Best Shoes for Cross Country & Track Meets Reviewed

For those of you who like to move your run off the road, away from the traffic and out into the countryside, you will know that the shoes you wear are your most important piece of running equipment. It is very important to invest in a good quality pair of specialized shoes for your running needs. Cross country running will require your choice of shoes to function well over many miles and across lots of different types of terrain. Shoes that are suitable for this specialized type of running need to provide good traction to ensure grip on even the most slippery surfaces, support, flexibility, durability to withstand heavy use and protection to ensure that the foot is safe on even the most undeveloped terrains.

One of the distinguishing features of a specialized cross country running shoes is the presence of spikes on the sole. These help to give maximum grip on the unpredictable terrains encountered during cross country running. However, some runners prefer shoes without spikes, this is mainly down to personal choice.

Featured Recommendations

Salomon Speedcross 4
  • Salomon Speedcross 4
  • 5 out of 5
    Our rating
  • Contragrip rubber sole
  • Price: See Here
New Balance 840
  • New Balance 840
  • 5 out of 5
    Our rating
  • Full-length EVA
  • Price: See Here
Saucony Shay XC4
  • Saucony Shay XC4
  • 4.5 out of 5
    Our rating
  • Lightweight Mesh
  • Price: See Here

Given the huge choice of specialized cross country running shoes currently available on the market, it can be difficult for you to decide which are best for your specific needs. That is why we have chosen some of the best shoes available and provided you with reasons why each one excels in this category. We have given choices for both spiked and flat shoes to allow for personal preference.

 

 

10 Best Shoes for Cross Country

 

 

1. Salomon Speedcross 4

The Salomon Speedcross 4 heads the top of this list with very good reason, it is definitely one of the best choices for cross country running. Its aggressive lug pattern provides excellent traction over unpredictable terrain. Whilst it also offers great comfort to the wearer, with plush cushioning and a supportive midsole. Ensuring both high performance and a comfortable fit.
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Sensifit Technology
The patented Sensifit technology provides a snug fit, which adapts to the shape of the foot. This also combines with the QuickLace system to tailor the fit and allow the shoes to slide on and off the foot easily.

Aggressive lug system
The outsole utilizes Contagrip rubber for excellent traction, even if surfaces are slippery or wet. The lug pattern has been optimized on this 4th generation shoe for superior grip across all types of terrain.

Cost and Value
This is one of the more expensive choices of shoe given in this list. However, it does have a high level of durability, performs exceptionally well and provides fantastic grip across varied terrains. Altogether this shoe is well worth the investment.
Pros

Water-resistant and breathable upper

Anti-debris mesh to prevent pebbles entering the shoe

Aggressive lug pattern

Dual density EVA midsole

QuickLace system

Cons
  • Tight toe box
  • Expensive

3. Saucony Shay XC4

The Saucony Shay XC4 Flat offers an aggressive outsole, which has been highly improved from previous models, to ensure good traction from a flat cross country shoe, ie. one with no spikes. The shoe is both lightweight and breathable, qualities which are important for a cross country shoe. They are also available in many funky designs, which are sure to stand out.
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SSL EVA midsole
The midsole is made up of compression-molded EVA. This provides the wearer with fantastic cushioning to ensure a comfortable experience. The EVA makes the midsole fairly firm, which is preferred by some runners as it provides a more supportive feel underfoot.

XT-600 rubber outsole
The outsole of the Shay XC4 has been transformed from previous models of the shoe to create better traction during runs. The use of XT-600 rubber, a rubber with outstanding abrasion, optimizes traction, whilst ensuring the outsole remains lightweight and durable.

Cost and Value
The Shay XC4 sports a very reasonable price tag. Considering the desirable features that the shoe offers to the wearer, including the clever use of materials to keep it very lightweight, this represents good value for money.
Pros
  • Very lightweight design
  • SSL EVA midsole for comfort and durability
  • Great traction
  • Affordable price tag
  • Funky designs
Cons
  • Narrow fit, may need a size larger
  • Not great arch support

2. Saucony Grid Kilkenny XC5

The Kilkenny XC5 is a spiked cross country runner, designed to give maximum performance, no matter what the terrain. Despite its high performance and good traction, the Kilkenny XC5 still manages to be a lightweight and comfortable training shoe, with many features that ensure a smooth run over any terrain type.
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4-spike plate
The use of 4 spikes in the sole ensures that the Kilkenny XC5 has superb traction across all terrains. This new and improved spike plate is also more flexible than in previous models and has much greater durability.

