When it comes to cross-country shoes, investing in the right pair is essential. Although runners have a personal preference depending on the type of course, your cross country spikes need to be durable and lightweight with great traction to get you across the finish line as fast as possible.
If you’ve never worn cross-country spikes before, you’ll likely be surprised that they aren’t very comfortable the first time you try them on, especially compared to a good pair of trainers. But don’t worry, in the middle of a meet you won’t notice them until you are powering around corners or up a steep hill!
One thing you’ll notice about the fit is that XC spikes are cut very narrow like a track spike. This is because you want them tight, almost like an extension of your foot. You also want less room around your toes than your trainers. Look for about half a thumb-width between your toes and the front of the spike. Your feet should feel snug but not cramped.
Our top pick is the Nike ZoomX Dragonfly XC. This six-pin spike features plate of ZoomX foam for energy return and a wide base to add extra stability. Plus, it’s lightweight and incredibly fast.
Now it’s time to get the best pair of XC spikes. We’ve put together this list of the best of the best cross country spikes to help you pick the one that’s right for you.
Top 3 Best and Favorites
1. Nike ZoomX Dragonfly XC
The Dragonfly XC is Nike’s top cross country spike, designed to be as lightweight as possible without sacrificing traction and cushioning.
6-pin spikes are able to dig into any type of surface. Additional lugs and rubber on the outersole provide additional traction on harder surfaces.
A ZoomX midsole creates extra energy return with just enough cushioning to protect your feet without compromising on weight.
The upper features a thin mesh that locks your feet into the spike. But they allow enough breathability to keep your feet from overheating. There are also some added overlays to prevent the spike from blowing out the sides.
A wider base allows for a more stable ride, especially when rounding corners. The shoe still fits snug but maybe a tad more comfortable than other spikes.
Just keep in mind, this is a top spike and quite expensive. You are paying for an amazing shoe, but it’s nearly double the price of other spikes.
- Supportive and lightweight
- Energy returning foam
- Aggressive spike plate
- Quite expensive
2. Nike Rival XC 6
The sturdy cushioning and lightweight outsole of the Nike Rival XC means it was made for cross-country running. Featuring a waffle-style plate with a 6-spike design for increased traction, you’ll find the perfect balance of fit, traction, and comfort. It’s our top value XC spike.
Thanks to the dynamic arch band, this cross-country spike offers a secure fit. The thin laces with a touch of texture create a secure fit that adds structure and stability to toe-off on each stride in multiple types of terrain.
Don’t worry about comfort when it comes to the Nike Zoom Rival XC. Between the breathable mesh construction and the lightweight, responsive cushioning of the midsole, you’re given maximum airflow and flexibility to increase comfort and capability.
A rubber outsole with a waffle design increase traction on different types of surfaces.
These shoes come in unisex sizing, so be sure to order the correct size.
- Waffle pattern traction for maximum grip
- A dynamic arch band for a secure fit
- Lightweight design
- Comes with spike bag
- Colors will get dirty quick
Best For XC And Track
3. New Balance XC5Kv5
This superior cross country spike delivers the speed, aggression, and attitude you need for the ultimate racing experience. At the top of the three-tiered selection of cross-country spikes that New Balance offers, the XC5K v5 adds visual appeal and performance to your game.
The lightweight breathable support of the XC5K v5 gives you an enhanced fit and maximum responsiveness without sacrificing stability. Featuring an air mesh Fantom Fit no-sew upper, your feet feel alive and free. The burrito-style upper reduces weight without impacting the fit of the shoe.
Dedicated to helping athletes accomplish their goals, New Balance is driven to make quality shoes for the same reason you lace them up: to achieve the very best. The XC5K v5 is no exception.
The REVlite midsole and 5-spike formation provide a nimble feel with the protection your feet need. With a true-to-size fit, these spikes are colorful and comfortable. Delivering exceptional performance all around, you’ll find these shoes are especially designed for cross-country or long-distance track running.
