Best Trail Running Shoes for Mud of 2024

A guide to the best trail running shoes for mud with models from Icebug, Inov8, Salomon, and Saucony.

By and on August 21, 2023 | Comments
Best Trail Running Shoes for Mud - testing the inov-8 X-Talon Ultra 260 V2 in Colorado

Testing the inov-8 X-Talon Ultra 260 V2, which we named one of the best mud-specific trail running shoes, in Colorado. Photo: iRunFar/Eszter Horanyi

A little rain, or even a lot of rain, isn’t going to prevent dedicated runners from hitting the trail. So when the singletrack gets slippery, the puddles fill, and mud starts to form, you want the best trail running shoes for mud that can take you through all of it confidently.

We researched dozens of trail running shoes for mud and tested 12 on trails in Utah, Colorado, Montana, and Oregon. We’ve broken our top picks into two categories: mud-specific shoes and all-terrain mud shoes.

Mud-specific shoes have durable uppers, deep and aggressive lugs, a snug fit, and a low-to-the-ground feel and are designed for fell running in the United Kingdom or perpetually soggy places like the Pacific Northwest region of the U.S. All-terrain mud shoes are more adaptable with moderately deep lugs for traction and tightly woven, durable uppers, but they still perform well in various other kinds of terrain. They often have a more comfortable fit and a more forgiving ride on mixed terrain.

To learn more about selecting the right mud running shoe for you, scroll down to our recommendations on things to consider and our frequently asked questions. Finally, learn more about our research and testing methodology below.

Check out our best trail running shoes guide for more generalist trail shoes. And check out our best running shoes guide for the best road and trail running shoes.

Best Trail Running Shoes for Mud

Best Mud-Specific Shoes

Best All-Terrain Mud Shoes

Best Trail Running Shoes for Mud - testing Scott shoes in Colorado

Hallie Taylor tests Scott shoes in sloppy conditions in Colorado Photo: iRunFar/Eszter Horanyi

Best Mud-Specific Shoes

Icebug Acceleritas8 RB9X ($140)


  • Quick-drying
  • Near-minimalist shoe
  • Accommodates wider feet


  • Minimalist isn’t for everyone

“I’m giving this shoe 10s across the board because I am in love,” one of our testers enthusiastically wrote. “Comfortable straight out the box, when I put them on my feet, I felt like a dog whose person just grabbed a leash — ready to go!”

The Icebug Acceleritas8 RB9X is a nearly minimalist, mud-specific shoe with a short stack height, four millimeters of heel-to-toe drop, and deep lugs that almost look like tractor treads. Its upper is constructed from thin, tightly woven, recycled polyester for quick drainage and drying. Redesigned this year with a wider toebox, this shoe’s overall fit is snug without being remotely painful. Mud shoes, in general, tend to be narrow, and many of the shoes that we tested were left off this list because of this fact. Although this shoe was also narrow, the upper was malleable enough that the narrowness didn’t feel constricting.

Best Trail Running Shoes for Mud - Icebug Acceleritas8 RB9X - product photo

The Icebug Acceleritas8 RB9X. Photo: iRunFar/Bryon Powell

One of our testers found these shoes to grip in slippery mud, dash confidently through the dry trail, and transform “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang-style into water vessels through puddle ponds.” She also noted that the uppers were dry after only about 10 minutes in the sun during a warm, high-desert run after being soaked during a full morning of rainfall.

“I never knew one of the missing pieces in my life was the ability to turn my bare feet into tractor wheels,” our most enthusiastic tester continued. “One of the hills I ascended slanted like a Sisyphean mudslide, daring me even to try to go up without slipping down again and again, but the shoes clung to the hillside with a mountaineer’s fortitude, and I was up and over in one go.

If you run in minimalist footwear and want a mud-specific shoe to add to your quiver, this shoe will serve you well.

Read more in our Icebug Acceleritas8 RB9X review.

Actual Weight (U.S. men’s 9): 8.2 ounces (231 grams) | Drop: 4 millimeters | Stack Height: n/a | Lug Depth: 8 millimeters

Shop the Men's Icebug Acceleritas8 RB9XShop the Women's Icebug Acceleritas8 RB9X

Inov-8 X-Talon Ultra 260 V2 ($165)


  • Aggressive outsole
  • Warm and durable upper


  • Slow drying

The inov-8 X-Talon Ultra 260 V2 is everything you’d expect from an inov-8 shoe: a durable upper, minimal and firm midsole, and sticky outsole with huge claws for lugging. It is not an everyday shoe for those of us in arid climates, as it will not be comfortable for long periods on hardpack terrain. But you might love these shoes if you live in the U.K. or somewhere else rainy where the terrain is soft and provides the cushion that the midsole does not.

