Best Shoes for Mud Running Reviewed & Compared
The most important decision you will make regarding the gear you will need for your next mud race is most definitely the shoes you will wear. Losing a shoe during the race, slipping all over the place, falling and simply not making it through the race altogether are all very real possibilities if you don’t have the right footwear to support you.
A lightweight shoe that provides exceptional support for running, jumping and climbing are important factors when considering the shoe you choose. Traction abilities are of tremendous importance. You will definitely need shoes that won’t slow you down in water or mud by becoming heavy meaning they will need good drainage, airflow, and comfort.
This buyer guide has been designed to help you make an easier and more informed decision when you need to find new mud running shoes.
- Salomon Speedcross 4
- Altra Lone Peak 3.5
- Saucony Peregrine 8
- Vibram V-Train
- Merrell Vapor Glove 3
- Xero TerraFlex
- Inov-8 X-Talon 212
- Merrell All Out Peak
- Adidas Kanadia 8.1
- Reebok All Terrain Super
- Criteria Used for Evaluation
- Other Factors to Consider
- Frequently Asked Questions
Top 10 Picks
1. Salomon Speedcross 4
Great look and design
Rugged and durable
Very comfortable interior
A very breathable shoe
Very aggressive tread with even more lugs
Check out sizing, those with wide feet may need to adjust accordingly
Toe box can be a little small
The Salomon Speedcross 4 is a made for trail running, mud racing, obstacle course challenges, basically the most rugged outdoor and off-road exercise you can do. It uses a mesh upper that is both water-resistant and anti-debris which basically is going to keep those tootsies dryer and give them first-rate protection. Additional features include a rubber toe cap, ortholite insole and updated outsole which together make for a superb combination of rugged durability with a side of performance.Read more
These are very comfortable shoes, even with all the bells and whistles you still get a nice feel for an off-road shoe. They will support your feet for logging tons of miles, and they will keep them safe from blisters and random rocks getting in there which is ruinous to a great run. Get into that mud, get yourself wet, and go for it. These shoes can hold up to it all without deformation meaning you aren’t going to lose any comfort or output regardless of how ruthless the conditions.
Go Be Adventurous
Any shoe will gain get heavy in muddy and rainy conditions, that’s no surprise. These shoes will do that for about a couple seconds before they get into that draining action. While they are ridding the excess water, any weight from the mud isn’t going to be an issue either. Caked with mud, they will stick to your foot and not become loose. They don’t lose anything in traction, their updated lug pattern with even more high-traction arrow lugs provide tremendous grip. So, attack that uphill, keep it going on the down, left to right and don’t even worry about a slippery surface.
Cost and Value
These shoes are THE option for mud runs. You can’t ask for more than a comfortable shoe that will be able to take the intense conditions and not lose anything in function or execution. Get it as dirty as you want because with a quick wash after your race they will look sparkly new. A truly versatile shoe for spartans, mud runs, hikes, or trails, you can’t go wrong.
2. Altra Lone Peak 3.5
Dual layer EVA with A-bound midsole
Awesome grip with the Maxtrac and TrailClaw
Dries fast with the air mesh in the upper
Nice 5mm contoured footbed insole
Natural feel provides ease of movement
The upper could have better ventilation
The toe box has a different sizing from the previous version which may take time to get used to
The Altra Lone Peak 3.5 is a shoe that was made for natural motion using a nicely cushioned zero-drop base. This shoe is designed to help your foot strike the ground as naturally as it would if you weren’t wearing any shoes. It offers the support and features needed to keep your feet positioned in its appropriate anatomical position with added comfort through its inner design.Read more
The MaxTrac Rubber with TrailClaw gives you tremendous grip on maintained roads or on dirt, sand and gravel paths. The material helps to absorb the energy from impact and relays it back for a tremendous return. You can’t help but run and log in mile after mile with that type of bounce back.
Fit and comfort
You will enjoy the fit of the shoe wrapped around your foot with a nice feel of the just the right amount of cushioning. The shoe’s upper is protective enough to keep out all that annoying rubbish from getting inside and the lateral support in the toe-box will keep your foot in its natural place within the shoe..
