For those of you who are super competitive at sports, every little technological advance can make the difference between winning and losing. So for athletes on the track, a good pair of running spikes is an absolute must. One little slip at a critical moment can easily mean losing out on glory, and also increase the likelihood of pulled muscles or more serious injury. But are spikes meant only for track athletes? And is there only one type?
The answers to those two questions above are no and no. For a start, athletes who compete in jumping events and throwing events need to get reliable grip when running up to the board in the long jump, or when running up to throw a javelin. Furthermore, the types of spiked running shoes they wear can often be very different. For example, sprinters’ spikes are extremely light in weight, with little or no padding for comfort, and with the pins predominantly at the front of the foot. For a javelin thrower, the situation is totally different. The shoe is more like an ankle boot, and is more padded for comfort and support, but more importantly, for superior grip when the javelin is released, there are spikes covering the entire sole of the boots, including the heels.
So that covers both track and field, and we now know there are several different types of running spikes worn by the different athletes. But running on a smooth, purpose made track is entirely different from running on a dirt track or doing a cross country course in the rain, on muddy trails. So to cover this eventuality, there is yet another class of shoes, the cross country running spikes. These are used exclusively for rough, uneven terrain, where slipping is a particularly easy thing to do. The pins in these running spikes are longer than those worn on track spikes, to afford much better grip. Some manufacturers even produce cross country varieties with the spikes pointing diagonally as well as vertically downwards, to minimize slipping in unpredictable directions. A muddy trail makes it very easy for a foot to slip sideways, which can cause groin strain injuries, whereas the main concern on an athletics track is the foot slipping backwards, especially after rain. The latter is more predictable.
So although there are different running spikes for cross country and for track and field, in reality, once you consider the variations used across track and field, there are actually many types to choose from. The important thing is to pick the right ones for your particular event!