Mud. Some runners love it. Some runners hate it. Either way, there’s no escaping the fact that mud is one of the toughest of terrains to run through. Whether it’s on the trails, the mountains or the fells, mud – especially the thick, gloopy kind – can quickly sap energy from your legs. To stay upright and continue to move as fast as possible you need running shoes with an aggressive outsole (check out the MUDCLAW 300), but what other tips did our running experts have for beating the mud? It’s time to talk dirty…
1. GET SQUATTING
To be strong in squelchy conditions, you should get to the bottom of it. You need a bigger, rounder and firmer backside. Strength work has made a significant difference to my running and key improvements can be made from just a few minutes a day. Lunges and squats are your friend. The strength you’ll gain will benefit your uphill running too, help with injury-prevention and technique, as well as helping with stability when terrain is slapstick slippery. Get squatting, for a backside like a Kardashian.
Damian Hall, outdoor journalist and Great Britain ultra-trail runner @Damo_Hall
2. REDISCOVER YOUR INNER CHILD
You can’t get away from it, mud is part and parcel of off-road running, so rather than moan about it, embrace it. It’s amazing how many people are defeated by the thought of mud before they even start. For them it becomes a never-ending slog. You can spot them a mile off… plodding, miserable and usually lagging behind. My advice? Get over it, get on with it and enjoy it! Remember the free abandonment of being a kid when getting muddy was fun? Recall this freedom and go full bore with a positive mindset. Who cares if you get dirty or even face-plant? Not only will it put a smile on your face, you’ll also outperform anyone simply going through the plodding motions!
Mary Wilkinson, winner of 10 international mountain running vests @mary_wilko
3. SHORTEN YOUR STRIDE
On muddy sections alter your stride length to land closer to your hips and on your forefoot to engage more tread. By shortening your stride and increasing your cadence (steps per minute) you can maintain speed without sacrificing stability. Visualize short fast strides as if running on hot coals. As soon as you’re through the mud revert to your normal running stride.
Dave Taylor, fell running guide and coach @fellrunningguid
4. PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE
It sounds obvious, but practice makes perfect. Many runners neglect to practice running through mud and then find it really tough on race day. When training, make sure you practice at both easy pace and race pace. This will allow you to learn a lot about how best to handle the mud. Remember there are different types of mud too – be that thick, watery, sticky – so try and hunt out as many different kinds while out on your training runs.
Gary Priestley, international mountain and trail runner @GaryPriestley7
5. BUILD STRONG CALF MUSCLES
Strong calf muscles will not only help you sprint up a hill quick, they will also help you to propel yourself fast forward on a muddy trail. So if you want too be a mud master, get hard on yourself and do your calf training. Do 3 sets of 15 standing calf raises each morning and evening…. this will definitely help you beat the mud!
Eirik Haugnses, Skyrunning specialist based in Norway @eirik_haugsnes
6. EMBRACE THE MUD
As a runner, one of the greatest feelings in the world is wearing a new pair of trainers for the first time. It’s a beautiful moment that only other runners can ever appreciate and understand. I become attached and fall in love far too easily, desperately trying my best to keep them clean and ‘smell free’ for as long as possible. However, as a fell and trail runner this is impossible. You simply have to learn to embrace the mud. Accept the fact you will get them wet and dirty.
My advice is to get a new pair of shoes as filthy as possible, as soon as possible. Allow yourself a brief, five-minute fling with them. First take a picture so you can remind yourself of what they used to look like. Admire their beauty, caress their immaculate uppers and run your fingers tenderly over the lugs whilst you upload your photo to Instagram and choose an appropriate filter. Don’t forget to remind everyone on social media just how good you look in them and how much they compliment the rest of your colour coordinated running gear.
Then, once this short but very beautiful affair is over, go for a run and jump in the biggest, deepest, smelliest puddle of mud you can find. That way you’ll save yourself the heartbreak of becoming emotionally attached and you can allow yourself to enjoy them for the real reason you bought them – for their comfort and grip, not just the way they look.
Ben Mounsey, elite UK-based trail, fell and mountain runner @El_CapitanoCVFR
7. PICK THE BEST LINE
a) If you are running on a large path, try to do a quick analysis. If you notice a stream, head for it! This is the fastest way for runners because there will be less mud and more water. You will avoid the really sticky mud.
Germain Grangier, team manager of inov-8 France @inov8_france
b) Get your husband to run in front when you get to a muddy patch (best to allow this to happen in a subtle fashion rather than being too obvious), and then avoid the sections where he sunk particularly deep!
Jasmin Paris, 2016 Extreme Skyrunning Series world champion @JasminKParis
8. DON’T WEAR WHITE SOCKS
For some bizarre reason my wife gets annoyed by this. Before you start your run, think of the aftermath. Muddy legs and feet aren’t great for your car interior or the carpets in the house, so always pack spare clothes and shoes to change in to. Don’t worry about cleaning your shoes though… if you leave them on the kitchen floor long enough, the fairies come along and clean them! Magic. Although I’ve got a sneaky suspicion it’s the wife. Just don’t tell her I know. Oh, for genuine shoe cleaning tips go to number 10!
Marco Consani, 24-hour and ultra running guru @mconsani
9. INSTEAD GO FOR NEOPRENE SOCKS
I always run on muddy trails and roads, even on the wettest or coldest of winter days. I aim for every river I see, even if it’s a mud bath or there’s ice on it. Warm feet are therefore necessary for me! I love to wear neoprene socks or toe-socks as these beat the cold and the wet mud… plus they protect me from getting sand between my toes. Hopefully inov-8 will have their own neoprene socks out soon… watch this space!
Carolin Zendler, one of Germany’s top obstacle course racers @carolinzendler
10. CLEAN YOUR MUDDY RUNNING SHOES
It’s a question we get asked a lot. How best to clean muddy running shoes? First remove the footbed. Then, using cold water, hand-wash or rinse your shoes both inside and out. Stuff them with newspaper to help the shoes keep their shape. Allow them to dry naturally with the footbed still removed. Do not force dry as this can damage the uppers and midsole.
inov-8, see more advice about washing our products and other FAQs @inov_8
* Weighing just 300g, the MUDCLAW 300 running shoe has 8mm rubber studs which claw through all mud-sodden terrain and come back up begging for more. Nothing grips better in mud. Discover more about the development of the shoe, it’s technical features and the thoughts of those who wear it on our new MUDCLAW page.
* Clothing recommendations to pair with the MUDCLAW: