10 Best Cross Country Shoes Reviewed & Tested
For cross country runners, it's important to invest in the right pair of cross country shoes. These shoes need to stay in good shape no matter the distance or the terrain. Some types of running shoe fare better than others, so picking out the specific shoe matters. Cross country shoes need to have the ability to do it all, over various surfaces. To get that done, you will need to keep things in mind such as durability, grip, flexibility, comfort, etc. We think you might be surprised at some of the shoes we picked, but we definitely have our reasons, which you can read about just below the list.
To understand the best cross country shoes available, we have put together this list of the best cross country shoes out there.
- Salomon Speedcross 4
- ASICS GEL Kayano 25
- Brooks Running Mach 15
- Adidas Supernova Riot M
- La Sportiva Wildcat 2.0 GTX
- Saucony Shay XC4 Flat
- Pearl Izumi Peak 2
- New Balance 1400
- New Balance 840
- Nike Zoom Victory Waffle 3
- Criteria Used for Evaluation
- Other Factors to Consider
- Frequently Asked Questions
Top 10 Picks
1. Salomon Speedcross 4
Several gender-neutral colors available
A wide range of sizes available including half sizes
Provides strong all-terrain and condition support
Can be expensive
Little widths available
The Salomon Speedcross 4 is one of the best running shoes available. It is a good combination of trail and urban running design for the best cross-country performance. It maintains the balance between foot support and minimalist design to provide a higher level of comfort and performance.Read more
An integrated low-profile cleat system provides strong traction on hard and soft surfaces. It's particularly effective in mud and snow conditions. The sole is reinforced in key places to ensure that runners will stay comfortable.
The upper is built of debris-resistant materials to keep them cleaner and hazard-free. The laces are kept in top-mounted lace pockets. Synthetic materials are used to make these shoes more breathable and lighter.
Enhanced comfort and durability are built in through the design and material selection. Improved traction features make running in adverse conditions safer. The rugged design helps them last longer.
2. ASICS GEL Kayano 25
Many color selections
On pavement, they might provide the best cushioning
We all knew and loved the Asics Gel Kayano 24, and here to further enhance your running experience is the Kayano 25. Testers and reviewers are saying that these shoes provide great responsiveness and comfort. Below you will find more in-depth details of why this shoe is on our list.Read more
These Asics Gel Kayano 25 have a built-in Impact Guidance System. What this does is allow the feet's natural stride from heel strike to the toe off.
The insoles of these runners has a Fluid-Ride midsole which provides excellent bounce back and responsiveness.
There is also a Heel Clutching System that creates wonderful and optimal support for you on long runs.
Also, to help you on your feet so that you feel comfortable, these shoes have unique gel cushioning that absorbs shock.
If you are on the market for a pair of running shoes that offer responsiveness, support, and a great bounce back, these are good options to go with.
3. Brooks Running Mach 15
The affordable price makes it easy to get multiple pairs.
Lightweight design makes running more comfortable
Provides a better fit for those with slightly wider feet
Cleats make running on hard surfaces more difficult
Low-top design doesn’t support the runner’s ankles on uneven terrain
The Brooks Running Mach 15 is a great running shoe for outdoor running. Its advanced tread system and integrated cleats make it possible to maintain a stable footing in soft and wet environments. The lightweight and durable construction makes the Brooks Running Mach 15 comfortable under different running conditions.Read more
It features a bright color design that grabs people’s attention. The high-quality design adds to the Mach 15’s durability. It's designed specifically for outdoor running with features to make it more effective at maintaining a strong footing.
Low-profile cleats make it possible to run in outdoor conditions while maintaining stronger traction. It is made out of lightweight and breathable materials to improve foot comfort. It's flexible enough to allow runners’ feet to contour to the surface, making it possible to get a better footing in unstable conditions.
The lower price makes it possible to easily replace them at the end of their life cycle. The added traction from the integrate cleats improves runners’ safety in cross country conditions. Several design enhancements keep it from causing unnecessary wear on runners’ feet over long distances in rough terrain.