Cost and Value
Improved cushioning, with a design based on the allowing your foot to have a molded natural feel, these are a great shoe for anyone who wants to trail run, hike, fastpack, or trail race in luxury. You have your on-point protective features but you still got that flexibility that works together to make this a functional mud shoe. No problems keeping your body moving as the responsivity of the shoe’s return will keep your legs energized to keep plowing through.
3. Saucony Peregrine 8
Drains water away fast
Come in a variety of color options
Fit like a running shoe but have durability and traction of a hiking shoe
Easily cleaned and dried
More robust shoe
Outstanding off-road shoe
Soles are have a bit of weight
Sizing a bit smaller than previous versions
Saucony is regarded as one of the leaders in the running shoe industry. Saucony Peregrine 8 is a go-to for hiking or running in the mud or on the trail, you can confidently tackle wet, smooth and slippery surfaces without losing any grip. You get a comfortable and rugged shoe with updated features.Read more
These shoes will hold up to puddles, and mud and thick squishy conditions with no problems at all. The Pwrtrac outsole’s ability to grip and stick to surfaces is stellar, to say the least. They have a nice thickness and density to them which absorbs a decent amount of shock in addition to the incredible traction. They are especially durable and they will last you a long time of training and racing. You absolutely cannot get these without being super stoked to log miles in the intense conditions, because these shoes will grip through it all.
During training or race day when you are faced with slick conditions and steep inclines and declines, these shoes will keep you from sliding. The comfortable and supportive fit will keep your foot in place without having to worry about it sliding around. Saucony’s use of Everun for underfoot protection will pad your foot through sharp rocks, small pebbles, roots and tree limbs. You can boldly take on any course, path or race with these top-tier shoes.
Cost and Value
These shoes are some of the best on the market for mud runs because you have such solid protection and surface adherence. They can take the wet with a good drainage system and they are functional enough to also keep your foot cool through hot races and exercise. They will be your go-to shoe for your next trail run or mud race.
4. Vibram V-Train
Very light and comfortable feel
Solid grip interior
Amazing movement quality
You can be confident lifting in these shoes
Does not have a bunion cradle
Toes run a little long
The Vibram V-Train is here for all you barefoot running lovers. If minimalism is your thing but you know you need more than just bare bones for a mudder, here is your shoe. You get the feel of a barefoot type shoe with the flexibility of one but you get added structure and support to move in all directions while in slick environments.Read more
These shoes are a nice balance of sensory foot impact mixed with a supportive design for safeguarding against rugged terrains. These minimalist shoes are will still give you plenty of support off-road and still allow you to run with your natural gait. There is a built-in tread system that offers great protection that spreads your shock from impact over a wide area.
The shoe uses a fast lacing system which helps to provide a stable fit and an easy adjustment if one is needed when you are out hitting it hard. Polyester and nylon mesh together, give you an organic breathability and will also help keep your foot as dry as possible. Your foot will have a nice organic flex ability throughout each strike even with those extra protective aspects.
Cost and Value
A terrific minimalist running shoe with extra features to allow more versatility in use for those who prefer barefoot runners. Added support, extra tread, and a design that ensures a nice fit, this shoe is a great option. The barefoot style also allows for the extra flexibility that makes a shoe comfortable on uneven terrain as well as it’s lightweight nature, this is an excellent choice.
5. Merrell Vapor Glove 3
Vibram soles are flexible and comfortable
Very sharp looking shoe with attractive laces
Upper wraps around the shoe nicely and gives a lot of breathability
Soles provide a great grip for running outside
Material lifespan could be longer
Run a bit large
The Merrell Vapor Glove 3 is the shoe for those who want to get into mud running but still want a shoe they can use on daily to do other physical activities like regular workouts in the gym. It has a nice feel for off-road running and those protective features you’d want such as a trail protect pad, and breathable mesh lining but its design is still practical for less craggy type training.Read more
These shoes can offer you a ton of functionality. They can be worn in the gym for training, road running, or trail running, posture awareness, jumping exercises, and strength training. The zero-drop feature will help you feel exactly where your feet land when you are running or performing various exercises while training.
