10 Best Cross Country Shoes Reviewed & Tested
Cross country shoes are made to keep you upright and moving in some of the toughest terrains. You want to make sure your feet are protected but you aren't being weighed down, so they will be light as well.
We did a lot of research to find the best shoes for cross country running and training and we share all the criteria and answers to FAQs below.
In a Hurry? The test winner after 15 hrs of research
Deel trail lugs
Best Cross Country Running Shoes
1. Salomon Speedcross 5
Deel trail lugs
The Speedcross 5 is built like a tank and designed to scale any and all trails. It boasts a waterproof liner to keep water from making your socks soggy, and deep lugs that really grip the earth. Runners love this design because it’s durable, comfortable, supportive, and lightweight. It may cost a little bit more than some of the other designs that we have seen, but we feel that it’s worth every penny.Read more
There are a few things that make the Speedcross 5 unique. Firstly, the construction of the upper is built to conquer any type of weather condition. It boasts a tight-knit mesh overlay that works to keep your foot cool and a Gore-Tex lining that is 100 percent waterproof.
We also found that the built of the outsole is ideal for running on and off of the trails. It has aggressive lugs that really dig into the ground for a stable ride. The outsole is slightly tacky, which means that it is ideal for slick surfaces as well, such as trails covered in wet leaves.
If you are in the market for something that is incredibly durable and packed with features to make your long journey and comfortable and supportive as possible, the Speedcross 5 is an excellent choice. Runners love that it is built to withstand almost any trails or weather situation with ease.
2. La Sportiva Wildcat 2.0 GTX
A wide range of sizes available
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 offer 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. Its 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 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.
3. Altra Vanish XC
Breathable mesh upper
Narrow heel cup
Looking for a great trainer that is lightweight, comfortable, durable, and affordable? The Vanish XC is designed to fit on your feet like a glove and provides a little extra support where you need it most. Subtle spikes on the outsole help to confidently grip trails and slick surfaces, and it boasts a low profile for heightened flexibility. Plus, it comes in at an affordable price point that won’t break the bank.Read more
The first thing that we noticed about the Vanish XC is that it boasts an upper that is composed of lightweight and breathable materials that have a slight stretch to it. This upper contours to the shape of your foot for a great fit and flat laces help to promote lockdown. It also comes in a wide variety of color options that are bound to get you noticed.
It boasts a sculpted insert with a 5 mm drop for just a bit of extra stability and support where you need it most. If you want to transition to a minimalist trainer, simply remove the insert to turn the Vanish XC into a trainer with a zero drop. It boasts a springy and responsive Max-LT midsole, and a rubber outsole with subtle lugs that transition from sidewalks to trails effortlessly.
What runners love most about this simple trainer is that it clocks in at a price point that makes it one of the most affordable cross country running shoes out there on the market. It is composed of simple and lightweight materials that keep you light on your feet for those long runs, but also provides a small amount of support as well.
4. ASICS Gel-Kayano 27
Dynamic DuoMax Support System
FlyteFoam Propel Technology
Great stability trainer
If the road ahead of you is long and winding, the Gel-Kayano 27 from ASICS makes an excellent travel companion for quite a few reasons. It is one of the most durable and comfortable designs in the ASICS lineup, and it has a cushioned midsole that feels like you are running on a cloud. It may cost more than other options from ASICS, but we feel it’s an excellent value.Read more
What we loved most about this design is that it boasts a new feature from ASICS called the Dynamic DuoMax Support System. This support system works to support your feet throughout the entire gait system to relieve pressure from your knees and joints. It is also composed of incredibly lightweight materials that won’t weigh you down so you can resin snappy on your feet.
The midsole utilizing FlyteFoam Propel Technology that adds that little extra spring in your step. FlyteFoam is an incredibly soft and springy foam that is lightweight and won’t break down into a pancake over time. The GEL Technology Cushioning System provides you with extra support in the heels and your forefoot for added impact absorption as well as enhanced durability.
If you are in the market for a great roadrunner that can also transition to the trails, the ASICS Gel-Kayano 27 is an excellent choice. We love that it is made from quality materials that hold up quite well over the miles, no matter how hard and how often you train. Plus, it comes in a wide variety of unique color options that are bound to get you noticed.
5. Adidas Supernova Riot
Supports the runner’s ankle in uneven terrain
The price may make the cost-prohibitive for some
The high-top design may make it uncomfortable
The Adidas Supernova Riot is one of the leading cross-country running shoes available on the market. With reinforced yet supportive soles, the Supernova Riot 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 in these cross country running trainers 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.
