Recommended Tough Mudder Gear and Best Equipment From My Experience

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When I was on my careercation, my friend, Joe Heitzeberg, knew I liked to do races (1/2 marathons, marathons, and Olympic distance triathlons), and hit me up to sign up for the Seattle Tough Mudder. I believe I was in Sydney at the time and shrugged, “why not?” I thought it would be a good goal to train for and to get back in shape after six-months of traveling.

Unfortunately, I got really sick on my trip and then just let myself go eating yummy food and not exercising. But when I saw the videos for Tough Mudder – I was shocked (knowing that I would be literally shocked)! I knew I had to get my butt in gear. I didn’t know what a burpee was and those monkey bars that kids fly by…I felt like my shoulder was going to get wrenched out! Not to mention the even more challenging rings.

I trained with Joe, Kevin Nakao, Chris Lynch, Matt Shobe, Chrisann, Charla, Will and others for a solid two months. At the beginning, I could do about six pull-ups, and near the end, I could do about 18 pull-ups. For a traditional runner, it was great to get that cross-fit type of training. We must have been quite a sight doing burpees, climbing over rocks, carrying logs over our heads, doing crab walks, doing bear crawls, ducking under chains, etc.

I also learned a lot about the equipment which I wanted to share. I’m not sure how vital equipment is for the Warrior Dash or Spartan Race since I haven’t done either of them, but I do know it was critical to having a good time for me for Tough Mudder.

The following is my recommended guide for Tough Mudder gear and equipment. Please note that I have a bias towards value, which means that I will rarely buy the best gear unless I know I’m going to commit to that sport. I actually spent a lot of time researching what others recommended for Tough Mudder equipment and the following is what I bought and my conclusion about each purchase. BTW, I often get paralyzed by too much research…so here’s a tip, have some wine or a few beers, and those decisions come fast and furious! Let’s start with the feet and work our way up.

Tough Mudder Recommended Trail Running Shoes
Shoes- As a triathlete and runner, I’m just used to light, comfy shoes. But when we were practicing scaling walls, I knew I needed something with more bite or grip. In addition, it is even more vital in the muddy terrain that is quite slippery. I ended up buying these Montrail Men’s Sabino Trail Running Shoe. They were definitely heavier but much sturdier and grippier than my traditional running shoes. They were on the lower end of the price range. I paid $76.63 for them on Amazon (which is where I bought most, if not all of my gear). At the end of the day, I was quite happy with this purchase. I still need to get more rocks out of them after the Tough Mudder race because I was not going to throw these away. I know many advocate to throw away your shoes which is a good idea if they’re old, but then the trade-off is minimal grip. I was willing to have grippier shoes and clean them afterwards.


Socks- one thing to keep in mind that it’s trail running terrain which I’m used to for triathlons, but not traditional running. So it’s a good idea to train for that. I usually run in short socks, but for this race, I decided at the last minute to wear socks that went up to my calves. In hindsight, I was pleased with that decision because it *minimized* rocks into my socks because you will get them. But I think it would have been much worse and more uncomfortable had I worn short running socks. This isn’t the exact sock I bought, but it is similar. I did throw away my socks because they just weren’t valuable enough for me to clean. Plus white turned to black with mud and grime even after rinsing off.


Knee Pads- this was an oft-debated topic in our Tough Mudder group, and I did a lot of research on this. I decided to get ASICS Jr. Ace Low Profile Knee Pad, Black for $19.70 instead of sleeves. This ended up being one of the most crucial and top buys of all my gear. I will not race another Tough Mudder without them. It made a lot of the crawling so easy because I had so much cushion on my knees. I didn’t get a lot of rocks in them, and they didn’t really both me. Plus the occasion bang on the wall or rock or tree or mud or someone’s head didn’t both me at all :) Note, I ordered a smaller junior size because I wanted them to be snug. It turned out great, and I didn’t have any circulation issues. You can also slip them down to your ankles when you’re running which I did in training but didn’t even bother to during the race. I think this piece of equipment is a game changer. Don’t race Tough Mudder  without it IMHO!

Compression Shorts- in my mind there are two main reasons to get these. One, because they are snug, they keep the grit, rocks, and mud out of your privates. I don’t know about you…but I’m wiling to pay a premium for that :) Two, many people end up getting rips in their pants when they only wear one layer since you’ll definitely be sliding on your butt. We had a girl on our team, who will remain nameless…plus I saw a guy make it up the Everest flash the world his left butt cheek!

