What You Must Wear For Your Next Obstacle Race or Mud Run

What To Wear To Your Obstacle Course Race or Mud Run?

When preparing for your obstacle race, you must wear the right clothing and choose wisely. It’s the difference between having an enjoyable experience or feeling miserable and having a very uncomfortable outing.  After trying various types of clothing over a dozen races and gaining advice from people in OCR, this information should offer some guidance towards having a great event.

For your next obstacle course race or mud run, always wear sports clothing that is breathable, dries rapidly and can wash off mud easily. It’s critical to get some decent trail shoes, that have a good grip and don’t retain water. Always go for synthetic running socks, as these can help to prevent water retention and make running comfortable for longer. 

Some useful obstacle course tips 

Before starting any event, it’s essential to consider the following:

  • What time of year is the race?
  • Will you be racing in the morning, midday, afternoon, evening or into the night?
  • What is the predicted weather forecast?
  • What will the logistics be for this event? I.e. Driving across the country, or is this a local event?
  • Will there be camping at the event?
  • Will there be lots of water obstacles?
  • Will there be lots of mud, sand, water, or gravel?
  • What is the duration of this event? Is it a 5k, 10k, 10 miles or more?


For people that are new to OCR, people say it’s best to use old trainers. However, you need trail shoes with decent grip, otherwise, when on you’re on slippery mud – it’s going to be like a car on black ice. Where possible, and if you’re serious about doing more OCR events, go to a running shop and ask a gait analysis. As a rule of thumb, I don’t invest in running shoes without having a gait analysis.

What is a gait analysis?

Gait analysis is where you determine which running shoes are best for you. When having a gait analysis, you’ll be asked to use a treadmill, and the assessor will record the back of your feet, to see how your feet land on the ground.

We’re all different, and we don’t always hit the ground evenly. Some runners will land more unevenly on one side of the foot, and this is common.

Have you worn a pair of shoes and noticed that the heels have worn out unevenly? Uneven shoe threads is an example of misalignment. By understanding your running mechanics can help you to make more informed buying decisions. Having ill-fitted running shoes can be painful and expensive. So, by getting a gait analysis done, you’re saving in the long term, and this can improve your performance and reduce potential injuries.

As I have wide feet, I currently wear Brooks Cascadia 14. I’ve tried on many other pairs of trail shoes, and unfortunately, they’re too tight. If you do have issues with fitting, don’t be afraid to try many different brands until you find a pair that fits. You’ve got to see that having the right pair of trail shoes as an investment.

What are good trail running shoes for an obstacle course race?  

Everyone’s feet and running mechanics are different. It’s always best to get a gait assessment from a reputable running shop.

You want something light, very comfortable and doesn’t hold in moisture. Nobody can tell you what the best shoe is for you – as this is down to personal preference.

Below are some recommended trail running shoe brands.

  • Salomon
  • Innov8 
  • Brooks 
  • Saucony 
  • Asics 
  • Hoka

After doing some research with my OCR friends, it seems that Salomon’s Cross Speed 4 and the Innov8 MudClaw are very popular.

Running shoes cleaning tips 

When it comes to cleaning your running shoes, it’s best to use a hose, then an old brush to get rid of the dirt. However, avoid being too vigorous, as excess pressure may damage the shoes. Then, you want the shoes to dry naturally. I either place my shoes on the washing line or stuff them with newspaper.


When it comes to running, it’s vitally important not to wear cotton socks. Cotton makes your feet sweat. The feeling of wet soggy socks is not only awful but a recipe for blisters. It’s crucial to keep your feet dry as possible. 

Here are some things to consider when buying running socks:

  1. Socks need to be breathable, made from a fast-drying fabric, and that will keep your feet dry for miles to come.
  2. You can buy running socks that have extra padding to reduce impact and friction. Some socks even have a second lining to help reduce friction.

There is a wide range of running socks available, and my personal favourite is the Hilly TwinSkin. It’s a double-layered sock – which reduces friction between and helps to prevent blisters. Comfort is vital, and running around with blisters on your feet is agonising. I was so relieved to find a sock that helps to reduce blisters and especially with distance running.

