The Best Shoes for Running in the Mud

From splashing through puddles to taking on an obstacle course race, these shoes will deliver the lockdown grip you need

June 28, 2023 9:15 am
running in mud shoes hero
Mucky conditions are no match for these runners
Getty Images / InsideHook

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If you run on trails long enough, eventually you’ll encounter mud: whether because of rain or a creek crossing, mucky conditions are inevitable. While your typical pair of trail shoes is usually fine for handling the occasional muddy patch, if you live in a rainy place or encounter mud frequently (or if you’re into dedicated mud running events), it’s worthwhile to invest in a pair of shoes designed specifically for handling sloppy, wet trail conditions.

Best Overall: Inov-8 X-Talon Ultra 260
Best Affordable: Salomon Alphacross
Best for a Snug Fit: La Sportiva Cyklon
Best for Wide Feet: Altra Lone Peak 7
Most Versatile: Saucony Peregrine 13 ST
Best Lightweight: Hoka Zinal 2
Best Waterproof Shoe: Salomon Speedcross 6 GTX
Best for Obstacle Course Races: VJ XTRM 2

The Best Trail Shoes for Off-Road Running
With their durable uppers and grippy outsoles, trail shoes are designed to protect your feet and help you push the pace in the dirt.

Things to Consider

Mud running shoes are a subcategory of trail shoes, and they’re designed to help you get a good grip in the muck. There are a few key features to consider when shopping for this type of shoe.

Lugged Outsoles: This is arguably the most important feature in a mud shoe. Shoes designed for mud running usually have full rubber outsoles with large lugs — protrusions that cover the bottom of the shoe and dig into soft terrain. Look for shoes with lugs that stick out around 5mm or more from the bottom of the shoe; they will dig deeper into the muck to provide solid footing as you run. All of the shoes below have lugs that are 5mm or larger.

In addition, make sure the lugs are widely spaced. (One quick way to determine wide spacing: you should be able to poke your finger in between the lugs.) The wide spacing allows the outsole to shed mud when your foot is in the air. If it gets caked up with dirt, it won’t grip the ground, and you could slip and fall.

Cushioning: Because mud shoes are built for traversing soft ground, they usually have less cushioning in their midsoles than trail shoes designed for harder surfaces. The ground itself absorbs some of the impact of your footfalls, so you need less cushioning in the muck. The exact amount of cushioning that’s best for you comes down to your own preference — there’s no right or wrong amount. But compared to your normal trail shoes, you can usually get away with less cushioning in mud shoes.

Water-Resistant Uppers: Where there’s mud, there’s water, and keeping that moisture from soaking your feet is paramount. If you run frequently in the rain, focus on shoes that have water-resistant uppers (many shoes utilize Gore-Tex membranes to block exterior moisture). They’ll keep your feet dry in light rain and protect them against splashes, too.

If you’ll be fording rivers and fully submerging your feet in the water, however, avoid water-resistant uppers. Instead, look for shoes that have breathable, porous uppers. They will drain water quickly so your feet aren’t sloshing around after you exit a creek crossing, and they’ll help your feet dry out as you run.

Mud Running Etiquette

If you read nothing else in this guide, make sure it’s this: In many cases, it’s better to avoid the trails rather than go for a run in muddy conditions. First, running on wet trails can widen them and cause erosion. Many people instinctively skirt around mud patches and puddles; when lots of trail users do the same thing, they beat down vegetation on the sides of the trail, killing it and creating a wider dirt patch. When more rain comes, the water washes away the dirt (because no plants are holding it in place), and it can gouge out the trail, fill nearby creeks and rivers with sediment and damage the surrounding landscape.

Second, splashing through the muck creates deep footprints. When the sun comes out and the trail dries, those muddy footprints also dry, creating a hard, broken surface that’s difficult to walk on. This is a particularly critical issue in arid parts of the country: footprints made during the rainy season can mess up a trail for weeks or months afterward.

Before your run, check trail reports and find another place to run if your route is saturated. When running on a trail, make sure to run straight through any mud puddles — do not go around them. If the trail is consistently mucky, turn around. Try again another day after the land has had a chance to dry out.

That said, mud running shoes can be a great addition to your trail kit if you often pass through muddy patches, and they’re a must-have for obstacle courses and mud running races. These are the best mud running shoes to try on your next off-road adventure.

Best Overall

Inov-8 X-Talon Ultra 260 v2
Inov-8 X-Talon Ultra 260 v2

UK brand Inov-8 has developed a strong reputation for creating no-nonsense, highly capable trail shoes that can handle very technical terrain. The X-Talon Ultra 260 is a great example of the brand’s design ethos, and it’s engineered specifically for long runs across soft, muddy ground. The outsole is made from a sticky rubber compound and is studded with burly 8mm lugs for excellent traction, and the ballistic nylon upper offers great durability and protection for your feet. At just 9.2 ounces, it’s relatively light, too.

