wait. The zippered side pouch can easily hold your keys or Gu Packets. I highly recommend this product for a race shorter than 8 miles.
|8. Gu Roctane – all gels are not created equal|
The Gu Roctane formula takes fueling to the next level by including BCAA’s and extra electrolytes. The BCAA’s are amino acids that provide energy to working muscles and the extra electrolytes are ideal for endurance longer endurance events. Just like most energy gels, Gu Roctane provides a good dose of carbohydrates in the form of easy to digest sugar. Make sure you wash these down with some water to avoid an stomach issues!
Currently available in store
|9. Feetures Graduated Compression Socks - an OCR MUST HAVE |
Compression socks are a must for any length OCR race, unless you are wearing long tights that cover your shins. There is weak scientific evidence that compression socks speed up blood flow to your legs and improve venous return to the heart. There is also a theory that the compression clothing reduces vibration to the muscle, which improves recovery time. The REAL reason to wear Compression Socks is to reduce the rope burn on your lower shin during a rope climb or Tyrolean Traverse. Rope burns hurt a lot and they will leave a mark that does go away easily. So whether the socks reduce the vibration in the shins, which makes the muscles heal faster, or an improved blood flow to and from the legs, we don’t really know. But we do know is they protect your legs from rope burns on specific obstacles.
|10. Body Glide – when it comes to racing, pain is inevitable, but pain from chafing doesn’t have to be.|
What starts out as a little discomfort from a pair of shorts or hydration pack rubbing against bare skin can turn into an agonizing open sore as the miles wear on. I never start a race without generously applying this product to any areas prone to chafing, including feet, to prevent blisters and chafing.
About Caleb Vallencourt: Caleb has been personal training at The EDGE for 15 years and obstacle course racing for 7. He has competed in over 30 obstacle course races, including 2x at the OCR World Championships, 1x at the Spartan Race World Championships & 1x at the North American OCR Championships. Caleb is a Spartan SGX Coach and trains OCR clients at his outdoor center in South Burlington.
Photo: Courtesy of Spartan Races
|About Jamie Sheahan:Jamie is a Registered Dietitian and Personal Trainer at The EDGE in South Burlington. Jamie has completed over 35 marathons & ultra marathons. She recently won a marathon in Newport, RI. Jamie has also set a personal record of completing 1 marathon a month for 24 straight months.|
Photo: Courtesy of the Newport Marathon
About the OCR Center at The EDGE:
EDGE OCR is an outdoor playground for Obstacle Course Racers, or people interested in trying something different while being outside. There are over 20 obstacles to work on in a class or ON YOUR OWN during Open Gym. Classes are taught by Spartan Race Certified Coaches or Certified Personal Trainers. Expect to run, jump, climb, carry, crawl & sweat in one of their workouts.
Open Gym times are M-F 7-7 & weekends from 10-3. These are on your own to work on your rope climb, monkey bar technique, or just to workout outside. We have Barbells, Kettlebells & a bench.
Classes & Open Gym Hours are $15 each for Members or Non-Members. If you are a family of 3+ interested in playing, it’s only $35.
Click here for more information on the OCR Center at The EDGE!