10 Best Cross Country Running Shoes Compared 2021

Last updated: October 6, 2021

Running Shoes / 10 Best Cross Country Running Shoes Compared 2021

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Running shoes come in many different variations such as road running shoes, trail shoes or even purpose specific shoes depending on your foot types such as cushioned shoes or stability shoes.

Another one these variations is cross country running shoes. Cross country running usually revolves around grass or dirt and as such your typical road running shoes aren’t the best fit for the job.

Road running shoes tend to be more durable and are built specifically for these types of terrains. Here we’ve reviewed some of the best cross country shoes as rated by other runners and compared them against their various features below.

Best Cross Country Running Shoes Compared and Reviewed

Shock Absorption
ASICS Gel Kayano 27
ASICS Gel Kayano 27
Lightweight
Salomon Speedcross 5
Salomon Speedcross 5
Narrow Fit
Adidas XCS 5M
Adidas XCS 5M
Stability Shoes
Saucony Kilkenny XC5
Saucony Kilkenny XC5
Arch Support
New Balance 900 V4
New Balance 900 V4

1. ASICS Gel Kayano 27

Key Features

  • Rear and forefoot gel technology cushioning
  • Duo Max support system
  • 10mm heel drop
  • Available in a wide range of colors
  • Weight: 11.1 oz.

Reasons to buy

  • Shoes are crafted with a Flytefoam Propel cushioning for a more comfortable wear
  • Designed for elevated stability
  • Crafted with high-quality materials for enhanced durability
  • The newly engineered upper offers more ventilation for better breathability

Reasons to avoid

  • Some may find the shoes to be a bit on the heavy side
  • The design makes certain areas a little tight

This running shoe is crafted for superior comfort during long cross-country runs. Outfitted with a soft gel technology cushioning system that helps with shock absorption and an energetic foam insert that helps with bounce back, this shoe is a great choice for any guy looking for a new cross country runner.

On top of the Flytefoam cushioning built into the design, there are many other amazing features that can benefit the runner. Among these is the DuoMax support system, which helps elevate the stability of the shoe itself. That coupled with the newly engineered mesh upper makes this running shoe highly stable as well as well ventilated.

But there are a few issues that need to be addressed. First off, the shoe may be a bit on the heavy side for some, and it is designed with a thinner fit in certain areas, so there may be some breaking in that needs to be done before it’s ultimately comfortable.

2. Salomon Speedcross 5

Key Features

  • Deep sharp lugs
  • 10mm drop
  • Quickly design
  • OrthoLite die-cut sock line
  • Weight: 11.3 oz.

Reasons to buy

  • The shoe offers a superior grip on a wide range of terrain
  • New design offers a wider fit
  • Unique design allows for absolutely no break-in time
  • Runner is super responsive and very comfortable

Reasons to avoid

  • The material used doesn’t offer the best ventilation nor water drainage
  • Shoe is designed with a high heel counter

For those runners who love to head out on soft, technical trails, the Salomon Speedcross 5 is a great choice. Crafted with high-quality materials and redesigned for better grip, this running shoe shows that Salomon is dedicated to delivering high-quality products to its customers.

When the designers at Salomon looked to upgrade their previous Speedcross model, they opted to include deeper and sharper lugs. This, coupled with a dynamic upper, offers better stability and traction so that the runner can handle any type of terrain. They also ensured that the new design was a wider fit as well as being more responsive and comfortable.

But even with all these new design features, the shoe is not perfect. The thick upper tends to retain water and doesn’t allow for a decent amount of ventilation tracks from the comfort level. The shoe is also designed with a high heel counter which might be uncomfortable for some.

3. Adidas XCS 5M

Key Features

  • .75″ heel
  • .50″ platform
  • Removable pins
  • Shark web printed upper
  • Low profile molded full-length midsole
  • Weight: 7 oz.

Reasons to buy

  • Shoes are designed to have excellent traction as well as to drain water fast
  • Crafted with lightweight material 
  • Spike plate offers good protection for a runner’s feet
  • Runners provide excellent stability for downhill trails

Reasons to avoid

  • Those that need more arch support may find this runner lacking
  • Lugs are not very big, so may not be ideal for extremely muddy courses

This Adidas performance cross country running shoe is crafted with a mixed material and finished with a rubber sole. On top of this, the model is designed with a full-length traction outsole and removable pins for improved grip on uneven surfaces. It is also designed with a single layer perforated suede tongue that improves breathability.

