Best Shoes For A Spartan Race – The Ultimate Buyer’s Guide

Spartan racing is one of the newest crazes in fitness competitions, and thousands of people sign up to tackle these obstacle courses each year. You know you’ve seen them – athletes, fitness lovers, and even those just looking to try something new –  running through mud and jumping over fire pits, looking like they are having an absolute blast.

Well, something you may not think of is how a pair of shoes can impact performance during these fast-paced obstacle runs. No, these races aren’t meant for ordinary running or fitness shoes.

This guide provides you a complete overview of the best shoes out there for Spartan racing, and how to choose the pair that is best for you.

BUDGET FRIENDLY
New Balance Nitrel V3 Trail Running Shoe
New Balance Nitrel V3 Trail Running Shoe
  • Flexible, Yet Comfortable Midsole
  • Sturdy Rubber Outsole
  • Breathable Fabric 
  • Great Value
PREMIUM CHOICE
Merrell Trail Glove 4 Runner
Merrell Trail Glove 4 Runner
  • Lightweight Mesh Material
  • Vegan, Recycled Material 
  • Soles Have Excellent Grip
  • Mimic The Barefoot Feel 
GREAT VALUE
Salomon ALPHACROSS Trail Running Shoe
Salomon ALPHACROSS Trail Running Shoe
  • The outsole Provides Superior Grip
  • The Midsole Provides Great Flexibility 
  • Ultra-Sturdy Seamless Design

The Best Shoes for Spartan Racing For Men And Women

Merrell Trail Glove 4 Runner

OUR TOP PICK
Merrell Trail Glove 4 Runner
9.7/10 Our Score

First up on our list is the Merrell Men’s and Women’s Trail Glove 4 Runner. These lightweight shoes mimic the feel of running barefoot, without actually having to run in your bare feet.

The anatomical shape forms to your foot, giving you optimal traction and comfort – perfect for running through mud and hopping over obstacles. 

The rubber outsole and interior insole pad provide stability and support, allowing you to push further and jump higher without the fear of slipping on any type of terrain you might find on the trail.

The sole of the shoe is also archless, with no drop from the heel to the toe, allowing for a more natural stride. 

This shoe is composed of mesh material, allowing for maximum airflow and breathability which is perfect for wicking away sweat. This material also won’t weigh the shoe down like other, hardier obstacle run shoes.

Furthermore, they are made up of vegan, recycled material, so you can rest assured this will be a purchase you can feel good about. 

The Trail Glove 4 Runner is lightly padded throughout the side, tongue, and collar, which will protect your feet as you travel over rocks, tree roots, and more. 

These are a great option not only for mud run shoes but for everyday trail running as well, making them a great investment for any outdoorsman. 

What We Like It

  • Lightweight Mesh Material
  • Vegan, Recycled Material 
  • Soles Have Excellent Grip
  • Mimic The Barefoot Feel 

Our Verdict

The Merrell Trail Glove 4 Runner is a very good contender when considering spartan race shoes.

They offer unparalleled support, superior comfort, and optimal breathability. All things that will come in handy while spartan running. 

Salomon ALPHACROSS Trail Running Shoe

READY FOR ANY SURFACE
Salomon ALPHACROSS Trail Running Shoe
9.6/10 Our Score

Next up on our list is the Salomon Alphacross Trail Running Shoe. These are one of the best pairs of shoes for obstacle runs, period. 

Probably the most notable feature of this spartan running shoe is the ContaGrip outsole. Salomon designed this outsole in such a way, with a chevron pattern, to help you grip any terrain in any direction.

What I mean by that is, whether you’re traveling up a slippery slope or down a rocky hill, these soles have got you covered. 

Another great feature about the Salomon Alphacross is the EnergyCell midsole that comes standard with it.

This insole is just sturdy enough to absorb any shock from the ground, while still giving you the support you need without compromising any flexibility. This makes a world of difference on the rocky trails commonly found in spartan racing. 

The outer shell of this shoe boasts a seamless design, allowing it to take a beating without any danger of tearing.

This is a crucial feature to look out for when searching for a spartan running shoe because you never know what you’ll come across on the course. 

