Updated: March 9th, 2018

What does an obstacle race mean to you?

A Spartan (or any kind of obstacle) race is a challenging race which includes a series of various obstacles, natural and man-made, you must overcome.

Imagine that you will be racing through the roughest terrain you can find. So don’t panic when you find yourself running through muddy water, hills and even a forest. Moreover, you will be climbing hills and ropes, crawling under barbed wire, swinging like a monkey to cross a monkey bar, throwing spears, swimming in muddy water pools and more.

Therefore, you must be ready for all of these.

It’s a big achievement in your life that proves you can accomplish what you thought impossible, boost your-self confidence and change your mindset. If you are interested to join this race and hope to continue in without hating it, then bring your “weapon” with you: Your shoes.

In this article, you’ll find out how to pick the right pair of shoes for the spartan race or tough mudder before in order to be on the right track!! If you are in a rush then take a look at this cool infographic to get some quick tips.

You now know what surface you are running on and how far you are running. So it is best to buy the appropriate pair of shoes to comfortably run over this rough terrain; however, there are too many running shoes in different styles and brands on the market and the choice might frustrate you. Let us help you.

Road vs Trail

There are two types of running shoes you can find in stores. The main difference between the two types lies in the purpose of each one.

Road running shoes

Road running shoes are designed to run quickly on smooth, groomed surfaces with few rocks. They offer some features that help you do this purpose such as flexibility, breathability, and lightweight; However, they don’t offer aggressive treads on their outsole. So they have less grip and support to tackle tough terrain.

Trail running shoes

Trail running shoes are designed to be able to run on a rough and rugged terrain such as spartan race terrain where you run through rocks, muds, water, or other obstacles. They are
heavier and more durable than road running shoes and have an aggressive and heavier outsole. Therefore, they offer support, protection, and stability on uneven terrain.

Your ordinary road running shoes are not made for Spartan races and you shouldn’t wear them.


  1. The wrong pair of shoes can leave you injured and unprotected resulted in twisting your ankles
  2. You will suffer blisters and black toenails that will hurt you.
  3. Water and debris can enter your shoes during racing that make you heavier and slow you down.
  4. Stuck in thigh-deep mud, either you may slip or slide.
  5. Your shoes can lose grip resulted in falling down a hill and losing stability.
  6. You may waste a lot of money until you found the perfect one, or maybe you throw away your road running shoe after the race.

In the end , you will not have enjoyed the race and will never do it again. So trail running shoes are perfect for a Spartan race. However, not all trail running shoes are created equal.

What should you consider before buying a trail running shoes for the spartan race?

Even more important than wearing trail shoes is wearing the right trail shoes. Following are the most important features you should look for in your trail running shoes to choose the right one that will help you conquer obstacles and enjoy running with confidence.

Good traction and grip

In Spartan Races, You will face all kinds of terrain, so you need shoes that provide you grip on wet and trail surfaces to increase your speed and offer more stability. Trail running shoes
have large lugs outsoles, sticky rubber, and aggressive treads. Then prevent you from slipping on steep hills and obstacles and provide you a protection from muddy hills, dirt, roots, and rocks.


Shoe weight affects your running performance. After running a long distance, you will feel that your leg become heavy, stiff, and tired. Then trail running shoes should be lightweight while still offering the protection you need, as well as, they are preferred to be flexible.

Drainage and breathable

In Spartan races, you will need to run through water and swim in deep muddy pools. Therefore, your shoes should have the ability to let the water enter and let it out as quickly as possible. This mechanism helps your shoes to breath and prevents it from absorbing water, so your shoes can dry fast and remain the same weight. Hence, stick with highly breathable shoes which use “Gore-Tex”. It is perfect for you to protect your foot from moisture and help prevent blisters. It doesn’t NEED to be GORE-TEX, but a similar material and construction surely helps.

Provide stability

When you run on uneven terrain, you need features in your shoe that increase your stability and prevent your ankle and feet from twisting. Trail running shoes with thinner soles offer you the stability you need.

