Top 10 Best Cross Country Running Shoes For [Men & Women 2021]

Run farther, faster & in more comfort, we examine the top running shoes for men & women

Our Editors independently research, test, and rate what we feel are the best products. We use affiliate links and may receive a small commission on purchases.

For cross country runners, we know that not just any running shoe will do for our needs. They need to hold up well in all kinds of terrain, obviously be comfortable, have a solid amount of grip, flexibility, and much more.

That’s why we did the research on various models and comparing our experiences with other runners to come up with the best cross country running shoes for women and men.

Keep on scrolling, where you’ll find our in-depth reviews, along with a buying guide and any answers you may need.

Best Cross Country Running Shoes

 ASICS Gel-Kayano 25 SP Running ShoeSaucony Shay XC4 Spike'sSalomon Speedcross 4 Trail Running Shoe
editors choice
Sizes:6 – 16 XW5 – 117 – 14

Quick Answer: The 10 Best Cross Country Running Shoes

Men’s Cross Country Running Shoes

  1. ASICS Gel-Kayano 25 SP Men’s Running Shoe
  2. Salomon Men’s Speedcross 4 Trail Running Shoe
  3. adidas Performance Men’s XCS 5 M Cross Country Running Shoe
  4. Saucony Kilkenny XC5 Spike’s
  5. ASICS Men’s Cross Freak 2 Cross Country Spike

Women’s Cross Country Running Shoes

  1. Saucony Shay XC4 Spike’s Running Shoe
  2. ASICS Gel-Venture 6 MX Women’s Running-Shoes
  3. New Balance Women’s 1400v6 Running Shoe
  4. Nike Women’s Zoom Rival XC Cross Country Shoes
  5. New Balance Women’s WT10v1 Minimus Trail Running Shoe

Our reviews of the top cross country running shoes with a comparison table and our buyers guide below will help you choose a pair of shoes for you.

Best Men’s Cross Country Running Shoes

ASICS Gel-Kayano 25 SP Men's Cross Country Running Shoe

Asics Gel Kayano 25 at a Glance:

  • Men’s/Women’s: Mens
  • Sizes: 6 US – 16 XW US
  • Upper: Mesh/Synthetic
  • Sole: Rubber
  • Midsole: Foam

One of our favorite things about Asics as a brand, is that they’re so predictable in their reliability. They never throw things at us that are unfamiliar, yet are constantly improving their products to ensure they’re always one of our top choices.

Their Gel Kayano 25 is one of our top choices overall, and provide excellent stability with their triple-density midsole with a firm medial post.

They are finished off with gel inserts is excellent if you have trouble with overpronating or if you just want a great shoe.

Continuing on with the midsole, we loved that it was made of a type of EVA cushioning called “FlyteFoam”, which weighs about half as your average midsole out there.

While it does offer excellent bounce and feedback, at just under 12 ounces, it was surprisingly a bit heavier than the normal running shoe.

The mesh upper is completely seamless, which ensures you won’t have to deal with painful chafing or blisters. The various perforations mean excellent breathability without leaving the foot too exposed, and the exoskeletal heel counter provides excellent rearfoot support.

While we felt the upper wasn’t the most visually attractive out there, it wasn’t terrible, and we enjoyed that it seemed to form to the shape of our feet well.

While the outsoles are made from highly abrasion-resistant rubber and have a relatively good tread pattern, we would recommend the Kayano 25s more for roads and hard surfaces, rather than trail running. Even grass or dirt environments would be okay with these.

Overall, these are the best men’s cross country shoes that work great for just about everyone but especially overpronators.

Salomon Speedcross 4 Trail Running Shoe at a Glance:

  • Men’s/Women’s: Mens
  • Sizes: 7 US – 14 US
  • Upper: Textile/Synthetic
  • Sole: Rubber
  • Midsole: Dual-Density EVA

The Salomon Speedcross 4 is undoubtedly the ideal cross country shoe for many, however, it’s not for everyone. If you are, however, searching for a rugged shoe to take you even the farthest distances or over the roughest terrain, this is it.

The upper is made with their classic Sensifit technology, which works to wrap around the entire foot, offering a snug yet comfortable fit.

It’s almost like a kind of soccer cleat fit, which feels quite natural. While we would’ve enjoyed a slightly larger toebox, it wasn’t by any means annoying. While the mesh offers excellent airflow, it’s also quite durable, being as it is anti-debris.

The quick-lace system is easy to use and adjust on the fly, while the lining wicks moisture away to keep your feet smelling good and dry.

The midsole features both molded and injected EVA, which provides somewhat lightweight cushioning and good stability. While it’s lighter than their last model, we felt it could be just a bit more easy on the weight.