FlexFilm upper
The upper of the shoe is constructed using a FlexFilm textile which is extremely lightweight and highly breathable. The no-sew structure of the upper also optimizes the comfort of the shoe.

Cost and Value
This shoe is very reasonably priced and as such presents a great option for those who are new to cross-country running. They are lightweight and comfortable and the spiked sole ensures great traction, which would benefit beginners significantly.
Pros
  • Lightweight structure
  • Breathable upper
  • Reasonably priced
  • Good arch support
  • Spikes provide great traction
Cons
  • May need a size bigger
  • Some issues with durability

9. New Balance 840

9. New Balance 840
Despite having enough support and durability to perform well off-road, the New Balance 840 boasts superior comfort, with a highly cushioned midsole. The latest version of the 840 is more flexible than ever, with improved flex grooves in the sole of the shoe. The outsole of the shoe incorporates non-aggressive treads, which provide the runner with fantastic traction.
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Full EVA Strobel board
The midsole of the New Balance 840 is built to provide all-day comfort to the runner. As well as providing cushioning underfoot, this EVA material also makes the midsole both lightweight and durable.

Excellent traction
Despite being a flat shoe, without spikes, the New Balance 840 has a blown rubber outsole which provides excellent traction, making the shoe suitable for cross-country running.

Cost and Value
The New Balance 840 is a fairly high priced running shoe. However, it provides a great deal of additional support and comfort to those who need it. For this reason, if you have any foot or knee problems that require extra support, it is well worth the money.
Pros
  • Great level of cushioning underfoot
  • Raised grips on outsole for excellent traction
  • Snug fit
  • Protects the foot against unpredictable terrains
  • Durable rubber outsole
Cons
  • Lack flexibility due to high level of cushioning
  • Not water resistant due to mesh upper

4. New Balance 1400

4. New Balance 1400
The New Balance 1400 is a neutral racing shoe which is very lightweight and durable, helping to increase your speed without jeopardizing its longevity. It has a high level of cushioning to provide extra support to those runners who need it. These shoes are also designed to provide optimal protection to the wearer, with a particularly supportive midsole.
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REVlite Midsole
The high level of cushioning provided by the New Balance 1400 comes in the form of the REVlite midsole. This is a very lightweight midsole, which in addition to fantastic cushioning, also provides great responsivity to increase performance.

Sock-like fit
The New Balance 1400 has been designed to fit like a sock in order to give optimal comfort to the wearer. The overlay is made to be seamless, to ensure that there is no discomfort from rubbing.

Cost and Value
The cost of the shoe is about average for a shoe of this standard. The enhanced comfort and support offered by the shoe means that it is worth spending the money to ensure a comfortable running experience.
Pros
  • Supportive features
  • No-sew overlay
  • Extra cushioning in the heel
  • REVlite midsole
  • Good arch support
Cons
  • Toe box is narrow
  • Lack of different widths available

10. Brooks Running Mach 16

10. Brooks Running Mach 16
The Brooks Running Mach 16 is a good looking shoe, whose bright design will grab attention right from the start. As well as looking the part, the Mach 16 also provides good performance. It is extremely lightweight and durable, with impressive traction and added comfort. It includes 6mm spikes to ensure grip on even muddy or slippery terrains.
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Full-length EVA midsole
This shoe features a full-length compression molded EVA midsole. This provides a cushioned layer under the foot to ensure comfort for the wearer. EVA is also quite a stiff material, ensuring that the foot remains stable, in the correct position during your run.

Superb traction
The Brooks Running Mach 16 excels when it comes to providing traction. The outsole consists of ultra-thin contact rubber, with an aggressive lug pattern. The addition of the 6mm 5-spike configuration ensures that the wearer will have plenty of grip on any cross-country terrain that they encounter.

