Spring has sprung, and though April showers bring May flowers, they also bring some seriously muddy trails. The spring rains, combined with the ground’s freeze-thaw cycle, can make a real mess of your favorite trails, creating sticky, slippery terrain and putting runners at risk of injury. Here’s how to stay rubber side down on even the muddiest of runs.
Choose Your Treads
Road shoes simply won’t cut it on muddy trails. For added traction, choose a trail shoe with thick, grippy lugs and a built-in drainage system to ensure any water that comes in also has a way out.
Up Your Sock Game
For many runners, the worst part about muddy runs is not the mud itself, it’s the cold, wet feet caused by moisture seeping in. For temperature management, consider a pair of neoprene running socks, which acts as an insulating layer on wet runs.
You’re probably going to lose your footing at some point, so prepare accordingly. At the trailhead, perform a thorough, dynamic warmup to move your muscles in all planes of motion. This will minimize the potential for a groin or hamstring strain when responding to a slide.
Shorten Your Stride
The muddier the trail, the more it’s going to feel like a slip-and-slide. Additionally, some mud can be misleading – what looks like a stable surface can actually be frozen and slick. As a preventative measure, adjust your stride in mud as you would on ice: taking short, quick steps that make it easier to keep your center of gravity should you start to slip.
Stay in Line
Go through puddles, not around them. Running around obstacles widens the trail, which can impact the surrounding vegetation and cause erosion. If a trail is excessively sloppy or sticky, turn back and return after the moisture has drained; running through such vulnerable terrain can cause damage to the trail. And, of course, if a trail is marked as closed, choose a different route.
Know When to Call it a Day
Most runners underestimate how tough it is to run in mud – that is, until they’re miles from the trailhead and absolutely knackered. Staying upright in mud is physically and mentally challenging, and with added fatigue comes added risk for injury. Pay attention to your physical and mental state, and know when to turn around.
Keep a “Clean Kit”
If you’re driving to the trailhead, pack a “clean kit” in your car: two towels (one to wipe off, and one to sit on); a pair of dry socks; and a clean, dry pair of shoes or warm slippers will keep you comfortable (and your car mud-free) on the ride home. When you take off your muddy kicks, strike each shoe on the pavement to remove as much mud as possible, then stuff the shoe with newspaper to eradicate moisture before your next run.
Remember: Attitude is Everything
Remember what it was like to be a kid? You splashed in puddles, didn’t care if your shoes got dirty, and embraced the adventure. The same principles apply to muddy runs. If you think it’s going to be a slog, then you’ll be right. But with a positive attitude, you’ll enjoy every second of your delightfully-dirty run.