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OCR Newbie – What to wear?

So, it’s your first Spartan Race. Maybe it’s your first obstacle race. It may even be your first *race*.

You won’t be the only one.

Lets get into the details of what you should expect at the race. Specifically, for this post, what you should wear. We’ll dig into other topics in future blog entries.

Note: This article is making the assumption that you won’t be wearing a costume. There are many races that a costume is entirely appropriate, and you can dress as a princess or superhero or mutant ninja turtle or french maid at those. You will absolutely see costumes at Spartan Race, but much fewer than you’d see at, say, a Warrior Dash or your local fund raising 5k. If you want to run your first Spartan Race in a tutu, on your head be it!


The Spartan Race in Amesbury is going to be a Sprint distance event. It will be somewhere between 3 to 5 miles, and you should expect a bunch of trail running, steep hills, mud and some water traps. You won’t be swimming, as the venue doesn’t have open bodies of water. The obstacles will range from crawling in mud and rocks under barbed wire, to climbing 8′ walls, to climbing over cargo nets, and going up ropes.

If you’re new – you may be wondering – what the *heck* do you wear for something like this?

Team Gear: You’ll notice many of the Spahtens will be wearing a tight fitting, custom “Drill shirt”. Or team sleeves. Or a tri-blend casual shirt. Or a tank top. All of this is available in the store at different points in time, and anyone who is active in the community is welcome to pick some gear up!

Shoes: If you are a new runner, chances are you don’t own a pair of trail running shoes. Your oldest sneakers will do the job. Don’t wear anything new, don’t wear anything you haven’t “broken in”. You’ll see people wrapping tape around them “to hold the laces down” – don’t bother, you’ll lose grip. When you finish the race, take those old sneakers and throw them in the pile with all the other old sneakers that will be donated to people in need.


If you have a budget, then a pair of trail shoes would be in order. Inov-8 is a British company who makes some of the best out there. Expect to pay a little over $100 for a good pair, and anything in the “TrailRoc” range will work. Use Zappo’s so you can buy a few pairs, try them on, then return the others, as they can be hard to find locally.

Socks: You will be getting wet, you will be getting muddy. White socks aren’t the brightest idea in the world. This is also the first place you’ll learn a rule … no cotton. Under no circumstances should you wear anything cotton – it soaks up water, gets heavy and chafes. SmartWool is a great option for socks, and if you are prone to blisters, try Injini’s, the socks with little pockets for your toes. Personally, I wear higher top SmartWool socks – black.

Pants: Guys, just wear running shorts, and compression underpants. Or a kilt. Ladies, capri’s are fine too (as is a skort / bootyshorts). Just remember, no cotton. Wear technical fabrics. Wear whicking fabrics. Up for debate – pockets are tough too. They’ll fill with water, rocks, dirt and weigh your pants down.

Compression (calf) sleeves: if you’re wearing shorts, you may consider picking up some compression sleeve to go on your calves. They have mixed reactions among runners – some swear by them, others can’t stand them. Regardless of the advertised benefits, they do provide an extra level of scratch and cut prevention when you’re running trails and crawling on rocks.

 Underoo’s: Yep, we’re going there too. Remember no cotton? Yeah, this is especially important here. If you think cotton socks are likely to chafe, imagine how your tighty whiteys will chafe. It will happen. It *has* happened. Don’t be “that guy/gal”.

 Tops: Lets just stick with “no cotton” here too, shall we? It’ll weigh you down, keep you cold and cause misery. Technical fabrics – and as close fitting as you can to help with the snagging on the wire crawls. Ladies, wear a sports bra. I’ll let you figure out what kind. Tanks, vests, T’s, just a bra, no top at all – you’ll see everything.

Arm Sleeves: If your top is long sleeved, or you chose to wear a pair of compression or protective “sun sleeves” is entirely personal – like calf sleeves, they protect against the environment, which is my main reason to wear them. Ps- the team sleeves look awesome.


Gloves: Believe it or not, this is subject to much concern and debate – especially among new runners. Gloves, typically, get in your way and reduce the amount of grip you will have on monkey bars or other obstacles. *However*, there are always people who advocate for wearing gloves. You may find they help with protection against the elements. You may find you prefer the “feel” you have with them. General consensus is that if you do go with gloves, go with light weight, cheap, disposable gloves, rather than expensive sports gloves. If you don’t like them on the course, you can trash them quickly. Home Depot sells $5 gloves that are perfect.

Headgear: Many people chose to wear bandanas, bondi-bands and other head gear – they help keep the sun off, they help keep the sweat out of your eyes. I’d recommend against a hat or a cap, they’ll get in the way. Don’t wear anything you want to keep forever, it’s not uncommon for them to be lost in water traps! Same goes for glasses and sunglasses – if you can get by with contacts, do so. Otherwise, invest in some kind of sports band to be sure they stay on your face.976625_483518325069852_992205156_o

Misc: You’ll be amazed at the other stuff people think to bring with them. In general, if you are asking questions about it, you don’t need it. The less you bring, the better you’ll be able to move through the course. Packs, belts, comedy hats and fake moustaches – leave them to the advanced and experienced idiot 🙂

If the weather is cooler, wear long sleeves. If it’s cold, layer in multiple layers. Just remember the rule of NO COTTON, and don’t forget that when you’re moving, and doing physical things, your body temperature will climb much higher than you expect and even if it’s super cold, you won’t need as many layers as you expect. We have run races in 3f weather, and a good base layer, a couple of technical layers and just. keep. moving.

5 thoughts on “OCR Newbie – What to wear?

  1. All pints are spot on. The only one I still haven't decided on after many OCRs is gloves. I like then for crawling over rough terrain but, they don't help much with climbing.

  2. […] did a great series of blog posts for the Sprint (Here, Here, and Here).  All of which are still super applicable here.  Some points to remember (for […]

  3. […] we covered what to wear. Today, we’ll cover what you need to pack in your bag to make your first Spartan Race at […]

  4. That's great advice! Thanx! Going shopping for non cotton clothes!

  5. one addendum. Rembember to take OFF your wedding(or other) ring. Losing it in the mud may not be a believable excuse.

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