Mud Run Gear: Bare Essentials for Mud Running in Cold Weather

As the winter months approach, mud run maniacs keep on mudding. Running through frigid temperatures is tough enough as it is, but doing so drenched in icy cold mud is an entirely different animal that you need to prepare for.

Before you head out to your local sporting goods store and exit with a cart full of shiny new cold weather gear, read this…

“I will say that the gator mask was a great call – sucking down cold air can get a bit irritating after while, so having the ability to use it as a full mask, simple head covering and neck warmer respectively was more than welcome.”

A note of transparency…some of the content below may include an affiliate link by which I may earn a small commission if you decide to make a purchase. Be assured, there’s absolutely no risk on your part. Thanks :)

Mud Run Gear That You Don’t Need

Waterproof clothing

Waterproof or water-resistant describes objects relatively unaffected by water or resisting the ingress of water under specified conditions. Unfortunately, submerging yourself in four feet of mud generally exceeds these requirements!

Another reason to leave those waterproof garments on the rack – hypothermia. You see, the same clothing that stops moisture from getting in also prevents it from getting out. As your body heat rises and you begin to sweat, your waterproof clothes will actually trap the moisture against your skin. Toss in a steady headwind and you have yourself the perfect storm for chills, frostbite and a potentially hazardous situation.

Anything cotton

Cool and comfortable in the summer and spring, cotton is a mud runner’s worst nightmare in the winter. Cotton will absorb your body heat, soak up moisture and cling to you like a wet towel. Again if this doesn’t give you the shivers, a few December gusts will definitely remind you why cotton and winter do not mix.

ColdGear is lightweight and features a double-sided fabric that wicks moisture away from the skin and circulates body heat.

Mud Run Gear You Need

When choosing your gear for mud running in cold weather, there’s two main material types to consider:

  1. Moisture-wicking material: DryFit, Thinsulate, Thermax, CoolMax, polypropolene, silk, or Merino wool will transport sweat and moisture away from your body to keep you warm and dry.
  2. Moisture-trapping material (insulation): Neoprene, commonly found in wet suits and dry suits, will trap a thin layer of water against your skin allowing it to be heated by your body.

Swimming cap and/or hood

A cold-weather swim cap like the TYR Warmwear Silicone Cap is ideal for winter mud runs that include a swimming challenge. Instead, you may opt for a hood/facemask combo such as the popular Under Armour ColdGear Tactical Hood that provides quality protection from the damaging effects of the elements.

Socks

When it comes to socks, aim for the water-wicking kind. These injinji Performance Micro Toesocks are constructed with 70% moisture-wicking CoolMax fabric, which will pull moisture away from your foot, prevent chafing, and allow your feet to stay as dry as possible. Another great option are the Swiftwick Pursuit Zero Socks made with Merino wool that repels moisture and insulates your foot.

Briefs

Again, moisture-wicking is your best bet here. Under Armour ColdGear Leggings are an awesome choice if you plan to wear beneath a pair of shorts (or without!). HeatGear Briefs are another option that will wick water away from your undercarriage, but you might want to double them up in extremely cold conditions.

Shirt

Under Armour’s ColdGear line is definitely the most agreed-upon brand for cold weather mud running. ColdGear is lightweight and features a double-sided fabric that wicks moisture from the skin and circulates body heat.The shirts are a bit on the expensive side compared to other brands, but the quality is typically superior, meaning they will wash well and last for several races. One note on the fit, ColdGear comes in three different styles: Compression – skin-tight; Fitted – some wiggle room; Loose – most room. Most mudders like the feel of compression for cold weather and wet environments because it eliminates drag, dries quickly, and hugs the body like a second skin. I actually prefer a little bit of leeway, so I opt for the fitted shirts, which are fairly snug in the shoulders and chest, but leave some room for ventilation in the midsection. I’d advise staying away from loose gear for cold mud running.

Running tights

A pair of cold-weather running tights will keep you warm and protect your legs from scrapes and cuts as you crawl through obstacles. Check out these ASICS Thermopolis Lt Running Tights or go with a pair of Under Armour ColdGear Tights.

