Developing improved catalysts for the oxygen evolution reaction (OER) is key to the advancement of a number of renewable energy technologies, including solar fuels production and metal air batteries. In this study, we employ electrochemical methods and synchrotron techniques to systematically investigate interactions between metal oxides and noble metals that lead to enhanced OER catalysis for water oxidation. In particular, we synthesize porous MnOx films together with nanoparticles of Au, Pd, Pt, or Ag and observe significant improvement in activity for the combined catalysts. Soft X-ray absorption spectroscopy (XAS) shows that increased activity correlates with increased Mn oxidation states to 4+ under OER conditions compared to bare MnOx, which exhibits minimal OER current and remains in a 3+ oxidation state. Thickness studies of bare MnOx films and of MnOx films deposited on Au nanoparticles reveal trends suggesting that the enhancement in activity arises from interfacial sites between Au and MnOx.