Tough Mudder Gear
If you’re new to obstacle races like Tough Mudder or you want to improve your time and enjoy the event more, we’ve put together a huge list of the best clothing, footwear, socks, costumes and anything else you can think of. If you’re looking to get through your first event or trying to shed a few minutes off your time, the right gear helps a ton.
Because we’re trying to cover all the best tough mudder gear we’ve broken it down into sections:
When it comes to obstacle races, the number one item you need to worry about is what goes on your feet. You can rock a banana hammock or a full banana costume but if you don’t have comfortable shoes with good grip and that can expel water and mud, you’re going to be in for a long day. Running long distances is one thing, but doing it with wet shoes with mud and sand mixed in is a recipe for blisters. Not to mention many courses have some pretty treacherous terrain. With lose gravel trails, step climbs and slippery slopes. Your feet are going to take a pounding. So make sure you wrap them in something comfortable.
What they recommend: normal running shoes.
By they, I mean the peeps at Tough Mudder and other obstacle races, who put on these events, which I definitely agree with. You might want to get a pair of cleats for better traction or maybe thinking about some waterproof boots, but trust me, don’t do it.
One, they don’t allow cleats, which rules that out. Plus, you don’t want to be running miles in them. The boots are also a really bad ideas, especially water proof boots. The reason is you’re feet will be completely submerged in water multiple times during the event. Boots can’t keep water out when you’re fully submerged, but they can fill up. And once you’re boots are full of water, you’re going to be carrying that around with you for the enter rest of the race.
The name of the game is getting shoes that dry out as quick as possible. Not that you’re feet will get 100% dry at any point in the race, but the less water you have to carry with you the lower the chance of blisters and it simply becomes that much easier to run and complete obstacles.
Types of Shoes:
Everyone has there preference. What is important, is that you have a pair you are comfortable running in, as in you’ve already trained in them for at least a month beforehand. If you have to choose between a beat up old pair from the back of your closet or a new pair, go with the old pair all the way. Many contestants throw their shoes away at the end because they get so thrashed. Plus running with a new pair is asking for blisters.
Generally you want to run in the lightest shoes possible. You will be running over some rough terrain so if you need strong angle support, you may need something a little sturdier. Vibrams and minimal shoes are very popular but again the terrain is pretty unforgiving and you may end up with bruised feet or worse. I’ve run Tough Mudder in Minimus and haven’t had problems and I know other people do all the time but just keep the terrain in mind. If you need sturdier shoes wear them.
Generally you see people running in:
- Trail running shoes
- Old tennis shoes
- Vibrams or minimal shoes
Again boots and cleats are out.
Buying New or Using Your Old Kicks?
If you have time to work-in a new pair of shoes you may want to do it but if it is a week or so before the race, stick with the beat up pair you have. If they have a hole in them, it will just be easier for the water to drain out. Another good thing about an old pair of shoes is they can be disposed of at the end of the race. Less muddy gear in your car on the way home.
Of course with any type of strenuous and repeat motion you put your body through, you want to take the care to use proper equipment and footwear is one of those things. Before starting any new exercise routine it is best to talk to a doctor and get checked out first. These are still running events and you need to train accordingly. For that reason I recommend going and getting your shoes fitted by someone who knows what they are doing like your local jogging shop. There should be someone there who can watch your gate and check out your feet and give you a little better idea what type of shoes to get besides just picking a pair that look cool your size.
I mentioned holes in shoes. If you have a pair of old shoes you are going to wear that you plan on throwing away at the end of the race you want to cut a hole or two in them. Put a hole as close to the sole as possible in the heal and one or two by the sole at your toes. As you run the water will be squeezed out. Again, there is no prevent water getting in so you want to do your best to get it back out once you’re back on dry land. Unless you make a gaping hole, the shoes shouldn’t fall apart in the course of the event and you can keep your feet a little dryer. Less weight to carry as you run and hopefully less blisters.
For real muddy events you need to make sure your shoes are real tight. Mud will suck the shoes right off your feet. Lace them up tight. One little trick is to wrap them up with duct tape. Wrap around the arch of the shoe and then around your ankle. The tape really needs to be tight as well or it’ll unravel and fall off hand way through the event.
You probably already know, are doing, or have seen people swept up in the barefoot running craze. And there is some benefits of doing it. Ultimately it is your decision if you want to run barefoot or close to it or stick with running shoes. If you haven’t read Born to Run, the book that really brought barefoot running mainstream, you should definitely check it out. In a nutshell the book talked about the Tarahumara Indians of Mexico and their amazing ability to run crazy distances barefoot and without any sort of foot trouble.
Besides the fact that it just feels better to run barefoot — here are some of the specific reasons why minimalist shoes are good for Tough Mudder. First, you get the lightest possible shoes on your feet you can get. The less weight you are carrying the better. Second, you can sometimes get a better feel for the ground, so your balance can improve. A lot of these shoes wick water faster, so your feet can be dry for the longer running areas of the course. If you have to swim, I’d also take these shoes over clunkier running shoes.
But of course there has to be some downsides as well. I cannot speak for every course but you should expect to be covering some rocky, sharp ground. This is mostly dirt, mud and gravel, so you may have some pretty sore feet at the end of ten miles. Minimalist shoes also don’t provide the same ankle and arch support you can get from a running shoe.
If you are already used to running in minimalist shoes than go ahead and use them in the event as you probably will do fine, but I don’t recommend someone trying them out for the first time here. You’ll be in for a world of hurt if you do.