Shorts

If you plan to wear shorts over your tights or briefs, consider opting for boardshorts like these Billabong Rum Point Boardshorts
because they are lightweight, quick-drying and stylish. Most running shorts nowadays have a much higher cut and come with a mesh liner sewed in that will trap mud where you want it the least. Boardshorts, on the other hand, provide a bit more length without the mesh liner.

Earplugs

A must have if your mud run involves diving under water in the extreme cold. Pick up these Mack’s AquaBlock Earplugs.

Swimming goggles – mandatory for contact-lens wearers

If you wear contact lenses and you don’t want to be blind for your mud run, invest in a decent pair of swimming goggles. Quick tip, cheap goggles will fog-up. A pair like the TYR Nest Pro Performance Goggle are a bit more costly, but will be a lot less annoying.

Gloves

Gloves are tricky IMO. Ultimately, your hands will get soaked in a mud run, and water will undoubtedly find its way between your fingers. I’ve used Mechanix Gloves for all my mud runs. They get wet and a little heavy, but I’m able to protect my hands from sharp edges, get decent grip on walls and monkey bars, and toss them in the washer at the end of the day. Another option is a cold-water diving glove such as U.S. Divers Comfo Grip, but most come in the 3mm variety, which is a bit too restrictive for the demands of mud run obstacles. These Glacier Glove Premium Neoprene Slit Finger Fishing Glove seem like a good option because they are a bit thinner and more flexible than swim gloves and allow you to access your thumb and index finger without taking the glove off.

Another Option for Running in Cold Weather

Triathlon Wetsuit

As I get ready for the World’s Toughest Mudder 24-hour mud run event to be held on December 17, I’ve started to consider wearing a triathlon suit like Pearl Izumi Men’s Select Tri Suit. The neoprene suit will minimize evaporative-cooling, so I should remain warm and somewhat comfortable once I’m out of the water. I’ve also looked into something like the 2XU Men’s T:2 Team Wetsuit, but I don’t think running in a full-suit for a day would be too much fun.

A Few Final Words of Advice

If your mud run will be in the winter months, be sure to preview the obstacles and prepare with the right cold weather gear, especially if your event involves a swim featured at most Tough Mudders. Another piece of advice is to try your gear and practice in it several times before race day. Your run may last anywhere from 40 minutes to 5 hours or more, so make sure you are comfortable with your clothing and shoes. Test your gear in the elements if at all possible and check for the following: Is it too loose or too tight? Does it cause chaffing? Will it hold up while crawling through rocks and sludge?

And if all else fails, you can always be extra-maniacal and go gear-less!

Mud Run Maniac wants to know what you think!

What type of gear do you suggest for mud running in frigid temps? How do you stop the freeze from setting in? Have you or would you ever don a wetsuit for a mud run? Please no spam-mongers. Cheers!

31 comments… add one

  • Joe October 26, 2011, 1:23 pm

    Paul,
    I’ve found that simple batting gloves worked for me. They gripped well when wet. I’m also competing at WTM and i think testing out gear is really the only way to know how it will feel.
    Happy training!

    Reply
    • Paul October 26, 2011, 9:41 pm

      Hi Joe,
      Batting gloves? Great idea! I could see where they would provide enough protection and grip and thin enough to not hold too much water. I’ve ordered myself a cold water swim cap at the advice of other mudders. I don’t know if I’ll use it at TriState, but it could be a lifesaver in December. I really like the ColdGear, but have also found a fitted NB dry-fit shirt that works well if its not too cold. Totally agree with learning from actually testing it, both in training and in actual events. I decided against a sleeveless compression after first TriState. It kept my core warm, but my arms got chewed to pieces.

      Congrats on WTM…please feel free to share some training tips either through comments on the site or send to me at paul@mudrunmaniac.com. I’m really curious about other participants’ strategies, training regimes, etc.

      Thanks for the comments Joe and for checking-in on the site.
      Keep mudding!
      -Paul

      Reply
  • john October 26, 2011, 5:39 pm

    who needs gloves? They slow you down and weigh you down. I’ve never got a splinter or slipped on any obstacle. Just suck it up and be cold. Now for WTM, that’s a different story as it is 24 hours, but if your just doing a regular mudder, some simple under armor will be sufficient. Who cares if you are cold. You are TOUGH right?

