Tough Mudder Prep Part 2 – What to Wear

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Welcome to part 2 of the preparation.  You can find Part 1, The Arrival, here.  Just fill in the new comers, my team, the Swamp Asses, and I have participated in three Tough Mudder events so far; Tri-State, Austin, and Atlanta.  We have made a few changes in preparation and attire along the way, and I will now document them in the hopes of making the next Tough Mudder as fun and enjoyable for everyone else.  In this post, I will break down the essentials for what to wear on game day.  Also, please post a comment with questions and we'll be more than happy to answer them.  Shall we begin?

I highly recommend that you wear shorts.  It may be chilly, but nothing dries off faster than a pair of light shorts.  Compression pants work well underneath your shorts as well.  Viktor wore a pair compression pants under his shorts for Tri-State, which helped him to stay warm and kept his knees free of cuts.  I however, prefer not to wear them.  I felt much more freedom as a ran and climbed, and I also didn’t have to worry about them filling up with mud.  Your knees will get bruised as you crawl through the tunnels, and as you climb the walls, but you will feel much more comfortable during the 10 miles of running.

I prefer to wear a compression, long sleeve shirt underneath a standard T-Shirt.  The primary purpose of this shirt is to save your arms.  You will be climbing and crawling through almost every obstacle, and these sleeves will make it feel so much better.  Be careful, though.  You won’t want to wear a cotton undershirt, because you will get wet.  And a cotton shirt will only hold the water for longer.  You want a shirt that will dry quicker so that you can keep warm and not have to worry about getting cold.  You might be wondering why I don’t suggest wearing the cold-gear undershirt.  The reason is that you will be running, a lot.  There will be times where you will run for a couple miles without another obstacle, or water.  Now imagine having to run a few miles, in the sun, wearing an extra thick undershirt.  Personally, it is more important to me to dry off and not have to worry about overheating or having to throw away a shirt.

Even if you decide not to wear an undershirt, you will definitely want to wear one that dried quickly.  It can get extremely cold in the water, and you want to get rid of that immediately.  And please, don’t wear a shirt that you expect to get clean again.  This is a mud run, and anything you wear will get muddy.  Extremely muddy.  Be prepared for it to always be muddy.

There are groups of people who choose not to wear a shirt.  I respect this, and have considered it myself.  However, there is one obstacle that has deterred me from this philosophy.  We Mudders know this as “Shock Therapy

Need I say more?

The Shoes
The shoes are easily the most important piece of your uniform.  It is difficult to choose a good shoe because they too will get extremely muddy.  This is made apparent by the mountain of shoes collected at the end of the event.  So what shoes should you wear?  For our first event, two of us chose to try out the Vibram FiveFinger Shoes.  In particular, the KSOs.  We chose the KSOs because they were recommended for running off road, and for water use.  We purchased them, and one of us, Viktor, actually trained for and participated in them.  His biggest complaint was traction.  As I ran straight up the mud hills in my brand new New Balance shoes, he slipped as if running on ice.  He has since chosen to not run in them and hasn’t looked back.  Vibram makes fivefinger shoes with much better traction than the KSOs, which may work a lot better.  But the second issue he had with them is that mud still gets in to them.  Now you are stuck running for miles with mud and sand finding its way between your toes.  Which becomes extremely difficult to clean out because these shoes are form fitting.  My recommendation?  A nice pair of clearance running shoes from Modell’s or Dick’s.  Like I said before, I ran up the side of a mud hill like it was grass, which you can see in the Tri-State video.  You also can not beat the comfort of a new pair of shoes.  I have washed and reused that same pair of sneakers for every event.  Other people have run in throw-away sneakers only to have them actually fall apart during the race.  It is obviously your call, but I liked the comfort and grip that my new pair of shoes provided.

Before every event I tell myself that I will buy a pair of gloves.  Also before every event, I forget to buy a pair of gloves and run without them.  In fact, no one on our team has worn gloves since Tri-State.  The big reason to wear gloves is for the rope obstacles and berlin walls.  It’s tough to say if they are absolutely necessary for these.  I have wanted them on a few, and not needed them on others.  What I can suggest is that if you decide to wear gloves, find a way to carry them when you do not need them; preferably pockets.  I wore gloves for Tri-State and threw them immediately after exiting the water.  They were way to cold to continue wearing and I had no way to carry them.  I have also noticed that gloves will not help you on the monkey bars.  You will notice when you get to them that there is a pile of discarded gloves right at the beginning.  You will also notice that anyone that attempts the monkey bars with gloves on inevitably falls in.  This is likely due to the fact that your gloves will be soaked and therefor will not be able to maintain any grip.  So if you wish to use them, wear pockets.

Most of you will be joining as a team.  I’m also sure you will want to finish as a team.  I suggest you find a way to identify yourselves from the rest of the herd.  We wore matching shirts for two events, and it made it much easier to spot each other.  I saw a few teams wearing matching arm bands which we may try in the next event.  It just saves you time after each obstacle.

That is all I can think of for now.  Please, please, please comment below with questions and suggestions.  I will answer as many as I can before Saturday.  Also, subscribe and look out for the tips and tricks for the actual event containing actual first person footage of each obstacle.  See you Saturday!!

18 thoughts on “Tough Mudder Prep Part 2 – What to Wear”

  1. Thanks for these posts. It's great to get this kind of practical info – stuff that's going to really matter on the day, by people who have been there.

    Did you ever consider any kind of knee pads or wraps to protect your delicate flesh when crawling through tunnels etc?

