Choosing the Best Running Spikes
Below is an article on the use of running spikes and how to choose them. We hope you find it useful.
Why use Running Spikes?
The answer to this is quite simple - running spikes allow you to run faster!
The extra grip that the small metal or ceramic spikes give you help you avoid slipping so more of your force can be in a forwards direction. In addition to this spikes are lighter than trainers and the various types are designed to help your foot placement be as ideal as possible for your chosen event.
What are Running Spikes?
Running Spikes are essentially just running shoes with a series of threads on the base of them into which are screwed "spikes" that are small metallic or ceramic objects with a thread that goes into the shoe. They can be sharp or studs or even in a christmas tree shape.
The first running spike was invented by Joseph William Foster in the 1890s and developed to a great extent by Adolf Dassler who set up the Adidas company.
The correct spikes for you will depend upon which event you wish to you. It is very important that you use your spikes in at least some of your training so you are used to running in them when it comes to races (you could be a bit sad like me and own several pairs for training at different speeds - Ed.)
Sprint Spikes are for sprinters. Okay - that's enough of the blindingly obvious!
They are the lightest spikes on the market, generally with no padding in the heels at all. They are also relatively stiff with the spike plate on the bottom (under the toes) built in a way that forces the runner to run on their toes.
Sprint running spikes are useful for athletes running at high speed - so good 400m runners can make use of them too (we'd generally advise that if you are quicker than about 52 seconds over 400m this would be a reasonable thing to do). Some top class 800m runners also run in sprint spikes - with Maria Mutola being a famous example - although this isn't necessarily something that we would recommend.
Some sprint spikes have zip up fronts so that they have a smoother surface for better aerodynamics (not sure how much difference this makes in practice - maybe a severe hair cut would do more!)
Middle Distance Spikes
Still very light, but generally with a bit of cushionning in the heel. For use at slower speeds than sprint spikes, but still where a majority of the running is to be done on the forefoot as the spike plate still forces this kind of running action.
Generally, the sole on middle distance spikes is less rigid than a sprint spike and as such is less demanding on the athletes running posture.
Long Distance Spikes
These have much more cushionning that the other track spikes and are generally flatter. They are also a bit heavier than other track spikes, but still significantly lighter than running trainers. If you are running at speeds slower than about 18-20seconds for each 100m in your races, we would suggest these will supply the cushioning you need for your races.
Different Types of Spikes
The biggest subset of spikes we have missed off so far are the off-track spikes, usually called cross-country spikes. They are much sturdier than other spikes and have much better grip on them - often including on the sides of the sole as well as the base. Many runners also use these on tracks for their slower training (where normal running shoes would be too heavy) as they provide more support and cushioning for the foot.
The major manufacturers of running spikes include Asics, Nike, Adidas, Reebok, Brooks, Mizuno, Saucony and Puma amongst others.
The Spikes themselves
As for the spikes in the shoes themselves the come in various shapes
Pyramid Spike. These are the most common type of spike and a basically a wide base going to a point.
Pin / Needle Spike. Like a Pyramid spike, but with a thinner neck - tend to dig into tracks well, but can "stick" a little as the athlete takes off again
Stud. Have a blunt end, like a football stud, but still get decent grip on the track.
Xmas Tree Spike. These have ridges going around them which get grip in a number of directions if your footstrike isn't always the same - good for hurdlers.
Choosing Specific Spikes
So, now you know all about what to look for in your spikes, it is time to choose some. We have a list of some of our favourite spikes here.
Learn more / further reading
- Running Shoes
- Running Equipment
- Starting Blocks
- Sprint Training
- Middle Distance Training
- Long Distance Training
- UK Track Races