With Vibrams specifically, a rock or mud filled toe will make for a rough outing. Not everyone has this problem but I’ve had a few friends have to stop and empty out their Vibrams because the toe areas filled up with mud or gravel.
Trail Running Shoes
Trail running shoes can be a perfect balance for many people. They offer protect and support while having good traction and being fairly light. A good combination. They can be a little bit pricer than an ordinary pair of tennis shoes. It really depends on how much you’re going to use them and if you can afford them or not.
Old Tennis Shoes
Nothing wrong with breaking out your old pair of kicks and doing the event. You know they’re broken in and you won’t feel as bad trashing an expensive pair of newish shoes.
If you need help deciding what is right for you, check out our footwear review section.
Especially, if you are not an avid runner, blisters happen. Compound that with the fact that your feet will be wet, possibly for the duration of the event, you may be in a world of hurt by the finish. Oh and I almost forgot, there will be mud in your shoes, not just water, which means little bits of sand and rock between your toes and rubbing alongside your feet.
So make sure to be prepared. To start figure out what shoes you are going to wear. We have a guide on selecting mud run shoes, if you haven’t do so already. Make sure, whatever you do, don’t run in a brand new pair. Get something you’ve worn in and are comfortable running in.
If you feel adventurous, test out your shoes in simulated conditions. Dunk them in water before going on a short run around the neighborhood. See how they feel. See if the water drains out.
Once, you’ve got your shoes picked out and are confident they’ll get you through the event, you want to pick the best socks to go with them. Socks are the cheapest investment you can make for your feet. You can get a good pair of socks that are super light and wick water like a champ for $10 most times.
Well to start you want to consider if you even want socks or not. If you are running in Vibrams and are comfortable going without, by all means, don’t put on socks just for the event. The less clothing you can have on your body weighing you down the better.
But on the other hand if you aren’t used to running without socks, and now you’re running in wet shoes, you may end up with some world class blisters. So if you haven’t gone sock-less before, I wouldn’t recommend starting your event this way.
Check out our Socks & Underwear Guide.
Whether its Tough Mudder or another obstacle race, they all can be grueling events, especially on a cold day with lots of wind. So here are some clothing recommendations to keep you as comfortable as possible.
Basic Clothing Items to Wear
The first thing to remember about any event is that the less you wear the less you have to carry with you. Layering is completely pointless since you will be submerged in water in many obstacle or at least sweating profusely for the duration. Every layer gets wet so just stick to only one layer.
You want materials that wick. You will be running after each water obstacle but if it is a cold day you may not dry off with lots of clothes on. The less you can get away with the better. You also want materials that hug the body somewhat closely. Nothing should be hanging off that might get caught on something or just be awkward to run in.
Cotton and other fabrics that absorb moisture should be avoided as much as possible. That means no tube socks, cotton boxers or big baggy cotton t-shirts. A lot of teams like wearing matching tshirts to be able to find each other and show team spirit. I’m all for that, just try to get thin and tight fitting shirts so they have a chance to dry out if possible. Find more tips on What Not to Wear.
Cold Weather Gear
Some obstacle events are much tough than others. One of the big reasons is temperature. For example, some of the Tough Mudder events take place when it is at 32 degress or lower. Then add in the fact that the water is also at or below freezing and you’ve just added a whole new element to the equation. The body can do some crazy things when it gets that cold. You’d think the running will keep you warm enough but it just isn’t enough, especially when you are wet from head to toe with no way to dry off. If you get stuck waiting in line at a backed up obstacle, you are going to really start to feel it.
So again, this gear is for cold weather only. If it’s 80 degrees and you have your full arctic snow suit on you are going to kill yourself. Check the weather forecast and have a few clothing options available, just in case something changes at the last minute.
As far as hand protect goes, Mudders are mixed. Some like to go without any gloves and some swear by them. To choose the right gloves there are a few things to consider:
How do they do when wet? - Not easy to test when you are in the store. Most leather gloves are probably a bad idea. You want something built specifically for using on the water, like kayaking gloves.
How is your grip? - You should have as good and hopefully better grip than if you went gloveless.
Can you complete the whole event with them on? - You are not going to want to have to take gloves off or put them on for every other obstacle you do. They should either be on the whole time or don’t run with gloves. Which means you need to be able to complete everything you’d have to do with them on. A good test is tying your shoes. Another consideration is wiping sweat/water out of your eyes and face. Will the gloves work or will they be an irritant.
Added protection - There is no question that gloves will help give your fingers and hands added protection. A lot of Mudders don’t really care about that, prefer to be tough and deal with any pain they have but if you want the protection, gloves are the way to go.
Also, if you decide to go with gloves with fingers consider cutting the tips off. It can be hard to get the water out if you don’t and freezing cold water will make your hands numb in a hurry.
Food for the Event
Food? Yup what you eat before during and after can make just as big a difference as what you wear. You want to start by eating a healthy breakfast a few hours before the event. Don’t do anything crazy with your diet. Eat what your body is used to. You don’t want an upset stomach the day of the event.
It can take some time to park, get checked in and get started with the race. Bring a piece of fruit with you so you have some quick energy for the beginning of the race because what you eat for breakfast may wear off. During the race you actually shouldn’t need anything. Some people bring a goo packet or two but really the event isn’t long enough to where you have to have something. Yes, you’ll be tired an hour or so in but your body can handle a little exercise without having to eat on the hour.
Plus, there will be water and bananas on the course. Don’t overdue it. Just get a quick drink and keep running.
Not everyone is looking to get the fastest time. Sometimes its great to go out with group of friends and just have fun. And there is no better way than to rock an awesome costume.