- Premium design
- Ideal for cross country or long distance track events
- Support across flat surfaces to rugged trails
- Fantom fit no-sew upper
Best Aggressive Spike plate
4. Saucony Havok XC 3
Saucony’s Havok XC 3 spikes deliver a locked-down fit combined with a lightweight design. The midsole offers fast, responsive cushioning. And the carbon rubber outsole provides strong traction.
The Havok XC rides the line between elite spike and a great price. It offers the performance of a top spike but at a nice value. It’s perfect for runners who want more performance than a beginner spike.
The breathable upper in this cross-country spike keeps you dry and comfortable on race day. Strong, lightweight Flexfilm on the upper allows for durability and a flexible feel.
While it doesn’t have Saucony’s ISOFIT lacing like the Carrera – it will still keep your foot locked-in and secure.
Although this spike is best for top 7 and varsity runners, all levels of athletes will appreciate the Havok XC’s durability, performance, and reasonable price.
- 6-pin Pebax spike for traction
- Designed for aggressive grass, trail, and gravel terrain
- Improved traction
- Tonuge sticks up high, may irrtate some runners
Top XC Spike for New Athletes
5. Saucony Kilkenny XC9
The Saucony Kilkenny XC has been an integral part of all levels of XC meets for years. It’s by far the most popular beginner XC spike around.
The latest version of the Kilkenny features a lightweight upper and a molded midsole for a comfortable fit. The shoe is a bit more than past versions. It’s almost a racing flat with spikes allowing for a more comfortable transition from trainer to spike for new XC runners.
The aggressive rubber outsole has a 4-pin spike design for the ultimate in traction on dirt and grass. The outsole has an aggressive tread for added grip with or without the removable spikes.
The soft mesh upper delivers added style and much-needed breathability. The seamless fit of the upper hugs your foot allowing for a secure fit.
The Saucony Kilkenny XC is a comfortable spike and comes at an affordable price. It’s a great option for new XC athletes thanks to a midsole that’s more cushioned than high-end spikes.
The Kilkenny comes in spiked and flat (spikeless) models. Younger runners may opt for the flat version in races where spiked shoes aren’t allowed.
- Comfortable fit
- Lightweight, seamless upper
- Affordable price
- Available in spiked and spikeless
- Heavier and bulkier than more advanced models
- Designed for beginner runners (actually a PRO, if you are new to XC)
Best New Balance Beginner Spike
6. New Balance XC Seven v4
This stellar cross-country shoe helps you prepare to tackle your next meet in style. The New Balance XC Seven is full of performance-enhancing at an affordable price.
The 6-spike rubber outsole allows for enhanced traction in even the worst racing conditions. Exposed rubber lugs provide an extra level of traction on a variety of terrain.
The re-engineered upper contains a hidden internal support cage. This provides a tight fit designed to give beginning runners the edge they need.
Like the Kilkenny, the XC Seven v4 is best for new XC athletes. Its cushioned midsole and comfortable fit bridge the gap between trainers and top-level spikes.
It comes in spike and flat (spikeless) versions. With its comfy fit and affordable price, the XC Seven is another great option for runners new to cross-country.
- Extra exposed rubber lugs for more grip
- Snug fit with flexibility for performance
- Internal support cage
- Lightweight, breathable design
- May not fit as snug as other spikes
Most Cushioned Spike
7. Hoka Crescendo XC
Hoka made their name by creating the softest, most cushioned running shoes on the market. The Crescendo XC spike is their newest cross country spike.
Like Hoka’s other shoes, the Crescendo does have lots of cushioning. This is, of course, relative to other spikes which have minimal cushioning. So compared to a standard Hoka, these are pretty much barefoot shoes. But compared to other spikes, they have much more cushioning than you’d expect.
Despite this, they still remain fairly lightweight and nimble when you run. They’ll just have extra cushioning if you used to other brands.
The midfoot cushioning is firmer in the front and softer by the heel. The idea is that you get a soft landing, but can firmly push off the front of your foot for max speed.