What We Like It

  • The outsole Provides Superior Grip
  • The Midsole Provides Great Flexibility 
  • Ultra-Sturdy Seamless Design

Our Verdict

The Salomon Men’s and Women’s Alphacross Trail Running shoe is far and away one of the most durable and comfortable obstacle course shoes on the market.

Salomon outdid itself with the superior ContraGrip and EnergyCell technology. If you haven’t given these a try yet, please do. 

Inov-8 X-Talon 230 – Lightweight for Spartan, Races and Mud Run

AMAZING GRIP
Inov-8 X-Talon 230 - Lightweight for Spartan, Races and Mud Run
9.3/10 Our Score

Rounding out number 3 on our list of the best shoes for obstacle racing is the Inov-8 X-Talon 230 Lightweight OCR Trail Running Shoe.

Inov-8, one of the leading brands of obstacle course shoes out there, has outdone themselves with this one. 

Their proprietary STICKY GRIP technology, which can be found on the sole of the shoe, provides grip and support that just can’t be beaten.

This technology features 6mm lugs across the sole, allowing you to confidently grip any surface in any weather – from snow and rain to rocks and mud. 

Another notable feature of the Inov-8 X-Talon 230 is its trademark narrow fit. A narrow fit on a spartan racing shoe allows the shoe a natural, snug fit – which helps prevent slipping as you navigate the course.

However, the narrow fit of this shoe does not mean cramped toes. Inov-8 has found a way to provide a tight fit while also allowing for adequate toe splay. That is no easy feat (pun intended). 

These shoes are SOLID, boasting a flexible rock plate just under the midsole of the shoe. This rock plate allows for increased protection against sharp objects commonly found throughout the course. 

Finally, the outer material of the shoe is waterproof, so you won’t have to worry about water seeping in less than optimal conditions.

This prevents the shoe from being bogged down so it can remain as lightweight as when you first slip it on.

What We Like It

  • Optimal All-Terrain Grip
  • Snug, Narrow Fit 
  • Enhanced Midsole Protection
  • Waterproof, Durable Material 

Our Verdict

The Inov-8 X-Talon 230 is arguably the best product on the market for all-terrain spartan shoes.

Their smart design and proprietary material were built with safety and security in mind, something that will undoubtedly give you an edge on the course. 

New Balance Nitrel V3 Trail Running Shoe

BUDGET FRIENDLY
New Balance Nitrel V3 Trail Running Shoe
9.4/10 Our Score

Next up on our review of the best obstacle race shoes are the New Balance Men’s and Women’s Nitrel V3 FuelCore Trail Running Shoe. 

This shoe was designed with support, breathability, and flexibility in mind. The rubber outsole is sturdy enough to provide adequate support on mild terrain, which is a plus. Its gripping ability makes it easy to traverse up and down obstacles with relative ease. 

The midsole is comfier than most, equipped with New Balance’s proprietary Revlite technology. This midsole liner is also pretty flexible, providing just the right balance of bend and support. This is something you’ll surely be grateful for during the countless hours spent running spartan races. The no-sew design of the top of the shoe allows for decent breathability and adds to the lightweight feel of this shoe. 

Something we haven’t talked about yet with the previous shoes in this review is affordability. The Nitrel v3 FuelCore comes in at a fantastic price point, and if you’ve ever owned a pair of New Balance shoes before, you know this is somewhat of a rarity. This absolutely ups the value of this spartan racing shoe.

What We Like It

  • Flexible, Yet Comfortable Midsole
  • Sturdy Rubber Outsole
  • Breathable Fabric 
  • Great Value

Our Verdict

The New Balance Nitrel v3 FuelCore trail running shoe should be a contender for any spartan men And women looking to switch up their obstacle course running gear.

It will certainly give you an edge up on the competition, without costing you an arm and a leg. 

La Sportiva Wildcat Trail Running Shoes

WELL CUSHIONED
La Sportiva Wildcat Trail Running Shoes
9.3/10 Our Score

Number 5 on our list of the best running shoes for spartan races is the La Sportiva Men’s And Women”s Wildcat Trail Running Shoe. 

These spartan shoes are a bit heavier than any shoe we have reviewed thus far, but arguably one of the most durable. The heavy rubber outsole, combined with widely spaced lugs, allows for about average grip while on most dry surfaces.

The spacing of the lugs is great for trekking over muddy surfaces, keeping the mud from sticking to the bottom of the shoe. This is key in preventing slips and falls while completing an obstacle run. 

