Are you looking for the best cross country shoes that are going to take your running skills to the next level? If the answer is yes, then my friend, you’re at the right place!
When you think about it, not many people can proudly say that they run in their free time. And running, in fact, is such an important exercise. Maybe even the most important one.
I love this quote by Will Smith about running. I might butcher it now, so do forgive me. He said how, when we run, there’s the little voice that tells us that we can do it no more, that we’re tired, and hurt. And if we manage to defeat that voice and continue to run, we’ll know not to quit when things get hard in life.
So, running in itself is a pretty impressive and character-building spare time activity. In a way, it prepares you for the real world, ensuring you’re ready for all the lemons life gives you.
Now, imagine what running over an open and rough terrain (aka. cross country) does to you! Wow! People who attend cross country races are probably real-life superheroes.
Therefore, a challenging and grand activity like cross country requires appropriate equipment to go with it. Especially the shoes! A good pair of quality shoes is the key to the successful accomplishment of any activity. I’m sure you agree with me.
You can run in any shirt and any joggers, and it wouldn’t make a big difference. But if you run in inappropriate shoes, you might feel the consequences for the rest of your life. And nobody’s got time for that, right?!
Hence, this article brings you the 10 best cross country shoes on the market. I’m positive you’ll find the one pair that will take you over the hills and far away!
What are the best cross country shoes?
Cross country can be a wild ride! Sometimes referred to as XC running, this race usually takes place during the autumn and winter months, and normally ranges from 2.5 miles to 7.5 miles.
Runners may have small sections of the route which are held over paved roads or bike paths, but the majority of cross country races are held off-road. This implies undulating courses, open fields, trails, grass in parks and forests, wood-chipped paths, and those alike.
These kinds of routes, because they take place during colder months, oftentimes require the runners to get over sand-covered paths, jump over some shallow ditches, or even wade through small streams. For the most part, this race leaves them wet and muddy from head to toe.
To successfully conquer everything this wild trail offers, XC runners need an appropriate pair of shoes, preferably ones that combine both quality and affordability.
And I have just the ones for you!
Below, I have selected the 10 best cross country shoes with which you’ll fall in love upon the first tieing of the laces!
1. Altra Vanish XC
Starting with Altra Vanish XC, this lightweight, comfortable and durable model of cross country footwear is many people’s favorite pair of athletic shoes.
The upper of these shoes is made out of fine and breathable materials, and it perfectly contours to the shape of everyone’s foot, providing a superb fit. Their outsoles are extremely flexible and have rubber “spikes” that enhance the traction and ensure the shoes are okay to use during spikeless races.
When it comes to their midsole, these shoes have MAX LT midsoles which provide softness and comfort, much-needed features in running shoes.
These shoes have zero heel-to-toe drop, but they offer an insert of 3/16 inch drop for extra stability and support. Also, due to the wide-toe box, these shoes offer enough room for toes to wiggle freely.
These Altra Vanish XCs come in a variety of colors, like black, blue, red, and yellow, so there’s an option for everyone’s taste. I’m sure for yours, too.
2. Brooks Draft XC
These Brooks Draft XCs are one of the best cross country shoes because they offer a customizable upper and extra light comfort while cross country racing.
With a wide forefoot area, these shoes provide runners with enough toe space and ensure they have a safe and stable landing when running on different kinds of surfaces.
When it comes to their midsoles, a fully customizable ride is provided by the combination of BioMoGo midsole technology with DNA cushioning technology for a responsive ride that adapts to the needs of each individual runner.
The fun thing about this model is that it has a blank space near the heel area for runners to create their own personalized designs. How cool is that?! With these shoes, you’ll not only get a cross country footwear option but also an opportunity to add a bit of your own touch!
3. Hoka Speedgoat 5
Hoka Speedgoat 5 is an improved model of a brand that’s already considered to produce the best cross country shoes.
The sock-like mesh upper of these shoes is made out of recycled polyester which ensures a comfortable and flexible fit and more room for feet inside. The material is also waterproof which makes these shoes perfect for wet conditions.
With the maximum level of cushioning, these shoes are extremely comfy and provide enough shock absorption. And due to Vibram Megagrip, a high-performance rubber compound that makes up the sole of these shoes, this model has excellent traction on any kind of surface.
