Last year, I did a review on how much I LOVED my Salomon Speedcross 3 shoes for the many obstacle races I’ve done. Salomon makes a shoe with a tried and true design that has been a staple for obstacle racers and trail runners for many years. It’s a high-performance shoe that offers traction via the lugs on the bottom that’s rivaled by no other shoe I’ve seen. It’s also an extremely durable shoe, well-cushioned, comfortable and stable that remains a solid choice for long, technical trails and longer distance obstacle races. These shoes have been with me through many obstacle races and I’ve loved wearing them.
While my Salomon’s are definitely a huge part of my life and will stay in my rotation for longer endurance events (such as my upcoming Tough Mudder), I’ve switched to Vibram Five Fingers for events 10k distance and under.
I first heard of and saw people wearing Vibrams at the Central Florida Tough Mudder last year. Although I was curious as to how they held up in a mud run, I was also skeptical because the lack of apparent support meant more injuries- or so I thought. I’m glad I decided to give mine a try though, because they are AWESOME for obstacle racing!
What I love most about the Vibrams is their lightweight structure that provides just enough protection so you’re not tearing up the bottom of your feet on rocks or hidden twigs during obstacle races. They also drain water extremely well, which is hard to find in obstacle racing shoes. Have you ever taken a swim with your shoes? Try it. They take on about an extra 5 lbs per foot, which when you’re racing is extra weight you don’t want to have on you.
But they look funny.
Ok, I’ll give you that. When I first saw them, I thought they were funny looking too. But the more I looked at them, the more I wanted to try them on. When I tried them on, they were surprisingly comfortable. I took them out walking a few times and I love the fact that they are shoes you can just slip on without having to worry about finding socks and tying them up. (Yes, sometimes I am THAT lazy). I took them for a test run during the Mud Endeavor Under the Lights Race in July this year and that’s when I realized they were total keepers.
While the support is minimal (they are a minimalist shoe), they offer enough protection for the bottom of your feet so you don’t hurt yourself while running. They drain water and shed mud extremely well and they have incredible traction for muddy walls. Have you ever tried to climb up a muddy wall in your shoes? Chances are you were slipping all over the place if you did. I love the support and cushion that the Salomon’s offer, but they just can’t compare to Vibram when I’m trying to scale a slippery wall and need my feet to stay put. Vibrams also promote a more mid-foot strike while running, because your body knows there’s no cushion under the heels. When you’re running in a highly supportive shoe with a 10-12mm drop (the difference between the heel and toe of a typical running shoe) you’re actually more inclined to heel strike, as the shoe promotes a heel first approach to running. There’s no scientific evidence that heel striking is actually bad for you (many magazines will claim otherwise, but no evidence has been found to support the claim that heel striking leads to more injuries than midfoot striking); however, I like the feel of running in my Vibrams during obstacle races because they make me feel more stable and like a more efficient runner.
It’s really a very personal choice as to what shoes will work best for you, especially during an endurance event where you will be climbing, jumping, crawling and wading through mud pits and obstacles. However, if you’re not opposed to minimalist running, I encourage you to give Vibram’s a try. They really are a very comfortable “shoe.”
Product Comparison At A Glance:
|Product Name||Salomon Speedcross 3’s||Vibram Five Fingers|
|Overall Score||41 out of 60||44 out of 60|
|Pros||Great traction on mud and wet surfaces, protective, versatile||Drains well, lightweight, good grip on walls, doesn’t hold mud|
|Cons||Lugs wear down quickly, doesn’t shed mud or water well||No support or stability for ankles, can hurt the bottoms of your feet when climbing slat walls|
|Best Uses||Technical trail runs, any run where traction is a priority||Mud runs and obstacle races where the shoes will be submerged in water|
|Foot Protection Rating||9 out of 10||5 out of 10|
|Traction in mud||10 out of 10||9 out of 10|
|Traction on walls||5 out of 10||9 out of 10|
|Stability||7 out of 10||2 out of 10|
|Comfort||6 out of 10||9 out of 10|
|Weight||4 out of 10||10 out of 10|
DISCLAIMER: I am not a foot specialist, nor am I licensed to make medical recommendations for footwear products. Trying any of the above mentioned products is taken at your own risk. Serious injuries could occur if you are not running in the correct shoe. If you are unsure what shoe is best for you or if you have foot pain or discomfort, please see a licensed medical professional.