We sent two testers through the Spartan Beast a few weeks ago, and the event delivered a brutal amount of mud, sun, and sweat. You can read all about that here, but now let’s take a look at what gear came along and how it all performed:
One runner took a second set of shoes and traded out halfway through, he’d been through mud races before and knew that relief shoes at the halfway point are amazing, and also a mark of experience.
These lightweight (10.6oz) racing shoes don’t skimp on trail running essentials. With beefed up traction, EVA midsole and heel cushioning, and a molded TPU plate for solid support this shoe was built to survive the miles. The seamless mesh upper material was well ventilated and shed water fast, and the featherweight material kept the shoes from bogging down after a few uphill miles. The mesh was a bit open for the sandy material out there, and did take on a bit of grit after a particularly dirty mud obstacle, but the accumulation wasn’t enough to even stop and empty out. The tread is wide enough to keep mud and muck from clogging and kept grip on a variety of terrain without slipping. The cushioning is lighter than most shoes, and with only a 6mm drop it runs relatively flat so ease into them with some light runs if transitioning from a softer, more cushioned shoe. Overall, these were built for the trail and were easy to depend on while ticking up the rugged miles.
These stable cushioned shoes took on the second leg of the race and performed great. The vented mesh materials stayed cool in the heat, but kept out most of the sandy terrain. The shoes have a wide open tread with plenty of multi-directional grip which is great for obstacle race fun, the tread also extended up the toe enough to provide rock and root protection which is essential in a trail shoe. The mesh material is a bit thick and held onto more moisture after some really wet obstacles, and once wet the shoes stayed a bit soggy for the remainder of the race. With an 8mm drop and medium thick EVA padding, the Ignite was comfortable and easy to transition into for a comfortable long-distance shoe. That extra cushioning didn’t add any real weight to the shoes, they still weigh in at a respectable 10.2oz. Overall, it’s too bad the upper material didn’t handle moisture a bit better, but with great tread and supportive construction this shoe can still dominate the mud-run trail.
The women’s Oterro shoes were designed as featherlight (7.2oz) all-terrain kicks, built with multi-directional tread, great support, and lightweight materials that drain water and dry fast. The shoes shed mud and water, and didn’t let much sand infiltrate into the interior for a comfortable and supportive base. With so much downhill, the wide toebox left a bit of play and resulted in a bit of rubbing. A nice feature that did minimize this friction was the multi-position lacing options, we cinched the shoes down to keep the hot spots manageable. The burly traction and support were welcome over the uneven miles and resulted in a stable run throughout the race.
One of the most overlooked items during race preparation would have to be the socks. A solid set of socks provides cushion, moisture control, and can limit hot-spots which develop into painful blisters. Balega’s Merino wool performance socks were the perfect companion on the mud run. With immediate water obstacles, socks and shoes were wet from the first mile so moisture management was key. The wool socks kept their form, and wicked the water away from the foot. Instead of an uncomfortable sloshing mess, the socks remained supportive and pushed the water away from the foot and out of the shoe. They also held up strong against infiltrated sand and muck, providing enough protection to prevent any muck-related blisters. Keep in mind, that even though Merino wool is softer then traditional wool materials, the coarseness of the wool did become a bit irritable by the end of the race. But the water-wicking benefits provided by this material and the absence of blisters really makes it the only kind of sock we plan on running mud runs in.
Both runners wore an Ibex Merino “weightless” Wool shirt, designed with durability and function in mind. The shirts were lightweight, dried fast, and were generally comfortable throughout the race. The Merino wool materials are light and wick away moisture well, maintaining their shape and overall function. Although the shirts were a bit warmer than synthetic materials like the Columbia Omni-Cool, the ability to dry fast and remain virtually odor free was really a benefit on this sweaty run. Both shirts were surprisingly fresh after the race, but did develop tears where the race bib was attached (probably from the lengthy belly crawl under barbed-wire in the mud). Overall, the wool materials outperformed both cotton and synthetic options in the hygiene and moisture management aspects. On a side note, both testers felt that a sleeveless version would be a great option.
Headsweats Ultratech Headband ($15):
When the sun is beating down and the sweat is flowing free, a quality headband can really make a difference. When the headband can cool off at the same time? That’s a bonus worth mentioning. Headsweats Ultratech headbands wick sweat, and actually help to cool with the CoolMax™ evaporative technology. The white headband came out of the race a dirty brown that didn’t wash up very well, but the entire race was a bit less brutal without the constant stream of sweat in the eyes.
Rookie Note: When you pack your hydration pack, remember to bring along the hydration hose with the bladder! One of our runners had to leave the bladder home and pack along a bulky bottle instead!
Orange Mud Hydraquiver Double Barrel ($110):
The most recognizable hydration pack on the course was our runner’s unique Orange Mud Hydraquiver. This upper shoulder pack minimizes bounce while still packing along 48 oz of hydration plus a roomy zippered pouch full of gels and energy bars. The two 24oz bottles sit in twin holsters that are easily accessible with one hand without even slowing down. One bottle was kept full of water, while the other held a recovery drink that helped ward off painful muscle cramps. Through all the obstacles, the bottles only fell out once during the belly crawl under barbed wire. With plenty of compliments along the way for the sharp looking pack, it was eyed enviously by the common underprepared fool who had skimped on hydration for the race. Overall, the pack was light and dispersed the weight well over the shoulders while providing enough room for all the support fuel. The straps did rub a bit on the runner’s collarbone and armpits, but a small sternum strap would easily address that issue.
Contour ROAM 2($170):
The Contour ROAM 2 appeared back on the market a few months ago and we were excited to bring it along to capture the fun. The waterproof, aluminium shelled camera is easy to hold with a thin tube-shaped design. The large on/off switch on the top is fast and just about foolproof even when covered in mud. Battery life was excellent, with removable micro-SD storage for easy expansion to fit the adventure. While we love the design, the video wasn’t as smooth as expected and had a distinct purple ghost-line that kept popping up in the finished video. As far as after race clean-up, the sandy material from the run got in all the seams and screw holes and it took quite a bit of work to get it grit-free again. Overall, we love the design and easy use of the camera, but final video product is a bit less than expected from a high-end adventure camera.
In the end it’s all about having a great time out there, and proper gear can make all the difference. We fully recommend plenty of hydration, good shoes, and enough clothes to protect against the sun, mud, and sharp obstacles. So head out prepared to dominate, then by all means go out there and get the hell beat right outta you. Cheers, and Good Luck!