However, cushioning is great, and placed throughout the foot to absorb shock on the most impact-heavy zones of the foot. We felt it also fared well for those who need extra support, cradling the feet to encourage proper form and discouraging pronation.

The outsole is definitely one that stands out, and is made of Contrigrip outsole rubber which allows you to “stick” to wet surfaces. The chevron-shaped lugs are slightly smaller than the previous model, and are a bit more dense.

That being said, these aren’t the shoes for manmade, smooth surfaces like asphalt. Rather, if you need them for those “uncharted” routes covered in snow, mud, rubbly trails, and whatnot, these are the best cross country shoes.

adidas Performance Men’s XCS 5 M Cross Country Shoe at a Glance:

  • Men’s/Women’s: Mens
  • Sizes: 6.5 US – 12.5 US
  • Upper: Textile/Synthetic
  • Sole: Rubber
  • Midsole: TPU/Boost Technology

Not only is the Adidas XCS 5 one of the most trendy/attractive shoes out there, it’s also excellent at adapting to various terrain while providing exceptional support and comfort no matter where you go.

With impressive performance and features, they are very bargain priced!

Much like the previous shoe, this one also has deep lugs to dig in deep but they also have spikes for extra traction not often seen in regular trail running shoes.

The Continental Rubber outsole gives up to 30% more traction on dry surfaces and 32% on wet surfaces than comparable models.

The upper is also made of a snug mesh, which is anti-debris to protect the feet from pebbles, dirt, and more. The high-cut collar design can be uncomfortable for some, but others will find it not only looks fashionable but will keep you dry and clean after the dirtiest runs.

The hook-and-loop system makes it quick and easy to adjust the tightness of the shoe, and there’s a good amount of breathability for those hotter days.

Quite possibly our favorite part of the XCS 5, is the midsole with the Boost technology which makes it surprisingly responsive to impact and gives excellent energy transfer.

The foam cushioning material is soft and protective, making it great for harder surfaces just as well as softer ones. The Stableframe only helps with this: protection, padding, and support.

Saucony Kilkenny XC5 Spike at a Glance:

  • Men’s/Women’s: Mens
  • Sizes: 9 US – 13 US
  • Upper: Synthetic
  • Sole: Synthetic
  • Midsole: EVA

If you’re searching for a budget-friendly shoe that still provides a cushioned ride great for long and short runs, then the Saucony Kilkenny XC5 Spike should be on your radar.

It’s also a great choice if you’re just getting into cross country, and want a model that’s going to support skill development. The lightweight mesh synthetic upper is great at letting moisture escape, while letting in proper airflow for a cool ride.

With the relatively narrow footprint, this works to reduce the weight even more. For this reason, though, we would recommend going with another option if you have wider feet.

The midsole is perfect for beginners, as the half-inch of EVA foam provides the luxurious cushioning that makes a perfect introduction to running without having to deal with the pain.

The design also works well to cradle up under the arch and around the heel, to ensure your heel isn’t sliding around as you run. A Pebax spike plate is also attached into the midsole, which is quite firm, adding stability and support.

The sole isn’t as heavy-duty as the previous two models, but with a carbon rubber layer from top-to-bottom, it’s very durable. The wavy lugs and 4 spike pins are perfectly placed to provide traction and are the best cross country spikes for just about any surface or any type of environment.

ASICS Men's Cross Freak 2 Cross Country Spike

ASICS Cross Freak 2 Cross Country Spike at a Glance:

  • Men’s/Women’s: Mens
  • Sizes: 4 US – 14 US
  • Upper: Synthetic
  • Sole: Rubber
  • Midsole: EVA

The ASICS Cross Freak 2 Cross Country Spike is made for various types of terrain, while providing great amounts of protection and durability.

Made with both racers and casual runners in mind, you’ll love the strong overlays for supreme stability and the excellent traction for both dry and wet surfaces.

Quite possibly our least favorite part of the design, is the lack of breathability.

While the upper does include mesh, the weave is much tighter than others on our guide, which means the airflow isn’t as generous. Thin TPU overlays wrap the foot, which keeping it in place.

The compression molded EVA midsole provides a good amount of responsive cushioning for more harder surfaces, while the 5-spike design ensures a good amount of stability and traction on slippery or unstable environments.

While the pair surprisingly doesn’t include a toe bumper, feet are still very well-protected.

