So how do you find the right type of shoes for cross country? Is there anything specific to look out for or can you just buy ordinary sports shoes?
The things you look for in cross country shoes are different to your ordinary everyday sports shoes that you might use to run on the street or indoors.
Due to the fact that cross country running involves running outdoors in terrain that is slippery, muddy, wet or even frozen, there are a few characteristics that you should look out for when selecting shoes. They are:
1. Good grip. You can imagine that in wet, muddy and frozen conditions, or even in dry conditions where you might be running on bark, it is important to have good grip to keep you upright. Generally it is considered beneficial to remain on your feet most of the time, rather than on your back, so it is CRUCIAL to make sure that whatever shoes you get and wherever you get them from, they have excellent grip. If you decide to look around in shops, make sure you turn the shoe over and look at the sole to get a good idea of grip. Rubber or metal spikes are ideal.
2. Weather proof. Whether you’re running competitively or just for fun/fitness, it’s important to make sure the rain and moisture isn’t going to seep inside your shoes. You might be running in wet mud or grass, and the last thing you want is to have cold, wet feet as it’ll just put you off running as far and make things much less comfortable. The shoes should be waterproof all over including good closure between the tongue and the inside quarter and eyelets (basically making sure the gaps at the top of the shoe are tightly closed when the shoe is worn).
3. Lightweight. This is especially important when racing as it can make a difference to your time, but even if you’re a casual cross country runner, having lighter shoes will make your run more comfortable and enjoyable and enable you to run further distances while getting less tired.
4. Durable. Cross country running, by the nature of the sport, involves running in terrain that can put a large strain on the shoe. You’re not running on a well maintained running track or squeaky clean sports hall floors. Running outdoors can put a lot of strain on your shoes hilly and stony ground can cause a lot of abrasion to the soles and sides of your shoes and the mud and grass will wear your shoes down over time too. It is therefore important to select shoes that will last a long time. Training shoes tend to be more durable than racing shoes due to manufacturers stripping down racing shoes to make them as light as possible, so bear this in mind when deciding what to buy. We’ve provided information in this in our recommendations and have therefore separated our lists of training and racing shoes.
5. Comfortable. It’s important to have a good pair of running shoes that you feel comfortable with so you enjoy your running and, if you like racing, can get a good time. Make sure you select the right size for you and remember, cross country shoes often run half a size to one size narrower than other running shoes. You will see we have specified which shoes this applies to in our analysis on our lists. Now, racing shoes tend to be less comfortable than training shoes because they have thinner soles to achieve a lower centre of gravity and get better speed. You do feel the ground more. But, the flip side of this is that you get a more snug fit and they tend to run faster.
6. Reasonably priced. It’s a myth that you have to fork out a fortune for a good pair of outdoor running shoes that has all of the above. The large brands do make some really great pairs, and we even feature some of them on out list of recommendations. But sometimes, with some of their pairs you’re just paying for the label and might get a pricey pair that really won’t last you very long. We’ve taken great care to make sure that the list of shoes on our lists are value for money and that customers who’ve bought them, feel they’ve really got their money’s worth. Some smaller brands make terrific running shoes and we’ve features some of them on this site.
Now….how do you decide on the right pair of running shoes for you?
- Are you just training/running to keep fit OR are you planning on racing?
- Are you a beginner or an experienced runner?
As mentioned earlier, shoes for racing tend to be lighter and less durable, so if you are planning on running competitively, you should look for a light, snug pair of shoes with good traction (ideally should have metal spikes). However you should not train with these, as they will wear out quicker. Save your spike shoes for races and buy a pair of spineless or rubber spike shoes for training as this will still give your good grip and will be weatherproof but won’t wear out as quickly, and will be quite comfortable to train for long periods of time in.
If you are a beginner, we’d recommend you pick a pair of training shoes. You can still use these to race in as they will still have fantastic grip compared to normal everyday trainers, and you’ll be able to use them for longer. Some training pairs are so good, you can race in them. We’ve listed some of these on our recommendations list. Racing shoes do tend to be a little more pricey too so when you’re just starting off and not sure how far you’re going to take your cross country running, we recommend you stick to spikeless or rubber spike shoes.
I hope this gives you an idea of what you should be looking for. If you’re still not sure what’s right for you or have any more questions, shoot us a message on our contact page and we’ll do our best to help you out.