4. Adidas Supernova Riot M
Conserve energy from each step to make running comfortable and to reduce exhaustion
Supports the runner’s ankle in uneven terrain
Can maintain traction in a variety of hard and soft areas
The price may make the cost-prohibitive for some.
The high-top design may make it uncomfortable for some.
The Adidas Supernova Riot is one of the leading cross-country running shoes available on the market. With reinforced yet supportive soles, the Supernova allows runners to cover a variety of surfaces while maintaining the needed traction and protection to run quickly. The Supernova Riot is moderately priced for a performance cross-country shoe making it a solid investment for consistent trail running.Read more
The soles and top section are made of breathable materials to keep your feet comfortable while running. The outsole design is good for trail running as well as textured bike pedals for trail riding. The high-top design supports runners’ ankles in unstable terrain.
The overall design of the Supernova conserves more energy from each step making it easier for wearers to run longer distances without tiring. The reinforced rubber soles maintain their traction on a variety of surfaces. There is a large binding hook on the front to secure shoe laces and keep them from becoming an obstacle while running.
At a moderate price for trail running shoes, the Supernova Riot offers a variety of advantages for runners in different environments. Their durable design ensures that they will last a long time. They are easy to maintain thanks to the breathable and durable materials as well as quality construction.
5. La Sportiva Wildcat 2.0 GTX
A wide range of sizes available
Made of thicker materials which is more suitable for colder climates
Well-fitted without needing to be broken in
More expensive than other options
Thicker materials make it less suitable for warm climates
The La Sportiva Wildcat 2.0 GTX offers advanced support for running in rugged terrain. It's designed for better performance in colder climates for those running in wintery conditions. Its construction makes it a long-lasting show that provides protection from the elements needed to run in any condition.Read more
The Wildcat 2.0 was redesigned to be more effective in rougher, colder climates. It's heavier construction makes it more durable and provides stronger foot support. New materials are used to improve breathability and provide a better fit.
The use of Gore-Tex makes the Wildcat 2.0 waterproof for running in wet climates. The Wildcat 2.0 has reinforced padding and materials for improved support. The La Sportiva Impact Brake System improves runners’ stopping power by up to 20% for emergency stopping.
The Wildcat 2.0 performs better in colder climates while providing the support needed for running in rough terrain. The outsole gives it a strong grip in most conditions. The materials used in its construction make it durable, breathable, and comfortable for extensive trail running.
6. Saucony Shay XC4 Flat
Increases your speed
SSI-EVA technology for rebound and durability
Flexfilm for added security and protection
A lot of color options
Narrow toe box and fit
The Saucony Shay XC4 Flat racing shoes provided runners with appropriate comfort, traction, and adequate cushioning. These shoes will decrease your times without having to sacrifice durability or protection when competing or training.Read more
At 4.2 ounces, these shoes are extremely lightweight and capable of decreasing your times. They will help you increase your speed, no matter what terrain you are running on. The lightweight mesh Saucony utilized also makes these shoes breathable.
These shoes utilize SSl EVA midsole to provide adequate comfort and additional cushioning during your runs. They also incorporate a mesh upper for optimal breathability and use a special outsole design that delivers the proper traction that is needed for cross country. Lastly the Flexfilm perfectly secures your feet and the new plate improves the overall stability the shoe provides.
Affordable Price, especially for all of the features these shoes offer.
7. Pearl Izumi Peak 2
Flexible for better foot positioning while running
Very lightweight thanks to the minimalist design
Improved carbon sole for improved durability
Slipper/sock-like feel may not be compatible for everyone.
The Pearl Izumi Peak XCs are built for off-road running. They are lightweight and made of breathable materials for increased comfort. The added heel support absorbs shocks and allows runners to run longer distances.Read more
They are designed to be light, breathable, and comfortable. The low weight facilitates faster and longer running. A variety of simple and ornate color options are available.
The sole is made of carbon to increase its durability for trail running. Various design features make it more flexible than other options. The lightweight materials make it more breathable for better foot health.
The Pearl Izumi Peak XC is good for minimalist runners that want the protection of a shoe and the feel of barefoot running. A smaller profile makes for a snug fit which some find more comfortable. They are moderately priced and last a long time.
