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What to Wear for Spartan Race Day and Tough Mudder

Updated on August 25, 2016
You'll know you've achieved something at the Spartan Race finish line
You'll know you've achieved something at the Spartan Race finish line

Getting the Right Clothing for Racing and Training

You've put in the hours in the gym, hammered those boot camps, and picked up those running miles. Race day is fast approaching and its time to consider just what you should be wearing for the event.

Whether you're tackling your first Spartan Sprint or have had a taste of muddy obstacle runs, your choice of clothing for a muddy, energetic race day can be the difference between a success or failure.

CyclingFitness—Ready to Race?

Dressed ready for Spartan Race Ripon, UK 2013
Dressed ready for Spartan Race Ripon, UK 2013

Get the Right Shoes for Muddy Conditions

Muddy obstacle races like Spartan Race, Tough Mudder, and the Warrior Dash often feature sections of extremely muddy conditions. Many regular training shoes will really struggle in these conditions so it makes sense to get a set of shoes that can tackle these demands.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
The jazzy and sporty looks of the Salomon Speedcross 3 trail running shoeThe mud shedding tread pattern of the Speedcross 3 from SalomonThe Inov-8 Talon is a fell running shoe featuring a soft sole made from climbing shoe rubber ideal for grip on obstaclesThe soft rubber sole of the Talon 212 is great for scaling obstaclesThe Adidas Kanadia TR5 is a great value alternative for the frugal trail runner
The jazzy and sporty looks of the Salomon Speedcross 3 trail running shoe
The jazzy and sporty looks of the Salomon Speedcross 3 trail running shoe | Source
The mud shedding tread pattern of the Speedcross 3 from Salomon
The mud shedding tread pattern of the Speedcross 3 from Salomon | Source
The Inov-8 Talon is a fell running shoe featuring a soft sole made from climbing shoe rubber ideal for grip on obstacles
The Inov-8 Talon is a fell running shoe featuring a soft sole made from climbing shoe rubber ideal for grip on obstacles | Source
The soft rubber sole of the Talon 212 is great for scaling obstacles
The soft rubber sole of the Talon 212 is great for scaling obstacles | Source
The Adidas Kanadia TR5 is a great value alternative for the frugal trail runner
The Adidas Kanadia TR5 is a great value alternative for the frugal trail runner | Source

5 Trail Running Shoes for Muddy Events

If you're looking to get some shoes to master the brutal conditions then the following are 5 great trail running shoes to consider. Grip in the mud is a key need for many obstacle course events.

  1. Salomon Speedcross 3: A trail running shoe with a sole designed to shed mud and keep you going through the gloop that can really sap your energy. Featuring an aggressive sole (as pictured right) you should never be wanting for grip.
  2. Inov8 X Talon 212: A great lightweight do-everything trail and fell running shoe. Featuring copious amounts of grip for when you're wading through a muddy stream or need to really grasp that climbing rope with your legs for extra leverage. The sticky rubber compound mimics that used in climbing shoes so you should never feel wanting for grip despite this shoe being designed as a lightweight trail racing shoe. For many top OCR athletes the Inov8 X Talon is their weapon of choice for races up to half marathon distance.
  3. Inov8 Mudclaw 300: The trail shoe you would want for muddy conditions is the Inov8 Mudclaw- Whether you're sprinting uphill or letting your legs do the work on a slippery downhill. They're designed as the ultimate fell running shoe and if you've ever seen a running tackling the tough fells of the English Lake District you'll start to understand the extreme demands these events put on a runner. The Mudclaw 300 is designed with loose and soft ground in mind and feature a little more cushioning than the more aggressive X-Talon making them a better consideration if you're worrying your joints may suffer with an ultra-lightweight shoe. The Mudclaw 265 is a choice of many for short to middle distance events but the additional support of the 300 provides more comfort and less stress on joints.
  4. Adidas Kanadia TR5: A great trail running shoe for the budget conscious with and aggressive sole to help propel you through the mud whether it's the middle of summer or in the depths of a British winter. Can be picked up on the internet for around £30 / 50 USD if you shop around. You'll see loads of runners in these at Obstacle Racing events as they're a versatile training shoe that doesn't need to just be saved for race day.
  5. Saucony Peregrine 3: The Peregrine 3 from Saucony offers a lightweight trail racing shoe for runners looking for a shoe which can integrate between trails and some hard-packed trails and asphalt. This makes them an excellent choice for summer trail running and drier events. Their tread pattern isn't quite as aggressive in the mud as some of those featured above but It's sturdy, close-to-the-ground design helps deal with most trail conditions well for a good overall race performance.

What If You Can't Justify Buying Some Trail Running Shoes?

If you're on a budget or maybe on your first muddy obstacle race and not sure if it will be for you then theres no need to worry. Your regular running shoes will be fine if you don't have the additional resources. Remember they will get muddy and if they're white mesh its likely that they will never be the same brilliant white again.

Ideally you need a non-bulky shoe which will not take on an excess of water. Lightweight hiking shoes could work but beware that they can become heavy when filled with muddy water.

