The development of hydrogen-based energy sources as viable alternatives to fossil-fuel technologies has revolutionized clean energy production using fuel cells. However, to date, the slow rate of the hydrogen oxidation reaction (HOR) in alkaline environments has hindered advances in alkaline fuel cell systems. Here, we address this by studying the trends in the activity of the HOR in alkaline environments. We demonstrate that it can be enhanced more than fivefold compared to state-of-the-art platinum catalysts. The maximum activity is found for materials (Ir and Pt₀.₁Ru₀.₉) with an optimal balance between the active sites that are required for the adsorption/dissociation of H₂ and for the adsorption of hydroxyl species (OHad). We propose that the more oxophilic sites on Ir (defects) and PtRu material (Ru atoms) electrodes facilitate the adsorption of OHad species. Those then react with the hydrogen intermediates (Had) that are adsorbed on more noble surface sites.