8. New Balance 1400
A wide range of sizes are available
Additional support makes it more comfortable
REVlite lasts longer than alternatives due to their advanced design
The taller stack height makes them taller than other running shoes
The width of the toe box may be too small for runners with larger feet
The New Balance 1400 is designed for runners needing extra support while running at high speeds. It's light and durable while remaining breathable and comfortable. Despite its weight, it provides a higher amount of cushioning to absorb shocks and prevent unnecessary stress on the wearer’s feet.Read more
The New Balance 1400 has thicker cushioning than other running shoes, making it a great fit for those that need extra support. A snug fit helps runners feel connected to the shoe and have a better feeling on the ground. A wider design helps with those needing slightly wider shoe options.
The tighter fit makes the New Balance 1400 fit more like a sock than a shoe which helps runners maintain higher speeds. The cushioning is made of REVlite which is lighter and more durable than other support options. The upper is made from breathable materials for improved comfort.
The additional support makes for a more comfortable running experience. Enhanced breathability and support allow longer distance running. The thicker support should result in less foot strain over the lifespan of each pair.
9. New Balance 840
Extra support in specific places for added comfort
Made of durable materials to last longer
Provides extra protection in rough terrain
Not as flexible as other options which can make running and walking difficult in certain conditions
Thick design makes them less breathable
New Balance creates shoes that fit people with wide feet and have the extra support needed to resolve a variety of foot issues. The New Balance 840 is reinforced enough for off-road travel while still providing additional support. It is designed to handle any terrain options while remaining in a strong supportive position.Read more
Thick soles and strong sidewalls provide good foot and ankle support on uneven terrain. It's available in several basic colors for those looking for something that blends in well with any outfit. Well-positioned arch support keeps the wearer’s feet comfortable.
The sole is reinforced with extra padding in specific places to keep the wearer’s feet in the right position. It is durable thanks to its thick design and strong materials. It provides enough protection to traverse any terrain without concerns.
It is a great shoe for those that want to get involved in trail running, but need additional support. The New Balance 840 makes walking and running comfortable for those that experience foot and leg issues. The thick construction will make them last longer.
10. Nike Zoom Victory Waffle 3
Integrated Cleat design makes running on soft surfaces easier
A variety of sizes and colors available
Designed to be light and flexible for long distance running
Cleats make running on hard surfaces more difficult
Low amounts of padding may lead to increased wear on a runner’s feet
The Nike Zoom Victory Waffle 3 is a unisex shoe designed for long-distance trail running. Runners will find it perfect for those looking for minimalist shoe designs. Added features provide a better feel when running in cross-country conditions.Read more
The Nike Zoom Victory Waffle 3 has improved treads and an integrated cleat system for better traction in soft and hazardous areas. The minimalist design creates a more natural feel for running. The tighter fit leads to less rubbing and fit issues for runners.
The cleats and sole are designed to get a tight grip on loose surfaces. The upper is made of breathable and flexible materials to provide better comfort. The use of lightweight materials allows runners to run longer and faster.
Quality construction practices increase the longevity of the Victory Waffle 3’s. Each pair is made to exacting standards that lead to higher quality and consistent shoes. At a moderate price, runners can consistently replace these shoes at the end of their life cycles.
Criteria Used for Evaluation
Just like other parts of your body, your feet sweat, especially when running. With this in mind, it is important for your shoes to allow air to flow through the upper of your running shoes so that moisture can escape. When moisture gets trapped in your running shoes, there is a buildup of bacteria which causes foot and shoe odor and other foot problems, like athlete’s foot.
When selecting running shoes, keep the health (and smell) of your feet in mind and select a shoe with breathable uppers constructed of mesh or another lightweight synthetic material. The airflow promoted by these types of materials will help keep your feet dry.
When you are running on a trail, like in cross country racing, foot protection is incredibly important. There are innumerable obstacles that you could encounter on this type of train run, including rocks, logs, and uneven terrain, among other things.