Leaving Your Shoes at the Race

If you've read a lot of people's tales of their first mud run, you probably heard stories that they left their shoes due to the condition they were in. This shouldn't be the case and with a bit of cleaning your shoes should be fine for use again.

However, there are often bins at races for you to discard your old shoes and we've heard instances of these shoes being donated to charity so be on the lookout at events for special bins to drop your old shoes into.

Getting the Right Women's Obstacle Race Clothing

It gets pretty muddy at Tough Mudder!
It gets pretty muddy at Tough Mudder!

Clothing for Women

In some cases the ideal Spartan Race outfit for women is simply a cropped style sports top with inbuilt sports bra and a pair of short lycra trunks. This is an outfit where everything is held in place that needs to be and covered up as if you're wanting to really race hard you want as little fabric as possible to soak up water and mud to hold you back.

For longer events with a high number of obstacles a pair of fitness/ running capri pants will be a good option with the fabric over the knees providing a small amount of protection from stones and rocky surfaces.

If you choose to wear a t shirt make sure it's form fitting or on the slim side and made of a lightweight, wicking fabric which will not soak up excessive amounts of water like cotton.

Ladies—for Your Own Sake, Wear a Sports Bra

If you've ever spent a while running on a treadmill without a sports bra you'll know the difference it can make therefore wearing a sports bra will add to your comfort levels during the event. Especially after the 10 plus miles a grueling event puts your body through.

During the race you're also going to end up in some awkward positions so a sports bra can ensure there will be no no video nasties for playback or no official photos showing some nipple.

Sweat and Mud Don't Go Well With Make-Up

If you can't leave the house without your face on girls (and boys!) then spare a thought for what happens when you get your face wet or get caught in the rain and multiply that effect by a hundred times for the effect that the heavy sweating involved in high-intensity activity will have on your make-up.

Whilst its great to look good for the photographers on course, a little common sense should prevail unless Maybelline or Rimmel are sponsoring you to run for them. (Its amazing what some of us will wear for a sponsor.)

Clothing for Men

As a male consider a set of relatively short running or gym style shorts which are not on the baggy side. Make sure that they have a tight waistband and a drawcord which you can reign in pretty tight without becoming restrictive.

Consider shorts made from quick drying and very lightweight fabrics such as Nike's Dri-Fit fabric or New Balance's excellent Lightning Dry fabric which will not hold an excess of water and chafe heavily leading to extreme discomfort and eventually sores.

I've actually seen men wearing long compression style tights from companies like Skins which are a good option to consider if you're looking for extra warmth for winter and cooler weather races where you are not going to spend a large portion of time with your body immersed in a deep, wet, muddy bog.

If you choose not to compete bare chested pick a top which offers unrestricted movement and is also made of a quick drying, wicking fabric which will provide a degree of comfort during your event. Ideally run in a short sleeve top or sleeveless vest top which fits close to the body. Compression tops are ideal if you wish to race in longer sleeves as they offer a tight fit which guards against snagging on obstacles while also providing some protection for your elbows when clawing your way through a cargo net.

The Wetter Your Clothes Get, the More Resistance

As clothing gets soaked it takes in water and extra weight you have to carry with you through obstacle events.
As clothing gets soaked it takes in water and extra weight you have to carry with you through obstacle events.

Baggy Clothes Will Just Hold You Back—Lycra Is the Future!

If you're going to race more than one event and get your clothing right you're going to end up actually enjoying wearing Lycra or Spandex.

Cotton fabrics will simply saturate with water and take an age to dry. If you combine this with cooler conditions your core temperature will be at a greater risk of dropping below optimal levels leading to potential health problems as a result and you will end up unable to finish your event or worse, enter a state of hypothermia.

Look for Quick Drying Lightweight Fabrics

Look for fabrics like coolmax, Nike's Dri-Fit or New Balances Lightning Dry (pictured) for Spartan Race
Look for fabrics like coolmax, Nike's Dri-Fit or New Balances Lightning Dry (pictured) for Spartan Race

Race Day Packing—What You Need in Your Bag

Race events usually have a bag drop-off area where you can safely leave your bag for pick-up post event. Whether you're racing your first muddy obstacle course or your hundredth there are a few essentials to consider packing in your kit.

  • 2+ plastic bags. Garden refuse sacks are ideal as they don't have holes that muddy water can seep out of.
  • 1 large microfibre sports towel. You're always going to need to wash down post event and you'll rarely find towels on offer for you at events
  • Travel size bottle of soap. Ideal for helping get rid of the caked on mud. Lifeventure All-Purpose Soap is great for this and is bio-degradeable as you never can tell where any shower water could be going.
  • Flip-flops or trainers for after your event. Flip-flops are ideal for showers as the base of the shower could be filled with dirty tepid water. Flip flops can raise your feet above this.
  • Change of clothes. Be prepared to dress for inclement weather. Make sure you have warm layers in your change of clothes as you'll cool down very quickly once your race is over and its important to keep your body warm.
  • 2 large bottles of water. 1 as part of your post race hydration strategy and a second large bottle of water can be used to wash yourself down if there are issues with the showers on site.
  • Energy and protein bars for recovery. You've worked hard and your body will need carbohydrates for refuelling and protein for recovery.

