Best Trail Running Shoes for Mud of 2023

Got mud season where you live and run!? Here’s the iRunFar team’s guide to the best trail running shoes for muddy conditions.

By on September 26, 2022 | Leave a reply

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 a shoe that can take you through all of it confidently.

We researched dozens of trail running shoes for mud and tested 12 of them on trails in Utah, Colorado, Montana, and Oregon. Of these shoes, we’ve chosen six that we can recommend to most people who run in the mud. We’ve broken our top picks into two categories: mud-specific shoes and all-terrain mud shoes.

Mud-specific shoes are just what they sound like: shoes with durable uppers, deep and aggressive lugs, a snug fit, and a low-to-the-ground feel. These shoes are great for fell running in the U.K. or daily trail runs in perpetually soggy places like the Pacific Northwest region of the U.S.

All-terrain mud shoes are more adaptable. They still have moderately deep lugs for traction and tightly woven, durable uppers, but, unlike mud-specific shoes, they still perform well in various other kinds of terrain. Some of the shoes in this category have a more comfortable fit while still being snug enough that they won’t come off in sticky mud. Some also have thicker midsoles for a more forgiving ride on mixed terrain.

Many of our testers live and play in places with only seasonal mud, and we know that many of our readers do as well, so we chose shoes for this category that will claw through mud and shed it, cross snow fields, and then cruise the hardpack too.

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

Click on any of the links below to jump to reviews of a specific shoe. For a look at more generalist trail shoes, check out our best trail running shoes guide.

Best Mud-Specific Shoes

Best All-Terrain Mud Shoes

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 in Colorado, which we named one of the best mud-specific trail running shoes. Photo: iRunFar/Eszter Horanyi

Best Mud-Specific Shoes

Inov-8 Mudclaw G 260 V2 ($185)

The inov-8 Mudclaw G 260 V2 was specifically designed for fell running in the U.K.’s Lake District, where clawing through soupy and sticky mud is virtually an everyday task. We did not get the chance to test the shoe on its home turf, unfortunately, but we did find plenty of mud in the Wasatch Mountains of northern Utah where this shoe performed magnificently.

“The wetter the terrain, the happier I am with these shoes!” one of our testers said. Indeed, our testing team couldn’t have been more pleased with this shoe’s grip and traction. It allowed us to round tight corners with deep mud with confidence.

Best Trail Running Shoes for Mud - Inov-8 Mudclaw G 260 V2 - product photo

The inov-8 Mudclaw G 260 V2.

The giant lugs purged most types of mud, as expected. Thicker, dryer clays found in the foothills of the Wasatch Mountains tended to cake despite the tread’s best efforts, but this happened with every shoe we used in these conditions. Moreover, the lugs continued to poke through the mudcake by just a millimeter or so, offering at least a little grip at all times, something no other shoe on our list managed to do.

And these lugs aren’t just huge, they’re also highly durable. The graphene-enhanced outsole is supposed to be stronger, more elastic, and longer-lasting than typical rubber outsoles. While it does look and feel durable, we haven’t had these shoes long enough to know for sure if this is true.

This shoe’s upper kept debris out, drained well, and didn’t hold onto water weight, but because it is thick, it didn’t dry out quickly either. The assumption here is that if the foot will be perpetually wet, it’s best to keep it warm with a thick upper.

One huge and positive surprise about this shoe was its fit. Our testers found it to be somehow both more secure and more comfortable than most mud-specific shoes on this list. The heel pocket was secure, the midfoot snug, and the toebox just roomy enough. One tester with a particularly wide foot found the shoe to be slightly too narrow but also said the snugness was “barely noticeable while having so much fun scurrying and scampering around the mountains.”

Learn more in our inov-8 Mudclaw G 260 V2 review.

Actual Weight (U.S. men’s 9): 10.9 ounces (310g)
Drop: 4 millimeters
Stack Height: 8.5/4.5 millimeters heel/toe
Lug Depth: 8 millimeters
Pros: Giant lugs offer exceptional performance on soft terrain; comfortable upper
Cons: Lack of versatility

Shop the Men's inov-8 Mudclaw G 260 V2Shop the Women's inov-8 Mudclaw G 260 V2

Icebug Acceleritas8 RB9X ($140)

“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. Many shoes we tested were far too narrow to make the list, and although this shoe was narrow as well, 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.

