The Gear We Wish We’d Had for Cross Country

Two girls high-five.

Crisp autumn air may seem worlds away as we muddle through the summer heat, but the fall season will be here before we know it. Soon we’ll be in the land of cozy sweaters, pumpkin spice lattes and, of course, cross country season.

If you’re in high school or college, the thought of cross country season may leave you feeling anxious, excited or a mix of both. But if you’re past your glory years, you’re likely feeling nostalgic as you reminisce about Timex watches, watered-down Gatorade and tube socks. Consider yourself lucky if you’re running cross country in the age of new technology, and extra lucky if you don’t understand the aforementioned references.

Fleet Feet’s resident washed-up cross country runners put together a list of the gear we wish we’d had for cross country, all those years ago.

1. A comfortable pair of running shoes

Two girls run in tandem on the grass.

The most important thing to have in your bag of tricks for cross country season is a comfortable pair of shoes to train in. You’ll be spending nearly every afternoon in these shoes, and maybe some early mornings, too, so comfort is crucial to make the most of your season.

Before your season begins, we recommend heading into your local Fleet Feet for an expert, one-on-one outfitting. Fleet Feet outfitters use 3D fit id® foot scanning technology to gather information about your feet and the support they need by taking precise measurements of your foot length, width and arch height.

“When I first started running track and cross country, I was wearing hand-me-down shoes from my older sister,” Caroline says. “It turns out that they weren’t the right support level for my feet, causing many aches and pains that could’ve been avoided!”

You’ll likely need to replace your running shoes two to three times per year to keep your legs and feet feeling fresh. Check out our handy guide on how long running shoes last.

2. A dedicated bag for your gear

Speaking of a bag of tricks, we recommend having one of those too. A dedicated bag to carry your gear in will help you stay organized amidst class, practice and competition. You can fill your bag with snacks, hydration, a change of clothes, your running shoes and spikes.

Keep in mind that, because your bag will likely hold sweaty running clothes, it may start to smell funky. Wash your bag regularly and use a deodorizer like Remodeez to absorb and neutralize odor.

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3. Thin socks for racing

Gone are the days of ill-fitting tube socks awkwardly stuffed into your spikes. Thanks to brands like Feetures and Balega, you can easily find a pair of light, breathable socks that fit like a glove for race day. These socks wick moisture away to keep your feet cool, dry and blister-free.

“I’d always get really bad blisters, especially after racing,” Kate says. “Probably due to cramming my thick, cotton socks into my spikes. I had one pair of lucky running socks that I wore for every race, but I wish I could send some thin, breathable modern-day running socks back to myself in a time machine!”

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4. ChicknLegs Shorts

The best part of cross country is the team bonding and camaraderie. What better way to show off your team spirit than by matching in a funky pair of ChicknLegs shorts?

Not only do ChicknLegs shorts come in fun, colorful patterns, they’re made with a lightweight fabric for breathability, a mesh liner for coverage and an elastic waistband to stay secure.

“I ran in the same six pairs of identical black running shorts for my entire high school cross country career,” says Fleet Feet Senior Digital Advertising Manager Nate Bolon. “It would’ve been sweet to have a pair of shorts that both felt good to run in and let me show off my great style to the rest of my friends.”

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5. GPS Watch

A runner looks at her GPS watch before starting her run.

Perhaps the most revolutionary piece of running gear to grace us over the past decade is the GPS running watch. Sure, GPS watches may have been around ten years ago but they offered nothing compared to what they can do now. Not only can GPS running watches track your distance, heart rate and pace, they can provide sleep tracking and stress monitoring. You can also set your watch up to receive smartphone notifications, so you can no longer use practice as an excuse to ignore your parent’s texts.

“Having a GPS watch during cross country would have helped me to slow down on my easy runs, as I did all of my training runs too hard leading to recurring injuries,” Nate says. “My team ran everything based on feel, which has its benefits, but a watch would've helped me better establish what my hard pace and easy pace should be, especially when training on my own.”

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6. Foam Roller

A foam roller is one of the most basic massage tools on the market today, but it’s also one of the best. It’s one of the best ways to release tension, improve blood flow, stay ahead of potential injury and keep your muscles optimized for running.

“I struggled with knee pain when I ran cross country in high school,” Kate says. “My solution back then was to wear a band under my knee, but I later learned that a simple foam rolling session for my tight quads solved the problem. I could have avoided knee pain—and a pretty awkward tan line.” S

Spending just 15 minutes a day on the foam roller can make a world of difference during your cross country season. Check out this guided foam rolling session with Coach Nate if you’re not sure where to start.

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7. Water bottle

You’ll need plenty of water to keep your muscles working optimally during the grueling cross country season ahead. Even as the weather cools down, it’s still important to hydrate and replenish lost electrolytes. We recommend a stainless steel bottle like the Hydro Flask 21-ounce because it keeps your drink cold all day long.

“When I was in high school, I was constantly filling up my crinkly, plastic water bottles at the water fountains,” Caroline says. “Not only would an actual reusable bottle have been better for the environment, but it would have kept my drinks cool and definitely been more appealing.”

Hydrating means more than just drinking water. Adding an electrolyte mix into your drink, like those from Nuun or GU, will help you replenish what’s lost through sweat.

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Hat & sunglasses

You may think you’re too young to worry about sun damage, but trust us—being diligent about sun protection now will pay dividends in the future. Spending hours outside each week under the sun can increase your risk of skin cancer, premature wrinkling and other skin damage. The good news is that sun protection has never looked so cool. With brands like Sprints and Goodr making hats and sunglasses in funky patterns and bright colors, you can protect your skin while staying true to your style.

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9. Anti-chafe

A group of cross country runners.

Believe it or not, you don’t have to suffer from blisters and chafe marks to be a runner. Thanks to products like Body Glide and Squirrel’s Nut Butter, you can say goodbye to painful hot spots and post-run shower squeals. Apply the product anywhere you experience rubbing or friction, like your thighs, armpits or even under the band of your sports bra.

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