Running a mud race or tackling an obstacle course is no joke. You know that. You train like a madman to whip your butt into shape for the sizzling electric shocks, muddy sludge, greasy monkey bars, fire pits, or frigid water. And so you should — most mud runs aren't for the faint hearted.
But know this: your intense training won’t matter if soggy shorts, misfit shoes, or cold, wet layers slow you down. Just as you're prepping your body with thoughtfully planned workouts and strategic eating, you better be ready when it comes to gear, too. Here’s our lineup of the best moisture-wicking, quick dry, contour-fitting products that can withstand a beating — so you can cross the finish line in one piece.
<em><a href="mensfitness.com/training/endurance/tough-mudders-20-most-badass-obstacles" target="_blank">Tough Mudder’s 20 Most Badass Obstacles >>></a></em>
Your shoe is arguably the most important piece of mud run gear you’ll buy. If you're wearing a misfit pair, the course will feel much more brutal. But lucky for you, Under Armour designed a series of kicks that are flexible, breathable, and provides extra traction—ideal for an obstacle course. Our favorite? The <strong>UA Spine Reflective Storm Running Shoe</strong> was engineered to mimic the human spine's twisting range of motion. This running shoe is ultra lightweight at just 9.45 ounces, and like your own spine, it flexes under pressure without sacrificing structural support, at the midfoot and forefoot. Water rolls off of the upper, and a solid rubber outsole provides crucial durability for blasting through mud. ($90; <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Reflective-Running-Sneakers-Under-Armour/dp/B00AY0... target="_blank">amazon.com</a>)
Think it’s stupid to invest in a high quality sock when it’s guaranteed to get wet and muddy? Think again. Almost equally as important as your shoe, you want a sock that’ll keep your toes warm and support your arches, otherwise, forget running in comfort. The <strong>Darn Tough Micro Crew Mesh Ultra-Light 1700</strong> run/bike sock is a blend of Merino wool (for warmth) and nylon and spandex (for a foot-hugging fit). Our favorite feature: seamless knitting around your toes eliminates hot spots and blisters. Imagine getting a whopping red hot spot halfway through because your socks couldn’t handle the abuse. Not good.
($13; <a href="http://www.backcountryedge.com/darn_tough-run-bike-merino-wool-team-micr... target="_blank">backcountryedge.com</a>)
As you hurl yourself over massive obstacles blocking your path, there are tons of opportunities to whack yourself where it, erm, <em>really</em> hurts. Lock your junk down with the ultra-comfy <strong>Polarmax 4-Way Stretch Performance Boxer Brief</strong>. Consider these an insurance policy. The polyester and spandex mix quick dry and wick moisture to keep temps regulated. Plus, these briefs eliminate odor with an anti-microbial treatment. Strong, flat seams prevent chafing and keep everything in place, no matter how rough the race gets. ($25; <a href="http://shop.polarmax.com/c/ayg-365s_4-way-stretch_mens-boxer-brief?pkey=... target="_blank">shop.polarmax.com</a>)
If you’re the kind of guy who prefers to race in shorts, not leggings, try the<strong>Pearl Izumi Maverick 2 in 1 Short</strong>. It’s both a built-in boxer brief and a woven outer shell. The fully integrated inner brief dries 50% faster than regular performance polyesters, and makes sure you’re secure down there. The semi-form fitted outer short guarantees full range of motion without getting in your way. In these bottoms, you’ll be able to sprint hard up mud cliffs, no problem. ($55; <a href= “http://www.roadrunnersports.com/rrs/products/PZW453/mens-pearl-izumi-mav... target="_blank">shop.pearlizumi.com</a>)
Squeezing into the <strong>UA EVO ColdGear Compression Leggings</strong> might take some maneuvering — they're ultra tight, like a second skin. But compression technology keeps your muscles engaged the <em>whole</em> time for increased power and circulation. Dual-layer fabric keeps you warm in cold temperatures and wicks sweat away. Plus, an elastic waistband stretches with your core as you move so you won’t feel restricted. ($50; <a href="http://www.underarmour.com/shop/us/en/mens-ua-evo-coldgear-compression-l... target="_blank">underarmour.com</a>)
As your body switches back and forth from cold to warm temps during a mud run, it’s important to keep your core well ventilated with a rapid-dry t-shirt so your system doesn’t go into temperature shock. Try the <strong>UA HeatGear Compression Shortsleeve T-Shirt</strong> — it's no ordinary shirt. 4-way stretch construction allows the material to sit against your skin without impairing mobility, so you can move over obstacles easily. Flatlock seams prevent chafing and odor-blocking polyester/elastane fabric wicks sweat to keep you cool and dry. In this shirt, bend and dodge how you like. It'll move with you. ($25; <a href="http://www.underarmour.com/shop/us/en/mens-heatgear-full-t/pid1201166-600" target="_blank">underarmour.com</a>)