So, in order to be prepared for the unknown, a cross country running shoe should be able to handle any obstacle you could encounter on the trail. It is best to look for a shoe that has high outsole durability, an upper that is snug to your foot, and a reinforced toe. These features will help protect your feet from not only what you can encounter underfoot, but what also might try to sneak inside your shoe.
Shoe flexibility is important because this determines how naturally your foot is able to move while you run. It also is a factor in how much support the shoe is providing to your feet during a run. The more flexible a shoe is, the more naturally your foot will move, but this may also lessen the support provided to your shoe. A more rigid shoe will provide more support, but your foot may move in a less natural manner.
Having a high or low profile on your running shoe affects the amount of support and stability you will have while you run, but it also affects the natural movement of your foot. A lower profile shoe will allow for more natural foot movement, especially while running over uneven terrain, but may not provide sufficient support for some runners. A higher profile shoe will provide greater direct ankle support but can make balancing more difficult. This can lead to ankle injuries such as sprains or rolled ankles, and this is more common in runners that overpronate and wear high profile shoes.
As with any other type of product you buy, you want your running shoes to last. This is especially true for cross country runners who run on rough and uneven trails. These running trail conditions will definitely challenge the durability of your outsoles and uppers. With this in mind, you want to look for high-quality materials. This, unfortunately, means you might have to spend a little more on your running shoes, but the longevity of a pricier pair of shoes may make the splurge worth it.
Other Factors to Consider
The toe box is where your toes are housed. Your toes need room to move and fan out, which provides natural arch support and balance control. A toe box that is too tight will not only be uncomfortable but can affect your ability to balance on uneven terrain and how much mid-foot support you have.
It is best to choose a toe box that is wide enough to allow for your toes to spread out, or even go with a little extra width, rather than one that is too narrow.
Sole thickness affects positive ground contact. A sole that is too thick has the potential to minimize the positive ground contact you experience on your run. On the other hand, a sole that is too thin won’t provide you with enough underfoot protection and you may experience pain or discomfort while you run. However, a thinner sole does allow for more natural foot movement.
Your best bet is to look for a shoe that has a sole that is thick enough to provide comfort and protection, yet allows your foot to move naturally while keeping your balance. This may require some trial and error while trying shoes on, but when you find that Goldilocks fit (i.e. it’s just right) it will make all the difference while you run.
When selecting a running shoe, it is important to do a little research into the sizing of individual companies. In a perfect world, all shoes would be made true-to-size and we would be able to purchase the same size every time we shop for shoes. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. Some manufacturers have shoes that run small, and other have shoes that run large. Reading user reviews of running shoes will help you know what to expect in terms of sizing for a particular pair of shoes.
Frequently Asked Questions
Having spikes as a feature of your cross country running shoes is a personal preference. Having spikes as a feature of your cross country running shoes is a personal preference. There are benefits to having spikes in your running shoes. They help you get a better grip on the terrain, especially in wet or muddy conditions. Many spiked shoes have removal spikes, which mean that the shoes can be worn on different terrains. This makes them versatile and a potential asset, depending on the type of race you are running.
However, there are drawback s to having spikes, including a lack of durability in the shoes, as spike shoes tend to be extremely light, and having to replace the spikes frequently.
To spike or not to spike… it’s up to you!
Cross country running shoes are available at all running shoe/gear stores and at many large sports retail stores, like Dicks, REI, or Big Five Sporting Goods. You can also order cross country running shoes from internet retailers like Amazon and your local running store.
Well, let’s start with what they have in common. They are both types of running. They can both be races or just for training. Where they really differ is terrain consistency. Trail running is usually restricted to, you guessed it, the trail. Cross country, in contrast, can happen on grass, on trails, or even on some paved surfaces, depending on the course.
The biggest difference between the two types of shoes is the spikes (notice a trend?). Although you can buy trail or winter running shoes with enhanced lugs, the grip provided by the metal or rubber spikes found on cross country running shoe is much more intense. This is because of the unpredictable terrain that runners occur on cross country courses, and they need the extra traction from the spikes to remain agile, fast, and balanced.
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