Mud is difficult to deal with in trail-runners. Its murder on the shoes, because the grit gets into all the little crevices, plus the organic matter in most mud can make shoes, well, smelly. And its difficult to keep your feet dry regardless of the shoe, because inevitably youll over-top the shoes or splash mud and water from one foot to the other.
So this is a three-pronged response. First, get shoes that can stand up to wet conditions. Salomons XA Pro 3D XCR shoe ($125; salomon.com) is one over-alphabetized candidate. Theyve got good, grippy soles, Gore-Tex XCR liners to keep your feet dry, and breathable mesh uppers so that your dogs dont overheat. I also like Montrail's Hurricane Ridge XCR trail-runners ($125; montrail.com). Theyre the same price as the Salomons, and a little more rigid in their design if thats something useful for you. The Hurricanes are very rugged shoes, but excellent on trails. Or, take a look at Asolos new Tenacity XCR shoes ($125; asolo.com). They are a little higher cut than the Salomon or Montrail shoes, so you might get better splash protection.
Next, get some short gaiters. REI Mistral Gaiters ($24; rei.com) are perfectshort, light gaiters made with a breathable but water-resistant Schoeller Dynamic fabric. Theyll go a long way in keeping mud from getting into the shoes from around your ankles.
Lastly, keep the shoes clean. If theyre really muddy when you get home from a run, then theyre also pretty wet. So, theres no harm in completely rinsing them in cool water. If theyre just sorta muddy, it may be best to let them dry and then bang them together to get off the dirt. But you will want to keep them pretty clean, as grit and sand will erode the stitching and clog the uppers so the Gore-Tex is less effective. And give them a little spritz of Tectron Water Repellent ($6; rei.com) now and again; itll help the water and gunk bead up more efficiently.
Check out Outside's picks for Gear of the Year and 400-plus gear reviews in the 2007 Summer Buyer's Guide, on newsstands now.