Some say that you have to dig really deep to find any shortcomings in these shoes. They truly make a great pair of cross country shoes!
4. Hoka ONE ONE EVO XC Spike
Another model from the same brand. What better proof of high-quality, cross country shoes do you need?
These shoes have a Ripstop upper made of polyester which makes these shoes both extremely lightweight and breathable and also very durable and resistant to wear.
They have the Dual Density CMEVA midsoles which are made out of foam with a higher density at the front of the foot. The foam, therefore, is of lower density at the heel area, which ensures a safe landing and effective cushioning.
The outsoles of these shoes are made of High Abrasion Rubber meaning they are exceptionally durable and can last for a long time. They also provide a lot of grip and traction on any kind of surface, whether it be wet or dry.
To ensure extra grip, this model has four pikes at the forefoot. These shoes are good for both long and short-distance races and are truly one of the best cross country shoes on the market today.
5. New Balance XC Seven v4
(Source: New Balance)
New Balance XC Seven v4 is a great model for beginners in cross country races.
These shoes feature a lightweight and breathable upper with impressive visuals, and REVlite midsole cushioning which ensures lightweight comfort. With a traditional tongue and collar construction and lace-up closure, the fit of this model is guaranteed.
The outsoles of these ones have a six-pin spike plate which provides great traction on any surface and ensures speed.
This model comes in two striking color combos – pixel green with cyber jade and electric red with victory blue. And they are unisex, so the sizing has to be carefully considered.
6. New Balance XC 5K v5
(Source: Dick Pond Athletics)
Another one from New Balance. If you ask me, this brand never seems to disappoint.
These shoes are meant for those more competitive cross country runners. They feature the same REVlite midsole cushioning as the abovementioned New Balance model, which delivers unbelievably lightweight cushioning.
They also have a removable five-pin spike plate which ensures an extreme level of grip and efficient traction and helps you be agile on all kinds of terrain. This model keeps the foot stable and correct strides.
These shoes have a snug fit which for some who have wider feet can be a tad bit restricting. So it’s best to, in the wide-feet case, opt for a bigger size.
7. Nike Zoom Rival Waffle 5
Some say that there’s no better option for running over challenging grounds. This Nike Zoom Rival Waffle 5 model rightfully bears the title of one of the best cross country shoes.
Designed to take you long distances, these shoes have long-lasting rubber soles with waffle-like numbs for durable traction. They also have thin and textured laces which ensures the knots are more secured.
With their upper made out of soft mesh and durable materials, this lightweight model provides the maximum amount of comfort right after you take them out of the box.
Like many Nike models, this one also runs a bit small, so you’ll have to be extra careful when picking up the right size for you. Especially if you’re ordering online.
8. Nike Zoom Victory XC 5
Another Nike model has found its place on our list of the 10 best cross country shoes. This doesn’t come as a surprise, really. Nike is a brand we all love and trust. We know they will never fail us.
Designed to take you over rough terrain, these Nike Zoom Victory XC 5 shoes are made out of a multi-layer translucent woven upper which is extremely breathable. Their rubber outsoles feature 6-pin spikes which ensured aggressive traction and evenly disperse pressure.
The midsoles of these shoes are reinforced with carbon fiber for enhanced stability and support over rough terrain.
The only fault of this model is that they are a tad bit too narrow. So keep that in mind if you decide to get these bad boys.
9. Saucony Kilkenny XC 8
What makes these Saucony Kilkenny XC 8 the best cross country shoes are their well-designed soles. They have moderate traction soles and a 4-pin spike plate. Because of it, these shoes are perfect for handling grass, trail, and gravel terrain.
Their outsole is made out of carbon rubber material, and the midsole is made out of thin EVA foam. These features ensure the shoes stay comfy and lightweight and help keep the spikes firm and responsive. And the upper of these shoes is made out of flexible mesh which makes them super light and breathable.
These shoes are believed to be the perfect option for first-time cross country runners. Their only drawback is that they do run a bit small, so it’s suggested to size up, so the shoes don’t feel too tight.
If you’re considering getting these ones, but the spikes are prohibited in the area where you compete, you can opt for Kilkenny XC8 Flat version.
10. Saucony Peregrine 12
Their name says it all! These shoes were named after the Peregrine falcon, the fastest member of the animal kingdom. They are literary made for speed!