The <strong>Columbia Freeze Degree 1/2 Zip</strong> boasts new Omni-Freeze ZERO technology that literally cools the shirt when it comes into contact with hot, moist conditions. Little blue rings embedded in the fabric contain cooling agents, that when exposed to sweat actually swell (similar to goose bumps) creating a cooling sensation around your core. As you heat up, this is the ideal long sleeve to wear — breathable, and enough coverage to protect your skin from biting wind, cold water, and mud. ($75, <a href="http://www.columbia.com/Men's-Freeze-Degree%E2%84%A2-1/2-Zip/AM6619,defa... target="_blank">columbia.com</a>)
The secret to finding the ultimate hoody for a mud run? It’s all about the material. Skip cotton, spandex, and polyester, and go for Merino wool, which traps warmth where it counts. The midweight <strong>Icebreaker Quantum Long Sleeve Zip Hood</strong> is exactly what you want. There’s no added bulk like a classic hoody. But don’t be fooled into thinking its semi-fitted shape isn't effective. Even when wet, real wool stays warm. Thumb loops anchor your hands keeping the sleeves from getting pushed up, and eyelet panels ensure ventilation. And of course, like all quality Merino wool, it’s breathable, fast drying, and odor resistant. Plus, its tight stitching is extra durable, so go ahead get rough with it. ($180; <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Icebreaker-Mens-Quantum-Sleeve-Hoodie/dp/B00AFSICNO" target="_blank">amazon.com</a>)
Though you probably wouldn’t wear it <em>during</em> a race (you’d get too hot), a jacket is a vital layer in your warm up, cool down, and certainly post-race when you’re standing around looking for that celebratory beer. The <strong>New Balance Raptor Jacket</strong> will keep the chill away without hanging heavily off your frame, allowing you full range of motion—even if you have three layers underneath. Water resistant woven overlays protect your core from getting wet, and moisture management technology pulls sweat away from your skin to the outside. Plus, the jacket’s semi-fitted style keeps it closer to your body than a larger fitting parka, therefore trapping warmth even more effectively. ($70; <a href="http://www.newbalance.com/Raptor-Jacket/MRJ2317,default,pd.html?dwvar_MR... target="_blank">newbalance.com</a>)
Even if you’re racing in warmer spring or summer months, you better pack a hat. Why? Because the quickest way to beat a wet chill is putting on a cap. The <strong>Pearl Izumi Thermal Run Hat</strong> ensures warmth but avoids overheating with its Direct-Vent mesh on the bottom. It also wicks moisture from your scalp and has UPF 40+ Sun Protection — crucial for extreme athletes navigating unpredictable weather conditions. And if this hat get’s wet, don’t worry. In just a matter of minutes, it’ll be dry again thanks to its Minerale thermal fabric.
($25; <a href="http://www.pearlizumi.com/publish/content/pi_2010/us/en/index/products/m... target="_blank">pearlizumi.com</a>)
If you’re timing yourself, wear a watch that can take a beating. The <strong>Freestyle USA Navigator 3.0</strong> has dual time and stopwatch features, and a backlight ideal for low-lit obstacles or cloudy days. And it’s water resistant to 100 meters — in case you fall into water or mud. Plus, unlike other sports watches, the Navigator 3.0 isn’t super bulky. The protected flat face rests low on your wrist, so it won’t get in your way. ($95; <a href="http://www.freestyleusa.com/outdoor/navigator-3-0/navigator-3-0-blk-and-... target="_blank">freestyleusa.com</a>)
There’s nothing worse than a gym bag that reeks like B.O. because you can’t seem to wash the smell out. <strong>The North Face Base Camp Duffel Bag</strong> is the solution to that. Made from ballistic laminated nylon (that’s code for practically bombproof fabric) it’s the perfect place to toss all your sweaty, muddy gear post-race, and you won’t have to worry about cleaning up the mess later. Simply wipe it down. Four compression straps allow you to wear it like a backpack or sling it over your shoulder like a traditional duffel. It also comes in different sizes, the largest being 155 L, so you’ll have plenty of room for a change of clothes. Plus, the color scheme is ideal for busy race days—the grey bag camouflages dirt but the yellow straps makes it easy to identify in a pile of other racers’ bags. ($100-170; <a href="http://www.backcountry.com/the-north-face-base-camp-duffel?CMP_SKU=TNF30... target="_blank">backcountry.com</a>)
GEAR CLEANERS AND ODOR BUSTERS
Dropping loads of cash on <em>perfect</em> gear to get you through a mud race? Then you might as well splurge on a quality cleaning product to restore your products to top shape after a beating. <strong>Toko's Eco Wash</strong> is an environmentally-friendly fabric soap that snuffs out bad odor, cuts through mud and grime, and preserves fabrics’ water-and-windproof capabilities. Something you'll definitely want to do after miles of muddy obstacles. ($13; <a href="http://www.ebay.com/itm/160782969594" target="_blank">ebay.com</a>).