Because most of our testers live in places where mud appears only seasonally, we were able to try these shoes in various environments, not just muddy ones. One of our testers wore these shoes forearly-season high-country rambling, a combination of soft off-trail tundra jogging, crossing snowfields, including those with consequence, and scrambling on hard rock with exposure.”

She noted that she felt incredibly confident wearing these shoes in all these conditions. She also said that power-hiking uphill on hardpack was tolerable but that running back downhill was not ideal.

Best Trail Running Shoes for Mud - Inov-8 X-Talon Ultra 260 V2 - product photo

The inov-8 X-Talon Ultra 260 V2. Photo: iRunFar/Bryon Powell

With eight-millimeter lugs, these shoes excelled in the mud and could dig through sloppy conditions to find purchase on the solid surfaces underneath the muck. The lug design cleared any mud quickly. Running on hardpack terrain was a different story. One of our testers noted that it “requires extreme focus on perfect landings and mechanics.So keep this in mind if you live in an arid place.

We found the upper’s drying time to be fairly slow. On a five-and-a-half-hour mountain run, one of our testers crossed a creek in the first five minutes, and her feet remained wet the entire time. This is to be expected, however, because this shoe’s upper was designed for both durability and for holding in heat. This shoe is made for people who run in wet, muddy, and cold conditions where there’s no chance that their feet will dry, regardless of the shoe they are wearing, until they get home and place them in front of a fireplace.

Actual Weight (U.S. men’s 9): 9.7 ounces (276 grams) | Drop: 8 millimeters | Stack Height: 16/8 millimeters heel/toe | Lug Depth: 8 millimeters

Shop the Men's inov-8 X-Talon Ultra 260 V2Shop the Women's inov-8 X-Talon Ultra 260 V2

Inov-8 Mudclaw 300 ($160)


  • Giant lugs offer exceptional performance on soft terrain
  • Comfortable upper
  • Midsole offers some cushioning which is a departure from most mud-specific shoe


  • Lack of versatility

The inov-8 Mudclaw 300 has to be one of the classic fell running shoes, having been around for at least a decade without much evolution. But when something works, there’s not much need to change it, is there?

This shoe was specifically designed for fell running in the U.K.’s Lake District, where clawing through soupy mud and sticking to wet rocks are everyday tasks. Unfortunately, we did not get the chance to test the shoe on its home turf, but we tested it in the slurpy, sloppy early-season conditions of high-altitude Colorado.

The giant lugs purge most mud and snow, as they should with their 8-millimeter depth and flat-topped, steep-sided, pyramid shape. As with most mud, the drier it gets, the more the mud can cake onto an outsole. These lugs cannot purge the cake-iest of mud, but we’ve found the lugs deep enough to poke out of most caked mud.

And these lugs aren’t just huge; they’re also pretty durable. This model uses inov-8’s tried-and-true Dual-C Sticky outsole compound, which reportedly uses multiple types of rubber in different spots to enhance the connection to the terrain where needed and durability in other spots. We found the lugs also trustworthy on various kinds of wet and dry rock. Don’t be fooled, though; these are soft-terrain shoes, and use on rock and hardpack terrain will speed wear faster than use on grass, mud, and soft trail.

Best Trail Running Shoes for Mud - inov-8 Mudclaw 300 - product photo

The inov-8 Mudclaw 300, Photo: iRunFar/Bryon Powell

We really enjoy the shoe’s midsole, which has 12 millimeters of stack height at the heel and six at the toes and is an injected EVA. While we haven’t tested it on an ultramarathon-distance run, we’d take it on one with the appropriate soft and messy terrain. Shoes from inov-8 are known for their thin midsoles, leaning heavily on soft terrain to provide cushion and keeping runners close to the ground so they feel secure in technical terrain. We feel this midsole balances this well: we are close to the ground, but there’s a bit of cushioning to take the bite out of the bits of buffed-out terrain which connect the soft spots of our runs.

