Which cross-country shoes are best?

Cross-country running is a seasonal sport for the most hardened runners. It is undertaken in the wetter and colder months of the year. Cross-country shoes, also referred to as XC shoes, are different from regular running shoes because they have a snugger fit and do not offer as much padding. This enables the runner to feel the ground better and have more control. XC shoes are also very lightweight and have grips of small rubber studs or metal spikes, depending on the terrain. These Saucony Havoc XC3: Women’s Spike Shoes are an excellent choice for high-performing shoes.

What to know before you buy cross-country shoes

Cross-country running is long-distance running over natural terrains such as grass or earth. Cross-country races occur in fall and winter, so the conditions can vary. Regular running shoes have more cushioning and support, but this makes them less lightweight, and this should be your first consideration. What other considerations are there to ponder before buying cross-country shoes? 


XC shoes can feel a little strange at first, and they can take some getting used to. Beginners are recommended to buy more budget-friendly shoes. This is because they are more like regular running shoes in the fit and cushioning, making adapting to more technical and expensive shoes later a lot easier. XC shoes under $70 are generally regarded as a good start for beginners.

Spikes or flats?

Spikes have a better grip and are best suited to muddy and slippery conditions. They are also better for running uphill and help control speed when turning. Flats are much better for running on hard surfaces. If you are not sure what to buy, it is recommended to go with flats.


Cross-country shoes should not be so tight that they are uncomfortable, but they should be snug. There should be space for one thumbnail between the toe and the front of the shoe. This means that there will be less room around the toes than you usually go for when fitting shoes.

What to look for in quality cross-country shoes

Water resistance

This is a nice feature to have in XC running shoes. It will keep your feet dry in light rain and light splashes – but bear in mind that there is a massive difference between water-resistant and waterproof. Splashing through streams and puddles will make your feet wet, no matter the level of water resistance in the shoe.


XC shoes need to be as lightweight as possible. They should have just enough material and cushioning to feel like they are almost not even there. That doesn’t mean you should just buy the lightest pair you can find as there are other factors to consider. Take everything into consideration and remember that weight is one of the most important factors when deciding.

Spike length

You should use long spikes in wet conditions for better traction and shorter ones in dry conditions or running on gravel. It’s always best to check if spikes are allowed at the race, and Californian high-schoolers take note – spikes are banned from races in your state.  

How much you can expect to spend on cross-country shoes

As mentioned earlier, beginners are actively encouraged to buy a pair of budget-friendly shoes for under $70. Decent-quality cross-country shoes can be found at under $40. Once you’re ready for more technical shoes, you can expect to pay over $100 and up.

Cross-country shoes FAQ

Can I use track-and-field shoes for cross-country running?

A. Although they look similar, they are different in design. However, track-and-field shoes can be used for cross country and vice-versa. Cross-country shoes have more cushioning and offer better protection, and they are also more flexible. If you decide to use track-and-field shoes, it’s better to use those designed for long-distance running.

How long will XC running shoes last?

A. Cross-country running shoes are usually expected to last just one season. They stand to take a lot of abuse over the three to four months you will use them. By the springtime, you should expect your shoes to be ready for demotion to gardening slippers.

What are the best cross country shoes to buy?

Top cross country shoes

Saucony: Havoc XC3: Women’s Spike Shoes

Saucony: Havoc XC3: Women’s Spike Shoes

What you need to know: A colorful and stylish shoe for women seeking an advantage on the cross-country track.

What you’ll love: These colorful running shoes are comfortable and lightweight. Rebound and durability are provided by the shoes’ excellent and thin midsoles. The outsole and spikes provide great grip over a variety of terrain.

What you should consider: They also come in black for those of you who prefer less eye-catching footwear.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Top cross-country shoes for money

ASICS: Cross Freak 2: Men’s Cross-Country Spike

ASICS: Cross Freak 2: Men’s Cross-Country Spike

What you need to know: These are stylish men’s cross-country spikes designed for aggressive runners.

What you’ll love: The sole unit’s weight is reduced by ASIC’s unique Trusstic system without compromising the structural integrity. Harder surfaces are no problem with the compression-molded ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA) midsole, while the five-spike structure offers excellent traction and control. 

What you should consider: The shoes run very small according to some reviewers.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

Nike: Zoom Victory XC 5 Racing Shoe

Nike: Zoom Victory XC 5 Racing Shoe

What you need to know: These are great unisex running shoes with spikes for the more advanced runner.

What you’ll love: These running shoes will help you grip, splash and soar your way through the race. They are lightweight and breathable, and the six spikes disperse any pressure evenly. They feature a supportive water-resistant upper and are suitable for uneven rocky trails because the Carbon fiber midfoot improves stability.

What you should consider: The sizes run small.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon and Dick’s Sporting Goods


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Barry Peacock writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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