Compression socks

Some people like to wear compression socks; I can’t comment as I don’t always use them. However, from what I understand is that compression socks help to improve blood flow and can help to remove lactic acid from the muscles. As compression socks are long and tight, they can offer a bit of protection against cuts and bruises as opposed to having short socks.

Bottoms, Shorts or Pants

We’ve established that wearing cotton in sports is a big no-no. When it comes to running and OCR, this is no exception. Running your OCR event in cotton will make you feel miserable. When cotton is wet, the material is heavier, it takes longer for it to dry, and you’re also prone to chafing.

What causes chafing?

Chafing is where poorly fitted clothes, often cotton, or underwear rubs against the top layer of skin leading to irritation. As cotton traps moisture, including sweat, this can cause chafing. So, it’s essential to keep yourself as dry as possible to avoid rubbing. It’s common for runners to experience chafing in the upper inner thigh region (the groin area).


I don’t like to talk about underwear. However, in this segment, it’s a necessity. It’s best to wear sports underwear. Leave your cotton underwear at home. Cotton holds water, and it can be very discomforting.

Sports bras 

I’m not a woman, and I do not know this area. However, for the females reading this, the best advice is to wear a decent sports bra.

Compression shorts

When I go running, I prefer to wear compression shorts as the material is breathable and dries quickly and helps to prevent chafing. As compression clothing is tighter on the body; this is handy when crawling underneath barbed wire obstacles as you’re less likely to get caught from wearing loose-fitted clothing.

Some runners like to wear compression pants as this acts s a form of protection. I always wear a pair of running shorts over any compression pants.

Running shorts 

A good pair of running shorts that are light, breathable, dry fast and will wash off mud easily are always your best bet. Where possible, avoid running shorts with pockets as these may fill up with water. It’s best not to have too baggy shorts, as mentioned before, anything that’s loose could get caught on an obstacle such as going under barbed wire.

Sports leggings

For the ladies reading this article, sports leggings can be a good option. A good pair of leggings should be fast drying and offer some level of protection from cuts and bruises. On a mud run, there will be obstacles where the mud will stick to your leggings. Ideally, you want a material that’ll easily wash off the dirt when you enter a water obstacle.

Sports pants or running bottoms  

Before competing in Europe’s Toughest Mudder, a 12 hour through the night mud race, I bought some Trespass Running Bottoms. These are 88% Polyester, 12% Elastane and clean off dirt easily. I wanted to see how well these jogging bottoms would react in cold water. So, I put all my OCR gear on and sat in a cold bath; this might sound crazy, but I needed to know how well my clothing and my body would cope if I were going to jump into an ice bath at night.

In fairness, I felt the cold in my skin. However, for many reading this post, you’re very unlikely to be jumping in an ice bath at night; unless you’ve signed up to a Toughest Mudder.

For regular obstacle course racing, on the day you’ll be fine wearing sports pants. It’s essential to find something that’ll dry quickly and especially after going through that ice bath.

Upper body 


For mud runs and OCR events, I always go for a sports T-shirt. The material needs to be fast drying and will wash off mud rapidly. If you’ve done an OCR race before, your finisher T-shirt is always a good thing to wear.

Running Tops 

Temperature is always a key factor when running. Every March, in the UK, there’s a 10k adventure run, that I do. At the start, I usually have a top, a t-shirt, a neck tube, and a beanie hat. Within 2 miles in, I’m taking off layers and leaving items around the course that I can pick up on lap two. Otherwise, it’s a logistical nightmare to carry around heavy wet clothing.

If you’re looking to wear a top, I’d suggest wearing something lightweight, and you can fold up and carry easily.

Head Gear 

Most OCR events are between March to November. When it comes to headgear, it’s likely to fall off. 

Wearing caps and waterproof beanie hats may seem a good idea, but they’re going to be annoying; as you’ll need to take them off in between obstacles and if it’s warm, you’ll feel the heat.

How about trying a neck gaiter? 

If you want something to cover your head, I’d suggest a neck gaiter; also called a buff or neck tube. The neck gaiter is a versatile tube of fabric that you wear, primarily, around the neck or can it be used as a wristband, face mask, headband, neck warmer, hood, beanie or as a hair tie. 

