Finding the Best Cross Country Shoes for Any Runner – Quick Guide
So you have decided to try cross country running, have you? Good for you! Running cross country is liberating like no other kind of running. Sure, it’s also kind of scary. Why scary? Well, cross-country courses are typically a mixture of grass-covered hills, wooded trails, and all kinds of interesting terrain.
If you’re a golfer you likely have noticed that the course can have all kinds of hill motion to it. There are also often bridges to cross, water hazards, as well as wooded areas adjacent to the fairway. It doesn’t get its name “fair-way” for nothing! That’s the easiest path to the cup. As a former cross country coach, I would be hard-pressed to count the number of golf courses we competed on! All I know is they are beautiful, scenic, and can be quite challenging!
If you are entering the world of cross country racing the first thing you need are some good cross country shoes. Sure you can train and race in regular shoes, but you would be at a disadvantage.
What Are Cross Country Shoes?
Built for racing and super streamlined, cross country shoes are made to help you run fast and efficiently as you power through grass and up hills. There are different types and brands of CC shoes. You typically either choose to race in a racing flat or a racing spike.
If you are new to CC racing, I encourage you to look at less expensive racers. Why? They tend to have more cushion. If you are not experienced in racing shoes, you may want this.
There are some very important things about CC shoes to keep in mind to help you find success while racing.
Trainer VS Cross Country Shoe
Cross country shoes are tighter. They should fit like a glove!
Lighter! These shoes are smaller and lighter than training shoes.
Less cushion: to save weight, CC shoes (both spikes and flats) have very little cushion.
Traction! Due to the interesting and varied terrain, the bottom of a CC shoe is meant to grip the ground so they have better traction.
Elements of Good Cross Country Shoes
There are some important criteria for choosing cross country running shoes.
- Weight: CC shoes should be light.
- Feel: You may be tempted by cute shoes. Don’t fall for it. Find comfortable shoes.
- Get Help: When in doubt, ask an expert. This could be either a clerk at a running store or a coach.
- Spikes: Remember that spikes are for racing, not training.
- Be Realistic: Don’t expect a miracle. Sometimes people think that expensive shoes are going to be a real game-changer. Sure, they help. But they don’t change the basics of your race.
Cross Country Flats VS Spikes
If you are looking for an advantage on the cross country course, most runners overwhelmingly vote for spikes. However, many coaches encourage someone new to cross to race in flats first. Let’s talk about both!
Flats have nubs made out of rubber on the bottom of them to help you to better grip the ground as you power yourself along. Like any racing flat, they are small, sleek and light. Very much like a minimalist shoe, you will definitely feel the earth beneath your feet.
Spikes are very much like a flat with one big exception: they have spikes that you screw into the bottom. These spikes come in various lengths and allow the runner to better grip the ground. Spikes are especially helpful on the slick grass and when powering up hills. Of course, some courses do have paved portions. Your best bet is to avoid those spikes if you can.
Since the spikes are removable, you can replace the spike with a rubber plug if you wish to wear them on a hard surface. Spikes also dull over time, so it is essential that you can easily remove them for replacement as they wear out.
Cross Country Shoes with Arch Support
The highest-ranked shoe for those looking for arch support is the Brooks Mach. This racing shoe is has a high arch structure and can be purchased in both spike and non-spike options.
As they say, there is a shoe for every foot!
How Should Cross Country Shoes Fit?
Cross country racing shoes should be snug but not too tight. Unlike normal running shoes, there is very little space at the end of the shoe (in that space between your big toe and where the shoe ends).
Although most athletes size up half a size for trainers, you likely will not need to do that for your racers.
Can You Use Cross Country Shoes for Track?
Many runners find they can use their cross country shoes on the track. However, you are less likely to be able to use your track shoes for cross country.
Since spikes are removable, you can take out the longer spikes worn for cross country and replace them with the shorter spikes used on the track.
How to Clean Cross Country Shoes
First off, do not put your cross country shoes in either the washer or the dryer. You are far better off just hosing them off. If that does not get them clean enough, you can wash them using a gentle detergent and scrub brush. A laundry sink and some warm water can go a long way!
The spikes and bottom of the shoe can often be cleaned by a simple rinse with a garden hose. If that does not whisk away all of the grime, a soft toothbrush on the bottom of the shoes should do the trick.
Taking Care of Spikes
While we are talking about taking care of your spikes, be sure you don’t ever let the spike get too short or worn down before replacing it. This is important for multiple reasons. First, spikes that are too short don’t work properly. Second, the shorter they become the harder they are to remove. The last thing you want is a spike that won’t come out!
Even if you don’t need to replace the spikes, you should remove them periodically. Leaving a set of spikes in too long can render them difficult to replace. You don’t want that to happen!
Our Picks For The Best Cross Country Running Shoes
Now that you’ve read up on the varying types of cross country shoes and what you should look for when selecting a pair, take a peek at our picks for the best cross country shoes on the market. Having reviewed a number of the top brands and spent hundreds of hours testing, we think our top picks will be a great place to start for any runner looking to test some new cross country trainers.