Trail Protect Pad
The solid Vibram sole will provide you with a lot of protection and comfort. There is just the right amount of support while still being very flexible. These are shoes that will move with your foot naturally so you can rest assured your foot will have a nice free ability without slipping around inside the shoe. All of this comes with protection for when you are interested in doing rocky outdoor exercise.
Cost and Value
A nice mix of it all this is a lightweight minimalist shoe that won’t sacrifice support for gym training or off road exercising. You have your low profile design, and breathability with lots of reinforcement in those high-wear areas to give this shoe added longevity. This is the jack-of-all-trades for shoes, all you have to do is pick your activity.
6. Xero TerraFlex
Lightweight, men’s size 9 is only 9.6 oz each
Removable 2mm insole
Adjustable instep strap
Can be worn with or without socks
Runs small, order ½ size larger
Takes a little getting used to the flat sole especially for those new to minimalist running
The Xero TerraFlex is another exciting option for barefoot shoe lovers. The flexibility in conjunction with some minimalistic protective features makes this a nice mud shoe. It's highly rated and popular as a shoe and a company that was even featured on Shark Tank!Read more
TerraFlex uses a 4mm lugged sole that will provide the traction you are looking for in a variety of environments. It’s ultra-grippy propensity still is very flexible in the movement of the shoe. Your foot’s natural progression and positioning have full support in wet or dry environments, races, and intense running even with the soles intense grasping ability.
Equipped with 6mm of FeelTrue rubber in addition to 3mm layer of BareFoam will keep will gently cradle your foot against the ground. If you are used to doing a very minimal barefoot type of training, go ahead and take advantage of the option you have with this shoe to remove the 2mm insole.
Cost and Value
A nice option for a durable, minimalist shoe. It is just minimalist enough to be attractive to these types of competitors with the practicality of protection with a Tek-toe bumper for instance. Even though it fits snugly it is still breathable so don’t be concerned about your foot overheating. The handsome design can be worn not just for working out but also in casual environments.
7. Inov-8 X-Talon 212
Precision fit, they fit as expected
Great for obstacle races
Sole inserts are great for long distance running and wear
Cleats and traction are top notch
Flexible shoe moves with your foot
Show material thinner
Not great for running on concrete, an absolute off road shoe
The Inov-8 X-Talon 212 is an all-terrain running shoe so say goodbye to blisters, the upper is made of a tight-knit and abrasion-resistant material. That is what you most definitely want for long distance and soggy environments. Featured in this shoe is a removable 6mm insole as well as X-Talon outsole that has profound cleats for unmatched traction. Additionally, it has a heel pull loop and an EVA midsole.Read more
Inov-8 is a British company that is leading specialists in manufacturing products for off-road use. They are experts in running and in the US, they are quickly becoming one of the most sought-after brands on the market for off-road shoes and supporting products. Their products are designed with human biomechanics in mind. Their products are known for quality construction and materials for high-performance athletes.
Great for Off-Road Runner
These shoes will keep you confident in wet and muddy conditions. In the mountains or on rough trails, climbing large rock sides, you can count on the grip to keep you balanced. The treads are impressive and we cannot bring them up enough. That is literally how good they are.
Cost and Value
These shoes have will stay on your foot in thick mud and uneven trails they will support your foot. Feel free to take them out and get them dirty because even caked with mud, a quick and easy clean they will look brand new and be ready for your next outdoor adventure. And heck, they fit super comfortably.