The Adizero-like spikes are not only removable, giving versatility of use to their shoe, but also are perfect for long-distance runners that are looking for better grip. With multiple materials used in the construction, the shoe offers a lighter weight than many other cross-country runners. It is also crafted with a spike plate for improved foot protection in an excellent platform for better stability.

Now with that being said, there are a few things that could be improved on. For those that need extended arch support, this shoe doesn’t quite offer the level you may need. Along with this, though, the lugs are great and offer superior traction. If you’re dealing with an extremely muddy course, they may not be grippy enough.

4. Saucony Kilkenny XC5

Key Features

  • Removable spikes
  • Minimally layered upper
  • Neutral fit
  • Narrow fit
  • Weight: 6.2 oz.

Reasons to buy

  • Designed with a narrow fit for more support
  • High-quality spikes used that can handle a wide range of terrains
  • Price versus value is outstanding
  • Premium grade carbon rubber outsole improves grip

Reasons to avoid

  • The shoe is not crafted with a toe bumper at the front of the model
  • Some have found that the materials used are not as durable as other cross country runners

The Kilkenny XC5 is crafted with 100% synthetic materials and finished with a synthetic sole. Designed with removable spikes, this runner is a lightweight option with plenty of grip for high-level performance.

When it comes to this running shoe, there is definitely quite a bit of benefit that a runner can take advantage of by including this in their gear. The shoe is designed with a narrow fit, allowing for better support and stability during the runner’s long runs. Along with this, the spikes that are used are crafted with high-quality materials and designed to be able to handle a wide range of terrains. That coupled with the high-performance carbon rubber outsole gives this show a lot of value.

Even with all that, though, there are still a few drawbacks that may cause some runners to reconsider choosing this cross country shoe. The first is that the shoe is not crafted with the toe bumper, which detracts from the level of protection given to the runner. Also, because the shoe is crafted with synthetic materials, some feel that it is less durable than other options.

5. New Balance 900 V4

Key Features

  • 360°mesh upper
  • Aggressive loves
  • Six-pin spike pad
  • Fantom fit
  • Abrasion-resistant sole
  • Weight: 8 oz.

Reasons to buy

  • Encap midsole increase the durability and stability of the shoe
  • Acteva Light and EVA foam enhance the comfort of the shoe
  • The shoe is offered in wide as well as normal sizes
  • Runner comes with the tool to remove spikes

Reasons to avoid

  • Some may find the shoe to be a bit on the pricey side
  • Issues with the flexibility and responsiveness of the shoe

New Balance has been crafting high-quality active footwear for decades, and this cross-country runner lives up to the durable reputation of the company. Crafted with 100% synthetic materials and finished with a rubber sole, the 900 V4 also comes with a 3D screen-printed upper and a cool aesthetic.

There is a lot of versatility when it comes to this shoe. From the fact that it is available in both regular sizes as well as wide to the multiple color options, this shoe will be able to be customized to the person’s needs. In fact, the shoe has removable spikes, and the tool to do this even comes with them, making them easily converted from trail running to street running.

That, coupled with the high-quality technology used in the construction, including the midsole and the foam inserts, make this shoe a great option for almost any cross country runner.

There are a couple of things, though, that may be an issue for some. The biggest of these may be the price, as some may find it a bit steep for a running shoe. Although it is comfortable and offers good traction, the shoe is not incredibly flexible nor responsive.

6. Saucony Shay XC4

Key Features

  • SSL EVA midsole
  • Mesh upper
  • Aggressive plate
  • FLEXFILM Overlays
  • 6- pin spike outsole
  • Weight: 4.8 oz.

Reasons to buy

  • Runners are crafted to be ultra-lightweight for reduced leg fatigue
  • Spikes included in the design are incredibly versatile
  • Stability and support give a responsive and fast performance
  • The shoe offers good arch support

Reasons to avoid

  • Shoes are not true to size
  • The design seems to be a little tight around the toe box

If you’re a serious cross country runner, then you want a spiked shoe that will ensure that you have improved performance but is comfortable as well. This shoe is designed with an aggressive plate and a true spike kit specifically for just that type of runner. On top of this, it is designed with a high-performance midsole and a mesh upper for improved breathability.