Most Affordable

Salomon Alphacross 4
Salomon Alphacross 4

Salomon is another well-known brand among trail runners, with a wide range of shoes for training and racing in the dirt. If you’re just getting into trail running or need an affordable mud shoe to complement your usual trail shoes, the Alphacross is a great bargain. It’s designed for mixed terrain and mud, and it features an aggressive rubber outsole with 6.5mm lugs that can bite into soft ground and shed mud quickly. Like most Salomon shoes, the cushioning will feel firm, but a soft interior liner amps up the comfort.

Best for a Snug Fit

La Sportiva Cyklon
La Sportiva Cyklon

The Cyklon combines superb outsole traction with a unique, close-fitting upper design that has a Boa closure instead of laces (you turn a dial to tighten the upper around your foot). Although the Boa system might look gimmicky to some, I’ve run in shoes with this feature and always appreciate the secure wrap it creates around my feet — and a lockdown fit is especially important when negotiating slippery, muddy terrain. The Cyklon’s Boa system lets you easily fine-tune the fit, and the gaiter-like upper wraps around your ankles to help keep debris and dirt from entering the shoe. On the bottom, La Sportiva’s sticky rubber compound and toothy 7mm lugs dig deep into soft ground and help you power through mud and muck.

Best for Wide Feet

Altra Lone Peak 7
Altra Lone Peak 7

Shoes like the Cyklon and Alphacross have a relatively narrow fit, especially at midfoot. For runners with wide feet, the Lone Peak is a great alternative: it’s made using Altra’s original FootShape design, which features a spacious toe box and a wide shape through the midfoot and heel. Like the brand’s other models, the Lone Peak also has a zero-drop footbed, so your heel and toes sit at the same level within the shoe. This promotes a more natural stride and proper joint alignment, but it can take some getting used to if you haven’t tried zero drop shoes before. In addition to the roomy fit, the Lone Peak delivers great all-terrain performance. The MaxTrac outsole is covered with large, chevron-shaped lugs for good grip in the mud and on other surfaces, too.

Most Versatile

Saucony Peregrine 13 ST
Saucony Peregrine 13 ST

Lightweight, comfortable and capable, the Peregrine 13 ST is an excellent choice for a do-it-all shoe that’s right at home in the mud. The “ST” in the name stands for “soft terrain,” and this version of the Peregrine was designed specifically for traversing mucky ground. On the outsole, widely spaced 6.5mm lugs generate a dependable grip, and the upper features an extended gaiter-like design around the ankle to block out dirt. The 13th iteration also features more midsole cushioning for a comfy ride, and it’s paired with a rock plate to protect your feet from sharp roots and debris.

Lightest Weight

Hoka Zinal 2
Hoka Zinal 2

Need a shoe that won’t weigh you down? Consider Hoka’s Zinal 2 — at just eight ounces, it’s supremely lightweight, but it still packs the grip and durability you need for muddy trail running. Hoka is known for its plush, highly cushioned shoes, but the Zinal falls on the leaner end of the brand’s lineup, so you can expect a more responsive, close-to-the-ground sensation under your feet. The latest version features a beefed up Vibram rubber outsole with 5mm lugs for reliable grip and good durability. For a nimble, speedy ride no matter what the trail throws at you, this is the shoe to go with.

Best Waterproof Shoe

Salomon Speedcross 6 GTX
Salomon Speedcross 6 GTX

The Speedcross is a beloved model in the Salomon lineup, and this version ups the ante with the addition of a Gore-Tex waterproof membrane in the upper. The shoe’s 5mm outsole lugs create plenty of bite on soft surfaces, and they’re very widely spaced, so they shed mud easily. In addition to the waterproof membrane, the upper is also equipped with Salomon’s Quicklace system, which utilizes a cinched drawcord instead of laces for a snug, highly adjustable fit. Rugged and capable, the Speedcross is a solid pick for running through challenging weather and wet trail conditions.

Best for Obstacle Course Racing


Obstacle course races often involve plenty of mud, but that’s far from the only challenge you’ll face at these events. The VJ XTRM 2 was designed as a well-rounded shoe to meet the demands of OCR as well as sky running and other off-road adventures on dicey terrain. A full-length EVA midsole provides just enough cushioning, and it’s paired with a full-length rock plate to protect your feet from sharp debris and obstacles. The full rubber outsole is studded with 6mm lugs that bite into mushy ground, and the outsole also features textured nubs on the medial side to help you get a better grip during rope climbs — a common challenge at OCR events.

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