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 to even 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 (231g)
Drop: 4 millimeters
Stack Height: n/a
Lug Depth: 8 millimeters
Pros: Quick-drying, near-minimalist shoe; accommodates wider feet
Cons: Minimalist isn’t for everyone

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

Inov-8 X-Talon Ultra 260 V2 ($160)

The inov-8 X-Talon Ultra 260 V2 is everything you’d expect out of 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 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, you might really love these shoes.

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 of these conditions. She also said that powerhiking uphill on hardpack was tolerable but that running back downhill on it 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.

These shoes were excellent in the mud, as expected, digging through the slop to find purchase on harder ground beneath and then clearing the mud from the eight-millimeter lugs in only a few steps. 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 are going to 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 (276g)
Drop: 8 millimeters
Stack Height: 16/8 millimeters heel/toe
Lug Depth: 8 millimeters
Pros: Aggressive outsole; warm and durable upper
Cons: Slow drying

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

Best All-Terrain Mud Shoes

Saucony Peregrine 12 ST ($140)

The Saucony Peregrine 12 ST is much more than just a mud shoe — it’s a comfortable trail and mountain running shoe with lugs deep enough to grip in the wet stuff and dispense with it all the same. Essentially it’s the soft-terrain version of the much loved Peregrine 12. Read our Saucony Peregrine 12 review to learn more about that shoe.

This shoe stands apart from many mud shoes we tested in that it is not a one-trick pony. 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. Saucony’s PWRRUN cushioning is somewhat firm but at an average of 24 millimeters thick, it provides more comfort than any of the other mud-specific shoes we tested. Notably, it’s also the only shoe on this list with a rock plate.

Best Trail Running Shoes for Mud - Saucony Peregrine 12 ST - product photo

The Saucony Peregrine 12 ST.

To keep out debris, this shoe’s upper is constructed from more tightly woven fabric than the non-ST version. It also features a mesh shield to hold the laces.

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.

Possibly more important than any of those nitty gritty details, this shoe is just really fun. On a 14-mile run, one of our testers encountered an array of trail conditions. For the first seven miles, the shoe felt light and comfortable on the hard and dry trail, but distant thunder threatened to provide something different. Sure enough, an early-season monsoon turned the trail into a creek and the shoe was forced to prove that it could handle the mud as well. This shoe didn’t let him down — gripping off-camber singletrack as if the trail wasn’t wet at all.

Read more in our Saucony Peregrine 12 ST review.

Actual Weight (U.S. men’s 9): 10.8 ounces (305g)
Drop: 4 millimeters
Stack Height: 26.5/22.5 millimeters heel/toe
Lug Depth: 6.5 millimeters
Pros: Great versatility; secure speed laces; debris-resistant upper
Cons: Lugs uncomfortable on hardpack

Shop the Men's Saucony Peregrine 12 STShop the Women's Saucony Peregrine 12 ST

Salomon Speedcross 5 ($130)

The Salomon Speedcoss 5 is somewhat of an anomaly in that it is one of the most popular shoes found on trails throughout the United States while also being commonly used in fell-running races in the U.K. This may be due to the fit of the shoe. It is designed with a somewhat narrow heel pocket that keeps most feet locked in place and has a fairly wide forefoot to adapt to a variety of feet.

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.

This shoe has a pretty substantial stack height of 35 to 25 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. One of our testers found it a little surprising that this shoe is so popular for fell racing because the 35-millimeter heel stack was so tippy for him. Other testers had no issue with this tall stack, and in fact, rather enjoyed how it felt.

Best Trail Running Shoes for Mud - Salomon Speedcross 5 - product photo

The Salomon Speedcross 5.