    Reply
    • Paul October 26, 2011, 6:24 pm

      Hey John,
      I appreciate and respect your thoughts on being tough, but I’m not so sure gloves should be your deciding factor. Hypothermia takes about 10-20 to set-in in water that’s around 40 degrees. Since we all know heat escspes fastest from the head and extremities, a pair of diving gloves seems more like a smart option than a fearful one. Also, kudos to not getting a splinter or scratch on your hands, but honestly, I saw many a Mudder, myself included, helping others over walls, up hills, through the muck and so on. At some points, my hands and others as well acted as the footstool for mudded-up shoes to step on. My hands were pretty torn up after each mud run I’ve done, and I’m thinking they would be a lot worse for wear had I not worn gloves. But again, much respect for hitting the mud gloveless!

      Thanks for checking in on the site.
      Keep Mudding!
      Paul

      Reply
      • Jack February 16, 2012, 3:00 pm

        Handled like a pro! Much respect for your patient answer.

        Reply
  • mike October 28, 2011, 10:22 pm

    this site is real helpful! thanks

    Reply
  • Tom Chon aka Be Ninja October 31, 2011, 10:40 pm

    Paul….very useful information. Thanks for posting this. My 2nd Tough Mudder Run will be in the February winter month of Georgia. I can’t wait!

    Reply
    • Paul November 1, 2011, 5:56 pm

      Thanks Tom, Glad to help. Good luck down in GA! Keep mudding! -Paul

      Reply
  • Tommy November 1, 2011, 12:37 pm

    I just recently rented a wetsuit(last Saturday) to tryout in prep for the TM Indiana in a couple weeks. The temperature outside was 31degrees and I had my fellow mudders in training soak me down with a hose. The suit I wore was a 3mm wetsuit and I actually started overheating by mile #2, I had to remove my hat and gloves and unzip my back and then I was OK to finish our 4.5 mile jog. I think I am going to go with a .5mm wetsuit for the TM and I have been training in the New Balance Minimus shoes(no socks). I had toe-sickles as soon as I got wet and could barely feel my feet by the end of the run. I used these shoes in a short mud run a month ago and they were AWESOME, dried out quick and were easy to pull out of the mud. my fear is the cold and not having any insulation on my feet. You can check out my video on my FB page of me getting hosed! Thanks for your tips, I hope my experience helps in your

    Reply
    • Paul November 1, 2011, 6:21 pm

      Hi Tommy,
      Thanks for these great suggestions. I was really curious about the wetsuit and thinking that overheating could be an issue. Thanks for going through the trouble of providing a demo. Send me a link to your video if you can. What do you think of a Tri-suit like the one I have linked in the article? It’s sleeveless and ends above the knee, so the thought is that my core will keep warm, but I won’t overheat. Totally agree on the NB Minimus. They are great to run in, and fine without socks. For insulation, maybe pick up a pair of Merino wool socks like I have linked in the post. They keep you warm and don’t get water-logged. Again, great tips. Keep ‘em coming! Best, -Paul

      Reply
  • John Belkewitch November 4, 2011, 11:18 am

    Good article, Paul! Solid info.

    Reply
  • michelle November 5, 2011, 11:17 am

    would you recommend thin neoprene socks?

    Reply
    • Paul November 5, 2011, 5:34 pm

      Yes, definitely. Especially over cotton.

      Reply
  • michelle November 5, 2011, 1:09 pm

    Thanks! plus do u recommend duck taping your shoes around ur ankles?

    Reply
    • Paul November 5, 2011, 5:56 pm

      Actually, I don’t recommend taping your ankles, since the tape will likely fall off as soon as you hit the mud or water. The tape has less of a chance of staying put if you don’t wrap it around the bottom of your foot too. But the drawback of wrapping the bottom of your shoe is that your grip and stability will be compromised. Skip the tape, lace up those top eyelets on your sneakers, and tie a double knot. This should work fine! Good luck! -Paul

      Reply
      • Joey November 6, 2011, 9:34 am

        I agree about the drawbacks of duct tape, and find double knotting isn’t necassary if you tie the shoes tight and tuck the laces inside. I haven’t had any issues with this method through all my mud runs and training runs.
        Good luck.

