Rain makes tough terrain even tougher, but that won’t prevent serious trail runners from hitting it. However, when things get slippery and mud takes over the trail, you need good mud running shoes to go through it with confidence.
I consulted with Paul Freary, our running shoe guru, an experienced runner, and the owner of a running shoe store, to help me find the best mud running shoes for you.
And he provided a fantastic list of shoes. Here’s what he says about his picking process:
“When it comes to running in the mud, all we really need is great grip. Of course, the depth of the mud can vary, as can the amount of grip required.
Here is a selection of shoes with lugs that are at least 5mm in depth. All offer great grip in the mud as well as other features great for the most challenging terrain.”
Before we go into the list, I’m going to briefly go over the main factors to consider when buying mud running shoes.
The 7 Best Mud Running Shoes In 2023
1. Best Mud Running Shoe With Good Cushioning: Saucony Peregrine 13 ST
2. Deepest Lugs / Most Grip For Longer Distances: Inov-8 X-Talon Ultra 260 v2
3. Deepest Lugs / Most Grip For Racing: Inov-8 X-Talon 212 V2
4. Best Grip In The Mud And In The Wet: Vj Sport IROCK 3
5. Best ‘No Frills’ Mud Running Shoes: Walsh PB Ultra
6. Best For Mud / Technical Terrain: Merrell MTL Long Sky 2
7. Best Low-Profile Mud Running Shoe: HOKA Zinal 2
What To Look For In Mud Running Shoes?
When you are going through a slippery terrain, a snug fit is essential. It ensures you feel stable and comfortable.
The shoes on our list have a snug fit, so you won’t worry your foot will slide out of it. But also, they are not so tight they are painful.
Having that in mind, note that choosing the correct size is essential. By addressing the need for a snug fit, many of our mud running shoes have a more narrow fit than usual.
Many trail running shoes have stack heights close to zero. This is something you wouldn’t want on a hard road, but on a trail, it lowers your center of gravity making you more stable.
That said, our mud running shoes excel in a soft environment, but we wouldn’t recommend you take them on the road. Pick one of our best road running shoes for that purpose.
Drying and Drainage
If you’re tackling muddy terrain, things are bound to get wet.
Mud running shoes are designed with this in mind. They will either have a thick upper to keep dirt and water out, or a thin upper which wicks away moisture and dries quickly.
Choosing a shoe with a thicker upper is better for cold conditions, where keeping your feet warm is important.
However, if the terrain is more variable and the weather is warmer, a thin and non-absorbing upper is more appropriate. It keeps the shoes light and ensures they will dry fast.
As our shoe guru Paul said, grip is the main thing we’re looking for when buying mud running shoes.
This is what sets apart these shoes from the rest – they have deep lugs. These lugs will dig into the mud, which will then wall off when you encounter a rock or dryer soil.
In our guide, we included shoes with 5mm deep lugs minimum, and some go up to 8mm. The lugs have different shapes, and we haven’t noticed the shape making a huge difference in grip. They will, in general, be more widely spaced than usual.
Best Mud Running Shoes
#1. Best Mud Running Shoe With Good Cushioning:
Saucony Peregrine 13 ST
Weight: 9.9 ounces (282 grams); Drop: 4 mm Stack Height: 30mm; Lug Depth: 6.5 mm
|Versatile||Cushioning is great for trails but lugs make them uncomfortable on hardpack|
|Speed laces for security|
|Fantastic grip with 6.5 mm lugs|
If you are looking for a good mud running shoe that will work for your other trail and mountain running adventures, Saucony Peregrine 13 ST is a great pick.
This shoe has a slightly higher stack height than its predecessor. Along with their use of PWRRUN cushioning taken from road shoes, this is what makes them our go-to choice for those who prioritize comfort.
The chevron-shaped lugs are 6.5mm deep which is more than enough to bite into soft terrain just as well as shoes made specifically for mud.
The shoe has a rock plate for added protection. The thickly threaded upper has a bootie fit to keep debris out. The gaiter around the shoe collar adds protection and improves the fit.
The speed laces are thin and have a cord lock which is more secure than regular lacing systems, a big plus for a mud shoe.
#2. Deepest Lugs / Most Grip For Longer Distances:
Inov-8 X-Talon Ultra 260 v2
Weight: 9.7 ounces (276 grams); Drop: 8 mm Stack Height: 16mm; Lug Depth: 8 mm
|Upper is very warm and durable||The thick upper means slow-drying|
|8mm deep lug for serious traction|
|Deepest grip and cushioning combination in an Inov-8 model|
The inov-8 X-Talon Ultra 260 V2 are the perfect shoes if you live in a cold area with soft terrain and common rains.
The lugs are 8 mm deep, so they are perfect for muddy terrain.
However, that and the minimal, firm midsole means these are not ideal if you look for something that can also take the hardpack if need be.
The thick upper is designed to keep your feet warm. That means the upper won’t dry as quickly as a thinner variant, but is more durable and holds in heat better.