Protection from Rocks/Roots

There are various features such as toe bumper, thick foam or rock plates, and shoelace tongues, all of these provide you protection from the impact with rocks, roots, and stones and prevent debris from entering your shoes. Moreover, the uppers are made of stiff, durable materials that can be resistant to tears.

Are suitable to your particular style

The performance of your running shoe depends – also – on two things; “Heel-to-toe drop” and “Stack Height”. Both provide support and lead to fewer injuries. What is the difference between them? How they affect your running performance? Here are the answers:

Heel-to-toe drop

It is the difference between the height of the heel and the height of the toe, typically ranges from 0 mm – 14mm. Flat shoes have a zero drop, minimal shoes have a low drop of 2- 4mm,
and maximalist shoes have high heels of over 12mm. Selecting the best heel-to-toe drop is dependent on your running style as you land on your heels or toe.

Remember, zero or low drop shoe is perfect for who have knee problems, and high drop shoe (+8mm) is suitable for who have calf pains.

Stack height

It is the total height of your shoe underfoot. It includes padding in the midsole that provides protection to the joints and ankles while running over rocks and helps to make you faster.
There are 4 levels for cushions to choose your comfortable one: “Barefoot, Minimal, Moderate, Maximum”

So If you’re a heel striker and have no calf issues or knee problems, then stick with high heel drop ( +8mm) with cushions to protect and support your knee and soften impacts during running. On the other side, If you are forefoot or midfoot striker and prefer to feel the changing terrain, then you will be comfortable with zero or low heel drop with minimal cushioning.

Fit and comfort

Fit is one of the most important features you should consider before making a purchase to enjoy racing. There are 3 factors affect the comfort of your shoes:

Size: Foot swell as you run in a Spartan race, so buy a pair of shoes that are one size bigger than your ordinary dress shoes. This will provide additional space around your toes. Remember, your foot naturally expands with use during the day, so shop for shoes when your feet are at their largest, but at the same time take care they are not very loose trail running shoes. Moreover, wear the same type of socks to the store that you intend to wear with the shoes.

Length: Buy a shoe that has about a half-inch of space between your longest toe and the end of the shoe. If you able to wiggle your toes and bend your feet inside the shoe, then it’s the perfect length for you.

Shape or last: Everyone’s feet are shaped differently, and there are many shapes in shoe stores such as curved, semi-curved, straight. So you should know which is perfect for your foot shape. Just trace your foot by hand, to know your foot shape.

Easy to clean

After racing, you got muddy shoes.So dirt-repellent shoes which are made of a porous surface are perfect to clean.

Some running shoes we recommend for Obstacle Races

So, which are the best Spartan Race shoes on the market?

In the last few months, I have used the Salomon Speedcroos 4, they are surely one of the most appreciated footwear by Spartan Racers. That's due to the great quality. Lightweight, highly cushioned and with a monster grip. These shoes fit like a glove and are very comfortable, with the right amount of cushion.

Another great shoe that I have used is the Inov-8 Terraclaw 250. With them, your grip will be optimum with every foot strike. Ideal for longer trail runs, like Spartan Ultra. A friend of mine did 2 Supers, 2 Beasts and a Tough Mudder with them and there was still life in them.

The real asset of the Altra Lone Peak is the comfort. Plenty of cushioning, and a wide toe box. The Altra has zero drop, so if you don't like too many millimeters between you and the solid ground, these shoes could be for you.

Reebok was the official sponsor of the Spartan Race, and these shoes were engineered with more cushioning and stability for longer distance races. excellent in the muddy hills, both climbing them or running downhill. The drainage system is excellent, your feet will remain dry.

In conclusion

Spartan race is designed to test your mental and physical strength. If you want to succeed in this test and enjoy your accomplishment, get the right pair of shoes and a training plan
before the race. Don’t get overwhelmed by the too many brand names and their pretty design.

Remember, more expensive shoes doesn’t mean better. Just pick shoes according to the above-mentioned features and be ready for the challenge. It takes a bit of research to figure out which one is appropriate for you, but it is really worth it.

Enjoy happy and comfortable racing!!

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