 

I ended up paying $14.04 for these Champion Men’s Compression 6 Inch Inseam Short,Black,Medium. My waist for jeans vary around a 31″ – 33″ waste. These fit perfectly for me, and I wore them underneath my running shorts.


Running Shorts- As I mentioned earlier, I’m a traditional runner that has morphed over time to more cross training which I think is more interesting and better for overall fitness. So I have an array of running shorts that I’ve bought from Amazon and REI. But here’s a typical pair that is comfortable and breathable. BTW, I didn’t mention this earlier, but everything you wear should wick and be synthetic. You get wet and want it to dry out quickly to minimize chafing. I didn’t buy this exact pair, but this is similar to one I wore. It’s $20.24 Asics Men’s Core Short.

Race Belt- they say that a lot of participants don’t finish Tough Mudder. Around mile 8 or so, I started seeing a lot of people experiencing cramps especially around Mud Mountain. For all my races, I wear an iFitness race or fuel belt. I bought mine a few years

ago at a race packet pickup booth for about $20. On their website, it is $23.95. I carried a few Gu’s in there and also salt-like tablets to combat cramps which I’m susceptible to. I wrapped my tablets in a ziplock bag. But after awhile I had a wardrobe malfunction because there was so much mud, I couldn’t fully close my race belt. But my tablets were still in there. So I was swallowing mud as I fished out my salt tablets with my grimy gloves. Who knows? Maybe that’s another way of staving off cramps. I also use my race belt to hold my goggles and visors (if I don’t need it). More on that later. Luck does favor the prepared.

Technical Shirt- our team had a local company, called EveryMove, donate shirts to us which was really kind of them. They were bright orange and short-sleeved. It was great because we could easily see our team members since we had about 20 people on our team. Even tough it was overcast and quite cool at the start of the race, I would err on going with short sleeves because you will warm up quickly. Trust me on that one. So luckily the cost was $0 for us.


Garmin 305 Tough Mudder WatchWatch- For all my races, I always wear my tank of a watch. It’s my Garmin Forerunner 305 GPS Receiver With Heart Rate Monitor. I got a little worried about it when I couldn’t even see the face of it since it was coated in mud. And I couldn’t wipe it clean because my gloves were also coated in mud. Since Tough Mudder is a time-based race, it’s difficult knowing your time unless someone carries a watch. My watch survived, and I would wear it again because it’s built like a tank. It comes with a heart rate monitor which I usually wear too, but I skipped wearing it because I didn’t want mud to get caught up in it and grind against my chest.


Gloves- this was also hotly debated on our team. Should we wear them? If so, what type? Should we cut the finger tips off of them? I ended up buying these Mad Grip Pro Palm Glove 100,Green/Green,Small/Medium for $16.48. I also ended up NOT cutting the finger tips off. I think this is very good buy and piece of equipment. We have blackberries bushed galore in Washington state and by mile 2, I grabbed a handful of thorns that pierced through the gloves. I had to tweezer out thorns after the race, but I know it would have been much worse. It’s also useful for climbing walls, carrying wood, etc.

One thing that I thought it would be useful for, but it wasn’t was the monkey bars and rings. I ended up taking them off since in training, I had a better grip. I made it through the bars but not the rings. I would definitely take this same approach. It was also difficult to take them on and off because there was so much mud. So if you decide to race with them, be prepared to keep them on because if you take them off and put them back on, you’ll just end up stuffing more crud into your fingertips.

Visor- I always wear a visor to keep the sun out of my eyes since I don’t race with sunglasses. It also keeps the sweat from stinging my eyes. I’m glad I had it during Tough Mudder. And for obstacles like the monkey bars and rings where there’s a risk of water, I

would just take it off and hook it onto my race belt. For the jump into the water, I either hooked it onto the belt again or just carried it my hand. I got my from REI for about $20.00, and it has lasted me years. Note how muddy it got after the race in the previous picture. And I can’t seem to wash out the brown now ;)


Goggles- I have to admit I was a bit nervous about the race because of my hard contact lens. I didn’t want it to pop out mid-race, and then I’d be hosed. So I hooked these $25 Aqua Sphere Kayenne Goggle onto my race belt and thought that I could use them for the crawling through tubes or water obstacles. But at the end, I didn’t end up needing them at all which wasn’t too bad since they weren’t heavy nor in my way. Next time, I’ll be leaving these puppies at home though.