8. Merrell All Out Peak
Work for people who have wide feet
Terrific obstacle course shoe
Very good with drainage
High quality foot protection, midfoot excellent
Laces allow for easy adjustment
Very nice fit, no slipping at the heel
Not a running shoe for pavement and concrete
The arch support doesn’t work for every foot
Merrell All Out Peak has a mesh upper with nice use of reflective details so night running or even mud running you can be seen. You have the option of removing the footbed and the TrailProtect pad is a much welcomed underfoot protective feature. Technically, it has a 6mm drop, a 16 mm cush and 32 mm stack height.Read more
UNIFLY is a material that Merrell has designed for their midsoles. It provides tremendous shock absorption that will allow each of your steps to be easier on your body and joints and have greater comfort for the foot itself. It is made of an incredibly strong foam with very firm shock pads that are put at specific points to have the best ability to take in and evenly spread the shock. You will have increased stability that will provide you with the responsiveness to improve your speed and the as well as help you add more distance.
These shoes use the uber quality Vibram soles so you already know that it will be exceptional. With a neat lug pattern, you will be ensured to have balance, security, and strength in any environment or condition. There are no lugs under the arch so the comfort of your foot was taken into account by the Merrell design team, your foot will have a nice flexibility that you can appreciate.
Cost and Value
The shoes are made of noteworthy materials. They have a really nice look and added details for extra comfort. They will support you with an amazing grip and improved feel on the ground with each footstrike and the shock absorption to keep you running longer.
9. Adidas Kanadia 8.1
Fit true to size
Beautiful design with plenty of color options
Exceptional comfort for the foot
Light for their size
May be a bit bulky for some
Can have a plastic looking appearance
Some users report wear and tear issues over time
The Addidas Kanadia 8.1 is a nice off-road shoe option that provides decent traction. They are a simpler shoe but hit all the features you’d want in a mud shoe. Comfort, light, terrific traction, and breathable. For those of you beginners who have not committed to extreme and routine off-road training or mudding, these should be on your list because they will do the job well for you without busting your budget.Read more
Here’s it is, straightforward, they are seriously comfortable shoes. The padding and support add upon itself in comfort especially on uneven surfaces--but don’t think you can use them on maintained surfaces for comfort because you definitely can and should. Their true-to-size fit will provide you with a good amount of spacing without allowing your feet to move around too much inside the shoe. You can spend hours in these with ease.
The soles of these shoes have got what you need for gripping trails. Wet conditions? Yea you need shoes that can hold up to it, these can. They are fairly lightweight so they will keep you fast on your feet running and racing.
Cost and Value
These shoes come in at a great price range. They are incredibly comfortable to wear and offer off-road features in their grip and weather resistance. They have a nice fit, they aren’t too small or too narrow. Best of all, they are a good looking shoe that provides the ability for hiking, trail running, or obstacle racing in style.
10. Reebok All Terrain Super
Will hold up well to a ton of mileage
They won’t let your foot slip and slide inside the shoe
Good and protecting the foot and keeping out debris
May need to wear socks for races
Customer service could be easier to navigate
Wear and tear issues have been reported
Reebok makes a nice all terrain footwear option that is man-made. They have a ghillie speed-lacing system which some people prefer. The Cordura Skin Full upper, and they provide H20 drain technology work well with the rock guard. Altogether, this shoe is a great all-around smart option for mudding and off-road exercise.Read more
Racing with Reebok
These are light and provide a lot of comforts so you aren’t going to be weighted down too much which will help keep your pace. The tread is nicely sized for hitting the trails and managing mud. Where there is mud, there is water, drainage was not overlooked in this shoe design. The drainage ports work well moving that water out of your shoe and the quick-pull lacing is key to keeping the shoe tight on your foot if it ever comes a little loose.
These shoes use mesh on the sides that help air flow through the inside of the shoe easily. They will keep your feet cool while you are running or doing intense races, and they also have a dual function to support the drainage ports to rid your shoes of water faster and keep you going longer.
Cost and Value
You can log a ton of miles in these shoes. They work the way you need. Your foot is going to be kept dry with drainage design and fabrics that will allow air to penetrate and disperse through the shoe. They will stay on your foot in rough conditions like mud without slipping as they have that easy lace adjustment feature. Stick out with these shoes amongst the other muddy runners with the funky design and neat look.
Criteria Used for Evaluation
There are plenty of options avaiable that will easily fit anyone’s budget and plenty of options for everyone’s preference.
