10 Best Cross Country Shoes Reviewed & Tested
To understand the best cross country shoes available, we have put together this list of the best cross country shoes out there.
In a Hurry? The test winner after 15 hrs of research
Several gender-neutral colors available
A wide range of sizes available including half sizes
Provides strong all-terrain and condition support
- Salomon Speedcross 4
- ASICS GEL Kayano 25
- Brooks Running Mach 15
- Adidas Supernova Riot M
- La Sportiva Wildcat 2.0 GTX
- Saucony Kilkenny XC5 Spike
- Pearl Izumi Peak 2
- New Balance 1400v6
- New Balance 840
- ASICS Cross Freak 2 Spike
- Criteria Used for Evaluation
- Other Factors to Consider
- Frequently Asked Questions
Best Cross Country Shoes
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
Few 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
Toe is not reinforced for protection
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
The mesh uppers do a good job of letting moisture escape to the outside air where it can dry naturally. Users found them to perform well in this regard.
These don't have special toe bumpers or other similar features. The midsole is fairly high though so that is helpful in this regard.
This model is designed for overpronators and as such contains some structural support components. This means they're not as pliable as other options.
ASICS is one of the most highly respected companies that makes running shoes and other running gear. There are many loyal devotees of this company.
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 Kilkenny XC5 Spike
No toe bumper
Not the most durable option
This is an ultra-light option from one of the most respected brands in running shoes. They have a 4-spike design for extra grip and breathable mesh uppers. They're great for cross country or track racing but not road running and please note that they do run small and buyers should order a half to full size larger than their normal size.Read more
The fully mesh, synthetic uppers do a good job of letting moisture escape. We didn't find any complaints about this aspect of the shoe.
While they're designed especially for XC, they don't have a toe bumper or other features to prevent damage to your toes if you collide with something on the trail.
They are extremely pliable. Additionally, they're very lightweight.
The 4-spike design and outsole pattern offers the user outstanding grip on the trail or during XC races or even on the track.
If you take good care of them they can be long-lasting, however due to their lightweight nature they aren't the best on this list in that regard.
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 1400v6
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. ASICS Cross Freak 2 Spike
High level of stability on variable surfaces
Not highly breathable
These shoes are designed with advanced XC runners and racers in mind. The feature what ASICS calls their Trussic system. This combines strong overlays for stability with a deeply lugged outsole and 5-spike system for great traction. They're comfortable and very durable considering how light they are.Read more
They won't create a total swamp in your shoe, and the upper is made of mesh, but it's of a very fine weave and they don't score as highly in this aspect as other options on this list.
While these don't have a toe bumper, the high-strength overlays give them a lot of stability which can help prevent slipping and/or ankle twists and sprains.
Users found these to be quite pliable despite the high-strength supportive overlays.
The company's Trussic system, consisting of 5 spikes and a deeply lugged outsole, gives the user excellent traction on variable XC terrain.
Users were surprised with how well these held up over time despite being extremely lightweight.
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.
Cross country running, or XC, means sometimes you may be running on trails, but sometimes you're not. This means you may encounter wet and slippery grass, mud, or slippery slopes. As such, your ability to stay upright and not slip and fall is super important. Because of this we did our best to only include products in this buying guide that offer the level a good to great level of traction. In XC shoes traction comes from the outsole, literally where the rubber meets the road, or trail. The ultimate in traction comes from spiked shoes. These type however can only be worn during XC or at the track and should never be worn on asphalt pavement. Some users like to have an option that will give them good traction on and off the trail but also the ability to take the shoes onto the pavement at times so we included some products on our list that are technically considered trail running shoes. Trail running shoes will still give you good traction off-road just not as much as spikes.
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.
Expert Interviews & Opinions
A lot of specialized running shoe stores will look at your stride and see if you have any issues going on when you run. If you have experienced any foot pain during training or on your runs this is a good way to find the best pair of shoes for yourself and to learn more about your body and what's right for you.
While we know it is important for you to feel and look great in your shoes, make sure to prioritize function over style. Most shoes come in lots of color options nowadays, so you will more than likely find something you like.
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 others 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.
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.
Frequently Asked Questions
q: Do I need to have spikes?
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!
q: Where can I buy cross country running shoes?
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.
q: Whats the difference between trail running and cross country running?
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.
q: Are cross country shoes different from regular running shoes?
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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