As an obstacle racing beginner, you might be wondering what you should wear at your upcoming event. No doubt you've found various articles outlining the benefits of certain (but very expensive) bits of equipment. Don’t worry, the more expensive kit isn't always necessary and may only be worth the investment if you take part in obstacle races regularly, or happen to be doing something on the more "extreme" end of the spectrum. In this article we'll let you know how you can easily sort yourself out with great gear, without breaking the bank.
Please bear in mind, the following suggestions are for spring/summer races. If you’re bravely jumping straight into a winter race you will probably have to invest in more technical kit to keep you safe and warm (but well done for getting stuck in!)
Your shoes are probably the most important item of kit you’ll need – especially in the muddier races. It’s not a good idea to chuck on your old gym trainers and hope for the best as they’ll have no outdoor grip at all and will make some of the ditches and hills quite treacherous. At the top of the range and worn by all elite racers are inov-8 Mudclaws and X-talons, but at £85+ you might not want to invest in them on your first run. You basically need to get an off-road or "trail shoe". A couple of options that will do a great job without breaking the bank are the Adidas Kanadia (which come up very small - so maybe order a size up) or the More Mile Cheviot 2.
The golden rule of obstacle racing is never, never, NEVER wear a cotton t-shirt or top. Cotton soaks up and retains water and mud; weighing you down and chilling your core - even the slightest breeze may feel like an Arctic gale! It is well worth getting a technical t-shirt (made out of a special material that wicks moisture away from the body). Don’t go spending loads of money on them because nearly all races will give you a free one on the finish line, so you'll soon end up with quite a stack of them. Most sports shops will do them, you can get something from the Karimor running range for under a tenner in Sports Direct... or even better, order one from the Mudstacle shop.
If it's looking to be a chilly day, it might be worth taking along a long-sleeve top as well. Again, stick to technical sports fabrics. Skiing base layers can often be a good choice (as long as they're not cotton).
It’s a good idea to cover your knees because almost all obstacle races will involve at least one crawl under barbed wire or a cargo net and, without protection, you may end up with loads of cuts and bruises. The best way to cover up is with either some cheap running tights (again, check out the Karimor running range) or basic neoprene knee supports that you can pick up from pharmacies - avoid Velcro though, these are the kind of knee supports you want (remember to buy one for each knee though). Anything you wear is likely to take a beating, so it’s not a good idea to wear expensive compression tights without something over the top, as they’re likely to get ripped.
Socks should be light and breathable. Your feet are going to get very wet, so make sure your socks will let the water out again easily. You might think it's a good idea to wear waterproof socks – trust me, it’s not! Waterproof socks are only waterproof at the bottom (useful for puddles) but the second your foot is completely submerged, they’ll fill up with water and not let a drop of it out again until you take them off your feet.
Last but not least is a pair gloves. Fingerless ideally. These will help protect your hands as well as helping to grip objects even when wet and muddy. One of the cheapest options is to get a pair of grippy-palmed gardening or work gloves and snip off the ends of the fingers. You can pick them up for a couple of quid in DIY, household and garden shops- these are the kind of gloves you want. Try to avoid leather-palmed gloves. Although they seem grippy at first, they won't be once they're saturated with mud.
Don't worry too much though... whatever you wear you're bound to have an amazing time!