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6 Best Cross Country Spikes in 2023: Buying Guide

I have been running cross country for about 5 years now, and I can say for sure that the type of shoes you wear makes all the difference. I wasn’t always this wise, just ask the people that were running with me on my first race.

I got all set and ready for my first-ever cross-country race, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that everybody was looking at me weirdly. They were. That’s because I had the most basic, slippery running shoes on, and the weather was getting cloudy and moody.

Needless to say that by the end I learned that I need the right type of shoes for an adventure like that. That’s why today I am going to share the best cross-country spikes, so you don’t make the same mistake I did.

a quick look at my favorite cross country spikes shoes

Key Takeaways


  • Cross county spikes are made for rough terrain
  • The best cross county spikes are the ones that fit snug around your foot without squishing it.
  • Cross country spikes tend to get very dirty and are hard to clean because of the mesh textile.
  • Cross county spikes don’t have a big midsole.
  • The outsole of cross country spikes should be durable and flexible.

Best spikes for cross country running

6. Best Overall: Saucony Kilkenny Xc 9

Saucony is a well-known and trusted shoe brand. The Kilkenny Xc 9 are made with performance in mind and they will for sure get you through a tough terrain race.

Upper

They have a very breathable engineered upper designed to keep your feet cool during a race. The synthetic overlay wrap around the shoe adds to its durability and firmness. The inside padding has a lining on the cover that supports the ankle and the lace-up looks standard.

Midsole

The foam footbed is very comfortable and it follows your foot shape. The EVA mid foam adds to the lightweight cushion and durability all the while absorbing the shock from impact.

Sole

The rubber on the sole is made to keep you from slipping, also there are four spikes that keep you stable during lift-off, and are replaceable.

Pros

  • Stabile
  • Flexible
  • Durable
  • Good value for the price

Cons

  • They have a very narrow fit to them

Why Should You Buy It?


The Saucony Kilkenny Xc 9 are made for racing and can withstand brutal terrain. They will for sure aid in your next cross country race win.


5. Best for muddy terrain: Nike Zoom Victory Xc 5

This list can’t be done without Nike. The Zoom Victory Xc 5 shoes by default are track and field shoes, but can also tackle difficult terrain so they are perfect as cross country races too. Be careful when shopping online for these shoes because some don’t come with spikes.

Upper

This model is very narrow, so I had to go a size up. They have a very snug fit which makes you feel a lot faster and more agile. The best thing about these shoes in my opinion is that they are waterproof. Unlike other cross country shoes that are made from synthetic or cotton, these ones are made from plastic.

Midsole

The foam in the midsole offers just the right amount of cushioning action to be absorbent but still gives you stability.

Sole

The sole of these shoes is very unique. It has a carbon fiber plate on the midfoot that is in the shape of the letter U. This aids the shoe in its stability on rough terrain and gives you an extra push especially if you are a forefoot runner. It has 6 spikes that go in line with the fiber plate and also form a U shape.

Pros

  • Great friction
  • Good push-off action
  • Good for speed
  • Easy to clean
  • Waterproof

Cons

  • May need to size up
  • The upper is a bit too hard

Why Should You Buy It?


If you want good cross country spikes for muddy and rough terrain, these shoes are a perfect choice.


4. Best affordable: Adidas Adizero XC Sprint

Yes, I know the design can look a bit off, but trust me these are some of the best affordable cross country shoes out there and are very suitable for beginner runners.

Upper

The material on the upper is very mesh, almost see trough and there is very limited padding that is present around the heel and ankle of the shoe. However, despite what you may think, the lockdown of these shoes is amazing and they fit very snug around your foot.

This is very important when you run cross country in a muddy area because you don’t want to lose your shoe in a puddle. I’d like to point out that these shoes run a bit small, so maybe get half a size bigger.

Midsole

The midsole is thin and doesn’t provide a lot of cushioning, which is desired when you run cross country. It is flexible, but still firm enough to keep you stable, especially in the midfoot where you have the most flexibility, unlike the heel which is stiffer.

Outsole

The outsole is made from blown rubber that has a range of spikes as well as the standard spikes that are strategically placed in 6 places. All that texture on the sole provides good stabilization that prevents slipping during your cross country run.

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Breathable
  • Snug fit

Cons

  • Sizes run a bit small
  • Hard to clean
  • The upper may be a bit too firm for some.

Why Should You Buy It?


These shoes are very lightweight and beginner friendly.


3. Best supportive: Saucony Havok XC3

These racing shoes have neutral support that is perfect for track and field, but also cross country since they do have the designated place for spikes on the sole.

Upper

The upper on these shoes is made from mesh textile and it’s durable and lightweight. It has synthetic overlays that add to the stable feel of the shoe.

The heel part is reinforced, especially on the inside part which had extra padding added in order to make the shoes have a supported feel. The lacing system is pretty standard as well as the comfortable footed.