Best Women’s Cross Country Running Shoes

Saucony Shay XC4 Spike's Cross Country Shoes

Saucony Shay XC4 Spike at a Glance:

  • Men’s/Women’s: Womens
  • Sizes: 5 US – 11 US
  • Upper: Synthetic
  • Sole: Rubber
  • Midsole: EVA

This sleek, gorgeous shoe from world-renowned Saucony, may look like it’s made just for looks, but it’s one tough model made for putting miles and miles on in mud, rocks, and other gnarly terrain.

The mesh/FLEXFILM upper is surprisingly sturdy, resisting against environments that would easily result in tears with others. While the tongue did tend to bunch up easily, it’s not too much of a hassle.

The midsole consists of your average molded EVA which gives a substantial amount of cushioning and protection, but we could’ve done with just a bit more.

It also pleasantly surprised us by how flexible the shoe is, which isn’t all that common with spikes. In fact, there’s no real structure; rather, it forms to the shape of your feet which we like.

The outsole is interesting, and actually has a foot on it to make it more visually intriguing. The XT-600 rubber creates an excellent amount of traction, with wonderful abrasion while making sure the shoe remains lightweight and durable.

Overall, if you want the best bang for your buck, this is an excellent product. It’s high-quality, will last for countless miles, and is listed at an affordable price. What more could you want from the best XC spikes?

ASICS Gel-Venture 6 MX at a Glance:

  • Men’s/Women’s: Womens
  • Sizes: 5 US – 12 US
  • Upper: Synthetic/Mesh
  • Sole: Rubber
  • Midsole: EVA

The ASICS Gel Venture 6 is an excellent shoe if you’re looking mainly something appropriate to take on trail runs. The attention to detail creates not only comfort, but durability, while ensuring shock is absorbed well.

The outsole is ideal if you’re going to be running on trails. While it doesn’t feature the huge lugs others do, these still have multi-directional lugs that are strategically-placed to give you the greatest amount of flexibility and durability possible.

The high-abrasion rubber outsole won’t puncture, and does well to give you grip on sturdy and wobbly surfaces, alike. It can easily withstand rough elements, and can even be used in wet environments, without issue.

As the name would suggest, the midsole features GEL technology in the back of the foot to absorb shock and make transitions more streamlined.

While it was a nice addition, we really felt they could’ve added a bit more in, especially since it’s in the title of the model. However, we were satisfied with the energy return, which overall made for a better run with less fatigue.

The upper, as most others on our guide, is comprised of a durable mesh to allow for breathability while still offering optimal protection.

The material also adds to the flexibility, to make for a smoother ride and to work with your stride. Unfortunately, in the tradeoff for durability, comes a bit of extra weight. However, we’d say that these are some of the best women’s cross country shoes!

New Balance 1400v6 at a Glance:

  • Men’s/Women’s: Womens
  • Sizes: 5 US – 12 US
  • Upper: Synthetic/Textile
  • Sole: Rubber
  • Midsole: Revlite Foam

If you need extra support for your running habit, then check out the lightweight shoe that is the New Balance 1400v6. Despite being so light, they’re well-made to hold up to the beating you’re sure to put them through.

The upper is very lightweight, fitting more like a sock than a shoe. The snug fit helps you reach and maintain higher speeds, and allows for a good amount of airflow to keep your feet nice and cool.

The Fantomfit support cage makes sure your midfoot is held nice and secure rather than sliding everywhere or falling over the arch.

While we’re yet again dealing with EVA foam, which to be honest isn’t any high-tech creation, but it really gets the job done. It’s the perfect balance between cushion and luxury, and remaining hard enough to work well on roads.

This, in addition to the midfoot shank give support balance that many of us are missing at faster speeds. If you’re having trouble finding a shoe that gives you that connection to the earth while still providing cushion, this is it.

The blown rubber outsole provides excellent grip, while the grooves make for a smooth and snappy transition to help move even quicker in your movements.

Something we would like to see improved upon in this model, is its responsiveness and energy transfer, but overall it’s a really lovely design.

Nike Zoom Rival XC Running Shoes at a Glance:

  • Men’s/Women’s: Womens
  • Sizes: 6 US – 12 US
  • Upper: Synthetic/Mesh
  • Sole: Rubber
  • Midsole: Phylon Foam

Are you new to wearing cross country shoes and don’t know where to start? Perhaps you’re a veteran but just want a pair of ultra-affordable, high-quality shoes. Whichever it may be, there’s something for you in the Nike Zoom Rival XC.

Overall, these are the best women’s cross country spikes and are extremely lightweight which means you’ll put in less effort having them on your feet. Made out of a breathable mesh material, you have a great amount of air flow, that will always keep you comfortable.

The toe box is quite wide to allow for a natural toe splay without restraint, and the Flywire technology ensures support throughout the midfoot.

