Here’s a quick at-a-glance guide of the best, or most popular, shoes used in OCR at the moment – people are often looking for which shoe suits them best so have a quick scan here then research a particular shoe in a bit more depth if you think it will suit you.
Good grip in all conditions and on various terrain, with impressive drainage and a tough outer layer for a lightweight shoe. VJ have built a strong name as the go-to OCR shoe most likely due to being worn by multiple-*insert lots of competition names here*-winner Jon Albon. In fact here’s his write up of them. Designed with a wider toe-box, your feet are given room to spread naturally as you run.
Inov-8 X-Talon 212
The classic OCR shoe since the early days – the X-Talons gained popularity from being worn by Jon Albon (funny that). You can’t fault the X-Talon grip on a variety of terrain but the very lightweight design of these comfy, stylish shoes does make them prone to splitting and tearing. As a narrow fitting race shoe for light trails these are a great choice.
Weight: 212g (that’s why they’re called that)
Salming are still a relatively new addition to the trail running/OCR market but they’ve come up through swimrun events so grip and drainage has always been a priority. The Elements are a good choice of shoe for training and performance, with a roomy toe box to allow the feet a natural spread they cater nicely for a wider foot if you struggle to find a comfy fit for your weird feet. The grip here performs confidently on wet rock and mud, while the lugs (like the Inov-8 X-Talon) are enough to keep you stable in thick mud but also won’t feel like overkill on dry trails.
Also a good choice: Salming OT Comp
Inov-8 Mudclaw G 260
Claiming to be “the world’s toughest grip” Inov-8 have backed this up by releasing lots of fancy images and phrases like “graphene-enhanced” to trick our brains into thinking that these have some kind of futuristic grip. Annoyingly they might not be far off the truth – along with the many, many deep lugs spread across the soles the Mudclaws have managed to create a firm, solid sole that is also flexible enough to roll the shoe up into a ball. With an overall shoe designed to be robust and durable, these are best chosen if you’re going to be running on aggressive trails, deep mud, or generally wet and slippery terrain.
Check out the graphene Wikipedia page and be super impressed about it being in your shoes.
Weight: 260g (that’s why they’re called that)
Higher State Soil Shaker
Probably the only shoe on this list you can get for less than £100 – the Higher State Soil Shaker is a nice choice for somebody looking for a solid shoe with plenty of cushion and protection on longer runs and walks. Solid is definitely the word for these, they feel like they’re able to take a battering without a scratch showing up. They are a comfortable shoe – cushioning around your heel and ankle as well as underfoot, but the weight of the shoe obviously suffers for it (mind you if you’re that worried about 40-50g than shell out the extra £80 for lighter shoes), and they feel ‘bigger’ on your feet than other shoes on this list will (I don’t want to use the word ‘clunky’ because I’m not sure it is a word, but there’s definitely a lot of shoe here). The grip is reminiscent of Salomon shoes – with firm multi-directional rubber lugs almost covering every inch of the sole.
Drop: Probably around 8mm
One of the most classic trail running shoes available – the Speedcross have been around for years. Very comfortable and most reviews prove them to hold great traction in mud, snow, or any wet conditions. If you’re after for a tried-and-tested shoe that will last you, keep your feet comfortable, and perform well wherever you wear them – there’s a reason that Salomon are the top trail running company by a large margin. With a quick-lace system coming as standard, you don’t have to worry about any shoelace issues mid-race. If you’re after a low heel-to-toe drop or a more minimal, lightweight shoe than you’ll probably be giving the Speedcross a miss but the truth is you’ll still get a responsive, fast-feeling shoe when you’ve got these wrapped around your little piggies.
At the end of the day, the shoes that you think look the nicest will be the ones that you choose.
Written by me: Keith Fairburn
Personal Trainer, Sports Therapist, S&C Coach.
Ninja Warrior Semi-Finalist, Obstacle Racer, Trail Runner.
If you have any questions about anything I’ve written in this post or want to get in touch, contact me.