This shoe has a bigger drop from heel to toe, measuring in at about 12mm. This type of drop may be preferential to some, as it provides extra support around the heel of the shoe to prevent rolling.

The thick cushioning in the heel of this shoe also allows for some added comfort, which everyone could stand to gain during a spartan race, which is designed to get you out of your comfort zone. 

The cushioning of the midsole also allows for optimal shock support, protecting the arches of your feet from rocks, sticks, or any other hard surface you may come in contact with. 

The only other thing that should be noted about this obstacle course shoe is that the air mesh fabric on the top of the shoe makes for a very breathable, airy experience for your feet.

This will help control any moisture that may accumulate as you complete your spartan race.

What We Like It

  • 12mm Heel-Toe Drop
  • Hefty Heel/Midsole Padding
  • Superior Durability
  • Breathable Moisture Control   

Our Verdict

The La Sportiva Wildcat is a great option for Spartan runners who prefer a bit bigger of a heel-to-toe drop, a cushier insole, and moisture-controlling fabric up top. 

ASICS Gel-Fujitrabuco 7 Running Shoes

SUPERIOR COMFORT
ASICS Gel-Fujitrabuco 7 Running Shoes
9.1/10 Our Score

The ASICS Gel-Fujitrabuco 7 Trail Running Shoe takes comfort to the next level in this lightweight, moisture-controlling, cushioned shoe.

It’s no surprise that Asics, a company known for producing outstanding running shoes, designed an obstacle course running shoe that can stand up to any distance, any terrain, and any weather. 

The Rearfoot GEL technology at the heel of the shoe absorbs any shock that may come from harder terrain, allowing you to go farther than you ever thought possible without any discomfort.

SpevaFoam and FlyteFoam coat the midsole of the shoe for an extra layer of cushioning without weighing it down. 

The Ortholite sock liner that can be found within the body of the shoe keeps moisture out, so you don’t have to worry about wet socks when you’re crushing your next obstacle. 

Another wonderful feature of the Gel Fujitrabuco is the stability they offer. Asics has developed what they call a DuoMax support system, which provides multi-density support across the entire base of the shoe.

This comes in handy as you jump, crawl, and fight your way through each obstacle on a spartan course. 

What We Like It

  • Superior Moisture Control
  • Best In Class Comfort
  • Unmatched Comfort 
  • Built For Distance 

Our Verdict

All in all, Asics delivered with this trail running shoe. With all of the comfort and support technology that this shoe has to offer, it’s no wonder why it’s a match made in heaven for long stretches of trial. 

Spartan Race Shoe Buying Guide

Now that you know which shoes can hold their own in an all-out battle on the spartan course, it’s time to understand what criteria I looked for when reviewing each pair of shoes presented in this review.

When it came down to it, the biggest factors for me were overall comfort, gripping ability, and flexibility. These qualities, when done correctly, will help you do your best on the course and achieve your goal of completing a spartan race.

To understand why these factors were so important in my footwear recommendations, there are a few questions I’d like to answer that will help provide some clarity.

What is Spartan Racing?

Spartan racing is an endurance-based race that combines running and obstacles as its main components, putting your physical and mental limits to the test.

These races vary in distance and difficulty and can span anywhere from 3 miles, all the way to a 50k (yes, that’s 80 miles!). You can compete solo or as a team, depending on the event, and there are 20 in all.

Just like the distance variation, the number of obstacles you’ll find in a spartan race varies from event to event. Obstacle counts start at 20, in a lower-level event called The Stadion, and can go as high as 60 obstacles in The Ultra event.

The biggest challenge you’ll face when completing a Spartan race is the battle between you and your mind – you will need to become comfortable with the uncomfortable to be successful.

What Shoes Should I Wear for Spartan Racing?

Because spartan racing takes you so far out of your comfort level, you need to be prepared for the unexpected. One of the most important things you can control while you’re out on the course is your footwear.

While you will have an idea of the distance you’ll be covering during a spartan race (they give you that information upfront when you sign up), you don’t have any idea of the types of obstacles you’ll be presented.

Because of this uncertainty, you need to have footwear that can withstand any terrain, provides adequate flexibility, and is comfortable enough not to hinder your performance.