We’ve never loved inov-8’s uppers, at least on their mountain-running-specific shoes. They are typically pretty thick and hold moisture longer than other uppers made by other companies. These uppers are no different. Once it gets wet, it isn’t going to dry until parked on your porch post-run in the sun or front of the wood stove. But, like other inov-8 shoes, it’s thick enough that your feet stay warm despite being wet.

The brand is known for its typically narrow fit and smaller-volume toebox, features that are on full display in this model. There’s no getting around this; either you can wear it or can’t.

Actual Weight (U.S. men’s 9): 8.9 ounces (249 grams) | Drop: 6 millimeters | Stack Height: 12/6 millimeters heel/toe | Lug Depth: 8 millimeters

Shop the Men's inov-8 Mudclaw 300Shop the Women's inov-8 Mudclaw 300

Best All-Terrain Mud Shoes

Saucony Peregrine 13 ST ($150)


  • Great versatility
  • Secure speed laces
  • Debris-resistant upper and ankle collar


  • Lugs uncomfortable on hardpack

The Saucony Peregrine 13 ST is more than just a mud shoe — it’s a comfortable trail and mountain running shoe with lugs deep enough to grip the wet stuff and dispense with it all the same. The “soft terrain” features make it adept at handling mud without compromising its ability to perform on other terrain. To update the previous version of the shoe, the Peregrine 12 ST, Saucony kept everything we loved about the shoe, including the grip and the responsiveness, and improved a few key features, namely the fit, cushion around the heel, and resistance to debris.

This new version is even more comfortable with added cushion than its predecessor. The stack height is slightly taller, but the 4-millimeter drop stays the same. Saucony was able to do this while still dropping the weight of the shoe. Compared side by side, this shoe is noticeably more cushioned, especially around the heel and the midfoot, and just feels like a bit more shoe than its predecessor. The outsole remains essentially unchanged and is still able to perform on a variety of terrain types. It has big 6.5-millimeter lugs, so it performs nearly as well as more myopic mud shoes in terms of grip and mud-shedding, but it can also move nimbly down the hard pack when the sun comes out. Notably, it’s also the only shoe with a rock plate on this list.

Best Trail Running Shoes for Mud - Saucony Peregrine 13 ST - product photo

The Saucony Peregrine 13 ST. Photo: iRunFar/Bryon Powell

This shoe’s upper is constructed from more tightly woven fabric than the non-ST version to keep out debris. Saucony added a light gaiter around the shoe collar to help keep debris out, replacing what used to be a debris shield over the laces. While it’s probably not secure enough to keep your ankles clean, it does improve the shoe’s overall fit and feel and provides some level of protection.

The speed laces on this shoe are reminiscent of those found on Salomon shoes: very thin static laces with a cord lock for tightening and loosening them. One great thing about these laces is that they don’t absorb water. Some of our testers prefer this system over regular laces because it tends to be more secure and doesn’t snag and come undone when bushwhacking. The laces do feel extremely static, meaning they don’t have the give of normal laces, but this is good for a mud shoe. Secure laces will prevent a foot from popping out of a mud-stuck shoe. A small mesh pocket keeps the excess laces out of the way.

As with most other mud shoes, this one may not have enough cushioning for distances that creep up over 30 miles. Instead, it feels incredibly solid when moving fast over tough and technical terrain.

Read more in our full Saucony Peregrine 13 ST review.

Actual Weight (U.S. men’s 9): 9.9 ounces (282 grams) | Drop: 4 millimeters | Stack Height: 30/26 millimeters heel/toe | Lug Depth: 6.5 millimeters

Shop the Men's Saucony Peregrine 13 STShop the Women's Saucony Peregrine 13 ST

Salomon Speedcross 6 ($140)


  • Durable
  • Debris-resistant upper
  • Roomy toebox


  • Large drop
  • High stack height

The Salomon Speedcross 6 is somewhat of an anomaly in that it is one of the most popular shoes found on trails throughout the United States while also commonly used in fell running races in the U.K. With a narrow heel pocket that keeps feet secure and a decently wide forefoot, the latter of which increased in size in the previous version of this shoe, the Salomon Speedcross 5, and has been retained in this edition, this shoe can fit many different shapes of feet, making it a popular option for many styles of running. The upgrades from the previous version of this shoe are subtle but significant, with the new version being lighter, more comfortable, and having improved traction.

