Running an OCR involves tackling hills, muddy terrain and climbing up and over all kinds of obstacles. While a normal pair of trainers will do for road running, they’re clearly not cut out for the demands of obstacle racing. That’s why I’m always so keen to stress importance of trail shoes: put simply, it’s the most important bit of kit in your bag. Looking ahead to Bordon later this month – and Judgement Day Goes Nuts! in December – I thought now would be a good time to put together a handy guide on how to choose the right trail shoe for winter OCR. Trail shoes are essential if you want to stay upright and injury free at events this winter.
Trainer wearers beware – you could end up like this!
With differences in grip, lacing, profile and levels of protection, there’s no single shape or size of trail shoe, and it’s almost a case of horses for courses. For a summer race on harder ground, you might feel like going with a lighter shoe; but if running a course with tougher terrain you’ll need a pair that offers grip, protection and support. For a sandy and marshy course like Bordon, look for a deep tread and waterproofing.
With most trail shoes you’ll get a trainer-like, low profile. For increased ankle support on wet winter courses, a higher profile will reduce the chance of rolling your ankle on uneven terrain. Alternatively, an ever-popular OCR classic like the Inov-8 X-Talon offers a happy medium between speed and support.
Nearly all trail shoes have pretty deep cleats, which are usually arranged in multi-directional patterns to maximize grip, but some still offer better grip than others. As courses get muddier and muddier, a deep grip becomes increasingly important. If you’ve been clinging on to the same pair of trail shoes for last few seasons, now might be a good time to upgrade!
Structured or Barefoot
If you’ve been reading Born to Run and have been inspired by talk of our athletic potential and the merits of barefoot running, an OCR mightn’t be the best time to try out a new pair of minimalist trail shoes. There are still options out there, such as Vibram’s FiveFingers Lontra, which offer a decent level of protection and waterproofing.
There are different kinds of waterproofing, and some are arguably more effective than others. As with most things, it’s often a case of getting what you pay for. Gore-Tex waterproof linings and membranes will go a long way to keeping your feet warm and dry, while for a more serious winter investment, a gaitered trainer like Saucony’s Kinvara TR or Salomon’s Snowcross will stop snow and mud from getting into the shoe itself.
Have you treated yourself to a new pair of trail shoes lately? Or are you still hanging onto an old favourite pair? Let us know your OCR footwear preferences on our Facebook or tweet us @judgementdayuk.