The midsole is made out of foam, just like the others, helping to keep weight off but offering responsive cushioning to keep you less fatigued. If you have high arches you’ll probably find these to work best for you, but overall, they’ll work well with most runners.

The outsole features a sticky rubber all throughout, allowing you to cruise over smooth and crumbly, wet or dry surfaces.

The waffle patterned outsole is something Nike is known for, but is great for making sure mud doesn’t cake on and weigh you down or reduce your traction. The 6 pyramid spikes are excellent in any type of environment, but can be removed for easy road wear, too.

The downside?

That they’re pretty narrow. So narrow, that if you don’t have particularly narrow feet, you may find these tight at first.

New Balance WT10v1 Minimus Trail at a Glance:

  • Men’s/Women’s: Womens
  • Sizes: 5 US – 12 US
  • Upper: Synthetic/Mesh
  • Sole: Vibram Rubber Blend
  • Midsole: Acteva Foam

If you need the ultimate lightweight, minimal shoe out there that’s going to feel almost like you’re wearing nothing, check out the Vibram/New Balance Collab: the WT10v1 Minimus.

The outsole features Vibram’s signature sole material which is a special rubber blend made to give you the best grip in the outdoors as possible.

With that, you can expect it to be quite resistant against things like twigs, rocks, and debris, also absorbing impact with ease.

The outsole does feature lugs, but much less pronounced than some others on our guide. The multidirectional lugs will ensure you stay upright on wet and slimy surfaces like mud, as well as when ascending or descending.

The midsole features’ New Balance’s Acteva foam, which is very thin as you can imagine. It’s quite responsive and lightweight, but if you’re someone who really appreciates luxurious padding, you may want to opt for a different design.

The upper features a durable mesh, which is nothing new for the products we’ve listed. It’s woven tightly, yet allows air to flow in and out with ease.

Synthetic overlays provide much needed support to the material, and there is also a toe cap to ensure no stubbed toes happen. You can even wear them without socks, thanks to the anti-bacterial liner to keep your feet fresh and feeling their best!

If you are looking for the best XC running shoes, the WT10v1’s would be a good choice!

Cross Country Running Shoe Comparison

Cross Country Shoes Men/WomenSizesUppersSoleRating
ASICS Gel-Kayano 25 ShoeMens6 – 16 XWMesh/SyntheticRubber4.5 / 5.0
Salomon Speedcross 4Mens7 – 14Textile/SyntheticRubber4.4 / 5.0
adidas Performance XCS 5 M Cross Country ShoeMens6.5 – 12.5Textile/SyntheticRubber4.2 / 5.0
Saucony Kilkenny XC5Mens9 – 13SyntheticSynthetic4.4 / 5.0
ASICS Cross Freak 2Mens4 – 14SyntheticRubber4.1 / 5.0
Saucony Shay XC4 Spike'sWomens5 – 11SyntheticRubber4.2 / 5.0
ASICS Gel-Venture 6 MXWomens5 – 12Synthetic/MeshRubber4.5 / 5.0
New Balance 1400v6Womens5 – 12Synthetic/TextileRubber3.8 / 5.0
Nike Zoom Rival XCWomens6 – 12Synthetic/MeshRubber4.2 / 5.0
New Balance MinimusWomens5 – 12Synthetic/MeshVibram4.3 / 5.0

How to Choose the Best Cross Country Running Shoes – Buying Guide

BEst Women’s Cross Country Running Shoes

Even if you have experience with cross country running, there’s always the chance you could find a better shoe for you and your needs.

That’s why we’ve decided to take it upon ourselves to create an in-depth buying guide. This guide will hopefully answer any questions or doubts you may have, leading you to select the best product for you.


No one wants to keep running when their feet feel like they’re hanging out in the middle of a swampland. With this, you’ll want your feet to stay dry. Look for an upper that is made of mesh to give you a great amount of airflow and to let moisture escape. This also helps to prevent foul odors and bacterial issues.


Some may think that having mesh uppers won’t provide much support, but these manufacturers know what they’re doing. The mesh is generally much more durable, and more tightly-knit to keep them more sturdy. You should make sure it’s snug to your foot so that no pebbles or other items get inside.

A reinforced toe will keep your toes safe from unsuspecting rocks or logs, and solid soles won’t let anything puncture it. With cross country, you’re most likely to encounter some wet conditions on your route, so you want them to be as water-resistant as possible, too.


This is important, yet often overlooked by beginners. You want your foot to move as naturally as possible, and added flexibility allows for this. The more flexible it is, the more naturally your feet will move.


