When it comes to cross country running you can encounter all sorts of different weather and terrain. The type of course you’re running on and the conditions will affect how much spikes will benefit your performance. If you’re unsure whether you should run in spikes, you probably should. Either way, I’ll dive in a bit deeper in this post.

When Spikes Are Critical In Cross Country

Semi-Muddy Terrain

I found out at National Cross Country Champs when both my spikes were eaten by the mud (as seen in the photo above) that semi-muddy terrain was the worst terrain for running in normal running shoes or none at all.

Why is it the worst terrain?

Well, there’s enough mud that you can’t grip the ground properly. A lot of the energy being put into the ground is lost or wasted. However, with spikes, they provide enough grip that you can put energy into the ground and use that to go forward.

Muddy Hills

If you absolutely dread hills in cross country, the only thing worse could surely be slipping down the hill you’re trying to run up. To prevent this from happening you want to attack hill with enough speed and power to get over the top of them. In order to assist you, it’s ideal to have good length spikes on your feet to dig into the mud and give you the grip you need to stop you from slipping back down.

But it’s not just uphill when spikes are useful. They’re helpful running downhill too. On a muddy course, you can easily end up slipping downhill. Spikes will help give you the grip to stay on your feet. Slipping downhill during a cross country race is dangerous as you could end up injuring both yourself and other runners.

When Spikes Are Less Useful (But Still Useful)

Forest Routes

If your cross country course has lots of forest terrain then you might be alright without spikes provided that the ground is fairly dry. The roots of all the trees and plants in the forest help to make the ground quite stable so you may be able to perform well with trail shoes instead of spikes.

When It’sĀ Really Muddy

In some instances, it’s just so muddy that spikes don’t make any difference compared to if you were running without spikes. These types of cross country courses are rather rare, but of course, I’d recommend you wear spikes since they will tend to always give you an edge compared to trail shoes on cross country because most cross country courses are designed with mud, hills and sometimes a few obstacles in mind!

Makes Sure Your Spikes Are Tight!

If you’re running on a particularly muddy and challenging course, there’s nothing worse than losing your spikes. Especially early into the race.

Pull your spikes on tight. Pull every lace so your foot feels locked into place. Do a knot. Double knot it. Heck, even triple knot it. Maybe go around it with duct tape. Just make sure your spikes are stuck to your feet. Not to the mud.

Just don’t lose your spikes. Not on a muddy course. And not for an important race (I did).


Thanks for reading, if you enjoyed this post I’d appreciate it if you could share it with other runners!

Photo Credits: Charlie Wheeler