Cost and Value
This shoe is very reasonably priced for a shoe in this category. It also has many enhanced features which ensure it performs well as a cross country shoe.
Pros

Thin, seamless upper

5-spike configuration

Lightweight to improve speed

Attractive and colourful design

Good level of cushioning underfoot

Cons
  • Extremely narrow fit
  • Little support or stability in the shoe

5. Adidas Supernova Riot

5. Adidas Supernova Riot
The Adidas Supernova Riot M is one of the top choices for off-road running shoes currently available on the market. It incorporates many great trail-ready features and also has an attractive and appealing design. It is a very durable shoe, with superior traction and comfort to rival many of its competitors.
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Continental Rubber Outsole
The outsole of the Adidas Supernova Riot M is highly rated by its reviewers. It is constructed using a Continental rubber which provides superior grip on off-road trails. The outsole also contains deep lugs to further enhance grip. This tough rubber outsole also ensures that the shoe is highly durable.

Adidas Boost Technology
This technology is used within the midsole of the shoe. This innovative Boost foam compound ensures excellent energy return with every stride taken. This feature definitely helps to boost the performance of the shoe.

Cost and Value
This shoe is moderately priced for this category, but given the extra features that it provides, it is well worth the investment.
Pros
  • Excellent energy return
  • Superb traction and grip
  • Puncture resistant outsole
  • Highly durable outsole
  • Great ankle support provided by high top
Cons
  • High top design may not appeal to some
  • Lack of breathability

6. Mizuno Wave Ronin 5

6. Mizuno Wave Ronin 5
The Mizuno Wave Ronin 5 is an excellent racing flat, which includes lots of performance technology which makes it ideal for use on off-road, unpredictable terrains. The cushioning of the shoe is enhanced to ensure that the foot is well protected even when running on rocky, uneven surfaces. Most importantly, the outsole is reinforced to ensure that is it highly durable, with good traction for these types of surfaces.
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X-10 Carbon Rubber Outsole
To ensure that the shoe is suitable for cross country trails, it must have a very durable and abrasive sole. X-10 is a highly durable carbon rubber with fantastic abrasive properties, making sure it ticks all the boxes in this regard.

AP Midsole
The shoe has an AP (accelerated polymer) midsole, which is very lightweight, however, it provides excellent responsivity. It helps to absorb shocks and to provide a softer riding experience.

Cost and Value
The Mizuno Wave Ronin 5 is one of the more expensive shoes on this list. However, for runners who are looking for a lightweight, fast shoe, then this shoe does provide the technology and features to justify the price tag.
Pros
  • Sock-like, snug fit
  • Bright, colourful designs
  • Very responsive
  • Lightweight design
  • Highly cushioned
Cons
  • Quite expensive
  • High heel-to-toe drop

7. Nike Zoom Rival XC

7. Nike Zoom Rival XC
The Nike Zoom Rival XC is an entry level spiked cross country shoe. It boasts many useful features for running on off-road terrain. These include a water-resistant upper allowing you to run comfortably even in wet conditions and a waffle outsole with flex grooves to provide excellent traction and flexibility. The shoe also has excellent arch support for those who require extra support in this area.
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Water resistant
The upper of the shoe is constructed using a hydrophobic mesh material. The helps to repel water, ensuring that the foot remains dry, even in wet conditions. As the material is mesh, it still allows good ventilation around the foot.

Carbon waffle outsole
The Carbon waffle outsole of the shoe ensures great traction, which is essential for cross country running. It also has 6 spikes for added grip on muddy or grassy surfaces. The forefoot of the shoe is wider, allowing natural splaying of the toes.

