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Which cross-country running shoes are best?

Athletes of all sports need a reliable pair of shoes to be at their best, but it’s especially true for cross-country runners. Cross-country runners travel long distances, often on uneven or rugged surfaces, so it’s crucial to have a durable, lightweight and comfortable pair of running shoes.

There are a few key factors to consider when shopping for cross-country shoes, but the best shoes, like the Nike Zoom Victory XC 5 Cross-Country Shoes, are popular because of their stability, traction and water-resistant construction.

What to know before you buy cross-country running shoes


Cross-country running shoes should fit securely, but there should also be some room at the front for the toes to move freely. Shoes that are too tight and constrain the foot can be uncomfortable, and at worst, lead to injury. Also, while most shoes require some time to break in, runners with wide feet should avoid shoes offering a narrow fit. Wearing narrow-fit shoes can result in swollen feet and ankles for runners with wide feet.


Cross-country runners will often travel over rugged surfaces and encounter debris such as rocks, twigs, tree roots and mud. Durable shoes that offer plenty of traction, protection and feature thick soles are ideal for running on uneven surfaces. A more lightweight shoe with a soft midsole will suffice for athletes who run on paved or flat surfaces.

League rules

If you’re a cross-country runner that’s part of an official league, it’s best to check their rules before purchasing spiked shoes. They provide superior traction and help increase speed and mobility on uneven surfaces, but unfortunately, some leagues don’t allow them.

What to look for in quality cross-country running shoes


A good pair of cross-country shoes should offer flexibility without sacrificing durability, so they should bend at the toe area while the midsole and heel area remain stable. If they do so, that demonstrates that they will feel comfortable but that your foot will be secure and protected.


Since cross-country athletes run primarily outdoors, many prefer to wear shoes featuring a water-resistant construction in the upper. Cross-country running shoes need to be lightweight, so most of them have breathable mesh uppers, but the best shoes have durable front tips and water-resistant fabrics that help keep the runner’s feet dry.


It’s wise to prioritize durability and comfort over style, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consider it. Cross-country shoes are available in many different colors, styles and patterns, so you have the option to choose a pair of shoes that you like and feel confident wearing.

Spikes or flat outsoles

Spiked cross-country shoes are your best bet if you plan on running on uneven surfaces such as grass or dirt trails, but they’re not suitable for smooth or paved surfaces. Shoes with flat rubber outsoles are ideal for running in urban environments with minimal debris, but naturally, they don’t offer much grip on rugged surfaces.

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

Cross country running shoes for beginners generally cost $60-$100, but more durable shoes for experienced runners can cost anywhere from $100-$175.

Cross-country running shoes FAQ

Are cross-country shoes the same as track and field shoes?

A. Although they have a similar outward appearance, there are a few key differences. Cross-country shoes have more cushioning for added support and a thicker upper for protection against things like rocks and dirt, while track and field shoes are more lightweight and have a thinner upper.

Are there any cross-country running shoes with high ankle cuts?

A. No. While high-ankle cuts offer more ankle support, they tend to make shoes bulkier and clunkier, which isn’t ideal for long-distance running.

What are the best cross-country shoes to buy?

Top cross-country running shoes

Nike Zoom Victory XC 5 Cross-Country Shoes

Nike Zoom Victory XC 5 Cross-Country Shoes

What you need to know: These shoes are specially engineered for serious runners who need a comfortable, water-resistant shoe that offers superior stability on uneven surfaces.

What you’ll love: The multi-layer mesh upper has a Hyperfuse construction, making the shoes water-resistant. They also boast a comfortable midfoot area for added stability and feature rubber heel pods along with six spike pins for dispersed traction.

What you should consider: They have a narrow fit, so it’s advisable for runners with wide feet to purchase a half size up.

Where to buy: Sold by Dick’s Sporting Goods

Top cross-country running shoes for the money

Adidas Men’s Adizero XCS Running Shoes

Adidas Men’s Adizero XCS Running Shoes

What you need to know: These shoes offer superior breathability and comfort at a low price point, making them ideal for runners on a budget.

What you’ll love: These shoes have a lightweight design and boast a breathable mesh upper with an internal cage designed to secure the runner’s foot in place. They have a vibrant green, blue and yellow color pattern and a rubber spike plate for maximum traction on all types of surfaces.

What you should consider: The spikes can take some time to break in, as some customers report sore legs after the first few uses.

Where to buy: Sold by Dick’s Sporting Goods

Worth checking out

Brooks Men’s Mach 19 Cross-Country Shoes

Brooks Men’s Mach 19 Cross-Country Shoes

What you need to know: These shoes are a terrific option for speedy runners looking for a balanced combination of comfort and stability.

What you’ll love: They offer excellent traction on various surfaces, thanks to an advanced spike plate and an intuitive lug pattern. They also feature cushioned support which provides a responsive feel even on the most rigid surfaces.

What you should consider: They have a snug fit, but some runners might prefer buying a size up for extra wiggle room in the toe area.

Where to buy: Sold by Dick’s Sporting Goods


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

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