The Best Cross Country Running Shoes That Will Take You the Distance
How to Choose the Best Cross Country Running Shoes
Running cross country is different than tackling a few road miles or sprinting on a track. Through the grass and mud, lacing up for this specific stride encourages athletes of all types to work on their grit. Of course, there's the actual grit—dirty sneakers and sweat-soaked tank tops. But also, the emotional grit, of working your body through tough terrain.
For the unfamiliar, cross country running is *not* running across the country (although it can be done anywhere and everywhere). Rather, it's a type of running—best-known as a team sport in high school and college—that involves tackling outdoor courses complete with dirt and grass. Popular destinations for cross country races include schools, parks, trails, and golf courses. (Related: 10 Trail Running Shoes to Help You Break Away from the Pavement)
This type of cardio requires a certain type of gear. You can't just wear any old running sneakers. Rather, if you want to get the most out of your runs, you'll want a pair of good cross country running shoes, according to Emma Abrahamson, women's cross country assistant coach at the University of Portland and a former cross country and track athlete herself. Many cross country running shoes have spikes on the bottom to help grip the terrain for better propulsion, adds Abrahamson.
Word to the wise: Track sneakers with spikes are different than cross-country spikes, primarily because of the cushioning. Cross-country spikes will have more of it in than track spikes, because of the greater distance involved. (Related: The Best Long-Distance Running Shoes)
Not only do the spikes have a functional purpose, but Abrahamson says they can also act as a mental tool for runners to transition from practice to racing. For example, training days that aren't about race preparation, runners will want supportive, lightweight kicks, she explains. "You want to feel like [the shoe] is a part of you," she says. "You're looking for a solid training sneaker that feels fast and keeps you comfortable." (Related: The Best Running Shoes for Plantar Fasciitis, According to a Podiatrist)
Here, we round-up the top cross country running shoes with and without spikes that are perfect for all parts of the training cycle.
Nike Zoom Victory XC 5
Go to any cross country race, and you're sure to find this cross country running shoe on a bunch of athletes. The Nike Zoom Victory XC looks sleek and feels fast, thanks to the carbon fiber in the mid-foot which helps to increase support on uneven surfaces (read: the entire course). (ICYMI, Nike is launching a line of eco-friendly sneakers that are stylish *and* sustainable.)
Altra Women's Vanish XC
This pick from Altra totes the brand's signature foot-shaped toe box which enables your toes to splay wide without cramping or discomfort. The Vanish XC comes complete with rubber spikes on the outsole, which come in handy in multiple scenarios such as if you're running a race that doesn't allow metal spikes and when the terrain calls for greater traction.
Brooks Mach 19
Looking to stand out? Look no further than the hot pink design of these Brooks Mach cross country running shoes. The lightweight woven upper is both durable and breathable, providing athletes with the perfect amount of support to find some speed.
Saucony Women's Kilkenny XC7
Slip on this cross country running shoe and it'll feel like a second skin. Plus, it's made with trail, gravel, and grass terrain in mind, so you're good to cruise on any route. A word to the wise: Reviewers suggest ordering at least a half size up from your typical running shoe fit. (If your shoes slip off your heels, try one of these lacing techniques for a better fit.)
Asics Hyper XC 2
Looking to feel really locked in? These cross country running shoes are the perfect pick for you. The seamless overlays on the upper provide extra close-to-the-skin support, while the mesh gives your feet room to breathe.
Adidas Adizero XCSprint
These highly responsive, six-spike cross country running shoes give you the boost you need to navigate any course. Plus, they've got a reinforced mesh upper that offers a supportive feel from heel to toe. (These running shoes combine fashion with tech for your best performance.)
Nike Zoom Pegasus Turbo 2
Nike's Zoom Pegasus Turbo 2's are stellar cross country running shoes whether you're looking to pick up the pace or simply log a few easy recovery miles. You'll feel a little extra spring in your step from the moment you put them on, thanks to the brand's ZoomX midsole, which is known for its excellent energy return, which translates to a more springy step.
Reebok Forever Floatride Energy
For the price, this Reebok staple is a no-brainer for training miles. These cross country running shes offer a smooth ride, thanks to the Floatride Energy Foam, and comes in nine different colorways for every taste and style. (Related: What It's Really Like to Work Out In a Training Mask)
Hoka One One Cavu 3
Hoka is well-known for its cushioned midsole, and the Cavu 3 is no exception. It's one of the brand's lightest trainers making it ideal for picking up the pace when you're training your heart rate and features a tongueless design—which means that the tongue of the shoe is actually one piece with the rest of the upper. The purpose? A snug, cozy fit that helps you find your fastest pace.
New Balance 890 v7
This cross country running shoe is a workhorse. Perfect for moving at a quick clip, the minimal build can withstand both sprint workouts and longer bouts of mileage. With lightweight solid rubber on the forefoot, they've got the grip you need in key spots to help you propel forward and hit your stride.