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September 19, 2014 Comments (4) All Posts

Chris Rutz’s Gear Guide for Obstacle Racing

Chris deciding which pair of inov-8s to using for training

The explosion of obstacle racing

Obstacle racing has exploded in the past few years from a niche market to being featured on national television, like the Spartan Race World Championships. It is likely that most people now at least know what obstacle racing is and millions have run a race, whether it be a Tough Mudder, Spartan Race, or part of the Battle Frog Series. Every day it seems there is a new entrant into the obstacle racing gear segment. Before there was “obstacle racing gear”, there was Inov-8. The products originally built for the functional fitness and trail running market are a natural fit for the obstacle racer. I have tried a lot of different shoes and packs over the past few years, some worked, some did not. So to save you some time, I have put together a comprehensive list of “Tough Training” recommended shoes and packs from Inov-8 broken down by use and race distance. Drumroll please….

Box Training

Shoe: f-lite 195 precision and Bare-XF 210

Bare-XF 210

Bare-XF 210

Pack: Duffel and Water Bottle

The standard bearer for everyday fitness workout is the f-lite. This is an all around performer. If my WOD takes me outside or even onto to some trails, this shoe will perform. I keep the Bare-XF in my duffel just in case there is a lot of rope climbing in the WOD. The f-lite will get me through, but the Bare-XF will get me up the rope faster. In my duffel I make sure I am packing an Inov-8 water bottle. Its unique design makes it easier to identify as mine after the WOD.

Trail Training

Shoe: RocLite 243

inov-8's sticky rubber works well on rocks

inov-8’s sticky rubber works well on rocks

Pack: Race Ultra 1

When I am headed off to the trails, you will most likely find me wearing my RocLite’s. This is a great all around trail shoe. It can handle just about anything in my training terrain. If I am going to be out for a while I make sure I strap on the Race Ultra 1 hydration belt with one or both bottles. The bottle conforms to the anatomy of my hips, I hardly know they are there. If I leave one bottle at home, I can use the other pocket to store my IPhone for the inevitable Tough Training selfie. Or the back pocket works just fine too.

Race Travel

Shoe: f-lite 195s standard fit

F-lite 195 BLK GRy Red 2-14

Pack: Carry On and Water Bottle

When I am traveling by car or by plane, I like to wear standard fit f-lite 195s. These give my feet a little room to breathe when I am sitting for a long time. Wiggling the toes and slipping them on and off is a bit easier with the extra room. The Carry On is the perfect travel backpack for me. It has a place for my MacBook and allows me to run through the airport with ease if I am late for my flight or just getting in some extra work by taking the stairs vs the elevator. I like to carry the bottle from the Race Ultra 1 with me on the plane as its sleek design fits easily into the seat pocket.

Stadium Obstacle Races – 2 to 3 miles

Shoe: f-lite 195s precision fit

San Francisco Stadium Spartan Race

San Francisco Stadium Spartan Race

Pack: Kit Bag

I have run a lot of stadium races and have always raced them in the f-lite 195 precision fit. This is the perfect shoe for the race. I am primarily running on concrete with perhaps a little dirt in the nfield or area outside the gates. They offer just the right amount of grip and control to navigate the course and obstacles. The Kit Bag is the right bag to bring along. It does double duty as a duffel and a backpack, allowing me to use it both ways. For this type of race I do not need to carry water/fuel with me on the course.

Sprint Obstacle Races – 3 to 5 miles

Shoe: x-talon 190s

X-Talon 190

X-Talon 190

Pack: Carry On

Heading to the dirt, water and mud I love to have on the x-talon 190. This is a high performance obstacle racing shoe. The shoe is very light and provides excellent drainage in all conditions. The lugs on the bottom of the shoe grip the terrain like a Jeep. I feel in total control wearing these shoes. On a course this short, they are all I need to get through, well and shorts. No waist pack, no vest, just getting water at every aid station on the course. I use the Carry On to get my gear from my hotel to the bag check at the races. The pack is perfect for the inevitable trek from parking to the registration.

Super Obstacle Races – 8 to 10 miles

Shoe: Trail Roc 245s

Training in the Arizona desert

Training in the Arizona desert

Pack: Carry on and Race Ultra 1

As I move up in distance, I like to have a little more shoe under foot. The Trail Roc 245 strikes the perfect combination of support, trail feel and drainage. This is my go to longer distance race shoe. It also does double duty as a training shoe. The Trail Roc has been around a few years and continues to be my favorite. The Race Ultra 1 hydration belt allows me to easily carry a bottle and some fuel without impeding my way through the obstacles.

Beast Obstacle Races – 13+ miles

Shoe: Trail Roc 245s

Trailroc 245

Trailroc 245

Pack: Carry On and Race Ultra Vest

Alright, going long is when I want to make sure your nutrition is on point. The Race Ultra Vest allows me to carry what I want where I want. There is a 2 liter hydration bladder and two 500ml water bottles. I can use them in any combination. In addition there are 4 pockets of varying size on the check straps and a big main pocket on the pack. There is also a bungie cord to hold clothing etc…I don’t load it up, I try to run with just enough. On my feet, you will find the Trail Roc 245s for all of the reasons mention above.

BONUS: Tough Training secret tip…Double knot your laces and then tuck the end of the laces under the laces at the front of the shoe. This will prevent them from coming untied during the race.

Now you know what works for me in my training and races. I have done the leg work, literally. I hope this gives you some insight into what you should try out for your next obstacle race.

4 Responses to Chris Rutz’s Gear Guide for Obstacle Racing

  1.' Liam Hallam says:

    Interesting to move up from the xtalon 190 to trail rocs for longer distance ocrs, I dont think mamy Brit racers would do that, do you not feel the need for extra grip of xtalons in comparison?

    Would you not consider a pair of Mudclaws or do your races tend to be on the drier side?

    • Jill Dreyer says:

      The conditions I typically race in are less muddy and more rocky. I find the grip offered by the TrailRoc series to be great for these conditions. The MudClaws is a great shoe to keep the mud and wet out, however, once water gets into the shoe it does not drain out as well as it does on the x-talon and TrailRocs. The MudClaws are a great racer and trainer if you are not immersing the foot in water. – Chris

  2.' Brian says:

    What do you think of the new X-Talon 200’s instead of the TrailRoc 245’s for long distance (Beast or Ultra Beast) obstacle runs?

    • lee@inov-8 says:

      Hi Brian, the X-TALON 200 has proven popular for long racing. Gediminas Grinius wore them recently to finish 4th in the Western States 100-miler. On a personal level, I myself recently wore them for a mountain marathon over the roughest, toughest terrain imaginable and they performed brilliantly.

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