The 10-millimeter drop of older versions of this shoe fell off like a glacial valley from the middle of the arch to the ball of the foot rather than descending gradually from heel to toe. This extreme descent provided the feeling of arch support for some, while others felt like every step drove the weight of their entire body into the ball of their foot where there was little protection from the ground. One result of this design was that runners would feel ball-of-foot fatigue.

As we detail in our Salomon Speedcross 5 review, the brand has improved the forefoot midsole in the new version, so this is no longer the case. Our testers were able to confirm this, finding the footbed to dip more gradually from heel to toe. And with a more protective forefoot midsole, this shoe is now a capable option for longer runs.

The anti-debris mesh upper was one of our testers’ favorite features, proving that it is indeed a mud shoe. It is tightly woven to repel muck and even very fine sand. But because of this, it doesn’t drain or dry quickly.

“They could shed water better,” one of our testers said. “It’s not terrible, but I feel like the overlays on the sides make them a little less good in the drainage department.” This is forgivable in our opinion, as we found our feet to stay warm in these shoes on long, wet runs.

The chevron-lugged outsole was our other favorite feature of this shoe, feeling more aggressive than their five-millimeter designation suggests, and clawing confidently into soft trails in the Pacific Northwest.

“I took them on a long run through mud, snow, and loose dirt and they handled the changing terrain with ease,” one tester said. “I like the rugged cleat-like bottoms. They really do grip well.” To summarize her review of these shoes in three words, we’ll just leave you with this quote: “They are dope.”

Read more in our Salomon Speedcross 5 review.

Actual Weight (U.S. men’s 9): 10.9 ounces (309g)
Drop: 10 millimeters
Stack Height: 35 to 25 millimeters heel/toe
Lug Depth: 5 millimeters
Pros: Durable, debris-resistant upper; roomy toebox
Cons: Large drop and high stack height

Shop the Men's Salomon Speedcross 5Shop the Women's Salomon Speedcross 5

The Salomon Speedcross 6 has recently been released, and we’re testing it for potential review and updating of this guide. Stay tuned!

Shop the Men's Salomon Speedcross 6Shop the Women's Salomon Speedcross 6

Topo Mtn Racer 2 ($145)

We tested a few popular all-terrain shoes with little to no mud-capability claims, and of those, the Topo Mtn Racer 2 had the best overall performance. This shoe’s heel pocket is narrow enough to keep the foot locked in place when sticky mud tries to pull it off, and the midfoot area hugs even narrow feet. Moreover, this shoe, like others from the brand, has a roomy toebox, so our wide-footed testers felt the toe-wiggle freedom they require.

This shoe has relatively square, evenly spaced five-millimeter lugs. Our testers found them to grip satisfactorily in moderate mud and on wet singletrack, but deep, sticky, clayey mud overwhelmed them quickly.

Best Trail Running Shoes for Mud - Topo Mtn Racer 2 - product photo

The Topo Mtn Racer 2.

The upper of this shoe really shines, being comfortable without being sloppy. The fabric is tightly woven and there are very few seams, which is always promising for durability. Indeed, one of our testers has put about a hundred hard desert bushwhacking miles on them without issue. Like some other mud-specific shoes in this list, this shoe’s upper is fairly thick so it doesn’t dry out quickly but rather keeps the foot warm even when wet.

We should note that these shoes have a little bit of stability, which is not for everyone. But if you have a wide foot and still want a snug-fitting shoe for mud performance, this could be a great option for you.

Actual Weight (U.S. men’s 9): 10.1 ounces (287g)
Drop: 5 millimeters
Stack Height: 30/25 millimeters heel/toe
Lug Depth: n/a
Pros: Roomy toebox; snug midfoot and heel
Cons: Average mud grip and shedding

Shop the Men's Topo Mtn Racer 2Shop the Women's Topo Mtn Racer 2

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

Snug Fit

When the conditions outside of your shoe are slippery and unstable, it helps if the conditions inside the shoe are snug and secure. A snug fit will help you to find purchase on the muckiest trails by ensuring that your shoe feels like part of you, as if 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 mud shoes on the market seem to be 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 and 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, it’s always a good idea to try mud shoes on in a store before purchasing.