So that’s my recommended equipment and gear buying guide for Tough Mudder. Like I said, I don’t know about Warrior Dash or Spartan races, but I’m sure some of the lessons learned would be applicable. I’ll attempt to do another post on my experience and the obstacles later. But one note I will leave with you is that after every other type of race, I would feel a sense of accomplishment when completed. After Tough Mudder, I was hugging my teammates and thinking how FUN it was. That was a big difference to me. I’ll definitely still do other races, but I think I’m hooked on Tough Mudder now too!

My new Tough Mudder “FAQ” Frequently Asked Questions is up now. If you like these, please comment and share.

-David

PS: I love getting updates from people who’ve read this and then shared their experience as I constantly update the best Tough Mudder gear list. Here’s one of my favorites to share:

“David ~

I ran last Saturday…10 miles, 24 obstacles. So relative to your gear list; dude, you were spot on! Hat to protect my bald head from Electro-Shock Therapy; compression knee-high socks (no rocks, and not stopping to empty shoes like I saw dozens of others doing); runners pouch – did that had to fruit roll-ups and 3 Gu with me. Salt – wish I had that, started cramping at mile 9, but mad it. Found a little stainless steel tube at REI for the salt tabs, then forgot those. Knee pads – Asics got those, they were a life saver. Shoes – I went high end with Solomons and they worked beautifully. Compression shirt was all I wore up top an 80-degree day, no clouds, and no humidity. I taped both of my ankles used a Bosu for strengthening them. For the next one, I know I need more upper body strength so I will work on that. My endurance was good a week prior I put in an 8-miler so I was ready there. Dude, you spot on the equipment! Thanks so much!”

38 thoughts on “Recommended Tough Mudder Gear and Best Equipment From My Experience

  1. Nice write up! Thank you very much for the information on each piece in addition to the the descriptions and links for each item. I’m doing the TM in September in St. Louis and plan on using this guide so I’ll let you know how it goes for me.

  2. Dude thanks alot! I am doing the TM in Kentucky in October and it will likely be very cold, especially after the ice pool! Any tips on keeping warm? Also when did you do the one in Seattle?

  3. thank you so much for this list! i am doing my first TM in October 2013 and i was looking for this info so badly!! thanks. =D

  4. Dude thanks for the tips! I would like to point out though, that the Tough Mudder is not a timed race! In fact, it actually preaches it’s not a race at all! That’s the whole catch of Tough Mudder, is to not worry about your time, instead worry about finishing and helping others finish!

    • Arrick, of course, I know it’s not timed…I brought my watch to track my heart rate and to track how the team was doing as a benchmark. Some of my best memories from Tough Mudder was helping others up Everest.

      Good luck on your race!

    • Best of luck! Please let us know how you enjoyed it, and if you have other tips on Tough Mudder Equipment to add.
      Thanks,
      David

  5. pretty good list. i did a few things a little differently, but similar. i’ve done the kentucky tm twice now, and wore asics kahana 6′s both times. crazy good grip. the kentucky course is very hilly, and while about 90% of the people were struggling up the hills, falling down and slipping, i could, in most instances, just march right up the middle of them. most of the hills turned into giant mud slides. i’m sure i expended less energy by being able to just walk up the hills instead of struggle with grip.

    also, on the socks, i got some wicking socks, but i got the kind with the individual toes in them. kept my wet toes from getting all smashed and stuck together. no issues whatsoever with blisters or anything. still a toss up on the gloves. i feel i need them, but haven’t found any good ones yet. i went more minimal than david, compression pants, running shorts, dri-fit longsleeve with tough mudder shirt over it, shoes and gloves. nothing else (goggles, visor, etc.). ate and drank at every opportunity, and kept moving to fend off the cold.

    it was a lot of fun, and i might try one up in ohio this year.

