Having comfortable, fit-for-purpose shoes on your feet is paramount for even the most menial of sports, so you can imagine how important it is for a mud run.
You don’t want to get stuck in the mud, or even worse stuck in a dizzying market purgatory trying to decide which shoe to pick.
You’ll need a light but supportive shoe appropriate for climbing, jumping and running across slippery terrain that also fits tight to avoid coming off whilst still being comfortable and breathable. That’s a lot of seemingly opposed criteria to fulfil, but anyone who’s tried a mud run in inappropriate shoes knows how crucial that balance is.
Luckily for you, we’ve compiled some of the best mud run shoes out there in one handy review.
We’ll be taking you through what makes a great mud running shoe with our handy buyers’ guide complete with an FAQ where questions from consumers get answered for your benefit. This review has your options covered; we won’t muddy the waters when it comes to what shoes are the best.
In a hurry? Our top pick is the Salomon Speedcross 4
Is the run soon? If you’re in a rush, we have our top pick ready right here for you to get your shoes as fast as possible. Our number one shoe for mud running was the Salomon Speedcross 4, one of the many offerings Salomon has for those looking for trail running shoes that are suited for mud runs.
It was close between these and the shoes in the number two spot, but the Speedcross came out on top thanks to its cons being of less significance. Enough about the negatives, here’s why it was our choice:
- Packed with Salomon patented tech – OrthoLite sock liners, SensiFit topsoles, Quicklace systems, and Contagrip outsoles. Every part of the shoe is its own structural and ergonomic accomplishment, having their own patents, brand, and presence.
- The Contagrip outsoles stick out when looking at this as a mud running shoe, it has large arched lugs to physically hook and grip any softer ground.
- Very breathable whilst able to keep out the debris you’d encounter on your mud runs.
Salomon Speedcross 4 Trail Running Shoes
- Agressive Grip : Obvious and penetrating traction on soft ground
- Precise Foothold : Close-to-foot and comfortable feel
- Contragrip rubber sole; MIDSOLE HEIGHT : 30mm/20mm (10mm drop);WEIGHT: 310g
- Aggressive Grip : Obvious and penetrating traction on soft ground , minimalistic and strong lace for one-pull tightening. Easy-on, easy-off
- EVA midsole provides lighweight cushioning and stability
Made with some of the most intense outdoor activities in mind, the Salomon Speedcross 4 combines a water-resistant mesh upper with rubber toe caps and OrthoLite sock liners to make for a durable but comfortable shoe that would serve you well in a mud run.
The fancy design features don’t end there, these shoes have SensiFit and Quicklace systems to ensure that the shoe is secure but not too tight as to become uncomfortable. They also have Contagrip outsoles complete with high-traction arrow-shaped lugs for an aggressive, unrelenting grip on the muddy ground below, and are also a bit sticky to retain that grip on slick, wet surfaces.
The upper of the shoe is constructed in such a way that its mesh is very effective at keeping debris out whilst still managing to let your feet breathe.
They have quite a weight to them, and that would become more noticeable as they get muddy and you get fatigued over the course of a mud run, but they aren’t the heaviest option out there.
Their tight fit thanks to their SensiFit technology can also mean the shoe is narrowly fitted and so can rub at the toes. That doesn’t mean the shoes won’t fit you though, and if they do, they’d make a good investment for your next run.
- Secure but comfortable thanks to specialized SensiFit shoe lacing system and OrthoLite sock liner technology.
- Aggressive high-traction arrow lugs on Contagrip outsoles, deep gripping.
- Anti-debris upper mesh that maintains breathability.
- Very comfortable and breathable.
- Toe box can be tight with its narrow fit.
- Quite heavy, especially when wet and/or muddy.
Merrell All Out Crush 2 Sneaker
- TrailProtect pad offers additional support off road
- M Select GRIP outsole tunes each outsole with durable traction that grips when and where you need it
- Lycra neoprene heellining for comfort
What better shoes to wear for a mud run than the ones from the brand that sponsors Tough Mudder?
The Merrell All Out Crush 2 is a lightweight obstacle course alternative to the heavier Salomons. Made by Tough Mudder veterans, the star of the shoe is its multi-directional lugs that mean it can get traction and that much needed grip in any movement and direction.
