Cross Country is a very popular winter sport among runners in South Africa, especially among primary and high school youth. If you are a runner wanting to give Cross Country a go for the first time, or the parent of an athlete starting Cross Country at school, you might be wondering what is the best footwear for Cross Country?
The answer to that question is two words - Light and Flexible.
Most Cross Country courses in South Africa are either grass fields or dirt paths. The southern parts can be wet, but not like England!, and the northern parts are mostly dry dirt. The soft nature of the courses means that you do not require as much cushioning as on the road and so you can wear a lighter road racing flat. On some courses that are mostly grass you can even run barefoot or with track spikes (provided you are used to running like that! and there are no thorns.)
In fact for kids, if the course allows, barefoot is best!
As far as grip goes, your standard running shoe or lightweight racing shoe provides ample grip on our courses. I have seen a concerning trend among parents (and running shoe stores are partly to blame), where because cross country is not on the road, they purchase trail running shoes for their children. Most trail running shoes are heavy, stiff and hard, and therefore not the best for your kids to run fast. Or adults for that matter. Your normal road shoes are perfect. And way better. While trail shoes have got lighter over the years, they don't come close to the speediness of a lightweight road racing shoe.
Onwards and upwards!
Professional running coach
Cape Town, South Africa