  2. Thanks MeatAxe. I know the kind of stress that can build up before a race that doesn't even involve the actual event. I was hoping that these posts would help ease everyone's mind going in to it so that they could focus on just the event.

    I have considered knee pads, but I know that my knees would be very unhappy with me if I tried to run 10 miles wearing them. There aren't many obstacles that beat up on your knees, so it may not be worth it to run 10 miles with them. But if you feel comfortable wearing them like socks and pulling them up for each obstacle, I say go for it. Your knees will thank you.

  3. HI there! I am currently training for my first mudder (doing the SoCal!) and was wondering about hydration. I've run a few marathons and half marathons and I'm CONSTANTLY thirsty. What are your thoughts on the Camelback? Too much of a hassle? I'm just concerned about being at mile 3 and dying for water….Thanks!!
    -Kim 🙂

    1. I used a Camelback during the Tough Mudder in Georgia. It was a lifesaver. I also used it to carry gel packs and other rations. Our team even had ibuprofen that we ended up giving to some guy who blew out his knee. I hope you had a great Tough Mudder Experience. We are now training for the 2012 one in Georgia.

  4. Hi Kim, welcome to muddercam.

    I have seen a few people wear them, and if you are constantly thirsty, it may be a good idea to bring one. They have a few water stations, but it can feel like forever before the next one sometimes. I have not personally used one, but on Sunday Nick and I will be running with a Camelbak full of beer. I will let you know what it is like to carry one around. Granted, it won't be water, but it will still be a backpack.

    Good Luck in SoCal. Viktor and I just booked our flights so maybe we will see you there!!

  5. How long is the Bear Creek course? I've read anywhere from 8-12 miles. The only reason I ask is that I want to give myself a time goal. The website said it takes about 2.5 hours to complete.

    I can do a half marathon in about 2 hours, while half marathon trail run can take up to 3.5 hours. What time should I shoot for if I want to get in the top 30 percent?

    Thanks for the info!

  6. Hi Jerry,
    First of all, Tough Mudder has said that the average time is 2.5 hours for all of their events. We have finished most events in under 2.5 hours, Atlanta took us 3.25. The fastest time was 2.05 hours, a whole hour longer than Austin. So that is just a general estimate. You can find the times of Atlanta here:

    Their course map ( claims that it is 10 miles long. It's tough to determine the top 30 percent because they have not made it easy to determine places. After all, this is not intended to be a race, but rather an accomplishment. You will notice as you run that if you keep a steady jog throughout the whole event, you will pass other participants regularly. It is also tough to estimate a good time because even TM isn't sure the length of the course. If you watch one of my other videos, (I recommend Austin: you can see our pace, which I believe to be in the top 30%. My personal goal has been to jog the whole thing, which I was unable to do in Atlanta for various reasons, including the fact that there was a lack of water and an extra 4 miles added on to the end. I intend to fix that in PA. I hope this helps answer your question at least a little.

  7. The last two races I ran my teamates were dying for water at some point in the race. I've personally ran with the foam knee braces that slid down after the first time I was submerged in water. They were worthless as knee braces, however I was happy to slide them up and use them as knee pads every time I was crawling across some sort of rocky obstacle. I also ran with a foam captain hat that stuck up about a foot from the top of my head that kept falling apart. Carrying a Camelbak with a chest and stomach strap is well worth not having to be stuck dying of thirst with 4 miles to the next water station. This will be increasingly important that the season gets hotter. So DO IT!!!! Adidas makes leg and arm compression sleeves with thin knee and elbow pads that I believe are completely sufficient and not very restricting for the rest of the run.

  8. Great advise! What about a camelback? Are the water stations enough? I got one but still wondering if I will use it as I am afraid it may get caught in the barbwire. Please check out our TM training videos: and see some of the training we are doing, feedback is much appreciated!

  9. @My-FIT-Family
    Welcome! Glad you liked the advice. I actually ran with a pretty big pack in PA, but that's because it was full of shots 😛

    I can tell you that I didn't really notice it at all. It got snagged on the cargo nets that you had to crawl under a couple times, but it was easy to undo. You won't need it to carry water, but I was glad to have it for shotbloks and GU packs. The only thing we carried in the pak was shotbloks, gu packs, gatoride protein gels, and shots. I didn't even carry water with me and the water stations were enough. Hope that helps, and I will definitely check out your site when I get a chance.


    1. Hi Anon,
      I ran this past weekend in Wisconsin, and actually noticed a significant amount of people wearing goggles. However, after talking to a few of them, they said that the goggles were not necessary. There is simply not enough mud getting splashed around for goggles to be worth it.

    1. I found a pair of under armour socks ( at my local Ramseys that I love. They are designed to dry quickly and they are black, so I can wash them after the event and they look like new. I highly recommend them.

  10. It will be my first mudder on saturday in NJ and i was going to wear my super light gore tex hiking boots with a smart wool sock and duct taped at the ankles, for me once i get started i can move forever but with out the right foot comfort it will drive me nuts. What are your thoughts on that strategy?

    1. Hey Jon! I ran my first mudder in NJ and I really liked wearing the sneakers that I had been training in. I wore nike dry-quick socks and those sneakers and nothing else. There is a lot of mud and water, but most of the course is running on dry land, so I would actually suggest running what you are comfortable with. I was able to wash my shoes afterwords and even used the same pair of sneakers for at least 5 subsequent mudders. The rumor is that this one will be 14.5 miles long, so you definitely want to be comfortable. Hope that helps and good luck this weekend!

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