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Running on trails, woodland paths and across muddy fields makes for an exciting and challenging workout. However, it can also pile specific kinds of stress and strain onto your feet as they adapt to constantly changing surfaces. Running shoes for cross country and trail running are therefore designed to give you that extra support in tougher conditions.
So, what’s unique about cross-country running shoes, and what should you look for when investing in a pair?
The importance of choosing the right running shoes for cross country
When you’re running cross country, each stride could put your foot in contact with a very different surface – from twigs to gravel to compact earth or dry mud. Unlike running on concrete or tarmac, this constant variation can increase your risk of different kinds of injury:
- Slipping and falling: If you’re wearing the wrong kind of shoes, there’s a higher risk of slipping and falling – which, at best, will leave you covered in mud, and at worst, could result in fractures.
- Twisted ankles: With challenging and unpredictable surfaces, running cross country means there’s a higher chance of putting a foot wrong and twisting or even spraining an ankle.
- Metatarsalgia: Especially if you regularly run over stones, sticks and other tough surfaces, there’s a risk of developing metatarsalgia, which is essentially painful bruising or microfractures in the ball of your foot.
Cross-country trainers are, therefore, designed to reduce the risk of these kinds of injuries as far as possible. Let’s see how they achieve this.
How cross-country running shoes are designed
Cross-country and trail running shoes are designed to give you additional support that makes your run safer, more comfortable and efficient. Look for the following kinds of features when making your purchase:
- Bigger, chunkier lugs : Lugs are the chunky grip features on a trainer’s sole, and for cross-country and trail running shoes, these are normally bigger than your average road-running trainer – bigger lugs equal more grip. Big lugs are especially important if you’re running in muddy or damp conditions, as they help you avoid slipping.
- Tough midsole: Unlike regular running shoes which emphasise support on the heel, cross country trainers also provide support in the midsole – to help reduce the impact of rough or stony ground on more of your foot.
- Shock absorption: As above, running shoes for cross country and trail running should provide extensive cushioning in the sole – using a combination of gel and foam.
- Water resistance: Especially for the wetter months, it’s smart to select footwear where the upper is made from breathable water-resistant material – this allows you to move more comfortably and avoid running with damp feet.
- Spikes: If you’re cross-country racing in muddy conditions, it’s definitely worth thinking about shoes which have replaceable fittings for running spikes.
Find the right cross-country running shoes
Cross country and trail provide some of the most exciting and challenging running conditions, demanding your full concentration and adaptability. And by choosing the right trail running gear to support you, you’ll be set to make even more of your exercise.