Whilst not as light or well-draining as similar products like the Reebok All Terrain below, the Merrells are more comfortable to wear than the Reeboks, and by extension many of the other shoes on this list, thanks to lycra neoprene lining specifically designed to eliminate rubbing at the ankle.
This comfort makes it ideal for long running distances and those who are overweight. However, the laces are a bit thick and so, without a specialized tying method, they can come undone which is the last thing you want in a race.
It’s tough to give a general price point on these, they can be either one of the cheaper or one of the pricier items on this list depending on sizing, seller, and other things you have little control over.
If you can get them cheaper then it’s definitely an offer to take full advantage of.
- Multi-directional lugs to get stability from anywhere and everywhere.
- Lycra neoprene lining coats the heel and ankle collar so not to rub on you. Comfortable.
- TrailProtect pad to defend your midsoles against rocks and other trail debris.
- Thick shoelaces that can come undone.
- Unreliable price point so can be expensive.
Reebok All Terrain Super 3.0 Track Shoes
- Obstacle grip with 360-degree traction and underfoot rock guard
- Low-cut design with clamshell construction
- CMEVA midsole
- H2O drain technology
Built for the Spartan Races, the Reebok All Terrain looks about as unassuming as trail shoes go. They manage to still look stylish despite all the mud running gadgetry that has been crammed inside of them, and because of that they get compared to the Merrell All Out Crush in the number two spot.
Firstly, indented lugs on them give 360-degree traction. Secondly, its H20 drainage system is very well received, having drainage ports in the shoe which are spectacular at reducing water build up.
Thirdly, due to its intended use in all kinds of obstacle course races, the shoe is prepared for all manner of terrain that might be thrown at you, and so has an underfoot rock guard at the midsole to endure the harder rock and gravel you may face.
These shoes have great value and are machine washable for easy cleaning and maintenance. Things like that and the general look of them almost make them look like any other pair of sneakers, and stylish ones at that, but in reality, these shoes are packed with so much obstacle course running tech and for such a humble price tag that we had to give it the third spot in our ranking.
Some report discomfort with its ankle collar, getting the backs of their feet rubbed by its tight fit. Socks would help with this but wearing certain socks for a mud run causes its own unpleasant experience.
- DuraGrip upper keeps out debris and is machine washable.
- Mesh drainage ports, so has good draining properties.
- Great value for what you get out of them.
- Your feet won’t slip in these.
- Look great, less rugged looking than other trail shoes.
- Some report discomfort and rubbing at the ankle.
- Might need to be worn with socks.
Salomon XA Pro 3D GTX Trail Running Shoes
- Weather protection : full gore-tex bootie
- Stability : 3d chassis stabilizes the foot without sacrificing forefoot mobility
- Precise fit: sensifit with quick lace delivers a fast, comfortable fit for every foot.
- Outsole: high traction contagrip / high abrasion contagrip
- Chassis: 3d advanced chassis
These shoes are an exception in this list in that they are actually more like hiking boots, or at least were made to be, and so are bulkier when compared to mud run shoes. However, a pair of hiking boots can have many of the features that make a good mud run shoe in spades.
When it comes to durability, stability and resistance to water and whatever else getting into your shoe, a boot is second to none. If stuff does get into these boots, the drainage isn’t great, but its waterproof construction should go some ways towards not weighing you down.
That’s why these shoes take the third spot in this list, we believe its features, which are ideal to withstand mud runs and obstacle courses, outweigh the simple fact that these are boots.
It’s also an Amazon’s Choice product so there is an abundance of reviews if you’re on the fence, but it seems the product’s pedigree comes with a heavier price tag, these can get quite expensive. If you are used to wearing these kinds of boots to these events, or just want to work out your legs more during, then these could be the choice for you.
- Gore-Tex protects from water and debris getting in.
- Brilliantly supports the ankle.
- Easy to do lacing thanks to Salomon’s Quicklace.
- Unparalleled stability.
- Quite bulky relative to other options.
- Not great drainage if water does get in.
Saucony Peregrine 8 Running Shoe
Another Amazon’s Choice, the Peregrine 8 comes from Saucony, a brand well known for the running shoes they engineer.
