It's important in the Tough Mudder to have the right shoes and clothes. Running ten to twelve miles while navigating your way through and over 20 to 25 obstacles requires some planning before the race. Here are some tips courtesy of Coach Tief and Tips4Running on what clothing and footwear will work the best for you.
Remember, you’re going over and through some obstacles, so it’s not just about the right shoes to wear. Here’s the quick list, and the extensive details will follow.
1. Don’t wear any jewelry. You might lose it in the mud.
2. Wear minimalist running shoes. If you don’t have shoes like this, wear old running shoes. New ones will just get trashed!
3. Wear light shorts, and a light shirt, but no skintight clothing. Pick clothes that dry quickly. Cotton is a bad choice!
4. You don’t need gloves.
Here's a video break down for all of these tips. The written explanations for Tough Mudder Shoes and Gear tips are below.
Are you hanging around for the extended version? Good for you. I have a feeling you’ll do excellent in the Tough Mudder because of how intelligent you are already.
1. No jewelry! I say this from experience. During the Tough Mudder in Wisconsin, I lost my wedding ring in the mud somewhere between the one-mile mark and three-mile mark. The combination of slippery mud, plus using my hands to get over hills and such caused my ring to fall off without me noticing it until it was long gone. You get really muddy, plus you end up going into cold water on numerous occasions. This combination is deadly for jewelry.
For some reason, it never dawned on me to take my ring off. Before the race began, the Master of Ceremonies warned us competitors that you can’t run through the Electroshock Therapy obstacle or crawl through the Electric Eel obstacle if you have metal in your body. An example of this would be my father who has had his shoulder replaced. I though to myself, “I don’t have any metal in my body. I’m fine.” Why I didn’t look at the metal on the outside of my body and then take it off, I have no idea. Don’t make the mistake I made. Take off your rings, your bracelets, and your piercings.
2. Wear minimalist running shoes. For some of you, the term “minimalist running shoes” is a totally foreign language. Allow me to explain. Regular running shoes are called “trainers.” They are bigger and bulkier than a minimalist shoe. Trainers also will hold in much more water once they get wet. A minimalist running shoe will have less padding on the bottom, and most likely will be made of fabric that doesn’t absorb water. Merrill or New Balance would make two of the more popular minimalist running shoes.
One type of minimalist running shoe I advise against is the Vibram Five Fingers, or any shoe that has separate holes for each of you toes. My Vibrams worked great as far as they stayed on my feet very well, and they didn’t get heavier as I went through obstacles with water or mud. The big problem was some mud got into my shoe, and then worked its way into the pinky slot of the Vibrams. Even when I took the shoes off once during the race, I couldn’t get this mud out. It kind of hurt running with my pinky toe all scrunched up. I survived, but I wouldn’t wear them again in the Tough Mudder.
Let’s say you aren’t going to splurge on a specialized running shoe for this one time event. The next best option would be to wear an older pair of running shoes. Don’t get a new pair all dirty in the Tough Mudder. Also, make sure you can lace them up tight, because when you step in deep mud, the suction can pull your shoe right off. Some competitors even duck tape their shoes to their ankles. As the Master of Ceremonies gracefully stated before the race began, “I’ve seen people start the race with two shoes and finish with one sock.”
3. Wear lightweight clothes, and don’t wear very much of them. If you are comfortable running around in a Speedo, go for it. Your clothes are only going to get wet, muddy and heavier as you go from obstacle to obstacle. If you are a modest person, like myself, and you want to cover up a little bit, I suggest running shorts and a dry fit shirt. Don’t wear tight biker shorts or a skintight Under Armor shirt. Mud can get lodged into these tighter clothes. With running shorts, the mud will slide out if it gets under your waist. Girls don’t have as nice of an option as boys for the shirts. Loose clothes are better, or no shirt at all. Girls, I’m afraid that you’ll end up having to scoop mud out of your sports bra after the event is done.
For some reason, I chose a pair of running shorts that had pockets, and at the end of the race, I pulled out two pockets full of mud that I must have ran with for over eight miles. Make a mental note to not wear clothes with pockets either.
If you are worried about wearing your Tough Mudder clothes again, chose a dark colored outfit. I went with a white shirt more for the visual effect. I wanted to see how muddy you really get compared to my squeaky clean self at the start line.
4. Some mudders might disagree with this next point, but I don’t see the need for gloves. Some obstacles like the “Funky Monkey” require you to use your hands. The Funky Monkey is a big set of monkey bars. Even without gloves, I could grip the metal bars easily. The top of the “Berlin Wall” obstacle was a bit slippery too, but nothing too drastic for your bare hands. Gloves will get just as muddy and wet as your bare hands, plus gloves won’t dry out nearly as fast.
That’s all the tips that I have as far as clothing goes. I survived with some not so good choices my first time around, so don’t fret if you don’t have all the things I have outlined here. Just wear what you are comfortable running in, but don’t count on being able to get that outfit clean ever again!
David Tiefenthaler is the founder and main contributor for Tips4Running.com. In addition to running, he's also an author, and a full time teacher.