The SensiFit design cradles the midfoot, and the extremely secure Quicklace lacing system keeps toes from sliding to the front of the shoe when going downhill. In short, people with feet of all sizes and shapes seem to be able to use this shoe, although one member of the iRunFar team, who is a longtime Speedcross wearer, did find this iteration to be less secure-fitting on narrow feet than previous versions.

This shoe has a pretty substantial stack height of 32 to 22 millimeters for an overall heel-to-toe drop of 10 millimeters. This makes it feel almost like a hiking boot that has been whittled down to a running shoe, so it’s no surprise that they also suit many hikers well. While this heel stack height may be too much for some people’s preferences, our testers enjoyed how it felt for very long days in technical terrain.

Best Trail Running Shoes for Mud - Salomon Speedcross 6 - product photo

The Salomon Speedcross 6. Photo: iRunFar/Bryon Powell

To improve the traction of this shoe in this edition, Salomon changed the shape of the lugs. This also improved its ability to shed mud, and we found that the new lug pattern was also more comfortable when running on hard surfaces. The 5-millimeter lugs had plenty to have traction in mud and snow, and the new design seems to protect the forefoot better than the older chevron pattern.

The EnergyCell+ midsole compound remains unchanged from the previous version of this shoe and provides enough cushion for taking these shoes across hard surfaces. The lack of a rock plate does mean that if you hit a rock just right, you’ll feel it. But for mud, there is ample protection.

Read more in our Salomon Speedcross 6 review.

Actual Weight (U.S. men’s 9): 10.4 ounces (295 grams) | Drop: 10 millimeters | Stack Height: 32 to 22 millimeters heel/toe | Lug Depth: 5 millimeters

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Topo Athletic Mtn Racer 3 ($150)


  • Very comfortable and snug
  • Springy ZippFoam
  • Incredible protection underfoot
  • Outstanding traction if wet


  • Bulkier and slower-feeling than the Topo Athletic Mtn Racer 2
  • Opaque upper is quite firm

Being capable in mud is not necessarily an afterthought for the new Topo Athletic Mtn Racer 3, but the shoe performs so well in so many conditions that being a good mud shoe sometimes feels like it’s just a bonus. This new update has a more voluminous toebox and an increased stack height with the same 5-millimeter drop as the older version. It finds its way into this guide because of its all-around characteristics that combine to make the shoe a standout on muddy trails.

This shoe has the same Vibram Megagrip outsole material that all other versions have used since the beginning. This rubber sticks confidently to wet and slippery rock while easily shedding mud. One of our testers loved this shoe for descending a 15-foot, 60-degree section of granite slab on his local trail. He found that the shoe made the bit of trail a relatively smooth experience, even when it was wet and muddy during an exceptionally rainy spring.

Best Trail Running Shoes for Mud - Topo Mtn Racer 3 - product photo

The Topo Mtn Racer 3. Photo: iRunFar/Bryon Powell

But this shoe is not all about the rubber. The upper provides great lockdown with Topo’s “lace stay system” that consists of two loops at the base of the tongue. This is an excellent innovation to keep the tongue in place. The sweep of the shoe from midfoot to forefoot is fantastic. It keeps the foot very secure while opening to a wide toebox that lets your toes really function as stabilizers. Any quality mud shoe must have a bomber heel counter, and this one is super snug. The shoe will stay on your foot during the type of muddy runs that want to suck your shoes right off and swallow them.

The added stack height provides better underfoot protection without compromising the shoe’s ability to handle tough and technical trail conditions. This added protection is important since the shoe doesn’t have a rock plate. The upper is made of a tightly woven, durable mesh that drains water reasonably well and is very abrasion resistant.

While the shoe is a lot more bulky than its predecessor, it is only a tenth of an ounce heavier. Our testers did find it less nimble but determined that it maintains its qualities as a standout all-around, any-condition trail beast.

Read more in our Topo Athletic Mtn Racer 3 review.

Actual Weight (U.S. men’s 9): 10.1 ounces (287 grams) | Drop: 5 millimeters | Stack Height: 33/28 millimeters heel/toe | Lug Depth: n/a

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Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose a Trail Running Shoe for Mud

Snug Fit

When the conditions outside your shoe are slippery and unstable, it helps if the conditions inside the shoe are snug and secure. The best trail running shoes for mud will have a snug fit that will help you to find purchase on the muckiest trails by ensuring that your shoe feels like your foot has grown lugs. And when sticky mud tries to swallow your shoe, your foot won’t slide out of it.