The Crescendo features a 6-pin spike plate with extra rubber lugs along the back and front of the spike. A breathable upper keeps the air circulating. And lightweight laces and a thin tongue help keep the spike feeling nimble.
If you run in Hokas, you’ll love the Crescendo. If you just want more cushioning, you’ll also love the Crescendo. If you want a responsive, super lightweight shoe, maybe look elsewhere.
- Tons of cushioning
- Rubber outsole for added traction
- Breathable upper
- Fits maybe too snug
Best Brooks XC Spike
8. Brooks Draft XC
The lightweight Brooks Draft XC combines an aggressive spike plate with a molded upper for a super-fast XC shoe. The compression-molded EVA midsole provides nice cushioning among the otherwise minimal spikes.
The sock-like design provides a secure, but comfortable fit. The breathable upper features a snug fit and has some space to write down PBs or goals on the shoe.
Experience greater traction and grip through the aggressive lug pattern combined with the 6-plate spike pins. The plastic outsole provides excellent traction on dirt, grass, and composite tracks.
And add your own personal customization with an upper that makes it easy to draw your own designs.
- Aggressive lug pattern for traction on dirt and grass
- Seamless upper cools and secures your feet
- White spikes will get dirty quickly
Top Discontinued Spike
9. Saucony Carrera XC4
The gorgeous Saucony Carrera XC4 is sure to provide extra speed and support for your fastest race yet. Featuring a 6-pin spike plate, the Carrera delivers superior traction while maintaining its super lightweight design.
ISOFIT technology in the upper creates a dynamic fit that wraps around your foot. It’s designed to adapt to your unique fit. This provides a secure, but comfortable fit. The engineered mesh helps to reduce weight while keeping your feet cool and comfortable.
The stiff spike plate in Carrera XC4 provides excellent toe-off power on a variety of terrains. Combined with the 6-pin spikes, you’ll power around corners and up steep hills.
Delivering superior performance, you’ll love this ultra-lightweight shoe. It creates a powerful running experience in many types of racing terrain.
- 6-pin Pebax spike plate
- ISOFIT dynamic fit system
- Extremely lightweight design
- Good tread for grass, dirt, and trails
- Sizing runs small
Are cross country spikes the same as track spikes?
No. There are a couple major differences between track spikes and cross country spikes. While both have spike implements that screw into the bottom of the shoe, the differences stop there.
Track spikes have plastic-bottom outer soles (also known as the spike plate). In contrast, cross country spikes have more rubber for some added cushioning.
There is also an emphasis on weight reduction on track spikes. While cross country spikes are light, they are nowhere near as light as track spikes.
Track spikes come in different versions depending on event. There are spikes for sprinting, spikes for middle distances, and spikes for the mile or longer events.
Sprint spikes have an aggressive spike plate and are very stiff. Long distance spikes are light but have minimal cushioning and a thin upper. Middle distance spikes are a tad stiffer with a bit more cushioning.
There is one basic style of cross country spike. They have a more cushioned outer sole with added traction for better grip on dirt and grass. The upper is more substantial than a track spike. This allows them to better withstand dirt, rocks, and sticks encountered during a meet.
When to wear cross country spikes?
Most runners only wear cross country spikes for meets. You may want to practice in them if you haven’t worn them before. But otherwise only wear them during meets. Use a good pair of trainers for practice.
How much do cross country spikes help?
Quite a bit.
They help in two ways:
The first benefit comes from added traction from the spike implements themselves. These, plus the rubber traction built into the shoes, help you power through turns on grass and dirt. The extra traction is also a huge benefit when running up steep grass and dirt hills.
Second, the lighter weight of the spikes provides a boost when you run. Some of this may be a mental trick. But you’ll feel like you run much faster with a lighter shoe compared to your regular trainers.
How much faster will cross country spikes make you?
They won’t necessarily make you run faster…. but they will keep you from running slower.
You’ll experience this most around turns and corners. The extra traction means you don’t need to slow down as you approach a turn. You’re less likely to slip or slide.