The Peregrine is Saucony’s foray into hardier shoes intended for hiking, climbing and, of course, mud running. This model has Saucony’s staple EVERUN topsole with flexible ISOFIT upper, but what really sets it apart from other products is the PWRTRAC outsole.
This outsole is tacky, retaining its stick for slick surfaces, and is formed of curved lugs to dig into terrain for surer footing.
These are great for off-roading of most kinds, though interested consumers should be aware that the sizing of the Peregrine 8 is different from other Saucony footwear and so you may want to nudge your order up a size or a half, just to be safe.
- Saucony PWRTRAC off-road outsole.
- EVERUN topsole with ISOFIT upper for a responsive fit to your feet.
- Drains water from inside the shoes fast
- Feels like running shoes but has the traction of hiking shoes
- Great for any off-road environments, not just mud.
- Soles are somewhat heavier than the rest of the shoe.
- Sizing is inconsistent with other Sauconys and even other Peregrine models.
- Our latest version of the kmd sport
- Provides flexibility of a barefoot shoe with a little more structure
- Special rope traction lugs in arch for rope climbing
- Circular lug pattern for grip during lateral movement
- Anti-microbial poly fabric sock liner
Our next product is another of Amazon’s Choice, but something quite different than the other selections here. The Vibram-V Train are toe running shoes who have some qualities that would suit a mud run.
These aren’t a mere gimmick though, these shoes have absolutely zero offset drop from heel to forefoot and so offer natural movement of unparalleled quality by directly mimicking the natural movements of bare feet.
As you can tell just from looking at them, they are super lightweight and are in no way bulky unlike a lot of kitted-out running shoes.
The toe sheathes can be longer than your toes, since its more viable to make them too long than too short for maximum market coverage, so this can be jarring like having a toe box that’s too spacey. There’s also little in the shoes to prevent bunions, so they can be hit and miss depending on how well they fit your feet.
- 0mm offset drop.
- Super lightweight and naturally comfortable.
- Unmatched movement quality.
- Can be quite cheap.
- Toe portion can be longer than your toes if yours are short.
- Has no precautions against bunions.
Inov-8 Mudclaw 265 Trail Running Shoe
- Precision Fit upper for secure fit
- Integrated TPU lacing system and padded collar for comfort
- Shock-absorbing EVA midsole with 1 Arrow Shoc-Zone cushioning for comfort
- Mudclaw outsole with Meta-Flex groove for traction
Redesigned to reduce its heel drop, the Mudclaw line from Inov-8 always had the traction to compete in a mud run thanks to the cleats sticking out of its flexible Metaflex outsoles, but weight was an issue.
Now that the design has been changed the insole, such as the inclusion of EVA Shoc-Zone impact absorption tech, have left the insoles and outsoles still a bit heavy.
Not enough to strain you but just enough that it can interfere with your perception of where your feet will land, the kind of disorientation that can kill your chances in a mud run or most competitive settings if you’re not used to carrying the added load on your feet.
That isn’t the only change, too. The tongue and upper of these shoes are sealed together, so now water and dirt will have to work harder to get into them if these are the ones you end up going with.
- EVA shock-absorbing midsole with Shoc-Zone cushioning.
- Melded tongue and upper prevents water and dirt seeping into the shoe.
- Outsole has Meta-flex grooves.
- Padded TPU lacing system for comfort.
- Cleats don’t fare very well on hard surfaces.
- Thick, heavy soles and outsoles.
Columbia Drainmaker IV Water Shoes
- ADVANCED TECHNOLOGY: Columbia Men's Wayfinder 2 Strap Sandal features our signature Techlite footbed and frame for superior cushioning and impact absorption.
- ADJUSTABLE FEATURES: The adjustable straps across the instep and the convertible heel make this sandal versatile and customizable.
- MATERIAL: A synthetic upper and a non-marking wet traction rubber outsole make this sandal durable and comfortable from wet rocks to boat decks.
- HIGH-TRACTION GRIP: Our signature high-traction grip helps prevent slipping on wet and dry surfaces.
- OMNI-GRIP: This multi-terrain traction system matches specially formulated compounds and treads to specific environments. A dual-zone winter tread pattern ensures solid footing on surfaces such as ice and snow.