All of the shoes that made our list fit most testers snugly without being painful, and one shoe was even removed from the list due to sloppy fit.

That said, many of the best trail running shoes for mud on the market seem too narrow for the average foot. Our testers thought they knew what they were getting into when they agreed to slip on some of these narrow, snug mud shoes, but they were wrong. To everyone’s surprise, four models we tested that were billed as being either average or narrow in width were still far too cramped to be even remotely usable for any of our testers. These shoes are made for long, skinny, low-volume feet, and if that’s not you, mud shoe shopping could be tricky.

These snuggest shoes may still fit very narrow-footed people and could perform well for fell running, but we could not include them in our list. Because of fit issues, try mud shoes on in a store before purchasing is always a good idea.

Among our favorite mud running shoes, the Salomon Speedcross 6 was clearly the top choice for those looking for a more accommodating fit. The Saucony Peregrine 13 ST and inov-8 X-Talon Ultra 260 v2 are also options worth checking out.

Heel-to-Toe Drop

Mud shoes do not need to be equipped with a particular heel-to-toe drop to perform well. We recommend you seek shoes with a drop in which you feel comfortable. If you try shoes with more or less drop than normal, you should ease into their use to keep your lower legs happy. Mud shoe options range from the 4-millimeter drop of the Icebug Acceleritas8 RB9X to the 10-millimeter drop of the Salomon Speedcross 6.

Best Trail Running Shoes for Mud - testing the Inov-8 Mudclaw G 260 V2 in the mud of Utah

Testing the inov-8 Mudclaw G 260 V2 in the mud of Utah. Photo: iRunFar/Ben Kilbourne

Stack Height

We tested many near-minimalist mud shoes with stack heights in the single digits. The Icebug Acceleritas8 RB9X, for example, has a negligible stack height to keep the runner’s center of gravity low in sloppy and unpredictable terrain. Mud shoes are designed to excel on soft terrain that provides plenty of cushioning already.

This is probably the type of shoe you will want for running in relentlessly muddy conditions, as you’d find in England’s Lake District. Winter running in the U.S. Pacific Northwest could also warrant the purchase of such an aggressive, low-stack shoe.

But not every shoe on our list is this close to the ground. Our testers in Utah and Colorado, who often encounter mud, snow, and hard-packed trails all in one run, appreciate more versatile mud shoes. For example, the Saucony Peregrine 13 ST has an average stack height of 24.5 millimeters for a more forgiving ride on the hardpack terrain, but it still has deep 6.5-millimeter lugs for traction in mud.

In short, when looking at the best trail running shoes for mud, choose one with a stack height that accommodates the requirements of your local terrain.


Mud shoes are designed with the expectation that they will encounter water almost constantly. Shoe manufacturers address this issue in two ways: making shoes with thick uppers to keep debris out and heat in or making shoes with thin, non-absorbing uppers that drain and dry quickly.

Thick, warm uppers might be a good choice for running in muddy and cold conditions, such as what’s found in the U.K. There’s a working assumption that your feet will be wet the whole time, so shoe drainage is less important than keeping feet warm when wet. The inov-8 X-Talon Ultra 260 V2 is an example of a shoe with a thick and warm upper that prevents the shoes from filling with debris.

A thin, quick-drying upper might be more appropriate in more variable terrain, such as what most of our testers encounter in Utah and Colorado. This will keep the shoe as light as possible when wet while also protecting the foot from maceration on longer runs when there’s an opportunity for the shoes to dry out.

For example, in the Wasatch Mountains of Utah in May, our testers plodded through mud, snow, and dry trails in one run. In these conditions, it is nice to have your shoes and feet dry out when you descend from the sloppiest slopes but still have many dry miles to cover on the way back to the car.

Many mud shoes, such as the Icebug Acceleritas8 RB9X, are designed with thin mesh uppers that won’t absorb water. Some even have drain holes to purge pooling water from the inside of the shoe.


Light mesh uppers don’t just allow water to drain quickly — they also don’t absorb water, aiding in the shoe’s ability to dry rapidly. Many of the best trail running shoes for mud are also constructed with less foam than typical trail running shoes to facilitate quick drying.