Among out favorite mud running shoes, the Salomon Speedcross was clearly the top choice for those looking for a more accommodating fit. The Saucony Peregrine 12 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 that you just seek shoes with a drop you feel comfortable in. If you try shoes with more or less drop than normal, you should ease into their use to keep your lower legs happy.

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

Stack Height

We tested many near-minimalist mud shoes with stack heights in the single digits. The inov-8 Mudclaw G 260 V2, for example, has an average stack height of only 6.5 millimeters 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 such 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. The Saucony Peregrine 12 ST, for example, 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, choose a mud shoe with a stack height that accommodates the requirements of your local terrain.


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

Thick, warm uppers might be a good choice for running in muddy and cold conditions such as you might find in the U.K. There’s a working assumption that your feet are going to 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.

In more variable terrain, such as what most of our testers encounter in Utah and Colorado, a thin, quick-drying upper might be more appropriate. 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.

In the Wasatch Mountains of Utah in May, for example, our testers plod through mud, snow, and dry trails all 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 mud shoes 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 otherwise become bunched and uncomfortable. Many mud shoes’ heel pocket padding is similarly scant to keep water absorption at a minimum.

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 that 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. The shoe with the deepest, most aggressive tread in this guide is the inov-8 Mudclaw G 260 V2 with eight-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 mud shoes 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 12 ST, if you want to protect your feet from hidden obstacles.

Shoes like the inov-8 Mudclaw G 260 V2 have tread so aggressive that a rock plate is probably unnecessary. Other shoes, like the Topo Mtn Racer 2, have a midsole thick enough to provide enough protection by themselves.

Even Mud Shoes Have Their Limits

Some of our testers wanted us to make sure we mention that not all mud is the same. In Utah, for example, we found mud in alpine areas that is 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 Mtn Racer 2. In Salt Lake City’s foothills, where clay is ever-present, it was a different story. Even the very aggressive inov-8 Mudclaw G 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 that 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, powerhiked 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., and we didn’t get to test there to allow those shoes to shine. As it stands, 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 of them to be totally unusable. Next year, we will revisit many of these shoes and test them 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 beginning 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 in the drizzly U.S Pacific Northwest. By mid-summer, we felt confident in our top picks.

Please note that in the running world product models are routinely discontinued, 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 as well as 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 of the products are likely to remain the same. That matches our goal: to get you in the best gear that 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.

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 that has a moderately lugged outsole. We recommend the Saucony Peregrine 12 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 that the trail does not become increasingly wider.

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

What is fell running?

The word fell comes from the Old Norse word fjall, which means mountain or hill. Fell running basically just 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 having to use 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 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 takes place in Europe, many of the predominant mud shoe brands are European. Inov-8 and PB Walsh are both British brands that specialize 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.

That said, you may be able to 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 being slippery at all. Road shoes have their limits, and both testers agreed that any trail shoe with even marginal grip would have prevented his fall.

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 a fundamental piece of 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 light 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 both 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.

Can I use cushioned trail running shoes in the mud?

Sure. If running trails with occasional mud and some stream crossings, a cushioned shoe with a moderately aggressive outsole will work great. You would not want to use this same shoe in the sloppiest conditions, though, because its high center of gravity could put you at risk of an ankle roll.

Best Trail Running Shoes for Mud - testing the Saucony Peregrine 12 in water

Jeff Rome tests the regular Saucony Peregrine 12 in watery conditions. We named the Saucony Peregrine 12 ST one of the best all-terrain mud shoes. Photo: iRunFar/Eszter Horanyi

Are mud shoes comfortable on trails or pavement?

Most mud shoes are not comfortable for running on hard-packed trails or pavement because they are low to the ground with a minimal midsole. The inov-8 Mudclaw G 260 V2, with its rigid lugs, roughly 6.5-millimeter stack height, and lack of foam midsole, for example, should be reserved for runs that are soupy and slippery from start to finish.

Some mud shoes can make the transition, however. The Saucony Peregrine 12 ST with its thicker midsole 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?
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 Utah, which we named one of the best shoes for trail running in the mud. Photo: iRunFar/Ben Kilbourne

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.