The Perils of Water and Running

Water on the trails mean mud. Mud comes in variety of thicknesses, much to our great joy. Super thin mud is just as treacherous as the thick, suction your shoes off, mud. So how do you navigate running through the mud? Well, it’s a bit treacherous and takes a bit of recklessness.

Thin mud, almost just dirty water, doesn’t stick to the outside of your shoes. It infiltrates the inside creating optimal conditions for blisters and having your skin rubbed right off. Having shoes that drain water well will help but the dirt tends to remain in your shoe while the water escapes.

Try to prevent the mud from getting to your feet by wearing plastic bread bags over your feet and under your socks or over your socks, which ever is more comfortable for you. If you know you’re going to be going through mud, take extra shoes and a bunch of extra socks. At each aid station you’ll need to clean your feet and change socks.

All of these suggestions are applicable to thick sticky mud as well, especially, having extra shoes. If you have a ways to go in the thick stuff trying to scrape it off your shoes is a waste of time. Keep moving and take care of it at the end because it’s just going to get stuck back on their within a few minutes and it probably took you three to five minutes trying to get it off.

Have your crew clean your shoes while you’re out on the course. That way you’ll have a pair of slightly cleaner shoes to put on while they clean the second pair. Pack a bucket and a scrub brush in your crew vehicle to be used to clean your shoes. Having a bundle of news paper on hand to shove inside your shoes will help absorb the moisture and maintain the shape of the shoes. Your crew should remove your insole or footbed before washing your shoes.

Your feet are not the only thing that suffers when you encounter mud and water on a course. There are unknown hazards that you can’t see. Rocks and roots are waiting to twist your ankle and bring you to your knees. This is where the bit of recklessness comes into play. Sometimes it’s best to maintain a running pace rather than pick your way through feeling with your foot. This becomes more true the longer you’re going to be in the mud. Keep your stride short.

Prepare you body for mud running by practice. Don’t shy away from the tough stuff when you’re training. Write out the ABC’s with your foot raised about six to ten inches in the air. This will help the brain-foot connection enabling you to move your feet when you feel unstable. Train with an agility (speed) ladder to improve your ability to move your feet quickly through rocks and roots. Squat and calf raises. Lots. Balance exercises are also going to be valuable.

If you’re looking for a post about running in a pool, you can find my post on that here.

If you’re looking for a post about river crossing, I have one here. 


Get a Little Muddy

mud runner

Who doesn’t love to splash through mud?

Alright, I’m sure there are those of you out there who think it will ruin your shoes or at least stain them a nice brown color. So don’t buy white or pretty shoes.

Maybe it’s my rebellion against my mother and teachers who told me to stop jumping in puddles or playing in the mud.

It’s hard to run in mud and like most hard things it can make you stronger. Slick mud means your feet slide back with each step and you have to take more steps and fight your way through, especially, uphill. Thick sticky mud makes your shoes heavy requiring you to lift more with each step.

Running in mud can also be a little treacherous. Mud can hide things such as rocks and roots. You need to be prepared to shift your weight or move to your other foot. The sliding that can benefit you can also cause you to fall or pull a muscle. Running down hill in slick mud should cause you to think twice and move your feet real fast. Put your weight forward so you are not landing on your heels. When you land on you heels your center of gravity is off balance toward your back. This will cause you to slip out and crash on your ass. If your center of gravity is below you or even a little to the front, it will be much easier to stop a fall or at least minimize damage.

If you’re going to run through the mud, pay attention and stay on your toes, shorten your stride, and watch for things peeking out. Your shoes should have good traction, which will prevent some of the slipping and sliding. Sliding side to side is what you really want to prevent. The more aggressive the tread the more stable your foot is going to be. Solomon and Brooks shoes have the most aggressive tread I have seen on a trail shoe.

Gaiters are also a good idea to prevent mud and rocks from getting down in your shoes. Mud down in your shoe, especially, between your heel and the shoe will rub your skin right off.

Dancing through mud that is really more water than mud requires shoes with good drainage. You want that water to come out of your shoes. Wearing shoes that prevent water from getting in don’t help if the water goes over the top of the shoe and then once it is in those shoes, it doesn’t come out. Running with your feet in this condition causes blisters for most runners. I recommend my runners stay away from shoes that will “keep your feet dry by preventing water from coming in because even if there is not water you’re going through, it keeps the sweat in, which also can cause blisters.

Well-draining shoes do have some drawbacks. Sand and other fine dirt get inside. If you experience this, stop, take your shoe off, and shake out your sock. Sweat plus sand equals, you guessed it, blisters and or sand paper against your skin.

I wont stop running because of mud. I will avoid a section by running on firmer ground if the mud looks sketchy.