Mud running shoes’ tongues will often be thin and nearly foamless. A waterlogged tongue could slide from side to side or become bunched and uncomfortable. Many mud shoes’ heel pocket padding is similarly scant to keep water absorption at a minimum.

On the other hand, some mud shoes, like the inov-8 X-Talon Ultra 260 V2, accept the fact that when you slosh through mud all day, you’re feet are going to be wet and are built with thick and durable uppers to keep your feet warm instead of trying to be fast-drying.

Best Trail Running Shoes for Mud - testing VJ Sport shoes in mud

Testing a pair of VJ Sport shoes in mud. Photo: iRunFar/Eszter Horanyi


In the same way mud needs to shed from the lugs of a shoe, it also needs to shed from its upper. Most mud shoes achieve this mud resistance with tightly woven uppers. Very meshy uppers, like those found on many road shoes, are great for breathability but tend to trap debris and mud. The tightly woven upper of the Icebug Acceleritas8 RB9X is thin and plasticky but still permeable enough to allow water drainage.


The most obvious characteristic of a mud shoe might be its deep and widely spaced lugs. Deep lugs will dig through the goop to find purchase on rock or firmer soil beneath. They will also shed mud better than small, closely spaced lugs. Only shoes with lugs deeper than five millimeters made our list of mud shoes, with the most aggressive mud shoes, the Icebug Acceleritas8 RB9X and the inov-8 X-Talon Ultra 260 V2 having deep 8-millimeter lugs. Interestingly, there is no consensus on the best lug shape for soft terrain conditions, with rectangles and chevrons being pretty equally used.

Rock Plate

Some of the best trail running shoes for mud are designed with rock plates under the ball of the foot for extra protection. Rocks and roots can lie in wait under the mud and can really beat up your feet if you keep landing on them unexpectedly. When you see these obstacles above ground, they’re easy to anticipate — you can hit a visible rock with an intentionally light landing, but you can’t do this with an invisible one. Choose a shoe with a rock plate, such as the Saucony Peregrine 13 ST, if you want to protect your feet from hidden obstacles.

Shoes like the inov-8 X-Talon Ultra 260 V2 have tread so aggressive that a rock plate is probably unnecessary. Other shoes, like the Topo Athletic Mtn Racer 3, have a midsole thick enough to provide enough protection by themselves.

Even Mud Shoes Have Their Limits

Some of our testers wanted us to mention that not all mud is the same. In Utah, for example, we found mud in alpine areas blended with an abundance of organic material to be quite forgiving, purging from the lugs of even non-mud-specific shoes such as the Topo Athletic Mtn Racer 3. It was a different story in Salt Lake City’s foothills, where clay is ever-present. Even the very aggressive inov-8 X-Talon Ultra 260 V2 became like a brick on each foot as it struggled to shed the sticky stuff.

This is all just to say that buying a mud shoe will not 100% ensure you can run on any type of mud at any time, but it will surely help.

Best Trail Running Shoes for Mud - wearing the inov-8 X-Talon Ultra 260 V2

iRunFar’s Meghan Hicks wears the inov-8 X-Talon Ultra 260 V2, which we named one of the best mud-specific trail running shoes. iRunFar/Eszter Horanyi

Why You Should Trust Us

A team of 11 has tested 12 mud running shoes throughout the spring, summer, fall, and winter of 2022 and 2023. We splashed through snowmelt puddles, power-hiked up and then ran back down loose and steep talus, and slogged through mile upon mile of relentless mud. We then compiled and distilled the team’s feedback, and the six shoes we’ve selected for this guide are the consensus favorites.

We acknowledge that many of the shoes we tested are tailored to the perpetually muddy conditions found in the U.K. We didn’t get to test there to allow those shoes to shine. Many of those shoes were found to be far too narrow for running in spring conditions in Colorado, Utah, Oregon, and Montana. We understand that the narrowness of many of these shoes is intentional, but our U.S. testers found some unusable. Next year, we will revisit and test many of these shoes in their ideal conditions.

When our team began testing the shoes in the spring of 2022, it was still snowing in the high country, and the snow was starting to melt in the foothills. Throughout May and June, we ran through snow and mud in the San Juan Mountains of southern Colorado, the Wasatch Mountains of northern Utah, and the drizzly U.S. Pacific Northwest. By mid-summer, we felt confident in our top picks.

