2016 is now upon us, and with it comes another chance (or maybe a first chance) to complete a Tough Mudder.
There are different schools of thought on Tough Mudder shoes. Some suggest that you should just wear old beat up runners on race day due to the abuse they are going to take, others still will take the completely opposite approach and get the footwear equivalent of a battle tank to protect their dogs.
We’ll assume that you don’t need a review of those all-white Reeboks you wore to prom if you are from the old shoe school. Here is bit of an overview of what you need to know if you are buying Tough Mudder shoes as well as six shoes that we (and other Mudders we asked) felt fit the bill.
Choosing a Tough Mudder Shoe
On event day, the most important gear decision you can make is what to wear on your feet. This isn’t a decision to be taken lightly, and should make sure that the shoes you get are right for you, by either buying several pairs online to try and returning those you don’t want, or by going to your local shoe store to give a few pairs a test drive.
From years of running experience, and having cycled through many different brands, we believe that the brand that works for you on the road will generally work for you on the trail, but again, there is only one way to make sure.
When buying any running shoe, there are five fit parameters to carefully consider: Feel, Width, Length, Instep, Heel and Flex.
Feel: when you take the shoes for a jog, do they “feel” right? Are they complementing your gait or does it seem like the shoe is trying to correct it?
Width: your forefoot should be able to move side to side without crossing over the insole. Is your little toe touching the end of the toe last? It shouldn’t.
Length: there should be a thumbs worth of extra length between your big toe and the end of the shoe, and your shoes should wiggle slightly up and down. Remember your feet will swell over the course of any running event, so a little bit of extra length is important
Instep: the shoe’s upper should feel snug, but not tight or uncomfortably hot around the instep.
Heel: you should be able to slide your foot in and out of the shoe when it is laced but not tied. the heel should be snug but not tight.
Flex: a proper shoe should bend and flex around the same point as your foot flexes.
Characteristics of a Tough Mudder Shoe
When we are talking Tough Mudder shoes, we are actually talking trail shoes. Trail shoes have a grippy outsole to accomodate stones, stumps and the odd muddy 10 foot wall you need to scale. The toe box tends to be wider to avoid toe-stubbing, and when a toe-stub occurs, rigid material on the front of the outsole is there to lessen its impact. The upper is abrasion-resistant so tearing doesn’t occur at the first introduction of a stick or sharp stone. There are other elements that vary from shoe to shoe depending on the manufacturer as well as the gait and running “philosophy” that the shoes are designed around.
Below you’ll find a solid selection of Tough Mudder Shoes for men (if you happen to be XX chromosomed, here is a great piece on trail shoes for women).
New Balance Men’s MT1010v2 Minimus
A lot of running publications are calling an end to the minimalist trend, but many runners love some of the barefoot inspired shoes that were the result of the less is more philosophy. The New Balance MT series is one such shoe and in fact, was the shoe of choice for Tough Mudders in 2013, according to the Great Mudder Survey we ran in conjunction with Tough Mudder. Would you prefer to float over Tough Mudder obstacles like a compression-wear clad Gazelle than crash over them like a tank wearing “fat” shoes? Your choice, but the majority of Mudders have chosen the MT.
The MT1010 V2 has the benefits of a lightweight minimalist shoe without completely sacrificing cushioning and support. It has a secure fit and a wide toe-box to accommodate your swelling dogs. Vibram soles offer ample grip to tackle the ascent of a muddy ditch or the greased quarter pipe that is the Everest obstacle.
ASICS Gel Venture 5
This shoe has extreme comfort accompanying its rugged design. ASICS Gel cushioning on the rear foot make downhill runs (and sharp stones) less jarring. This shoe has a trail-specific outsole with reversed traction lugs to keep grip on even the most slippery of surfaces, and a removable sockliner to accommodate orthotics. We love ASICS as a street-running shoe, and though every foot is different, this model is getting lots of critical-acclaim from other trail runners.
Nike Zoom Terra Kiger 3
This shoe features Nike Zoom low profile responsive cushioning and a meshed upper with strategically placed vents for greater breathability. These shoes are lightweight with excellent support and traction. Comfort is great but the shoe’s low profile may take some getting used to.
Salomon Speedcross 3
If you are the type of person who askews snow tires for tire chains, the Salomon Speedcross 3 is the shoe for you. By wearing this shoe you are issuing a direct challenge to the mud on the course, mother nature, and basically the entire universe: try to make me slip. I dare you. The Speedcross 3 combines lightweight construction with an ultra-aggressive tread.
Note that second most difficult obstacle according to to the over 1000 people that responded to our Great Mudder Survey was Everest, a slick quarter pipe that you need to scale with speed and a leap of faith. Lugs will not help you on this.
Pearl Izumi EM Trail N2
These shoes are durable, comfortable and provide great foot protection with a lace up vamp and padded collar as well as a multi-directional rubber outsole that provides abrasion resistance. They were the “Editors Choice” for the Best Trail shoe by Outdoor Gear Lab.
Saucony Peregrine 6
The Saucony Peregrine 6 is extremely stable, light and offers both great traction and great comfort.The toe box is nice and wide and the upper is light and breathable mesh. An aggressive tread and a durable sole that offers great protection from stones on the course.
As always, before you buy a shoe make sure to know your foot type and have a sense of your running biomechanics. There are a lot of great resources to better understand the the right shoe for you.
Taking Care of Your Tough Mudder Shoes
Tough Mudders are full of well, mud. In fact the Tough Mudder website claims that each event includes “500,000 gallons of Grade A Mud”. Your shoes will get filthy (but wasn’t that the point? You aren’t going on a date).
The event itself has an area to hose down, and that is where you can blast a lot of the mud off of your shoes. If you really want them clean, you can throw them in the wash on delicate using fresh water only (no detergent), stuff newspapers inside of them and let them air dry. They’ll be pristine, until your next mud race comes along…
Do you have a great Tough Mudder shoe that you would recommend? Please let us know in the comments.