Our next product is another of Amazon’s Choice. It’s the Columbia Drainmaker IV and, as the name suggests, it bills itself as a water sandal and so is made with water resistance and surface-gripping outsoles in mind.
Those outsoles have siped lug treads which, whilst great for general traction and adding to the non-slip qualities of the shoe, aren’t as gripping as protruding, hooked lugs that some of the above options have.
It can sell for less than other shoes, and its impeccable water resistance and large vents along the outsole help to keep your feet dry during use, from both water outside and sweat inside. Some have complained that the flat lacing cuts through the topsole mechanism of the shoe, and this was when being used for its intended wear as a water sandal to be worn in wet or icy environments.
The rough and tumble of obstacle courses and mud runs would probably lead to the same thing happening, so if this is the option for you maybe a change to rounder laces would be a safe bet to ensure longevity.
- Made with water activities in mind, very non-slip.
- Impeccable water resistance will keep your feet dry. Large vents drain moisture from the shoe.
- Can be cheaper than other options.
- Made more for non-slip during water activities rather than obstacle course races.
- Flat lacing can cut through the shoe with its intended wear, so would probably do the same in mud runs.
What to look for in a mud running shoe
The kinds of shoes you’d look for when planning a mud run are essentially the same kinds you’d wear for obstacle course races, hiking or similar intense outdoor activities that involve you being on your feet but off the beaten path for a long period of time.
There is obviously a fundamental overlap in their designs, however. Mainly this is comfort, they achieve comfort in much the same way via cushioning at the ankle column and the sides of the foot to cradle it.
However, bulkiness is not ideal for shoes which will be carried by your feet in gruelling outdoor activities and so many brands aim to establish a balance between comfort and effectiveness as nimble, nature-resistant footwear.
It cannot be stressed enough how vital it is that your shoes be comfortable, getting a blister in a tight work shoe is nothing compared to having your ankle rubbed to the bone by trying an obstacle course in ill-fitting shoes. Make sure your ankle is undisturbed by intense movement in the shoe, and make sure your toes have plenty of space.
A roomy toe box can only be a good thing for these purposes, but it can still be jarring to have too much room in there, which can disorientate you if you haven’t gotten used to having excess shoe jutting in front of your foot.
As long as it’s comfortable around your toes you should be fine; as you can imagine, your toes will be flexing and moving around a lot since mud running is closer to an obstacle course than normal running in terms of your foot movements.
Uppers are somewhat consistent with your standard running shoes, a good upper has a snug but forgiving fit whilst being both protective and breathable, and that applies even more for trail running shoes.
They’ll get subject to a lot of mud and debris, and so good uppers will be mesh-based to stop any of it getting in whilst allowing your feet to breathe for when they get wet, either from sweating or water finding its way in, likely both.
As such the draining ability of the shoes is important. Dedicated trail and outdoor shoes should have vents in their soles to help keep the insides as dry as possible. You should also take cleaning the shoes afterwards into consideration; the right shoes will clean easily since they were made with getting dirty in mind.
A typical ergonomic concern with running shoes is the offset drop, the different heights from the heel to the ball of the foot which can change the mechanics of your running. The usual running shoes will have a drop of about 10mm to encourage striking with the heel.
This cushions the heel but also encourages a heel strike which can be harsher on the foot and legs in terms of impact forces. As such, some trail running shoes have zero offset drop to best distribute the force across the entire foot as not one part of it is pushed to take the impact first. They also me mimic natural barefoot movement whilst offering them protection.
Arguably the most important element of the shoe is the outsoles. These absolutely need to have some traction to them otherwise you run the risk of slipping around and maybe injuring yourself. Most will have rubber lugs or cleats, often with a slight curve to them, to guarantee your shoes latch into the ground and don’t let go till you want them to.
Shoes with deep treads can also perform to a suitable standard but won’t beat a trail shoe that has both the ridges and large lugs for maximum coverage.
What socks should I wear on a mud run?
There are special socks you can get for trail running that tend to be in two camps. The first are thick, seamless socks made of material that wicks sweat very effectively like merino wool, or compression socks that come up to your knees to cover your legs from mud.
These would often have reinforcements at the heels and arches to support them.