Being proactive and making sure that the one, most important part of your wardrobe for your race – your shoes- will support your foot, drain well so as to keep away blisters on your feet, and have the grip to keep you from slipping is a pretty intelligent choice. There are plenty of options for anyone’s budget and plenty of options for everyone’s preference so there is no need to sacrifice performance to saw a few bucks and the idea of running in regular tennis shoes should not be something you think about even for a moment when planning for your race. Most of the shoes that you can buy can easily be cleaned after the run and will look as good as new, so don’t let the thought of mud caked on your new digs be a reason to not get the appropriate footwear to support you during your run.
The type of materials and the construction of the shoe are all very important when choosing which shoe will be the right one for you.
Mud running requires not only a decent amount of training but also the appropriate gear to keep you on your feet and not sliding around in the mud. Training on rugged terrain can really put the beat down on your shoes. If you are really putting miles upon miles on them, you can’t escape needing a durable shoe. Both the shoe material itself and the sole of the shoe are important and need to be made of the highest quality materials so that they are durable and hold up to the extremes of this type of racing. The type of materials and the construction of the shoe are all very important when choosing which shoe will be the right one for you.
You absolutely cannot use a shoe that wasn’t designed with a sole that has superior traction and support.
Mud running is a slippery business and it is obviously wet and messy. If you are slipping and falling, not being balanced on your feet could not only be frustrating but it also could be dangerous. Slipping and falling, you could hit the ground in an awkward way or twist a joint, or break a bone, or even hit your head. You absolutely cannot use a shoe that wasn’t designed with a sole that has superior traction and support. Deep cleats, that are made of rubber will help give you the best grip for mud running and this is a common feature almost all mud race shoes have- ones that don’t have cleats will often have deep treads that serve the same purpose.
Shoes with drains and mesh material are popular features that you can look for which will help rid your shoes of water.
You can find many designs and systems to help keep your foot dry in the inevitable event that you are going to have extremely wet conditions. Waterproof coatings can repel the water from your shoe, however, they don’t do much to remove water once it finds its way into your shoe. This is an absolute when mud running, water will find its way in. Shoes that are more form-fitting and can form and wrap around your feet will leave less room for water to get in and accumulate. Shoes with drains and mesh material are other features that you can look for which will help rid your shoes of water. Whatever design you choose there has to be a way to get rid of the water that seeps in during the race because few things are as uncomfortable and annoying as running around with water sloshing in your shoes.
The surface under all that mud could be very bumpy and rocky so protection may be necesary to ensure you stay safe during your run.
While more minimalist shoes tend to be favorites for mud running, they can have a learning curve. If you haven’t used them in the past, you may need a little time to get used to them, but once you do, they have a lot of advantages for running in mud. Many of the more minimal shoes that we featured here are not pure minimalistic, as they have really durable soles to protect the foot from rocks and debris. They have some more support features for the entire foot and many have options of removable inserts. You will be able to determine if your shoes have the right level of protection for you after you have worn them in a few training course runs and can see how they hold up. If you feel they are not offering the right level of protection and support, it is best to try a different pair than to try and make due with something that just isn’t working for you and is not meeting your needs.
Other Factors to Consider
There are some other things to think about that will also matter, such as what you wear. Stay away from cotton, which can get heavy and stretch as it gets caked with mud and drenched with water. A light and loose water wicking shirt is a better option. Keeping yourself as comfortable and efficient as you can is a given. Outside of gear, keeping your hair tied and out of your face is another little tidbit.
Pace yourself. Mud will weigh you down and will make the actual running much more difficult. Don’t push through if you need to take a break after extending yourself, it is ok to take a break and reset. A tip is not to run through the middle of creeks and mud pits because this is the point where these bodies are at their deepest and will be the most challenging.
Stay safe, you are exerting a ton of energy. Keep yourself hydrated and keep some optimal form of nutrition with you to easily access. Something that is portable and easy to hold and eat, and maybe one that you can eat that has some sort of wrapper like an energy bar is perfect because then you don’t have to hold it with your dirty hands!