Cost and Value
The Nike Zoom Rival XC provides excellent value for its relatively low price. The shoe is very comfortable, whilst having enough features to make it a good performing shoe in the cross country category.
Pros
  • Flashlon midsole provides responsive cushioning
  • Dynamic arch band
  • Flywire technology
  • Seamless fit
  • Flex grooves for flexibility in the sole
Cons
  • Narrow fit across the midfoot
  • Wider fitting forefoot may not be suitable for some

8. Adidas XCS 3

8. Adidas XCS 3
The Adidas XCS 3 is available in both a spiked and a spikeless version. However, we recommend the spikeless version for those cross country runners wanting a lightweight, responsive and comfortable running shoe. The spikeless version still provides plenty of traction to handle the unpredictable terrain, thanks to its rubber sharkskin outsole.
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Rubber Sharkskin Outsole
Despite being a spikeless shoe, the Adidas XCS 3 spikeless does not disappoint when it comes to providing grip on uneven surfaces. This is because Adidas have used a rubber sharkskin outsole, which provides enhanced traction, allowing you to maintain grip.

Full-length EVA unit
This provides the shoe with great, lightweight cushioning, keeping the wearer comfortable, without slowing them down.

Cost and Value
This is a good entry-level cross country running shoe and its relatively low price reflects this. This shoe would be ideal for beginners, looking for a comfortable running experience.
Pros
  • Full-length EVA midsole
  • adiWEAR outsole for outstanding durability
  • Breathable mesh upper
  • No-sew overlays
  • Wraparound tongue for snug fit
Cons
  • Narrow fit
  • Not water resistant

Obviously, choosing your preferred cross country running shoe is a very important decision as your choice is bound to affect both your comfort and your performance. There are many different features which are important when it comes to cross-country running, however, it is personal preference as to which of these is more important to you.Some runners may prefer the grip that a spiked shoe provides, while others prefer flats. Cushioning or extra support may be particularly important to those with extra requirements, such as high arches. If you will be running in particularly wet or unpredictable conditions, then you will also need to think about the level of water protection that the shoe provides.

Therefore, it is very important to think carefully about these features before committing to a purchase. The list above provides a variety of choices for each option, whether you are choosing based on spiked vs. spikeless, comfort vs. style or low vs. high budget, there will be a great choice for you here.

 

Criteria Used to Evaluate the Best Shoes for Cross Country

Cross country shoes must have specific features to make them suitable for use on the unpredictable terrains of cross-country trails. In compiling this list of the best cross country shoes currently available, we have used these specialized features in order to accurately rate these shoes.

Here, some of the specific features that are important for cross country running shoes will be discussed.

Breathable Upper

As with any type of running shoe, choosing a cross-country runner which allows plenty of airflow is paramount. When running the feet are particularly prone to sweat a lot. This can be a bigger problem for some, particularly sweaty runners, however, all runners will experience sweaty feet. If this sweating is excessive, the moisture present in your shoes can lead to a build-up of bacteria. These bacteria are the major cause of bad foot odor and also conditions, such as athletes foot or even blisters.

Opting for a running shoe which has a thin mesh upper, helps to ensure that the foot is adequately ventilated during your run. This means that the foot will stay drier and therefore will prevent the build-up of bacteria in the shoe. Having a well-ventilated shoe will also keep you more comfortable during your run, by allowing your feet to keep cool.

Weatherproof

Whilst having a shoe with good ventilation is very important for cross country running, it is also important to choose a shoe which will provide adequate water resistance. Unfortunately, many of the thin mesh materials used for good breathability easily allow water into the shoe.

When cross country running, it is common to encounter very wet trails or bad weather. So having shoes which have a level of water resistance or are fully waterproof helps to prevent the occurrence of wet feet which can lead to an uncomfortable running experience and even to the formation of blisters.

Good Traction

As cross-country running tracks consist of very unpredictable terrains, that may be uneven, rocky and often very wet, it is very important to choose a shoe which provides you with a strong grip. This helps to prevent slips and falls which can lead to injuries. As well as preventing slips and subsequent injuries, having good traction can also increase your performance by improving your run times.

The vast majority of specialised cross country running shoes have spikes present on the outsole. These are usually made of metal and provide the best grip on grass and dirt surfaces. If you run predominately on harder, flat or rocky surfaces, these would not be very suitable as they would wear down too quickly. Instead, you would be better off opting for a shoe with a rubber waffle outsole. This will provide less traction but would be much more suitable for use on these types of surfaces. Often, companies produce both a spiked and a spikeless version of the same shoe, allowing you to choose which one is most appropriate for you.

