Overview of OCR Shoes – A Shoe Odyssey
Yesterday I took a picture of my current lineup of shoes as three new pairs for the season just came in. It provoked a bunch of questions about the different pairs and what I wear what for. So with that in mind I figured I would compile ALL the shoes I have worn since 2010 and how they worked (for me) along the way. Starting from oldest to newest:
Salomon XA Pro Gore-Tex® XCR® Trail Running Shoes – Waterproof
My first race every these were my shoes but quickly learned why Goretex IS NOT a good option for OCR. Once the water gets in it stays in. Salomons are a staple shoe in the OCR world. They continue to be a great option, just make sure they are not the Goretex ones. Find Salomon’s here.
I read “the book” in 2009 on a hammock in Costa Rica and soon picked up my first pair. I ran a few OCR’s in these and the Bikila’s and found they to be awesome in the water, but on rough terrain, I broke a couple toes. Soft terrain they rocked, rocky terrain found me sometimes swearing the whole time. Still, they work for many but the huge trend of them in OCR has passed. (More About these) Find Vibram Five Fingers Here.
Merrell Women Trail Pace Glove
I jumped into these in early 2011 when trying to save my toes but still wanting a “barefoot” experience. They were ok. I used them in a race or two and training. I was never in love with them. They were OK in races but not great. They slipped when it got really muddy, but drained really well.
Since that time Merrell has upped their game in the OCR World offering the Merrell All Out Crush which has been a great obstacle course racing shoe option. Find that shoe here.
This shoe literally changed everything for me. For the muddy slick Vermont trails these were the best thing to happen in my life. In the mud there is nothing better. Then drain water well and make you feel super confident down muddy terrain. For most of 2011 and 2012 this was my go to shoe. On drier courses the lugs can be more than you need. (Shoe Review) Find Inov-8’s here.
These were my second Inov-8 purchase. A shoe for the gym, roads, and beyond. It is still (or one of it’s sisters) my goto for CrossFit, Indoor, Stadium Races, and road or hard packed trail. They personally fit me like a glove and I wear them until they are smooth on the bottom. Find Inov-8’s here.
Altra Lone Peak (original)
After talking with a friend I tried a pair of Altras most known for their large toe box and zero drop design. This was in the first couple of months they were on the market. The feel was great, and for wide feet the toe box was awesome. However, on obstacles the toebox hindered some of the more technical climbing obstacles. The tread was also not as great as the X-Talon. But still a good shoe but would leave it for a trail race only, no obstacles.
Since this time the Altra Lone Peak’s have had several generations. The newest generations have worked well for some athletes. If you need a wide toebox the Lone Peak’s are a good option. Find them here.
I do not consider flip flops with a bottle opener a real running shoe, nor should it ever be. But in a pinch and because I didn’t want to end a conversation. I did 10 hard mountain miles in them while inadvertently helping pace a friend in a race. (read about that one) Reef Fannings are great for post race find a pair here.
The X-Talon 212 is a sister to the 190. The construction is a little more rugged and if you are prone to destroying shoes quickly these will last longer than the 190’s as they are really more of a race shoe than day-to-day training. The new pair is blue, orange and black. They drain water well and perform like the 190. (review and tech specs) Find Inov-8’s here.
Since the initial pair in 2011, I have now had 3 pairs of Roclite 268’s they are my workhorse in the stable. My goto shoe for training, and long trail races. I have worn them for a couple OCR’s and they perform well. But the majority of the action they see is in training on all types of trails. The lugs are less aggressive than the X-talons and make them great for most trails. (2011 Review, 2012 Review, 2013 Review) Find Inov-8’s here.
I wore these for a promo and for one race. They fit fine but had strange hotspots. The tread was so/so (although everything is after Inov-8) and worked OK in the race for me. I wasn’t a convert. Nothing was special but they made it through an east coast summer OCR.
This shoe is making a comback in 2017 and some purest are flocking to them again. Find the New Balance Minimus here.
Yes, I joined Hoka Nation for a race, and for some training runs. I ran on the east coast in them I wasn’t sold (spent most of the time feeling like I was going to break an ankle), but can see the allure in the western trails and understand why people love them. You feel like you are walking on air. However, on a course they can be interesting. Traverse Walls and Rope Climbs in Hokas are a sight. Definitely not an OCR shoe, yet I know someone who does a race in them. Find Hokas here.
This shoe was ok, I never used it in a race, just on dirt roads in Vermont. It felt like sort of a crossover from a road and trail shoe. I did some workouts in it, but ended up giving this pair away to a friend as I found myself just not really using them enough. This shoe has been discontinued.
Then I was invited onto the Inov-8 Team. So the rest of my experience is in Inov-8’s…
As I felt with the X-Talon 190 the original Inov-8 245 was a game changer. It was the missing link in the shoe offering. Today I still tell people if you can only have one pair of Inov-8’s this is the style. It covers a wide variety of terrain and living in the west now is great for our varying trails. (Full initial review) Find Inov-8’s here.
This is the female specific model of the trailroc the construction is the same as above the colors are different. This has become my OCR racing shoe unless I know it’s going to be extra muddy. These shoes do it all for me and I continue to tell people if you can only get one pair this is the pair to get. Their sister shoe the Trailroc 246 is one of my favorite trail shoes for trail racing longer distances. (Trailroc 236 Review) Find Inov-8’s here.
My winter running shoe. The studs on the bottom made me wish I had them on the icy trail and roads in Vermont before moving west. Awesome on ice and in the winter. Note these are actually illegal in most OCR’s since they have embedded studs. But have heard they grip well on wooden walls. (review) Find Inov-8’s here.
I got these as a pair of shoes to “kick around in” and found myself running around the city in them as well. Light and comfortable. An option for a road runner. Not a trail or OCR shoe. Find Inov-8’s here.
Same basic construction as the original F-lite 195 but the fit is a little different and is a “natural” fit which means there is more room in the toe box for WOD’s. This shoe also has ropetec on the side so as to not burn your shoe on rope climbs (introduced in 2013). I have used this for countless WOD’s, as my kick around shoes, and on some light to not so light trail runs. Have to admit the color really sold me. Find Inov-8’s here.
Not a running shoe, but a shoe for the gym. This is an Olympic Lifting Hybrid shoe. I use it on my lifting days and lifting WOD’s in the gym. It is my first pair of Oly’s and I love them. They are a staple in my bag for CrossFit and work well on WOD’s where jumping and lifting are combined as well as strict strength days. (review) Find Inov-8’s here.
I got these as my original f-lites I wore a hole in from too much love, and I prefer the performance fit of these to the standard fit. They are my shoe for the gym, walking the dog and running errands. My dog likes them so much they are his favorite to chew on as well. Good for light trails, dry trail, packed trails, WOD’s, and everyday wear. Find Inov-8’s here.
I used this shoe for one very muddy race. While it held up to the mud it was not a favorite. It did not drain as well as I had hoped and ended up being a pair I only wore a few times. Find Inov-8’s here.
The same precision fit of the 185’s but a higher heel to toe drop. A good shoe for packed trails and for function fitness training. Find Inov-8’s here.
Ultimately the best shoe is the one that fits you the best and fits the activity you are doing. I purposely didn’t get into the techie differences between all the drops that Inov-8 makes and talked about the shoes in general for the terrain they work for. But the best bet is to find the shoe that works for you and follow a few simple guidelines in finding that shoe for OCR… A Shoe That Fits.