Fierce Edge has been running OCR (Obstacle Course Races) and off road races such as Tough Guy, The Spartan Race and The Brooks Hellrunner, through snow and ice, wind and rain and blazing hot sun for over a decade. This is the first part of our guide to everything you need to know!
The first thing to remember is that you've entered an OCR not a road race. You’re more than likely going to be off-road and dealing with hella mud and water (hey you knew what you were getting yourself into when you signed up!) If you're not, go get your money back! Some races will recommend wearing old battered shoes or trainers in case you ruin them or they simply get sucked off your feet by the mud and lost! Our advice is the opposite, you’ll find the event much more enjoyable if you have the correct equipment. You won't ruin or lose quality footwear and here's what to look for:
If you don’t know your size get measured! Your feet will be grateful. For one thing, this will reduce injuries as your feet will be taking thousands of impacts as they land with each stride so it makes sense to make your shoes as comfortable as possible. Also some courses will have some fierce amounts of mud. In fact, the mud might be their primary obstacle! If you’ve never run through mud before be warned, as your foot lands in the mud and sinks in. And keeps on sinking. And sinking some more. The mud wraps around your feet, your ankles, your calves, your knees and forms a vacuum. When you pull your leg out for the next stride, anything not attached firmly will be pulled off – good luck searching for your foot wear in that bog!
Your shoes will have to be tough to protect your feet from gravel and debris while being lightweight at the same time. One thing that is certain is that your feet will get wet and light, synthetic fabrics will carry less water when wet. Your training has probably prepared you for 13 miles in dry trainers but how about when they’re wet? Don’t underestimate just how energy sapping wet trainers are. If they had a measly 0.25kgs when wet, in just four steps you’ve already moved 1 kgs and that will just add up through out the course.
Good ventilation will of course keep your feet cool (as if the water isn't going to do that anyway) but breathable fabric with good vents near the arch of your foot also means that water will be drained out of the shoe as quickly as possible. Each time the foot lands, it will squeeze out any water trapped inside.
Look for trainers with aggressive rubber studs. In our experience the best shapes are 'pyramids' and they will be well spaced out rather than arranged in a tight uniform grid pattern. Good spacing will very much reduce the amount of mud which will clump to the bottom of the shoe which really takes a toll on your stamina. Pyramids dig deep into mud and provide fantastic grip and stability in all directions. Bonus features are ‘claws’ at the toe of the shoe which really help to dig into muddy hills. Slipping and sliding up and down hills is fun but only when you’re making progress!
You should never wear cross country running shoes with metal spikes as they could cause serious injury to other runners.
5) Ankle support.
If like us, you have super thin and weak ankles prone to injury, look for shoes with strong ankle support. Rolling/spraining your ankle is so frustrating and not to mention painful and it's all the more likely with the uneven terrain and jumping and landings on Obstacle Courses. What you don't need off-road are shoes which correct for pronation. The terrain will be rough and uneven so correcting for pronation is not necessary as that relies on stable and flat surfaces.
6) Lacing your shoes.
Do NOT tie your laces behind your ankles, that's a sure way to really injure yourself if you fall! See the extra eyelets at the top of your shoe and wonder what they're for? They're designed for the lace to make a loop before knotting and make the shoes tighter particularly around the ankle area. This is known as the Heel Lock or Lace Lock and will help eliminate movement in the shoe and prevent blisters. It also stops your shoe coming off in the mud!
Here's a video on how to lace your shoes correctly.
Get this right and you’ll find your experience on the field even more enjoyable. You'll see other runners struggling with the terrain and think, "if only they knew!" Good luck out there!