    • Don, great insights, and I’m glad to have your thoughts to share with other folks who plan to Tough Mudder or do something similar. Smart choice in gear and good luck in Ohio :)

  6. Thank you for that, it was so so helpful.
    I’m thinking of doing the Midlands, UK ToughMudder in July but am a little nervous about entering! I am very worried about my lenses. I wear daily contact lenses and am worried that if I get mud in my eye I won’t be able to see and then will have to take it out and my eye sight is too bad to not have lenses in. How did you find it with the mud and did you go underwater? Did you fall off any ledges, planks etc and crash into the water? I thought I’d maybe toy with the goggles idea but you said you didn’t need them in the end.
    Any info would be great!
    Thanks, Amy

    • Amy, great question regarding contact lens. I have rigid gas permeable lens so I was really nervous doing a Tough Mudder with them since any fleck of dirt feels like daggers. That’s why I bought the goggles but this is what happened:

      a. My goggles got so much dirt in them that they were almost worthless in terms of keeping dirt out.

      b. There weren’t many Tough Mudder obstacles that I dealt with that I needed the goggles.

      c. I did have one or two moments when mud or dirt got in my eyes. But I had a team mate that had a Camelbak with water that I used to clean my hands to rub my eyes. There were also a few water stations. But I did NOT dare take them out since there is mud everywhere.

      All in all, it was no problem. You will be fine. All the others who wore soft contact lens had no issues completing Tough Mudder. Have fun and let me know how it goes!
      Best,
      David

  7. Wow, great information from you on your experience. Thanks so much for taking the time to post. Very helpful to others. We have a group of 11 competing in the Atlanta Mudder in 3 weeks. We’re all training and getting our gear together. Nothing like “getting the dirt” before getting dirty. Kudos to you.

    • Best of luck Matt! Let me know how it goes and what you think about my recommended Tough Mudder gear list. Or if you have some gear you’d like to add / edit. Thanks and have fun!

  8. Thanks for posting this…googled “equipment for…” I think you “hit” number 3. I am starting from scratch in the fitness department for a TM in just under 2-months in Virginia. I am a fairly fit guy, and it does not take me too long to get back into shape. I appreciate you taking the time to post this…I was curious about the gloves and am glad for the insight regarding the little goodie bag and higher socks. Will let you know how this goes.

    • Sounds like you’ll be able to finish no matter what given your physical shape. However, you’ll have more fun and be able to help more people when you’re in better shape. It’ll be a blast either way.

      Please do let me know how it goes and if I need to update the equipment if you like / dislike something. Thanks!

    • Hey Nels! See you there in VA. I’m participating on Saturday, June14th. Good Luck!

      David, This was a great help on gear, especially for first timers like me. Thanks for taking time to share your experience. I read somewhere that you want to find shoes that have “holes” for draining. I assume the shoes you recommended didn’t have a problem with that.

      Thanks again. Best wishes to all new members of the Tough Mudder Nation!

      • Greg S, I don’t know about shoes that drain for Tough Mudder. Basically, I bought grippy shoes and practiced racing with rocks in my shoes and when they were soggy. That’s the reality, they will be disgusting at the end.

        Shoes that drain will still be wet and soggy without as much grip in my opinion. So I went with more safety with full protection since there’s nasty things on the Tough Mudder courses. If you do try shoes that drain, please let me know if they were good.

        Thanks and race strong,
        David

        • David ~
          I ran last Saturday…10 miles, 24 obstacles. So relative to your gear list; dude, you were spot on! Hat to protect my bald head from Electro-Shock Therapy; compression knee-high socks (no rocks, and not stopping to empty shoes like I saw dozens of others doing); runners pouch – did that had to fruit roll-ups and 3 Gu with me. Salt – wish I had that, started cramping at mile 9, but mad it. Found a little stainless steel tube at REI for the salt tabs, then forgot those. Knee pads – Asics got those, they were a life saver. Shoes – I went high end with Solomons and they worked beautifully. Compression shirt was all I wore up top an 80-degree day, no clouds, and no humidity. I taped both of my ankles used a Bosu for strengthening them. For the next one, I know I need more upper body strength so I will work on that. My endurance was good a week prior I put in an 8-miler so I was ready there. Dude, you spot on the equipment! Thanks so much!

          • Nels, thanks so much for sharing. In fact, I included your thoughts in my post in the PS section because it was so good. Let me know if you want to add anything else.
            Thanks!
            David

      • Nels and Greg,

        See you tomorrow in VA! 4-5 days of straight rain will undoubtedly make this course “fun”. Hopefully they don’t cancel like they did last year.