        Reply
  • nick November 14, 2011, 12:23 pm

    Just finished tri state … UA colder long sleeve top..Nike running underwear $25 … bathing suit .. UA heatgear socks… basic asics running sneakers ( hosed off and put though wash machine after ). Batting gloves (great idea ) … Nike fleece hat (great idea ) . I thought about taping sneakers on and did see others do it … I didn’t and am glad cause I did stop a few times to scoop mud out of my sneakers … double knot laces and point toe of foot down if you get stuck in mud …good luck all

    Reply
    • Paul November 14, 2011, 1:18 pm

      Hi Nick…agree…taping might work ok for shorter runs, but not when you’re running through 12 miles of mud. Glad to see the batting gloves and hat worked for you. How did your gear do with the water temp?

      Thanks for checking in!
      -Paul

      Reply
  • nick November 14, 2011, 5:13 pm

    As far as being in the cold water itself … it sucked and just had to bear through it. However I was extremely surprised when I didn’t really get cold or shivers until the end of the event and I guess that my body had a hard time self regulating. I think I was more comfortable in my compression gear than I would have been in something looser. As far as anyone doing the December event GOOD LUCK … my only advice is wear a hat ….

    Reply
  • josh jones January 6, 2012, 11:28 pm

    if youre not going to wear some old tennis shoes and not going to wear vibrams, what do you recomend? I have done one TM before and wore NB shoes. they got really heavy.

    Reply
  • Jeff January 16, 2012, 1:22 pm

    Hi All,
    Any advice for a newbie competing in his first mudder in PA on may 12th? I’m a lifelong athlete, but not in great shape at the moment. I’m concentrating on getting my mileage up, core strength, flexibility and overall fitness… any specific training routines/excersizes you’ve found particularly helpful for shaping up for a Mudder?
    Also, I got a pair of NB minimus shoes but really dont feel like I have enough time to acclimate to those type of shoes, so planning to exchange them…any non minimalist shoes you can recommend that wont weigh 50lbs once I hit the water?
    Any advice is greatly appreciated!
    Best,
    Jeff

    Reply
  • Patricia Ehrhardt February 3, 2012, 3:35 pm

    Hi Everyone!!
    First off THANK YOU to Paul for a fantastic Mudd’ing Site. Not sure if this is the place to post this but here you go:
    I am an out of shape, 43 year old, anaemic, hypoglycemic smoker of 10 years. YUP…ALL true. I am the girl on my co-ed softball team that hits the ball, runs to second base (on what should have been a home-run), then asks someone to bring me a cig, which I proudly smoke on second base waiting for the next hit (see what I did there?).
    After standing in the San Francisco rain/wind Storm 2 weeks back, in my pajamas at 11pm at night freezing my a$$ off, JUST to have my coveted Export A Light, I decided my A$$ was DONE with this shit! DONE!
    I happened to catch that epi on Dateline(?), that Friday night that featured Tough Mudder. I thought to myself while watching…why the FACK am I completely intrigued by something I know is going to make me cry, vomit and then die…in that order. I think it was when the marketing guy for Tough Mudder said, “this is something for people that are tired of conventional exercise”. I thought…’conventional exercise?’, how about NO exercise since 1990!
    Needless to say, I posted a status on FB asking if anyone had any experience with Tough Mudder and BOY was I surprised at all the responses. My crazy Cross-Fit friends, my fat, drinking friends, my old friends, my young ones!! SHOCKED.
    Moving along, tomorrow is my FIRST day of “training”, (I was told by the TM training team that I can’t join them until I can run 2 miles.) and though I am excited and kind of scared, I look forward to waking at 5am on a Saturday for the first time since Chris Cornell had long hair, to start a run in Golden Gate Park Polo Field.
    So MudderZ…any advice for a 43 year-old, out of shape, 30lb overweight -smoker with a crazy idea of completing the Goal of my LIFE?
    PS-Paul, watched all the vids and subscribed to you…tomorrows workout will include:
    Bench Jumping and Running until I hurt.
    Thanks everyone-
    Patricia