There are many benefits of using a neck gaiter, as it’s light, you’re unlikely to lose it and can be used for many sports.

What about hair tips and tips for bald guys 

If you’ve got long hair, it’s always best to tie it in a ponytail. All the ladies, I know in OCR either tie their hair in a ponytail or have their hair platted.

If you have no hair and don’t want to get sunburnt, I’d suggest trying a neck gaiter and making it into a bandana. I’m losing my hair, and when it’s chilly or even hot, I’ll turn my neck gaiter into a form of protection against the sun.

What about gloves? 

There are two types of people that take part in obstacle races: those that wear gloves and those that don’t. Let’s help you decide which one are you? 

I spend most of my working life in front of Google doing digital marketing. It’s not proper manual labour like building furniture or repairing cars. However, when I train some days, I’ll be lifting weights with gloves and some days without them. What I’m trying to do is build up the callouses on my hands; so that, when I’m doing monkey bars on course, my hands are prepared.

Some exercises that are great for building grip strength include deadlifts, pull-ups, farmer’s walks, and if you can get into rock climbing, this can help too. At the beginning of training, it’s going to take time to build up this hard skin on your hands. Therefore, it’s essential to be patient. If you do have hard skin on your hands, this can benefit you for those monkey bars and grip strength obstacles.

I’ve worn gloves to a race and found that I give up wearing them. The reason being is when gloves get wet, you will lose your grip, and this can be slippery and a hazard. Even with wearing expensive gloves that are weatherproof and have awesome grip, your hands become sweaty, and if you get water inside the glove, you can’t use them.

I’ve found wearing gloves to be a burden, as you need to carry them around the course. I’m a firm believer in having dress rehearsals before an event; this lets you know what’s working and how to avoid any pitfalls on the day of the event.

Sometimes the best gloves are heavy-duty rubber gardening gloves with some decent grip.

You don’t need to spend a lot of money on gardening gloves as they’re relatively cheap. Where possible, try and buy items that are dual purpose. It’s great to buy something for an OCR event, but you if can use the same thing for something else that’s smart thinking!

If you’re still not a fan of gloves, some runners will carry a fanny pack, a bum bag and bring liquid chalk, often used by weightlifters, bodybuilders, rock climbers and gymnasts, to help them maintain grip strength.

When approaching an obstacle that requires grip strength, let’s say monkey bars, you need to have your hands as dry and clean as possible. If your hands are wet, use your T-shirt or some grass to dry them.

To summarise, if you’re going to be using gloves, always test them out before your event. Within your training sessions, work on grip strength exercises, so that you’re more prepared for the monkey bars.

When to wear a wetsuit? 

For those doing a Toughest Mudder race, Europe’s Toughest Mudder or World’s Toughest Mudder, you need a wetsuit. Trust me, jumping into an ice bath at midnight without a wetsuit isn’t a good idea! For those doing a race during the day, you don’t need one!

Other Gear – GPS Watches 

If you’re into tracking your steps, time and mileage wearing a GPS watch can be useful. Bear in mind; a GPS watch is likely to get damaged!

If you’re concerned about hydration, most OCR events under 10 miles have hydration stations. If you’re competing in ultra-marathons or Toughest Mudder events, you’ll benefit from a hydration pack.

Finally, do a dress rehearsal before your event! 

When it comes to an OCR event, there’s so much to consider. Having clothing or gear that’s going to irritate you on event day will make your experience frustrating. To maximise the enjoyment of your event, make sure you get familiar with your kit beforehand. It’s easier to adjust during your training sessions.

Comfort is so important. Just remember that OCR is going to challenge you mentally. Having a dress rehearsal is going to make all the difference.

James King has competed in multiple OCR events including Europe's Toughest Mudder from 2019 to 2022, multiple mud events, 10k runs and currently for his first marathon. James includes useful tips and experiences about OCR on his blog mudrunlifestyle.com.

James King has competed in multiple OCR events including Europe's Toughest Mudder from 2019 to 2022, multiple mud events, 10k runs and currently for his first marathon. James includes useful tips and experiences about OCR on his blog mudrunlifestyle.com.