What stands out about these shoes is the flared-out tongue and heel which, when tied tightly, give your foot extra stability and room for speed.

Midsole

The Midsole of the Saucony Havok XC3 is made from light EVA foam that has a slightly bigger elevation in the heel.

Outsole

The outsole of these shoes is made from blown rubber which is very durable and flexible, and that is exactly what you want to look for in cross country running shoes.  It has a designated place for spikes that can be placed parallel to each other in the forefoot of the sole.

On the forefoot, the blown rubber has an arrow design that adds to the flexibility and the lift-off push of the shoes.

Pros

  • Extra stability
  • Comfortable fit
  • Very good traction

Cons

  • The stick-out tongue might irritate some runners

Why Should You Buy It?


These shoes have a very secure feel on your foot which is great for giving you stability on your run.


2. Best sleek design: New Balance XC Seven V2

These shoes feel very light on your feet and even though they have minimal cushioning, they still are very comfortable on your feet, perfect for a cross country run.

Upper

The New Balance XC Seven have a very breathable lightweight mesh upper. The design is seamless and they have a cool-looking design on the front with the letter B being in central focus.

For additional comfort, these shoes have padding on the inner heel part as well as extra padding on the tongue. The footbed is cushy and padded in all the right places with additional arch support and it has holes on the bottom for added breathability.

Midsole

The minimalistic REVlite midsole keeps the shoe lightweight, while still providing cushioning, shock absorption, and adding flexibility when the shoe is twisted sideways.

Outsole

The outsole on these shoes is very durable and it comes with inserts for the spikes that are placed on the forefoot in a U shape with a narrower curve in the front following the shape of the foot. The blown rubber that the outsole is made from has a spike pattern on the outside that aids to the shoe’s grip and anti-slip action.

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Snug
  • Good grip

Cons

  • Narrow fit, may need to size up

Why Should You Buy It?


The New Balance CX 7 are sleek and lightweight, you won’t even feel them on your feet.


1. Best grip: Brooks Mach 18

These shoes have a hybrid spike design that allows you to have good friction with or without spikes. This makes them the perfect shoes for a cross country race that is held on very slippery and uneven terrain.

Upper

The upper of the Brooks Mach 18 is mesh and breathable, pretty standard just like the previous models I mentioned. It is however enforced with 3D printed design. The heel has minimal padding that has a skin-like feel but still offers comfort. The lace-up system is standard and can be adjusted for a snug fit.

Midsole

The midsole has a low profile design made from EVA foam, that keeps the shoes lightweight but still has shock absorbent properties and some minimal cushioning.

Outsole

The durable, sturdy outsole has some aggressive blow rubber patterns that are in the shape of spikes. This provides you with very good friction, even without the added spikes. The spikes are placed on the outer parts of the forefoot between the rubber spikes.

The heel also has little baby spikes that don’t look aggressive but, still offer you good stabilization, as well as good cushioning, especially if you are a heel striker.

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • very good grip
  • Comfortable
  • Fast feel

Cons

  • Poor durability considering the price
  • Narrow fit

Why Should You Buy It?


If you are planning on going on a rough terrain cross country race, and expect the road to be slippery, these shoes are the right choice for you.


What are cross country spikes?

If you are like my younger self and never heard of spikes being used for anything else besides soccer matches, let me explain.

Cross country spikes typically have more cushioning than other spike shoes. And yes, they have real spikes on the bottom of the sole. The spikes help give you speed, by providing a stable push off the surface on uneven terrain.

Imagine your foot while lifting off, the last part to get off the ground is the midsole, and this is where the spikes are. If this part is slippery it will slow you don’t or even, make you slip and fall.

With spike shoes however you have more stability and therefore you can run faster. Cross country spikes usually have longer spikes, from 9mm to 15mm, for extra ankle stability and better grip on uneven slippery terrain.

Do spikes hurt?

If you get running shoes that have little to no padding on the midsole, there is a chance that your feet will hurt from the spikes. Also, the models that I mentioned in the best country spikes list are not like your average running shoes. They have a very low heel-to-toe drop which may be uncomfortable for some people and a low heel rise.

This can cause some people to have pain in their Achilles tendon, especially if they are used to wearing very big cushy shoes with a boot design. The minimal cushioning can also cause some pain in the heel and arch of the foot.

But, I put only the best shoes on my list, so even though it may take some to get used to them, you can rest assured that you are getting top quality.

Are spikes supposed to feel tight?

Cross country running spikes are supposed to fit snug around your foot, but not too tight on your toes and heel. Make sure that your toes are not squished together, and make sure to try them on because a lot of people, including myself, always go for half a size up in running spikes.

Final words

The best cross country spikes are the ones that make only focus on the race and not on the way they feel. You shouldn’t have to worry about your shoes falling off while running over a mud puddle.

Make sure that you pay attention to the fit of the shoe, and don’t get a pair that is too tight. If you feel lost from the amount of choice out there choose any of the pairs from my list and good luck on your next cross country race.