One of the biggest issues when it comes to cross country running is leg fatigue. This can come from utilizing too heavy of a shoe, which may be one of the best things about this runner. Crafted with lightweight material, there is a reduced chance of leg fatigue. Also, for those that need good arch support, these shoes offer an excellent level of support.

Like many other running shoes, especially when it comes to those crafted for athletic use, the shoe has a bit of a sizing issue. They are not true to size, and the runner needs to go up half a size to ensure a proper fit. Also, the design is crafted to be a little bit thinner, which means it is tight around the toe box.

7. ASICS Gel-Venture 8

Key Features

  • Synthetic sole
  • Gel technology
  • Improved outsole lugs
  • 10mm heel drop
  • Weight: 8.9 oz.

Reasons to buy

  • Shoe is crafted to have good traction even on wet and muddy surfaces
  • Designed to be true to size
  • Overall design is intended for improved comfort and durability
  • Runner will have little to no break-in time

Reasons to avoid

  • Design of shoe leads to a narrow toe box
  • Material design is not crafted for breathability

This cross country runner is designed with high-quality gel technology that is strategically placed under the rear foot to help with shock absorption during running. This is just one of the many design features that makes it a great option, no matter your level of experience in cross-country running. But the shoe is also versatile as the tread pattern is designed to not only be comfortable on concrete but trails as well.

The tread pattern is maybe one thing that makes this shoe stand out from other options on the market. Designed with that special tread, it also helps improve traction even on wet and muddy surfaces. The shoe’s overall design, including the durable upper, is crafted to heighten comfort and extend the life of the shoe. All of that, combined with the fact it takes no time to break in and is crafted with a true-to-size fit, makes this a great choice.

However, that being said, the design is a little narrow when it comes to the toe box. This may detract a little from the comfort if you have a broader foot. Also though the material is designed with breathable mesh, it is not of the highest quality, and therefore the ventilation lacks a little bit.

8. New Balance 1400v6

Key Features

  • Barefoot friendly internal construction
  • Blown rubber outsole
  • Breathable air mesh
  • No sew material application
  • Weight: 6.8 oz.

Reasons to buy

  • Materials used in the construction make it flexible as well as lightweight
  • Crafted with the midsole that gives it a responsive, smooth performance
  • Upgraded upper improves ventilation and overall comfortability
  • Constructed with a simple but high-performance traction system

Reasons to avoid

  • Shoe is not available in wide widths
  • Night runners might take issue with the lack of reflectivity

Best new model of cross country running shoe from New Balance takes everything that was great about the previous version and updates it with things like a lightweight upper and a phantom fit support cage to help with stability. Because of these new additions, it is one of the best options on the market for running footwear for cross country running.

Everything with this model is carefully crafted to ensure the highest performance when it comes to running. This starts with the materials used in the construction, which give it flexibility and a lightweight nature which is great for the trails. Along with this, the midsole has been upgraded to allow for a smoother responsiveness that will help with speed and comfort.

All of this, combined with the fact that there is an upgraded upper for better breathability and a simple but effective traction system, make it a great choice for almost any cross country runner.

Even with all that, though, this shoe is not perfect, especially for those with a wider foot. Unlike other New Balance products, this shoe does not come in wide widths, which may be challenging for some. Also, if you happen to be a night runner, there is no reflectivity included in the design.

9. Nike Zoom Rival XC

Key Features

  • Four spiked plate
  • Waffle outsole
  • Compression-molded midsole cushion
  • Molded medial arch 
  • Thin mesh upper

Reasons to buy

  • Spike design is perfect for beginning cross country runners
  • Crafted with a wider forefoot for improved comfort
  • Designed with an upper that can be customized for a perfect fit
  • Upper is crafted with high-quality mesh for improved ventilation

Reasons to avoid

  • There is a sizing issue as they tend to run a size too small
  • Model doesn’t come in very many colors.