Soap Is Ideal for Your Post Race Clean Up

Pack some soap in your bag and make sure it's bio-degradeable as you never know where the run-off will go from the showers
Pack some soap in your bag and make sure it's bio-degradeable as you never know where the run-off will go from the showers

Spartan Race Is a Pretty Serious Event—Not a Fancy Dress Parade!

There are a lot of people that take race events pretty seriously and as a result its not generally a place where fancy dress is part of the atmosphere. The events are fun yet with a serious edge as the challenge physically tests the body in a way that jovial, fancy dress costumes can often seem to detract from the event.

Why spend all that time training to make it harder on yourself? Theres nothing stopping you from getting dressed up at all but be aware that you're going to have to lug that big, burly Barney the Dinosaur costume through the mud and it will actually become pretty restrictive.

If you're going to try to dress fancy for Spartan Race why not get together with friends from your local gym and get a team together. Team t-shirts are a great way to add a group element to your events and you'll have plenty of post event stories to reminisce about at the water cooler.

What Are Your Tips on Dressing for Spartan Race?

We're always after your feedback here on Hubpages. Have you raced Spartan, Tough Mudder, Warrior Dash, or a similar event? We'd love to hear how you got on and if you got your obstacle racing clothing choices right.

To successful racing,

Liam Hallam (CyclingFitness on Hubpages)

© 2013 Liam Hallam

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    • LPM 2 years ago

      Thanks for responding, i appreciate you taking the time.

      The grate was that you mentioned modesty not once but twice.

      I too use shock absorber, I believe it's the best brand.

      Sports bras are not about modesty, they're about safety. Racing 25+k without a sports bra is not good for you, the stress it puts on your body is not healthy and you will not be able to compete to the best of your ability, as a woman, without this essential piece of equipment.

      As soon as you bring up modesty or expectation of behaviour based on gender/sex it infers sexism. That's what grated me.

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      Liam Hallam 2 years ago from Nottingham UK

      Thanks mightyhub, Yes running whilst caked in mud can be a negative experience for many- however for the many of us who get involved in ocr type/ mud run events the mud is part of the challenge and certainly makes things more interesting than a road run.

    • mightyhub profile image

      mightyhub 2 years ago

      I recommend wearing as least as possible because running with all that mud sucks big time.

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      Liam Hallam 2 years ago from Nottingham UK

      Apologies Gem Southerner that you felt that way from the comment. I hope you picked up more from the article than that I'm a sexist and you picked up some clothing ideas too.

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      Liam Hallam 2 years ago from Nottingham UK

      Sadly LPM with training and racing it's not always possible to respond to people's comments instantly. Hubpages software also doesn't like me to accept/ respond to comments on my Android phone.

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      Liam Hallam 2 years ago from Nottingham UK

      Thanks LPM for your comment. While it may seem condescending I'm sure you got the point I was trying to make

      It's amazing how many runners I've seen recently without a sports bra. My other half says she wouldn't dream of having a normal cotton under wire bra for OCR as would rub and hinder her efforts. She uses a shock absorber-style sports bra for maximum support and comfort when racing.

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      Liam Hallam 2 years ago from Nottingham UK

      Thanks GNRG, I hadn't thought of a buff- and it could always double as a headband where required although my only worry would be that it's yet another layer to get wet and muddy which when concentrated around the head/ neck could make the wearer more exposed to chills.

      Great spot on the suncream- can't really use the mud to hold off those sun rays- Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

    • Gem Southerner 2 years ago

      Sexist.

    • LPM 2 years ago

      Are you deleting comments you don't agree with?

      Big social media faux pas.

    • LPM 2 years ago

      'Preserve your modesty'

      Really?! Touch condescending don't you think.

    • GNRG 2 years ago

      Don't forget the suncream! Even in the cooler months getting sunburnt is a major bummer and can ruin your day. Also consider a buff as these are brilliant to keep sweet out of your eyes or to cool you if you soak it in water. Final tip take a gel or some jelly beans on anything around 10k+ after the sometimes immense amounts of obstacles this will refuel you so you can finish with a sprint and a smile!

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      Liam Hallam 2 years ago from Nottingham UK

      Thanks Maiko for your feedback- I also deleted your post completely as have a hated of compression socks- For most runners the calves are not a limiting factor- Compression on hamstrings and quads yes= silly long calf socks are a big big no in my book. (And the gross majority of cyclists I know personally laugh at triathletes and plonkers wearing them on a bicycle)

    • Malko 2 years ago

      Totally agree on staying away from cotton and many of the traditionally gym brands of shirts. Check out mudgear.com for shirts that drain well and are fitted to stay out of the way of obstacles. They also have great gripping gloves and mud run socks and compression socks.

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