Track spikes aren’t something competitive runners drop in order to slow down people behind them – but they do give runners a great advantage all the same. Track spikes are specialized footwear for training and competing on tracks!
Affixing spikes to shoes so they can provide better traction is not a new concept. The Bible contains an allegory involving iron and brass shoes, although those were probably only worn by soldiers back when the Book of Deuteronomy was written. Spiked shoes for running were made famous by Harold Abrahams, who wore them when he won gold for the 100-meter dash at the 1924 Olympic Games.
A pair of modern track spikes typically features plates on the toes of both soles. Either plate contains multiple threaded spike wells that can each anchor one spike. Alternatively, a pair of track spikes can have fixed, irremovable spikes. Modern track spikes for sprinting are especially lightweight (usually tipping the scale at no more than 5 ounces), and have flexible toe regions that encourage running on the toes. Those track spikes’ aggressive taper may cause injury if the shoe is worn for casual walking, as it is not designed to accommodate a normal gait – only running on the toes!
Types of Track Spikes
Not all track spikes are created equal. Different designs are optimal for various types of running, so make certain you purchase the correct track spikes for your intended activity!
- Sprint spikes have stiff spike plates, many spike wells, and exceptionally high and rigid tapers. Sprint spikes provide virtually zero heel support, as they are strictly intended for sprinters who spend the entirety of their time running on their toes.
- Distance spikes have suppler spike plates, fewer spike wells, and gentler tapers. Distance spikes provide greater heel support, as many distance runners prefer heel striking over forefoot striking.
- Middle distance spikes provide a middle ground between sprint spikes and distance spikes. As such they have intermediate spike plate rigidity, taper levels, and heel support.
- Cross country spikes have a similar application to distance spikes, and accordingly share much in common with them. They do tend to have tougher soles and provide greater support to the midfoot – both advantageous when you are running on natural terrain instead of track.
Types of Spikes
A pair of track spikes’ metal protrusions are typically 1/4″ long, but they can range in length from 3/16 to 1/2″. Blank spikes, which do not provide any traction and are only designed to protect the track wells, are also available. Three styles of spikes are common:
- Pyramid spikes are conical and end in a sharp point. They are used for synthetic tracks, and are the only type of spike permitted at USA Track & Field Association
- Pin (aka needle) spikes also end in a sharp point, but have a thinner cone diameter than pyramid spikes. They are often preferred by lighter runners whose steps aren’t heavy enough to drive thicker pyramid spikes into synthetic track, although they can cause more damage to the track.
- Compression tier (aka Christmas tree) spikes are shaped somewhat like chocolate fondue fountains, with a terraced profile that ends in a flat end. They compress the track instead of puncturing it, and are preferred by runners who wish to avoid the kinds of injuries caused by sharp metal or ceramic spikes.
- Tartan spikes are dull, and are commonly worn to protect the supple surfaces of rubber tracks.
What Are the Best Track Spikes?
There is no one-size-fits-all “best” pair of track spikes. The shoes that are ideally suited to you depend entirely on the type of running you will be doing, as well as your gait and unique physiology. With that said, let us share a few of our recommendations!
- The Saucony Spitfire 5 excels at short-distance sprinting. One pair weighs a mere 4.2 ounces, and each shoe includes a responsive plate with wells for seven traction-enhancing spikes.
- The New Balance XC Seven v4 is specifically designed for cross country running. Its REVlite midsole cushioning provides comfort and support during long-distance races, and six pins per spike plate deliver an optimal balance of speed and traction.
- The Nike Zoom Rival is ideal for middle- and long-distance racing. Its cushioned midfoot and heel provide protection and promote a more propulsive transition with each footstrike, and four spikes per spike plate create sufficient traction on all types of track surfaces.
- The Nike Zoom Rotational 6 isn’t technically track spikes. It lacks any spikes at all! But that only makes the shoes ideal for shot put, hammer and discus – i.e. sports that require athletes to rapidly pivot on their feet.
If you’re getting serious about track running and need the perfect set of track spikes for the job – or are already serious about track running, and need a new pair of shoes that will help you shave seconds off your personal best – then Peak Performance Fitness Gear is standing by to make sure you’re equipped for success. We welcome you to stop by our store in Sioux City, IA today, or contact us if you would like to learn more about our expansive selection of high-quality footwear, exercise equipment and athletic apparel in stock!