Saucony Peregrine 12 are actually trail shoes but can be counted among the best cross country shoes because they provide decent traction, protection, and cushioning and are suitable for versatile terrain.
Made out of recycled upper materials, this style provides a lighter environmental footprint. They feature PWRRUN cushioning which is great for comfort on the trail and a contoured EVA sock liner for more of a personalized feel.
This model of shoes provides excellent grip and traction on any kind of surface and versatile protection. And it is best suited for shorter-distance races. This, in my opinion, makes these shoes the best cross country shoes for beginner runners.
What are the characteristics of the best cross country shoes?
Maybe you did not like the 10 pairs of shoes I selected for you. Maybe you want to keep your options opened. Maybe you just want to see what’s on the other side of this list of the best cross country shoes.
Either way, if you wish to explore the realms of the Internet or the galore offers in shopping centers, before venturing into your purchase, you have to learn several key features of the best cross country shoes.
There are several things you simply have to take into consideration. Some of them you already know or can at least guess. For example, you would never take your Converse shoes out for a cross country race. They’re great for long walks at the mall, while you’re on the hunt for your new XC babies.
Let’s see what are the 4 major features of the best cross country shoes you should look for in your next purchase.
1. The right fit
The right fit is absolutely necessary to achieve, especially if you’re a beginner in cross country. As a new runner, you are more prone to injuries, so it’s essential to get the proper shoes. That way, you ensure you’ll stay safe while you enjoy the new and fun activity.
This doesn’t mean that the right fit isn’t important if you’re an experienced runner. Consider this to be imperative when it comes to cross country shoes.
Having the right shoe that fits like a glove and feels like an extension of your foot is of great importance for your cross country performance. Having it helps you to run faster, make rapid turns, and deal with uneven terrain.
To ensure your shoes fit you perfectly, consider consulting a shoe specialist in your local shoe shop. If you have none near you, many popular brands have a shoe-fitting tool available on their site that can greatly help with your decision.
2. Comfort is the key!
Just to be clear, every shoe should be comfortable, especially those in which you spend the majority of your time or do some high-intensity activities.
The best cross country shoes usually have a thin, low-profile midsole and moderate cushioning. This is because as a cross country runner you want to feel the ground you are running on and have all the control you possibly can.
Minimal cushioning also motivates you to land on the front of your foot, which is more desirable for speed.
3. And, so is durability!
A good pair of cross country shoes simply has to be durable! These kinds of shoes are usually a bit more expensive than your average everyday sneaker, so they have to be worth your hard-earned money.
On average, XC shoes cost from $120 to $150, with some less and more expansive options on the market as well. When you spend this much, you expect great things, for sure. And rightly so!
For the most part, the price equals quality, but we all know that every rule has its exception. If you are a beginner in cross country running, and you have a hard time deciding what shoes to go for, try asking a salesperson in the shop you’re at.
Or, explore the internet, and for your first shoes pick a pair that some website recommends (aka. this one!). Later, when you gain some experience, and you learn what to like and don’t like, you’ll be able to recognize the quality without anyone’s help.
4. Not every sole is for every terrain
Before your cross country race, find out what kind of terrain awaits you. This insight is important because not every shoe sole is for every terrain.
For example, some cross country races imply steep inclines, difficult obstacles, and even pond or river crossings. The runners in these kinds of races will need shoes where soles are more rugged to help with the grip.
In other instances, some races are held on most flat and even surfaces, so a technical shoe is not required.
If you happen to struggle with deciding which pair of cross country shoes to pick for the terrain that awaits you, you can always consult a salesperson from your local store.
Or you can ask a fellow cross country runner for help. Those people usually have abundant experience and knowledge they’re not shy to share.
Also, make sure to see if the area where the cross country race you wish to participate in allows shoes with spikes. You don’t want to be disqualified and miss your chance of running.
For example, if you considering running high school cross country in California, you should know that spikes there are not allowed.
It’s important to be aware of these small details since they can greatly impact the whole thing. It would be a shame if a minor inconvenience like the wrong kind of shoe prohibited you from running.
Also, if you happen to have a cross country spike shoe, fear not! You can always insert blanks into the shoe when spikes are not allowed.