The same traction benefits you on steep hills. You won’t slip, gaining time when you might otherwise be sliding backward.
The lightweight of a spike – as we discussed – may make you run faster. Or it might just make you feel like you can run faster.
Either way, the mental edge can help you power through the last kilometer of a race.
How much are cross country spikes?
Cross country spikes range in price from $60 to $200.
Cross country spikes function the same. Different prices come from the weight and comfort of the spike. Lighter, more minimal spikes cost more than heavier, beginner spikes.
High-end spikes might also feature an enhanced upper with bootie-designed heel collars. These can help keep out debris from getting inside the spike. But they are more for fashion than function.
The most expensive spikes may not be the best spike for you. If you are new to cross country, the entry-level spikes are more cushioned and fit comfortably. Top-end spikes are much lighter, but not as pleasant to wear.
Beginner spikes do a better job at bridging the gap between a spike and a good trainer. They’ll give you an advantage over trainers during meets. But without the discomfort of a high-end spike.
How should cross country spikes fit?
Cross country spikes should fit snug. They should feel like an extension of your feet. They’ll feel narrow because they need to wrap securely around your feet when you run. The narrow last also helps cut down on weight.
When fitting spikes, wear them tight. Your feet shouldn’t feel cramped at your toes. But there shouldn’t be a lot of space between your toes and the front of shoe. A good rule of thumb is to wear spikes that are a half size smaller than your trainers.
For women, make sure you check the sizing. Most XC spikes are unisex. And many only use men’s sizing on the box or when ordering. If you see that, just make sure you add 1.5 to the size number. This will give you the correct women’s size. And remember, men’s shoes are wider than women’s, so they may feel roomy.
How long do cross country spikes last?
You should get several seasons out of your spikes before they begin to fall apart.
For most athletes in high school, you’ll grow out of your spikes before you wear them out.
If you are a track athlete and use your XC spikes for track meets, they may wear out a little sooner. But even with the extra use, they should last 3-4 seasons.
How to remove cross country spikes?
The actual spikes implements can be removed with the included spike wrench that come with all spikes. They screw in and out like a threaded screwed.
If a spike gets bent or stuck in the spike, you might need to use a pair of pliers and some elbow grease to remove the stubborn spike. You can spray them first with WD-50 if they are a bit rusty.
How many spikes do cross country shoes have? Cross country spikes have 4-6 spike implements per shoe. Most beginner spikes have 4 spikes while high-end spikes have 5-6. More spikes means more traction.
Why do beginner spike shoes only have 4 spikes?
No real reason other than a way to separate beginner spikes from expensive spikes. Although you’ll find beginner spikes with 6-spike designs.
How long are cross country spikes?
Spikes that come included in most shoes are usually 1/4 inch long. These can be removed and replaced with any length. 3/8 inch spikes are a good option for meets with lots of dirt and grass – or meets in wet conditions.
How to clean cross country spikes?
The best thing to do is clean off all the mud and dirt with a brush. An old toothbrush works well for tight areas in the spike threads.
If your spikes are really dirty, let them soak in warm, soapy water – then use a brush to clean them off further. Let them air dry, outside if possible.
A few things you should NOT do:
- Don’t put them in a washing machine
- Don’t put them in a dryer
This can cause the spikes to shrink and can damage the spike threads. They can also break down faster with the wear and tear they experience in the washing machine.
Can cross country spikes be used for track?
Yes, they can. But XC spikes function better for long distance events than shorter events. The biggest difference between a long distance spike and an XC spike is weight.
Distance spikes are insanely light with minimal cushioning. XC spikes are more robust and heavier.
You can use XC spikes for other track events. But if you are serious about track and field, you’ll be better off buying a spike made for your specific events.
Can you use cross country spikes for sprinting?
It’s generally not recommended. If you are dabbling with sprinting, XC spikes are better than trainers. But a sprint spike has a stiff and aggressive spike plate. They are designed so you can run on your toes. XC spikes lack traction and are too flexible to function well for sprinting events.