Cross Country Shoes: Fall 2011

By CreggWeinmann – October 4, 2011

Cross country season is here. Got your summer miles in? Check. Got your t-shirt slogan picked and printed? Check. Got your racing shoes? We can help with our annual look at eight newly released or updated cross country shoes for fall. Differences in fit from one brand (or model) to the next allow most runners to find a racing shoe suited for their particular foot type. Two factors should influence your selection of a cross country racing shoe: how well it fits you and how it feels when you run in it. And once you make your selection, be sure to wear them a few times before the actual race since the low profile, coupled with the intense effort of racing, can be tough on your soft tissue if you haven’t prepared well.

adidas XCS 2
The update to the XCS has much that will be familiar, along with a few new twists. Maintained is the same Traxion outersole both in a sixspike configuration and a spikeless version. The low-profile, molded EVA midsole also continues to provide its proven cushioning, aided by the Traxion lugs that grip and cushion by deflecting impact into the midsole for absorption. The close-fitting upper has received the attention in this update, freshening things up with a new look for adidas. The effective mini-airmesh continues, along with synthetic leather at heel and toe, providing support. New to the XCS 2 are overlays at the eyestay and forefoot that are welded to reduce friction from stitching and to add flexibility to the upper. The low profile, cushioning, and traction continue to make the XCS series a worthy selection.

Sizes: men 6.5–13,14,15; women 5–12
Weight: 7.9 oz. w/spikes, 7.6 oz. spikeless (men’s 11);
6.3 oz. w/spikes, 6.0 oz. spikeless (women’s 8)
Fit: snug throughout

ASICS Dirt Dog/Dirt Diva 4
The fourth round of the Dirt Dog/Diva is a mixture of the new and the proven. This update retains the
same midsole and outersole—lowprofile, molded EVA and the specialized full-length spikeplate—that’s best for all-natural courses. The upper has been targeted for changes with a new construction previously seen in ASICS’ Gel-Speedstar: a rubbery TPU matrix that completely enshrouds the upper with a thick layer that forms the more supportive portion of the logo stripes. The result is a nice, smooth interior, thanks to no-sew technology. It’s well-supported with good breathability. The ASICS fit, gender-targeted designs, and excellent traction deliver a quality upgrade to a shoe known for its value.

SPIKE $100
Sizes: men 4–13,14,15; women 5–11,12
Weight: 8.0 oz. (men’s 11); 6.2 oz. (women’s 8)
Fit: snug heel, close forefoot

Brooks Mach 13
Last year, the Mach 12 changed all but its purpose as a cross country racing shoe. The Mach 13 retains its effective low-profile midsole, snug fit, and traction. In this update, the upper is equal parts technical and fun. The sueded ankle collar has been replaced with a textured polyester—not the same smooth fit, but better at managing moisture. The closed mesh is as breathable and supportive as before. The fun is the wild, sublimated graphics (a dragon for the men and a cheetah for the women) with thematic accents at toe, tongue, and heel. Feathers are also graphically presented for the notion of lightness, and messages like “go-baby-go”are molded into the midsole. In our opinion, the important message is that the Mach 13 is an essential tool for successful cross country performance.

Sizes: men 6–13,14,15; women 6–12
Weight: 7.6 oz. w/spikes, 7.2 oz. spikeless (men’s 11);
6.0 oz. w/spikes/5.7 oz. spikeless (women’s 8)
Fit: snug heel, close forefoot

Mizuno Wave Kizuna
The Kizuna replaces the venerable Kaze, though for now it’s only available in a spiked version. The Kizuna offers a new molded EVA midsole and modified Wave plate designed for cross country. The lugged outersole has been completely redesigned as a six-spike configuration with the lugs embedded in a fabric-backed spikeplate and protective rubber-covered heel. The new upper features just a few overlays that are welded thermoplastic, providing weight savings and support over the forefoot, and synthetic leather at toe, eyestay, and heel. Closed mesh wraps the foot in a close-fitting, breathable cocoon, and the DynaMotion hinged top eyelet offers security to the lacing. Those familiar with the Kaze will find the expected performance, while those searching for traction, good cushioning, and a secure fit have one more option in a racing shoe.