        David, great info. I’ve been training in Soloman Speedcross 3′s. Trail shoe, crazy grippy soles, with a “quicklace” lacing system found in snowboarding boots. Hopefully they make it through the race.

        Excited!

        One question: I tend to get a dry throat when running and training (probably because I’m a mouth breather, not a runner by any means). Can you share any information about how frequent the water stations were? It will be in the mid 80′s with 50% humidity, 9:30 start time.

        Thanks again!

        Magnus

        • Magnus, best of luck on the race! I don’t know if you just ran it or not since I just had a 2nd kid and have been swamped.

          But for us, the water stations were spaced out every 3 miles or so if I remember. I tend to not drink too much when doing endurance events, so it was fine for me. Others wore water packs which also served to protect their back (and shield) when going through the electrical obstacles.

          Good luck and please let everyone know how it went for you!
          Finish strong,
          David

  9. Hey, thanks for the write up and your thoughts on TM. I’m doing the Edinburgh one in six weeks and I had the same questions as others regarding contact lenses. When I go swimming they constantly disappear round the back of my eye (I use disposable lenses) so I’m definitley going for the goggles, although I appreciate these may bring different problems. In my opinion though, losing a contact lens will be far worse than struggling to see out of goggles when I’m swimming/trying not to drown.

    On your advice I’m also going to get a race belt which I think is a great idea if not for me then I’m sure one or two of my team will be in need of a gel at some point.

    I’m 4 months into increased training (9 mile runs, bootcamps, gym, swimming, etc…) so I think phyisically I’ll be able to give all obstacles a good go. I’m like you, I’ve always been a runner but now I’m getting into this cross training its just so much more fun!

    Thanks for taking the time to write down your thoughts, its a huge help to a first time mudder and has helped to aviod some problems on the day just by doing some advanced research and planning!

    Thanks!

    • Neil, thanks for sharing your experience thus far. I was thinking more about doing Tough Mudder’s swim with goggles and contact lens. If you do decide to bring goggles, you must wrap them in a Ziplock bag 3 times over. Then in the 2nd to last one, you should have a wipe, like a baby wipe.

      Then you’ll take the wipe out to clean your disgustingly dirty hands before you take out your goggles to put them on. If you don’t do this, your goggles will be encased in mud to render them useless for the swim.

      Or you can just take your time and swim with you head above water. Let me know how it goes. And best of luck on your first Tough Mudder!

  10. thanks for sharing….i was going to buy the garmin fenix 2 but im a little tight on $ so if you did the Tm with your watch it should work for all mud runs …thanks again

    • Yes, you can get the older Garmin watches pretty cheap online now. There are some closeouts, or you can buy them used.

      At the end of the day, the functionality I really just needed was time. So you can just buy a super cheap Timex to do that.

      Best of luck on your first Tough Mudder and let me know how it goes :)

  11. I am grateful for your list. I did several mud runs last year (2013) including a Tough Mudder. I am getting ready to do more mud runs this year and wanted to see what other people used for equipment.I am about to buy the knee pads you recommended. The others I considered were either not flexible enough. I even tried some home built solutions that didn’t work.
    I concur with all of your other recommendations.

    • Alan H, great to hear you like the list. The knee pads I bought were cheap and flexible. The key is that I train like I race. So I wore kneepads on my ankles all the time. And then I started just running with them on my knees.

      On Tough Mudder race day, I started with them on my knees and did the whole race with them there. I didn’t notice them at all. And they were by far the best piece of equipment. While others were having issues crawling through the corrugated steal pipe, I was slithering through like a champ :)

      Good luck and let me know if the new new pads are a hit on your next TM race!

  12. Thanks for the info. I’m doing my my first Tough Mudder in Temeculca, CA on 10/25. Though not quite as accomplished as you, I, too am mostly a runner. I was trying to find out what socks were best to wear when I found blog. Some great advice in here. Never occured to me to bring the race belt or knee pads, and now I’m having second thoughts on getting gloves.

    • Good luck Rey! I was just having flashbacks to my Tough Mudder last night since I’m meeting a fellow team mate tomorrow. I just remember him running up and tearing up his knees while sliding down Everest. With knee pads, he would have been fine! Let me know how you like the knee pads and gloves – made my Tough Mudder much easier and fun :)

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