Please note that product models are routinely discontinued in the running world, while new ones frequently come to market. At the same time, we here at iRunFar often keep using our top picks in our daily running … they’re our top picks, after all! Sometimes that continued use results in uncovering product failures. With all this — product discontinuations, product introductions, and product failures — in mind, we routinely update our buyer’s guides based on past and ongoing testing and research by our authors and editorial team. While these updates can appear to be us pushing the newest product, it’s anything but that. When we update any buyer’s guide, most products will likely remain the same. That matches our goal: to get you in the best gear you’ll be using for a long time.

Best Trail Running Shoes for Mud - Ben Kilbourne testing in the Wasatch Mountains of Utah in spring

Ben Kilbourne testing mud shoes in the Wasatch Mountains of Utah in spring conditions. Photo: iRunFar/Ben Kilbourne

Frequently Asked Questions About Trail Running Shoes for Mud

What makes mud running shoes different from other trail running shoes? What are the benefits of trail running shoes for mud?

Shoes made specifically for running in mud will have an aggressive tread with deep and widely spaced lugs. They will have a thin, hydrophobic mesh upper to facilitate water drainage and prevent mud from sticking. The tongue and heel pocket will be minimally padded to prevent water absorption. Many mud shoes will have a low stack height and minimal heel-to-toe drop to keep the center of gravity close — and hopefully attached — to the ground. The Icebug Acceleritas8 RB9X barely has any stack and was a tester favorite for its stability.

Do I need a mud-specific trail running shoe?

That depends. Runners who tromp regularly through the hills of Scotland or the temperate rainforests of Oregon or Washington, where mud is often present, might want to invest in a pair of mud shoes. If you’re fell racing or competing in obstacle course races, mud shoes are pretty much mandatory.

Runners in more arid places who encounter mud only seasonally should be able to make do with just about any trail running shoe with a moderately lugged outsole. We recommend the Saucony Peregrine 13 ST for this use.

Best Trail Running Shoes for Mud - testing Scott shoes in wet conditions

Testing Scott shoes in wet conditions. Photo: iRunFar/Eszter Horanyi

Should I run on muddy trails?

When the trails get muddy, it’s often tempting to avoid the puddles and mud altogether by veering off the trail and onto the grass or brush beside the trail, but this can cause problems. According to the Leave No Trace guidelines, runners should always stay on the trail, no matter the conditions. Following this rule will prevent erosion and ensure the trail does not become wider.

Some trails, including several that our Utah testers frequent, close completely every time it rains. When wet, these trails’ soils are so clayey that running and mountain biking on them could cause significant damage. Always follow a trail’s local guidelines about running in muddy conditions.

In some areas of the world, like the fells of the United Kingdom, running in mud is the norm and doesn’t cause damage to the trails, and the shoes that come out of the region reflect that. Shoes like the inov-8 X-Talon Ultra 260 V2 come from areas known for their muddy trails.

What is fell running?

The word fell comes from the Old Norse word fjall, which means mountain or hill. Fell running basically means hill running, but these are no ordinary hills we’re talking about; these are the grassy, muddy, steep hills of the United Kingdom.

Fell running is similar to trail, mountain, and cross-country running but with some key differences. In fell running races, contenders race off-trail over wild terrain between checkpoints, often using a map and compass for navigation. Sometimes safety equipment such as a bivvy is required. The conditions are almost always steep and slippery, so mud-specific running shoes, like the inov-8 X-Talon Ultra 260 V2, are recommended for safe and successful running.

We did not test any shoes on this list for fell running specifically, but we hope to expand this guide to do so in the future.

What company makes the best mud running shoes?

Because so much mud running occurs in Europe, many of the predominant mud shoe brands are European. Inov-8 and PB Walsh are British brands specializing in deep-lugged, low-stack shoes. VJ is Finnish, Icebug is Swedish, Scott is Swiss, Salomon is French, and Dynafit is Austrian, and all make aggressive, deep-lugged mud shoes. We included some shoes from these companies, including the mud-specific inov-8 X-Talon Ultra 260 V2 and the Icebug Acceleritas8 RB9X.

That said, you may find all-around shoes that perform well in mud from different companies. Saucony, for example, has no history in the English fells but makes an awesome all-arounder that sheds mud with the best of them.