There is no doubt you could just pack an old ratty pair of tennis shoes and use them to do a mud run. Then it’s easy and cheap and you can just throw them away when you are done. This seems like a good idea when you look at it solely from a financial point of view. However, saving a few bucks with this method has many negative tradeoffs that will have a huge impact on your performance in the race. The reality is that your chances of slipping and having a much harder time making it through the race with this strategy are almost guaranteed. Not to mention, the physical risk should you slip and fall and hurt yourself because your shoes do not have the traction and support needed for this kind of racing situation.
Frequently Asked Questions
Spartan Race, Warrior Dash, and Camp Pendleton Mud Run, Spartan Race, Gladiator Mud Run, Tough Mudder, Spartan Death Race are a few of the top races. There are many different race types and many races offer a mud race portion to them. Check your local area to see what racing events are held and what kind of races are generally run.
Absolutely! The Spartan Race is a team activity and anyone from those are very fit for those who are somewhere in the middle and to those who are on the lower end of the fitness spectrum can participate. Both women and men can participate in the race. The key is your team. A team with great, motivational and encouraging people that work together well should not have any issues competing and finishing and having a great time while doing it. The majority of people finish the race, of course, there are always those who do not, but they tend to be very few of the overall racers. That being said, this is still a physically challenging race that will put stress on your body and so contacting your doctor before you start any race is recommended. If you get the all clear to run the race, start training and getting yourself fitter each day and more prepared each day for the race.
The matter of which is a more fun race to participate in is really up to personal preference. Training up to either race is also much different. There has been a trend where participation in marathons and traditional running races have been on the decline while these challenge-course type races are on the incline. One major difference that seems to be appealing to people today is that while traditional races and marathons, in particular, are very challenging physically they are individual races. Contrast that with these obstacle course races which are mostly team-oriented, some people are finding more gratification in a shared physical experience over purely personal success. Having teams allows for more types of people of all sizes and shapes and fitness levels to have a better chance at being able to compete in an intense race. That is very appealing to many people who see something like a marathon as an unobtainable task.
Tough Mudders are popular obstacle course challenge races held all throughout the country. There is obviously a good amount of running that mix with varying obstacles that don’t involve the help of electricity. “Kong Infinity” is an example of an obstacle. You have barrels and rings 20 feet high to get through, but the challenges change throughout each of the different race locations in the country. The races aren’t timed and there really are no winners or losers, it’s a team race so partnership and unity, fluidity as a team will be the most important part to getting through the race. It is intrinsically competitive, some people will take the race on for those purposes, but that shouldn’t scare anyone off from doing it just for fun, because overall the goal is to work together and help your team get through each challenge. The full is a great choice for everyone, while the half is more for athletes.
Every race has medics because inevitably some will get hurt. You are running on slick muddy and uneven surfaces, you are hanging from obstacles or on your hands and knees crawling through obstacles and room for error is present. This is yet another reason why having quality gear is important. There are usually medical teams and personnel throughout the course at all times and they usually have a designated medical tent for such emergencies. If you get hurt and no one of the volunteers or workers are around to assist, this is another advantage to having your team. Tell a teammate and have them get to the next medical personnel or volunteer and they will make sure to get to you and give you the help you need.
Yes, there are performance specific socks available. For a trail, a seamless toe and a high top that has material that is great at keeping your foot dry and wicking sweat away would be featured. Specific designs where it would have a nice fit for the heels and arches is also an element of a trail sock. While most people do not think about them much, pairing the right sock to your shoe can make a world of difference and can really help you maintain your peak performance during your race.
- Mud Runs, Racing Website, ,
- Beginner's Guide to Surviving a Spartan Sprint, Fitness Blog, ,
- Why are Obstacle-Course Races so Popular?, News Publication, Jul 14, 2018 ,
- Tough Mudder Coming to Long Island this Weekend, News Publication, ,
- FAQ, Race Website, ,
- The Best High-Performance Running Socks for Men, Men's Health and Fitness Magazine, ,