Those are an option, as the general obstacle course socks, but for mud running specifically a pair of ankle socks can do just fine. They tend to be more comfortable, less expensive and last longer since less wear and tear hits them.
What is the Spartan Race and the Tough Mudder?
They are two of the most prominent and recognizable brands that offer obstacle course services. If you’re unable to access either but are in a suitably rural place then you should be able to find something local enough, or commute there.
The Spartan Race is a more generalized obstacle course, doing everything from spear throwing to wall climbing, but their sprints often involve muddy terrain. Even then, there’s a large overlap between what makes a good trail running shoe and what makes a good mud running shoe.
The Tough Mudder is similar, they play off of people’s fears by using fire, heights and electricity in their obstacle courses. As the name suggests these courses have lots of muddy, uneven terrain between obstacles, or some use the mud itself as an obstacle to crawl through.
Do I have to go up a shoe size for trail shoes?
Trail shoes, in their attempt to be durable, can end up being hard. This means they may have a more unforgiving fit than the shoes you’re used to. This, combined with the fact that some brands’ trail shoes tend to fit smaller than other styles, means that they can be too small despite being your size on the label.
Where any shoes of the above selection are known to fit smaller, it is mentioned in the cons column.
Still, its not a bad idea to look at customer reviews of shoes to see which fitting issues they had and figure out if they would affect you. If you think they will or you wear orthotics, going a half size or one whole size up may be the solution for you.
Do I need to train for a mud run?
If you’re wise, you’ll have enough experience, know-how and strength to be able to complete the mud run. If you’re doing a mud run, chances are you’ve run under less chaotic circumstances and so aren’t a total beginner.
If you are a total beginner, try running around your neighborhood first. You should be able to run before you can think about mud running, otherwise you’re asking to get hurt. You should have a baseline level of fitness that you can participate in the race (even poorly) but still have the competency to finish it.
Fitness doesn’t just mean how much body fat you have, however. A wide spectrum of body weight takes part in mud runs. It’d obviously help to weigh less, but strength is also required and is what larger people train so that their weight becomes almost negligible.
As long as you’re cleared by a medical exam and sign the waiver (some mud runs might not need these steps anyway) then you’re fine to go.
As said, being able to go doesn’t mean you should. Consider if you know what you’re doing and are able to handle yourself in running activities, that you won’t hold anyone up or cause other disturbances to everyone’s day. This way you can be a mud running novice without being a burden who doesn’t enjoy their first time and leaves with bruised ego, and actual bruises.
Do I need to duct tape my shoes?
No. Even if you don’t have suitable shoes like those above (which you really should) the tape would do nothing useful anyway. Tape gets used on both the bottoms and the ankle collars of the shoes to give traction and hold the shoe on, respectively.
In both cases it’ll just get in the way. Ignoring the fact that the tape is interfering with traction anyway if applied to a shoe built for trail running, the tape will get weakened and come off on stones and other hard debris during the run, especially if water gets involved, and this ends up posing a tripping hazard for yourself and others.
As for taping your ankle, if your shoes are appropriate, they’ll be tight enough that they won’t come off at the first signs of trouble. Even then, if you’re afraid of your shoe coming off you can turn your foot to dislodge it from mud rather than trying to lift it out directly. If more tightness is something you need, there are methods of tying your laces so that the shoe is tighter at the heel.
Some other tips are to double knot your laces before setting off and tuck any hanging laces into the shoe so that they don’t flap about and loosen the integrity of the actual knot. There are tapes available for your ankles, but they are mainly for stability performances, not to keep the shoe on. If you struggle with weak ankles, then you may want to invest in these specialized tapes or braces.
Don’t mud runs ruin your shoes?
Not if they’re fit for purpose! Using old shoes for mud runs and then throwing them out is unnecessarily wasteful and ineffective, as we can’t imagine the dusty shoes under the stairs are that great for running.
They’d probably cause harm to both your running performance and your feet. Shoes and socks intended for obstacle course races and mud running are made to be easily cleaned, and so should last you a good while, there’s no need to bring old, decrepit shoes and finish them off by way of the race. You’d probably start to agree after you’ve slipped the third time in a row.
A decent pair of shoes like those above should last you plenty of mud running events, leave the old shoes at home or donate them to a greater cause.
Last update on 2021-09-23 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API