What's the Best Obstacle-Course Racing Gear?

Elite mud running champion Max King gives the lowdown on race-day attire.

Nov 6, 2014
Outside Magazine
OCR racing king gear

Wear shoes with aggressive tread.    Photo: littlehenrabi/iStock


Max King was already a big name in trail running with nearly a dozen first-place finishes at world and national events. Now he can add obstacle racing champion to his growing list of accomplishments.

After placing 12th overall at the Spartan Race World Championships in September, the 34-year old Oregon-based runner crushed the Warrior Dash World Championships, finishing the hilly 5K, 12-obstacle course in just 22 minutes and 34 seconds—nearly a minute faster than race favorite Hobie Call. That feat earned him $30,000 and solidified his place among the sport’s elite racers. Below, the OCR phenom shares his top gear picks for racing fast.

High-Traction Shoes

Your OCR shoe choice is crucial, says King. Look for kicks with an aggressive tread that won’t lose traction in the mud or loose kitty litter. He recommends either the Inov-8 X-Talons or a Salomon S-Lab shoe, which combine burly outsoles with lightweight uppers.

Moisture Wicking Socks

Get a sock that’s thin and skintight for muddy courses. “You don’t want your feet to slide around because they're wet. Remember, you’ll run most of the race in wet shoes,” says King. The 34-year old prefers Swiftwick socks on race day. “They hug your foot, your shoe stays on with them, and I don’t get blisters,” says King.

Simple Spandex Shorts

Don’t buy shorts with lots of added features. “In these races, you’re going through barbed wire and brush, and you don’t want extra material to get snagged,” says King. He’s found simple form-fitting spandex shorts are less likely to catch than baggier options. They also won’t fall off when you jump in a mud puddle. King recommends any OCR-specific spandex model such as the OCR Gear’s CW-X Compression Shorts ($80).

Race Vest

If you’re going to compete in a long OCR, you better have plenty of calories for the course. During last year’s Spartan Beast, King used the Mountain Hardwear Fluid Race Vest ($70). “It’s a really low-profile vest that doesn’t snag on barbed wire. It had a bladder in it so I had water throughout the race. You can also carry food, which is essential,” says King.

Compression or Neoprene Top

Competing in a race this fall with water features? You should be concerned about hypothermia. To ward off the cold, King fashioned a makeshift neoprene tank top by cutting the legs off a Farmer John wetsuit. Other options: use a skintight shirt such as the Reebok Spartan Race Compression top designed to keep your body heat in.

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