Best Trail Running Shoes for Mud - testing inov-8 shoes in Colorado

iRunFar’s Ben Kilbourne testing inov-8 shoes in Colorado. Photo: iRunFar/Eszter Horanyi

Can I use any trail running shoe in the mud?

You can do whatever you please, but let us share this anecdote: Two of our testers — one in racing flats and the other in mud shoes — were cruising down a muddy, off-camber trail in the Wasatch Mountains of northern Utah when the one in racing flats slipped right off the trail, painting half his body brown. The other tester didn’t even recognize the trail as slippery. Road shoes have their limits, and both testers agreed that any trail shoe with even marginal grip would have prevented his fall. A shoe like the Saucony Peregrine 13 ST is an excellent option for mixed-terrain runs where you’re out in a variety of ground conditions.

Fortunately, our tester in road flats sustained no injuries in this fall, but in certain steep terrains, a fall can be dangerous, so appropriate shoes are a good safety precaution. Moreover, remaining attached to the ground and not slipping is fundamental to building skills and confidence as a trail runner.

We should also note that for those of us who only have to deal with mud on a seasonal basis in the spring, a good pair of mud shoes can last for years.

Do trail running shoes need to be waterproof?

We chose only non-waterproof shoes for this guide because the iRunFar team prefers mud shoes that drain easily and dry quickly. Waterproof shoes are great for mildly muddy and wet conditions, keeping your toes dry when dashing through shallow puddles or the tops of your feet dry in a drizzle. But when things get really sloppy, and water starts to pour over the top of a waterproof shoe, it will fill up like a bucket.

A shoe constructed from light and thin mesh, such as the Icebug Acceleritas8 RB9X, will drain almost instantly after splashing through puddles. They also dry quickly.

There are very few circumstances when deep lugs and a waterproof upper would be warranted. When running long distances in snowy and very cold conditions, a waterproof shoe with a gaiter might be exactly what you need.

How important is stack height for mud running shoes?

A low stack height can be advantageous because of the nature of running in the mud, which is slippery and unstable. True mud-running shoes, like the Icebug Acceleritas8 RB9X, barely have any stack height. The best trail running shoes for mud can be much more stable by being close to the ground. The downside is that shoes with minimal stack height can be hard to run in on other surfaces, so if you’re running on mixed terrain, it could be worth having a shoe with a reasonable amount of stack, like the  Topo Athletic Mtn Racer 3.

Are mud shoes comfortable on trails or pavement?

Most mud shoes are uncomfortable for running on hard-packed trails or pavement because they are low to the ground with a minimal midsole. The inov-8 X-Talon Ultra 260 V2, with its rigid lugs, and roughly 12-millimeter stack height, for example, should be reserved for soupy and slippery runs from start to finish.

Some mud shoes can make the transition, however. With its thicker midsole, the Saucony Peregrine 13 ST will roll over firm trail, splash through puddles without losing purchase, and even be tolerable on the quarter-mile of paved road that leads back to the car.

Call for Comments

  • What trail shoe do you use in the mud?
  • Where do you live where a mud-specific shoe is a must-own part of your quiver?
  • When has the mud overwhelmed even your most aggressive mud shoes?
Back to Our Top Trail Running Shoes for Mud Picks
Ben Kilbourne

Ben Kilbourne is a Gear Tester and Writer at iRunFar. He’s been writing about ultralight backpacking and fastpacking, as well as the intersection of these types of recreation with environmental issues, for four years. Aside from iRunFar, he has written for publications including Backpacker Magazine, Backpacking Light, Dark Mountain, and Section Hiker. Based in Salt Lake City, Utah, Ben explores all over the west, especially the canyon country of the Colorado Plateau. His experiences on the land, whether triumphant or thwarted by events either in or out of his control, have provided the foundation for his essays, paintings, articles, and songs.

Ben Kilbourne

Eszter Horanyi identifies as a Runner Under Duress, in that she’ll run if it gets her deep into the mountains or canyons faster than walking would, but she’ll most likely complain about it. A retired long-distance bike racer, she gave ultra foot racing a go and finished the Ouray 100 in 2017, but ultimately decided that she prefers a slower pace of life of taking photos during long days in the mountains and smelling the flowers while being outside for as many hours of the day as possible. Eszter will take any opportunity to go adventuring in the mountains or desert by foot, bike, or boat, and has lived the digital nomad lifestyle throughout the west for the past seven years.