    Reply
    • Paul - "Mud Run Maniac" February 3, 2012, 3:42 pm

      Hi Patricia,
      All I can say is you’re not alone…not in your present situation, nor will you be at your Tough Mudder. Just don’t try to do everything at once…take your training in strides, and don’t worry about your shortcomings as much you should remain steadfast on the task at hand–crossing that finish line! Once you do, you’ll keep coming back for more…guaranteed! Thanks so much for checking-in…always happy to help!
      -Paul

      PS: Check out this article about Ryan and his road to Tough Mudder…you might find some takeaways you can relate to. http://www.mudrunmaniac.com/unchartered-landscape-my-road-to-mud-running/

      Reply
      • Patricia Ehrhardt February 7, 2012, 4:29 pm

        Thanks Paul!

        And I DID read Ryan’s blog. I Laughed AND got inspired.
        You guys are my new daily ritual….I am replacing the cig with a read and a vid!

        PS-Bench jumping was torture on the old knees, but ran for 20 minutes straight before I felt like I was going to die. Last night’s training left me, as you said, concentrating on my shortcomings. Wednesday will be better.

        CHEERS to you!

        Reply
  • Matt July 30, 2012, 10:24 pm

    Paul,

    How did the WTM go. I am running the 2012 one and I am curious about what gear you went with and what you would recommend for this year.

    Reply
  • Connie October 12, 2012, 10:12 pm

    I talked my best friend in to doing our first mud run last weekend, and all I can say is I’M ADDICTED!!! I can’t wait until the next one! I have been researching all week trying to find all the ones in our area. Thank you so much for this site! I came across it because I am trying to figure out a better way to stay warm. I did pretty good until the last obstacle where I ended up soaked from my shoulders down. We were having 40 degree temps…I know that’s not THAT cold for most, but for a chicky that takes sweatshirts and blankets to the lake in 90 degree temps it was FREEZING!!! LOL I appreciate all the input from everyone on the different things they use to stay warm. This was my FIRST 5K race, and I can’t wait to do more. I wasn’t prepaired for it at all, but I WILL get better! There were two obstacles that I couldn’t complete due to lack of upper body stregnth, so I have set myself a goal that by the end of next year, there won’t be an obstacle I can’t do! :-)

    Reply
    • Paul - "Mud Run Maniac" October 12, 2012, 10:22 pm

      Hi Connie,

      Welcome aboard. Yep, mud runs definitely test our limits, especially when it comes to dealing with the cold. 40 degrees is brutal, even worse when your wet and a breeze is blowing. If anything, the cold weather makes you hustle faster to the finish line. Hopefully there will a bonfire waiting for you the next time!

      Thanks for your comments and feel free to send me any questions you have @ paul@mudrunmaniac.com.

      Cheers!
      -Paul

      Reply
  • john November 6, 2012, 6:42 pm

    I thought about my gear more than most people I passed or that passed me.
    Tights, gloves, show gators for keeping rocks out (this was key for the Tough Mudder that was on a ski mountain. Other courses may not have so many rocks, but there were several times where people had to stop and get the rocks out where I didn’t), knee pads (i have a bad knee so they doubles as a brace and I was twice as fast as people without them), one elbow pad (I also have a bad wrist so this was a big help), tight shirt, trail shoes. Remember that the water is coming in and you cannot stop it, so the idea is to make sure it gets out as fast as possible, otherwise you will be slogging about.

    Reply
    • john November 6, 2012, 6:45 pm

      I also forgot one thing. If you decide to wear shorts, wear the shorts/tights under them to avoid chafing. It will happen and gliding gel will not help. Also do not have pockets in your pants, or shorts – they will fill up with water and mud.

      Reply
  • Desarae May 15, 2013, 8:49 pm

    Nice article. I’m training for the tough mudder too and found this helpful.

    Reply

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