When a standard 5K or 10K just isn’t exciting enough, where do you turn? If you’re like thousands of outdoor adventurers, you’ve decided to throw yourself into one of the dozens of mud runs that have sprung up around the country, which trade straight and narrow streets for mud, rivers, tunnels, and even fire. Yes, fire.
So if getting off the streets and into the mud sounds appealing to you, here’s a rundown of the gear you’ll need to have the best experience possible.
It’s in the Shoes
When preparing for a mud run, the best place to start is with your shoes. These events have become so popular in recent years that some of the larger shoe companies have started making products specifically for mud runs. But considering that many events encourage donating the beaten and muddied shoes after the race, some people choose one-time shoes that have the exact specs they need for training and racing.
The best shoes for mud runs are most likely trail running shoes, preferably minimalist running shoes. These shoes are lightweight and ultrabreathable, which allows them to dry out quickly, keeping excess weight to a minimum. Trail shoes also have the necessary traction for the demanding terrain these races are known for.
Vibram FiveFingers work great, as they protect your feet from the harsh conditions you’re running in without collecting heavy mud. It’s important to note that any shoe you choose should fit very snugly; if you’ve ever walked along a muddy riverbank, you know how easy it is for a shoe to slip off due to the suction of the mud.
Another excellent choice is Merrell’s Trail Glove barefoot running shoe. Considering the company sponsors its own Down and Dirty mud racing circuit, you can bet it knows a thing or two about mud running footwear.
What to Wear
Although there’s no real dress code for a mud run—you’ll see everything from full-on camouflage to Homer Simpson costumes—if you’re racing to push yourself to the limit, it’s a good idea to wear the proper clothing. It may be temping to throw on a ratty old cotton T-shirt you know you’ll never wear again, but this could end up being disastrous.
To keep excess weight to a minimum, the best clothes are tight, moisture-wicking apparel that will dry quickly. These synthetic fabrics also help regulate your body temperature and won’t cause chafing like cotton does once you’re wet and on the move.
This noncotton rule applies to socks, too. Running in cotton socks can cause blisters, so choose a quick-drying sock, such as a SmartWool or Darn Tough product. These won’t stay waterlogged long after you’ve crossed the river.
If it’s colder and you must wear two layers, use a thin waterproof, breathable pullover men’s or women’s rain jacket. Avoid jackets with zippers if you can, as these are major mud trappers.
Mud runs put you through obstacles you most likely aren’t used to, so consider a few extra products for your journey.
Whether it’s rocks, wood, gravel, rope, or roots, you may need to use your hands to get through some parts of the race. While certainly not necessary, gloves would offer good protection from blisters, cuts, or scrapes.
Many people also attach their action cameras to hats or helmets during a mud race to document the entire experience and share it with others.
Overall, the idea of dressing for a mud run is to stick with clothes that are lightweight and dry quickly, but still protect you from the elements. Once you’ve chosen your mud running gear, soak your entire outfit—including shoes and socks—in a tub before each training run. This will give you a better idea of what race day will feel like.