Sizes: men 7–13; women 6–11
Weight: 8.4 oz. (men’s 11); 6.8 oz. (women’s 8)
Fit: snug heel, very snug forefoot

Nike Zoom Waffle Racer 8/Zoom Waffle XC 9
This year, both the Waffle brothers have advanced, but the Waffle XC has skipped a grade. This renovation has propelled them to an entirely different level. The upper is a snug-fitting, closed mesh with screened overlays running the length of the midfoot to create an extended saddle. The midsole is brand new, though with similar geometry to its distance spikes, offering a good blend of low-profile cushioning and responsiveness. The outersole switches the four-nibbed waffle tread to a six-spike configuration, and the new full-contact geometry eliminates the plastic shank, which is a large reason this version is significantly lighter. Its broad size range, traction, fit, and pricing earned the Zoom Waffle Racer 8/Zoom Waffle XC 9 our award for Best Shoe among cross country offerings.

Sizes: unisex 1–13,14,15
Weight: 6.3 oz. w/spikes, 5.9 oz. spikeless (men’s 11);
Fit: snug heel, close forefoot

New Balance XC700
The 700 is the replacement for the 507, but it’s really a new shoe with the same intent and audience. The upper veers from the 507 by dramatically reducing the synthetic leather overlays, but gives up little support. It has a plusher interior than its predecessor, thanks to a brushed lining. The midsole is a nicely sculpted, standard EVA with a resilient feel—no real difference in cushioning from the 507. The flexibility, however, is a different story. With the removal of the forefoot plate, it’s much more flexible, with a thin layer of Rock Stop added for protection. The outersole features a four-spike design that’s not too different from the 507, with a protective layer of carbon rubber that’s textured for traction on paved roads or natural surfaces. It also works well on indoor and outdoor tracks. Of course, the price dip makes it that much more attractive.

Sizes: men 7–13,14,15 (D,2E); women 5.5–10,11 (B)
Weight: 7.6 oz. w/spikes, 7.3 oz. spikeless (men’s 11);
6.2 oz. w/spikes, 5.8 oz. spikeless (women’s 8)
Fit: snug heel, close forefoot

Saucony Kilkenny XC4
The Kilkenny reaches the fourth round of its cross country existence with its first substantial alterations. The midsole has been reshaped to offer a touch more cushioning and support. The outersole offers a new four-spike arrangement; the spikeless version is the same except for rubber nibs in place of the spikes. Either version of the outersole manages traction well on all surfaces, employing bi-directional lugs down the middle that allow for fewer spikes. Flexible, spiny ridges along the edges of the outersole add to the grip, as well. The upper has a familiar fit with a new, engineered mesh design that breathes well but offers a touch more support, and sueded overlays and well-placed overstitching secures them without causing friction. The combination of fit, cushioning, and traction earned the Kilkenny honors for the Best Renovation among the cross country racers we reviewed.

Sizes: men 7–13,14; women 5–11,12
Weight: 7.6 oz. w/spikes, 7.4 oz. spikeless (men’s 11); 6.1 oz. w/spikes, 5.8 oz. spikeless
(women’s 8) Fit: snug throughout

Puma Complete Haraka XCS 2
The update to the Haraka XCS retains the strongest characteristics of the original—a wise move because round 1 of the Haraka worked so well. The same midsole and outersole combination— an aggressively lugged, six-spiked configuration and healthy slab of molded EVA—work effectively on the track or offroad. This season, the upper adopts a wide open mesh for greater breathability and employs a combination of synthetic overlays and soft synthetic suede for support. The interior retains its barefoot comfort with the velour-lined tongue and innersole offering a plush feel. The name is Swahili for hurry, but this performance comes with style and comfort.

Sizes: men 7–12,13,14; women 5.5–12
Weight: 7.1 oz. w/spikes, 6.8 oz. spikeless (men’s 11);
5.8 oz. w/spikes, 5.4 oz spikeless (women’s 8)
Fit: snug heel, close forefoot

Cregg Weinmann is footwear and running products reviewer for Running Network LLC. He can be reached via e-mail at Copyright © 2011 by Running Network LLC. All Rights Reserved. No part of this article may be stored, copied, or reprinted without prior written permission of Running Network LLC. Reprinted here with permission.




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