Unlike with a treadmill or regular road running, XC features unpredictable and varying types of terrain. It’s not always going to be smooth and grippy, but rocky, uneven, slippery, or slide-y. Not only is having a good amount of traction important for a fast run, it’s essential in keeping you safe and preventing injuries due to slips and falls.

This is where the spikes and lugs come in. They’re for keeping you stable and digging into the ground so you don’t slip around. These are more ideal for grass and dirt/mud. If you’re going to be out and about on flat or harder surfaces like asphalt, you’ll probably want to go instead, with a rubber waffle outsole.

You’re definitely not going to have great traction on uneven surfaces, but it all depends on where you’ll be going.

Best Men’s Cross Country Running Shoes


While we previously mentioned that these shoes are meant to be snug, you can still find some if you have wider feet. Look for those which have a wider toe box and a wider sole so that you’re not falling over the arch.

This is not only uncomfortable and will cause rubbing and chafing on the inside of your feet, it will also cause imbalances and overpronation.


This is all up to you and what you’re feeling comfortable on spending. More expensive doesn’t always equal longer-lasting or “better”, but you will often find that the higher the price, the more comfortable they are.

If you have a child that wants to try cross country for the first time but you aren’t sure if they’ll like it, there are plenty of affordable options on our list to choose from. If you’re looking for the best of the best, then hunt out what’s ideal for your needs rather than looking at the price tag.

FAQs About Cross Country Running Shoes

Q: How do XC shoes differ from your regular running shoes?

A: There are a few different things to look out for.

Tighter Fit: XC shoes will be much more snug than your casual pair. Ideally, they’ll fit like a sock. This creates more points of contact, giving you more control and allowing you to make sharper turns or keep your balance on uneven ground.

Lighter Weight: Your new shoes should be notably lightweight, to allow you to run faster.

Less Cushioning: While this isn’t a rule, it’s often the case. This is to keep the shoes lighter and because many XC runners will be using them for short periods of time, in races.

Increased Traction: You’ll need to have a good grip if you want to be able to run confidently in areas with mud, grass, rocks, and dirt. Spikes will further help with this.

Q: What are the benefits of spikes?

A: These give you better traction on grass and mud. They come in various shapes and sizes, and as the ground gets softer, your spikes should get longer.

Q: Is it normal to feel extra sore the first time after wearing my new shoes?

A: Yes. As they’re very thin and have less padding than you’re probably used to, your feet and calves will most likely take the brunt of it and feel sorer than normal. Try starting out with shorter distances and working your way up to normal.

Tips For Cross Country Running

#1: Above anything, minimize risk of injury

This means select a shoe that’s going to fit like a glove, and can handle super tight, fast turns and uneven terrain. If you’re new to XC, you may be subjected to rigorous training that your body isn’t quite used to so be aware.

#2: XC shoes are an investment

They’re made to last and resist against all types of environments, so if you’re serious about the sport, don’t be afraid to shell out a few extra dollars if you can swing it.

#3: A shoe isn’t going to suddenly transform your skill level

If you want to run faster, increase your cadence or increase your stride length. A shoe may make it a bit easier for you or more pleasant to run, but you must look at your body first.

#4: Be prepared

Don’t go out onto trails alone preferably; especially ones that you’ve never ran before. It’s ideal to know what you’ll be getting yourself into.

Final Thoughts

Now that you’ve covered pretty much everything you could ever need to know about cross country running shoes, which are the ones for you? It all comes down to your requirements, after all. We hope that our guide has helped you select the perfect pair. Thanks for tuning in, and we’ll see you again soon!

How We Researched

To come up with the top cross country running shoes, we researched a variety of sources for reviews such as Target, Dicks Sporting Goods and Best Buy along with our own personal experience.

We also consulted online magazines for product research and reviews to get as much unbiased information as we could. To help weed out fake reviews we used to make sure we only looked at genuine reviews.

With so much quality gear available, we had to narrow it down based on what we felt were the best options for the price. The staff authors, have extensive experience with a variety of outdoor sports like paintball, roller skating, baseball and golf.

To help narrow down the selection they used their personal experience along with recommendations from instructors and retailers.

After extensive research, we came up with our list to help you choose the right one for you.


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Shayanne Weeks

Shayanne is a freelance writer and marketer based in LA, California. Describing herself as a nomad, she has lived in Boise, Idaho and Seattle, Washington as well as Guadalajara, Mexico. As an extremely active person, she loves to snowboard, skateboard, and ski. She enjoys sharing her love for active sports with others through her “how to” sports guides and sports equipment reviews. Shyanne is addicted to the adrenaline rush she experiences during her outdoor pursuits, from ziplining in Mexico to snowboarding in Idaho.

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