6. Saucony Kilkenny XC 8
Narrow toe box
Not very cushioned
Sometimes less is more. What runners love most about the Kilkenny XC 8 from Saucony is that it is incredibly lightweight like a minimalist trainer, but it is packed with simple features to help keep your feet and legs protected for those long runs on the trail or on the sidewalks. The best part about this design is that it comes in at an affordable price point that won’t break the bank.Read more
The very first thing that we noticed about this design is that it has a streamlined upper that reduces the risk of blisters and chafing when you turn up the heat. It is composed of a layer of mesh fabric that works to lift hot air away from your foot to keep it cool and dry. The simple and flat laces also work to promote lockdown for a great overall fit.
The midsole is composed of molded EVA foam that contours to the shape of your foot as you wear it and provides you with just a little bit of extra support. What we love most about this design is that it boasts a Carbon Rubber outsole that adds an extra spring to your step, and also has increased durability as well.
If you are in the market for a durable roadrunner that is perfect for long trips, the Kilkenny XC 8 from
Saucony is a great choice. It has a very simple design that is durable and effective and comes in a wide variety of neutral and bright color options. Plus, it comes in at a price that is one of the more affordable designs making our list.
7. New Balance 1400v6
A wide range of sizes are available
REVlite lasts longer than alternatives
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 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.
Enhanced breathability and support allow longer distance running. The thicker support should result in less foot strain over the lifespan of each pair.
8. Pearl Izumi Peak 2
Improved carbon sole
Slipper/sock-like feel may not be compatible with 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
These Pearl Izumi running shoes 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.
This option 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.
9. ASICS Cross Freak 2 Spike
High level of stability on variable surfaces
Not highly breathable
These cross country trainers 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. These are really good cross country shoes when it comes to traction control. 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 by how well these held up over time despite being extremely lightweight.
10. New Balance 840v4
Extra support in specific places
Durable materials to last longer
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.
Criteria Used for Evaluation
Active feet make more sweat. Finding the right breathable option is crucial for both women's cross country running shoes and men's models.
With this in mind, finding a shoe that offers good airflow makes for a drier running experience. When moisture gets trapped, bacteria that cause foot and shoe odor build up and can cause slipping or even worse, foot fungi.
Most cross country running shoes are light, arid and work with the elements and not against your feet. Built-in mesh panels, vents, etc, are all simple but effective designs that aid in shoe breathability.
When cross country racing, foot protection is incredibly important.
There are innumerable obstacles that you could encounter on this type of trail run, including rocks, logs, and uneven terrain, among other things.
So, to be prepared for the unknown, cross country running shoes should be able to handle any terrain obstacle. Finding a shoe with sturdy outsoles with a snug, arid upper is a good place to start. Some even offer plates and rubber compounds, which are great for harder debris and can prevent puncturing and foot bruising.
Flexibility and support go hand in hand. This extremely important when considering the best cross country training shoes especially.
Allowing the foot to flex and feel natural is vital for a smooth cross country run. You don’t want your shoe to lack the support of a sock but you want it to move and feel almost like one. Offering just a bit of support so you don’t destroy your feet.
You won’t get good flexibility if too much support is built-in either. These should work together to give you a solid, more natural run. Also, make sure the material doesn't break in the bends, you want it to be able to handle the stress.
Cross country running or XC, means sometimes you may be running on trails as well as other rougher terrain.
Encountering wet and slippery grass, mud, or slopes is normal so cross country running shoes should be made to handle all of it. This meaning great traction is one of the higher criteria we look at.
Staying upright is key to the success of a good cross country run. Furthermore, having a well-made traction design is going to offer different durability elements. Some traction is made for the dirt and rubble. This usually will wear out faster when moving from one terrain to the next.
Due to this, the traction in cross country shoes is usually spiked and made to be more versatile than those that are strictly for trail or pavement running. Taking shoes that work better on pavement into the trails and “cross-country” will kill them faster too.
Shoes are made for different activities so make sure you are getting the traction you need for the element you’ll be using them in.
Durability is going to make or break a design.
When looking into the best cross-country shoes, make sure they can handle your terrain. They are going to be made with materials and technology that works with rugged active use: rocks, mud, debris.
Material strength, protective properties, how well they fit and work with wet environments are all features that come into play when researching durability. How these are going to work all together and how ell the shoe is held together.
Different technologies in rubber and mesh will define how long a shoe lasts as well. Simply put, you want your shoe to last. Therefore, all the reviewing and searching we do based on what people are reflecting on, gives us a solid platform to view what works and what doesn't. It may cost a bit more, but you will get more.
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.
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. They help you get a better grip on the terrain, especially in wet or muddy conditions. Many spiked shoes have removal spikes, which means 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?
Both men cross country running shoes and women's models 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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