#3. Deepest Lugs / Most Grip For Racing:
Inov-8 X-Talon 212 V2
Weight: 7.5 ounces (212 grams); Drop: 6 mm Stack Height: 13 mm; Lug Depth: 8 mm
|Durable upper||Some may dislike the narrow forefoot|
|Tread works great in both mud and rock|
|Flexible for technical trails|
The Inov-8 – X-Talon 212 V2 is similar to the previous shoe in that it also offers an insane amount of grip with 8mm deep lugs, but rather than long distances, they excel in racing.
The shoes are tough and made to last, with lugs that bite into mud and rock, and weigh only 212g per shoe.
The upper is thick, with sturdy toe caps for added protection. They dry quicker than the 260 model, which makes them great if you prioritize quick drying over warmth. The upper is still durable and can take you through many miles.
They have a 6mm drop and low profile cushioning, which will satisfy the minimalist runner. It keeps them flexible so they can tackle technical terrain.
However, the forefoot is more narrow than in classic minimalist shoes which is a bother for some runners, especially those with wider feet.
But if you are looking for a tough shoe for trail racing with a chance of things getting muddy, these are a no-brainer.
#4. Best Grip In The Mud And In The Wet:
Vj Sport IROCK 3
Weight: 8.5 ounces (240 grams); Drop: 6 mm Stack Height: 16mm; Lug Depth: 6 mm
|Insane grip||Fit a bit narrow|
|Multifunctional – great for obstacle racing|
The Scandinavian brand is famous in the orienteering world for a reason.
The 6mm lugs bite into mud and work great in slippery grass and rocky terrain too, so they give you the multifunctionality you need if you’re into obstacle running or hitting the trail regardless of the rain.
In fact, the brand likes to note they have “the best grip on the planet”, and we think that there is some truth in that. The butyl rubber sticks to anything, including wet wood, useful for ramp wall obstacles.
The 6mm drop makes these shoes acceptable both if you are used to a higher drop or minimal shoes.
The shoe is primarily made for trails, but can also take you through a bit of pavement, although we naturally wouldn’t recommend it for this purpose.
#5. Best ‘No Frills’ Mud Running Shoes:
Walsh PB Ultra
Weight: 10 ounces (285 grams); Drop: 6 mm Stack Height: 14mm; Lug Depth: 5 mm
|Perfect for those looking for a no-frills design||Not for those looking for modern features|
|Great grip in mud conditions|
Deserving much more praise than it gets, the Walsh PB Ultra is a legendary UK-made shoe, made in the 1970s. It is the original fell running shoe.
The lightweight, deep, pyramid studs offer fantastic grip on both mud and wet rock. The upper is made with lightweight material which is water resistant and dries fast.
The shoe has a wider fit than most mud running shoes, so it’s ideal if you’re looking for something more accommodating.
The shoe is a great pick for orienteering, fell running, and cross-country running.
The cuneiform wrap and lacing system ensures an equal pull throughout and adds stability.
A great shoe if you like to keep it simple and love an old school design.
#6. Best For Mud / Technical Terrain:
Merrell MTL Long Sky 2
Weight: 9.5 ounces (268 grams); Drop: 4 mm Stack Height: 23.5 mm; Lug Depth: 5 mm
|Lightweight||Not enough cushioning for 50k+|
|Very flexible||Heel strikes may not like the low drop|
|Low profile but well cushioned|
Flexibility is key when tackling technical terrain, and MTL Long Sky 2 offers tons of it. It is the second version of the famous MTL Long Sky shoe.
The main difference between the two is the drop. The heel-to-toe drop is 4 mm in this new version, which is half of the original. This minimal drop makes these shoes more stable, ideal if you’ll also go through rocky terrain.
The low drop is great for trail running, but it may not work for heel strikers. It really depends on preference and your strike style.
The FloatPro Foam is low profile, but well cushioned. It keeps the shoes lightweight and allows you to feel the trail while still giving enough protection and comfort.
The 5mm lugs are made from Vibram rubber, offering fantastic traction for mud, rocks, and everything in between. The shoe fits securely even when unlaced.
The upper is rugged and dries fast – MTL says it retains 30% less water than the previous model, and although we can’t be sure of the percentage, these do seem to dry faster.
#7. Best Low-Profile Mud Running Shoe:
HOKA Zinal 2
Weight: 8 ounces (227 grams); Drop: 5 mm Stack Height: 30 mm; Lug Depth: 5 mm
|Secure and comfortable upper||More foam would be better for firm terrain|
|Lightweight and fast|
Our last pick for the best mud running shoes is the Hoka Zinal 2. We chose it as the best low-profile shoe – the cushioning is 2mm reduced from the previous model.
Hoka shoes are usually too bulky for technical terrain, but this shoe is much leaner. You’ll get that close-to-the-ground feel which is great for technical terrain.
The shoe is light and fast and can get you through races. It features Hoka’s deepest 5mm lugs, which give you enough grip on soft terrain.
The added stretch-knit collar prevents debris from entering the shoe. The upper is light and will dry faster than some thicker shoes like the inov-8 models, but still provides enough protection.
Overall, if you need light and fast shoes to get you through whatever trail gives you, these may be a good pick.