This Footwear Saved Me During Mud Season
Surviving the thaw requires special kicks
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If you don’t live in a part of the country where mud season is a thing, consider yourself blessed. In New England and some other snowy states, it typically occurs between March and May, when dirt and gravel roads begin to thaw out from the long, brutal winter, causing extended pandemonium on roads and trails alike. In Vermont, the mud can get so thick and deep that it’s generally considered more dangerous to drive during the thaw than it is during the iced-over winter season. For a few months, people stop hiking altogether to prevent trail erosion. But for the days when there’s no avoiding it, these are the kicks to get you through the muck.
For Walking: Muck Chore Classic Tall Xpresscool ($145)
One of the worst things about mud season is the variable temperatures. You might be walking in frozen slush one day and wallowing in warmed-over sludge the next. Muck’s Chore Classic Xpresscool is the sweet spot, temperature-wise, for this time of year. That “Xpresscool” tech is basically just a wicking liner, but it does the job well, keeping the inside of the boot dry (impressive for a neoprene and rubber construction) and providing some cooling action when you’re standing around in the sun. At 18 inches tall, that 5-millimeter-thick neoprene layer is pretty much impervious to mud and water, making it my boot of choice during downpours and while navigating foot-deep ruts on the road. A steel shank adds much-appreciated stability while gathering firewood, but as a result, it’s not the most comfortable boot for longer dog walks.
For Hiking: Hoka Kaha 2 GTX ($240)
Burly waterproof boots that can keep out slush and wet mud are typically sweaty and overbuilt. Hoka’s Kaha 2 GTX, however, is one of the most comfortable-out-of-the-box above-ankle boots I’ve ever worn. It’s as cushy as a recovery shoe thanks to a dual-density compression molded midsole and generous padding around the ankle and heel. The Gore-Tex membrane, which stood up to full immersion in slush puddles, never chafed or felt clammy. Most critically, the five-millimeter lugs with serrated edges and—love it or hate it—oversized heel provided extra surface area, flotation, and traction in the mucky stuff.
For Running: Saucony Peregrine 13 ST ($150)
A variant of Saucony’s wildly popular Peregrine trail runner, the ST (soft terrain) excels in slop. Six-and-a-half millimeter wide-spaced lugs were a dream during long runs down country roads, where conditions ranged from wet sand to oozing concrete. Even in the nastiest conditions, I never lost traction—nor did the lugs ball up with dirt—thanks to the generous spacing. A speedy quick-pull lace system anchors the shoe snugly and tucks up into a mesh pocket on the tongue. During early season slush runs, a stretchy ankle gaiter and protective film above the outsole kept water from sneaking in. And while there’s more cushioning and a softer rubber compound than in the normal Peregrine, the ST still felt precise on technical trails.