What you need for cross country season
When it comes to footwear, you essentially have two options…
Spikes or trail / fell running shoes
Each has their place with advantages and disadvantages
Trail or Fell Running Shoes
Trail shoes are considered the more versatile option when it comes to navigating off road sections. They are designed to be robust, have deep studs for grip, and be flexible.
The main difference between trail shoes and road shoes is that trail shoes will have a lot less support, as cushioning is traded for grip.
It should be noted that for this article, trail and fell running shoes have been lumped together for simplicity. In actual fact, fell running shoes will have more grip with less support – designed for more muddier and slippier courses, whereas trail shoes will be closer to road shoes, with more support for courses featuring stretches of gravel, road or tarmac.
The reality is though that the increased popularity of off-road running means there is a large choice of shoes available with many different levels of support and grip.
Spikes are made to be extremely light, have a tighter fit and give you the most traction and grip, particularly on muddy and grassy courses.
Because the spikes can be screwed on and off, spike shoes can be fitted with different length spikes to suit the course. Longer spikes, 12mm or more, can be used for more grip on muddier, slippier courses, whereas shorter spikes, 6mm or less, can be used when the ground is harder or firmer. A middle ground of 9-12mm will suit most courses.
Replacement or spare spikes are typically inexpensive. A set usually only costs a few pounds.
It should be noted that a lot of spike shoes are marketed as dual purpose, meaning they can be used on the track with track spikes.
The downside of this boost to performance is that they put more strain on your feet, especially the Achilles and calves.
For this reason, spikes should be saved for use on race days.
If you are new to running it is recommended to take the safer option of lightweight trail shoes until you have developed some strength in your feet and lower legs before rushing into using spikes.
It should probably go without saying that spikes aren’t ideal for any course which features a significant amount of tarmac, gravel or hard trail!
Now, for a lot of people, running will generate enough heat that running in anything but the bare essentials of a top/vest and shorts will cause overheating, no matter the weather. If this applies to you then this something you already know… or something you will find out soon enough!
Photo: V & M Images
However, if you are worried about the weather here are some general tips…
Hats and Gloves
You will generally lose most of your body heat through the top of your head, meaning a light running hat or headband could be useful. Combine this with the fact that your fingers will feel the cold first, an addition of lightweight gloves will result in the best chance of being comfortable in your normal race day clothes during bad weather.
Beyond this, the following items may come in handy if you’re still worried about running in the cold and wet.
Thermal running top – Keeps body heat in but wicks sweat, preventing you from being ‘hot and sweaty’
Waterproof jacket – If it is really hammering it down then a lightweight, foldable waterproof jacket may just come in handy for moral and spiritual support more than anything else!
Just don’t wear white!