When you think of athletic gear, there are many names that may pop to mind, but one of them is definitely Nike. This running shoe from Nike is crafted with specially designed technology that helps improve the performance and comfortability for any type of runner, but maybe a cross country runner most of all.

The shoe’s overall design includes a wider forefoot and a new upper that allows for a customized fit, enhancing the comfortability of wear.

Not only that but that upper is crafted with high-quality mesh, which helps with breathability, enhancing the comfort for the runner. For those cross country runners that are just starting out, the four spiked plate design is super easy to get comfortable with, and therefore this shoe may be the perfect choice for you.

One word of caution, though, when choosing this shoe, you have to make sure that you go up a size. Also, for those that are a little more fashion conscious, the shoe does not come in that many colors.

10. Adidas Distancestar

Key Features

  • Mesh upper
  • Lightweight TPU plate outsole
  • Seamless toe cap
  • Synthetic heel locks
  • Weight: 5.6 oz.

Reasons to buy

  • Due to the use of high-quality material and the overall design, the ventilation is quite good
  • The overall aesthetic of the running shoe is very appealing to a wide range of people
  • The traction system is amazing for many types of terrain
  • Designed with ultra-lightweight materials for a faster performance

Reasons to avoid

  • Some find an issue with the support system included in the design
  • There is some limitation when it comes to traction effectiveness in extremely wet and muddy environments.

Adidas is yet another one of those names that are just synonymous with sports gear at athletic shoes. This model from Adidas comes with a carefully crafted design intended to enhance a cross country runner’s performance and comfort. Starting from the mesh upper all the way to the Adiwear heel and the soft EVA midsole, everything about this model screams comfort.

Adidas is known for utilizing high-quality materials as well as technologies to enhance its product’s performance. This shoe is no different. With this shoe, they utilized high-quality material that is both lightweight and breathable to help improve comfortability. On top of this, the traction system is suitable for a wide range of terrains giving the runner a versatile option of trails. On top of this, it looks pretty cool as well!

Though Adidas has taken care to craft this design to improve performance, a few issues should be addressed before any final decision is made. Though they included a high-quality midsole support system, many feel it is not as effective as other cross-country runner models. Also, though the traction is good and can be used on many different trains for those running in very wet and muddy locations, it may not have enough grip.

How to Choose the Best Cross Country Running Shoes

Buying a pair of cross country running shoes encompasses more than just purchasing a traditional running shoe. Other considerations have to be part of the process. The biggest of these is going to be protection. 

You want to find a cross-country runner that offers durability in a heightened level of protection from the elements. This means looking for a snug fit so that no rocks can get inside of them. It also means that you need to look for a reinforced toe to protect you from rocks and logs along the trails. And let’s not forget to look for a shoe that offers water resistance.

The next most important thing to look at, especially when dealing with cross country runners, is traction. During your runs, you will encounter many different terrains, and you want your shoe to be able to grip them, which will reduce the risk of potential injury from slipping. Other things to pay attention to are breathability as well as flexibility.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between cross country shoes and regular running shoes?

For those that are wondering what the difference is between a cross country issue (or a trail running shoe) and a traditional running shoe, there are quite a few. Typically you will find a cross country running shoe to have a more significant outsole. Within this outsole, you’ll often find soft lugs embedded within that helps with traction. 

On the other hand, running shoes are flatter, smoother with a more durable sole. You might also find the midsoles are a bit more robust and stiff. This helps create better stability as most cross-country runners will eventually have to deal with uneven terrain. 

The cross country shoe will often be designed with a rock plate to help protect against sharp rocks. Running shoes tend to have a softer midsole so that there is a better cushion and shock absorption when dealing with the pavement.

The last significant difference will be that cross country runners tend to be designed with uppers that have been reinforced. This is to give extra protection when dealing with things like sticks and roots while running on trails. Since running on the road doesn’t require this consideration, traditional runners tend to have a little less weight and have more ventilation.

Why do cross-country shoes have spikes?

Cross country shoes are designed in different ways, but many of them come with spikes that are either replaceable or built into the design itself. Frequently those who run cross country do so on multiple different terrains, including soft surfaces. Spikes are included in the design to allow for better traction and to improve stability.

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