Protection Underfoot

As cross country trails can be rocky and uneven they can present opportunities for injuries to the sole of the foot. Therefore, it is very important that specialized cross country running shoes have adequate protection in both the outsole and midsole in order to protect the foot. By having enough protection underfoot, the runner should not feel any discomfort both during and after the run. A more heavily padded midsole will ensure comfort across even the rockiest of terrains.

Durability

Cross country terrains can be very hard on the shoes that run over them. Rocky, uneven surfaces can create damage to both the upper and the outsole of a running shoe. Given that most running shoes come with a fairly high price tag, it is important to ensure that they last as long as possible and provide you with many hours of running pleasure.

This is the reason why it is usually worthwhile investing a little bit more money in your running shoes, in order to ensure that they are constructed using the highest quality materials.

The Fit of the Shoe

It is important for you to feel comfortable in the shoe that you choose, as any discomfort can affect your performance and enjoyability of your run. Cross country running shoes often have a narrow and snug fit and can run between half a size to one size narrower so it is important to choose the next size up if needed.

 

Flexibility

Having the correct level of flexibility in a running shoe, helps to ensure that the foot is able to move in a natural way. Often the midsoles of a shoe can be quite stiff, which can prevent the natural bending of the foot during running. This may lead to discomfort and possible injury. When choosing a shoe, it is important to check that the flexibility is right for you. In order to do this, you should make sure that the shoe bends where your foot naturally bends, i.e. at the forefoot. When you bend the shoe, it should not really bend in the middle, as your foot does not naturally bend at this point. You should not feel as if your natural movement is being constricted in any way.

Frequently Asked Questions

 

Q: Why do I need specialised running trainers for cross country?
A
: The main difference with specialized cross country shoes is that they are highly durable and have enhanced traction. This is needed because cross-country trails are unpredictable and can quickly wear down standard running trainers. The trails can also be very slippery and uneven, meaning that good traction is an essential feature of any shoe used for this purpose. This is why the majority of cross country running shoes have spikes on the outsole in order to further increase their traction.

Q: Do I need spiked or spikeless shoes?
A: Not all cross country running shoes have spikes and it is definitely a personal choice as to whether you prefer to run with them or not. Spikes do increase the traction of a shoe, particularly if you run a lot on grassy or muddy trails. A lot of shoes have the option to remove the spikes so that they can still be used on flat, hard terrains.
The downside of having spikes is that they wear down fairly easily and must be replaced quite frequently. This can become expensive and inconvenient.

Q: Can I buy replacement spikes?
A: As mentioned above, spikes are often removable and can be replaced when they become worn down. Replacement spikes can be purchased from most specialized running stores or online from companies such as Amazon. However, replacement spikes are often quite expensive, especially metal ones, and they may need to be replaced frequently if the shoes are used regularly.

Q: Can I use these as daily wear shoes as well?
A: If you have purchased spikeless shoes, then these are fine to use for daily wear. Spiked shoes usually have the option of removing the spikes, if so then these will also be suitable for daily wear. One thing to bear in mind though is that using these shoes for daily wear will cause them to wear down much quicker than saving them for running only. As specialized running shoes can be quite expensive, it may be worthwhile investing in a different pair of shoes for daily wear and keeping these for running only.

Q: Where could I buy cross-country running shoes from?
A: You should be able to buy cross country running shoes from any specialty running shoe stores. They are also available to buy from online retailers, for example, Amazon. It is worthwhile shopping around to get the best price as prices can vary greatly between stores and are often much cheaper when buying online.

Sources

https://www.shoeguide.org/cross-country-shoes/ – Nov 8, 2016

http://crosscountryrunningshoe.com/buyers-guide/

https://www.runnersworld.com/high-school/shoe-buying-tips-for-the-cross-country-athlete – Sep 21, 2010

https://www.runnersworld.com/high-school/7-tips-to-help-high-school-runners-choose-the-right-shoes – Aug 21, 2015

https://www.livestrong.com/article/509013-do-spikes-make-you-run-faster/ – Sep 11, 2017


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