Any of the shoes referenced on this product review guide is ideal for completing a spartan or other obstacle course race because they encompass each of the three main characteristics listed above.

What are the Best Shoes for Obstacle Races, and How do They Help You?

The best shoes for obstacle races are ones that provide superior grip, flexibility, and comfort. Because of the variety of obstacles presented at an obstacle course race, you’re going to need to use your hands and feet to get you through.

For example, a key element in rope climbing is the use of your feet to keep you steady as your arms work to pull you up the rope.

Shoe grip is going to significantly up your advantage on this type of obstacle, saving your arms from doing all the work. Additionally, you’ll need a sturdy grip to help prevent you from getting injured if you’re running over unsteady terrain.

Flexibility is another key factor in choosing the right shoe for an obstacle course race. You’ll be jumping, running, and kicking your way to the finish line, and having a rigid shoe is going to cost you precious time. Not only that, but a shoe that is too rigid can be a factor in injuries. 

The final characteristic a good obstacle course shoe must-have is comfort. Having achy feet while you’re trying to persevere through grueling mental and physical challenges is going to wear you down more quickly, reducing your ability to give the race your all.

The Spartan race is hard enough without having achy, cold feet!

Which Spartan Race is Easiest?

While each spartan race has its challenges, the Spartan Sprint is the easiest of all the courses offered. The running distance is the shortest, clocking in at 3.1 miles, and the obstacle limit caps out at 20.

According to the Spartan website, the sprint race is geared towards spartan racers that are just starting, so the difficulty is undoubtedly scaled back in comparison to some of the beefier races.

Although there are fewer obstacles than some of the other races Spartan has to offer, you won’t have any idea which obstacles you’ll be up against until you meet them head-on. Spartan officials don’t disclose which obstacles they’ve set up in a particular race.

However, what they will tell you is that there will be a mixture of endurance, strength, and climbing obstacles at every Spartan race they offer.

Some examples of these can include classics like the barbed wire crawl or the spear throw, or climbing events like the rope climb or the spartan ladder.

Can You Fail a Spartan Race?

While I would love to tell you that as long as you give a Spartan race your best effort there is no way you can fail, unfortunately, that is not the case.

There are certain rules put in place by the Spartan officials that you must follow or you will be disqualified.

There are three tiers of obstacles – single attempt, multiple attempts, and mandatory. If you skip any of the single or multiple attempt obstacles, you will have to do 30 burpees as a penalty before you can move on. If you cannot complete a mandatory obstacle, you will be disqualified from the race.

However, there are no time limits when it comes to the Spartan race, so you can take all the time you need to complete each obstacle to ensure you don’t get disqualified, or worse – have to do multiple rounds of burpees!

Can Anyone do a Spartan Race?

Yes, absolutely! You don’t have to be a mega athlete to compete in a Spartan race. All single races are considered open enrollment, and anyone can sign up.

As long as you bring an open mind and are determined to at least try every obstacle, you will be successful at the Spartan race.

There are a few things you can do to help ease yourself into a Spartan race. First, think of it as less of a race and more of a competition with yourself.

Treat each obstacle as though it’s the only one on the course – get through it, and then release it and move on.

If you’re unsure of how to complete an obstacle, observe other racers when they complete the event, or as someone for help in explaining it to you.

Where did Spartan Racing Come From?

The timed obstacle course that we have come to know at the Spartan race was developed in Vermont by Joe De Sena in the mid-2000s.

The first-ever Spartan race was held in Williston, VT in 2010 and welcomed over 500 competitors.

De Sena’s goal when developing the race was to create a more practical, cross-functional endurance race that would appeal to more than just long-distance runners.

The event went global and is now franchised in over 30 countries worldwide, including Canada, South Korea, and Australia.

Spartan racing has evolved significantly since its inception in 2007, and now offers team events, annual championships, workout and nutrition planning and even offers classes through partnerships with certain gyms.

Conclusion

To review, when looking for a shoe to be used in obstacle course races like the Spartan race, the most important things to consider are grip, flexibility, and comfort.

You want to have an appropriate grip on your shoes so you don’t slip on obstacles or unsteady terrain. You want to have the flexibility to reduce the likelihood of an injury while you are completing the race.

Comfort is important because you won’t have the mental capacity to complete the race if all you can think about is how bad your feet are hurting. 

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