7 Tips for Track and Field Spikes

Here are my top 7 tips for your Track spikes:

  1. Don’t leave them in your spike bag
  2. Dip the spike pins in 10W30 oil before inserting
  3. Carry extra pairs with different spike lengths and types
  4. Carry a pair of pliers
  5. 200m specialists pin placements
  6. Differences in spike plates
  7. Choosing pins and needles

Take them out of the shoe bag

The biggest tip I can suggest is taking the spikes out of your spike bag when you get home from practice.  This keeps your spikes dry, especially if you have sweaty feet and you don’t wear socks with your spikes.

How may times do you get to track practice, and another athlete sitting next to you is getting ready to take their spikes out of the bag, and… *WHEW* …

Dip the Spike pins in oil before inserting

This is a trick I use for my golf shoes.  Golf is played on moist wet grass and by dipping the pins in 10W30 oil, before screwing them into the shoe, it prevents rust, and therefore allows for easy removal.

If you train in hot dry weather, this shouldn’t be a problem.  But I used to live and train in Vancouver, where it rains 300 days a year, unlike the Cote Azure where it’s sunny 300 days a year.

Carry a pair of pliers

I always carry a portable pair of pliers from a camping store.  Every season, I get one athlete who strips the threading for a spike pin, and the only way to remove it is by a pliers.

In fact, these pliers are my keychain.  And they pass through airport security.

Special Tip for 200m specialists

Historically, only 6 pins were allowed for Track events, where the 7th pin must be a stud or blank.

That rule has changed sometime in the early 90’s and you can now have 11 pins for the shoe (including the pins on the heel for high jump and javelin).

I like my track spikes pin layout symmetrical, with the exception of the 200 meters.

For 200m, I like to focus on having spike pins on the inside of left shoe (by the big toe), and the outside of right shoe (by the baby toe).  Why?  Because we run counter clockwise and there’s a lot of centripetal force!  That’s where the pressure points are.

Of course, some spikes have permanent or "fixed" pins, usually Christmas or compression types.

Carry extra pairs with different spike lengths/types

With spikes as low as $29 (see VSAthletics and their Saucony deal: good enough for Wallace Spearmon and Lauryn Willimas) you can buy several pairs and put different lengths of pins or needles, or different elements (needles vs. Christmas trees)

It’s stressful enough getting ready for your race. The last thing you want to do is have to change your spike pins at the Control area because they are too long or the wrong type!

Spike Plates, Half, 3/4 or Full

If you suffer from Achilles problems, you’ll probably want to avoid the full length rigid spike plate.  Otherwise, all the pressure end up in the Achilles.  It’s the same as downhill alpine ski boots… the pressure is in the knees.

So in training, I use a half plate flexible spike plate.

Choosing pins and needles

Top 8 Spike Elements for Spikes

1/8" (3mm) Needle Track Spikes

3mm Needle Track Spikes

1/8" (3mm) Needle Spikes

3/16" (5mm) Needle Track Spikes

5mm Needle Track Spikes

3/16" (5mm) Needle Spikes

3/8" (9mm) Needle Track Spikes

9mm Needle Track Spikes

3/8" (9mm) Needle Spikes

3/16" (5mm) Pyramid Track Spikes

5mm Pyramid Track Spikes

3/16" (5mm) Pyramid Spikes

Omni-Lite 9mm Pyramid Spikes

Omni-Lite 9mm Pyramid Spikes

Omni-Lite 9mm Pyramid Spikes

1/4” (6mm) Thread-Resin Pyramid Spikes

6mm Thread Resin Pyramid Track Spikes

1/4" (6mm) Pyramid Track Spikes w/ Thread-Resin

Omni-Lite 7mm Xmas Tree Spikes

Omni-Lite 7mm Xmas Tree Spikes

Omni-Lite 7mm Ceramic Xmas Tree Spikes

Asics 6mm Compression-Tiered Spike

ASICS 6mm Compression-Tiered Spike

ASICS 6mm Steel Compression-Tiered Spikes

There are generally 3 criteria when choosing spike needles or pins.

  1. shape of spikes:  Pins (or needles), Pyramid, and Christmas Tree (also known as compression tier spikes)
  2. length of spikes:  5mm, 7mm, 9mm (13mm for Javelin throwers).  1/4” or one quarter inch = 6.35mm  and 3/16” = 4.77mm
  3. material of spikes: steel, ceramic, titanium alloy

Traditionally, the maximum allowable spike length for outdoor tracks is 7mm, and indoors is 5mm, especially the wooden “boards”.

Christmas (Xmas) Tree spikes:  these were meant to NOT puncture the track, but rather compress the surface with the energy returning back to to the sprinter.  Sometimes, these spikes are illegal on brand new tracks for fear of ripping it to shreds.  This new style (i.e. no sharp point) helps reduce the seriousness of injury when a runner gets accidentally spiked.  These are my favorite spikes on Mondo tracks surfaces.

Ceramic material:  these durable spikes are 1/3 the weight of traditional steel spikes, are strong and lightweight, as well as abrasion-resistant.

If you need to buy a variety of spike pins, I recommend Eastbay and use the search term “spike elements”. UPDATE: Read the comments below on the use of spike risers.

Jimson Lee

Jimson Lee

Coach & Founder at SpeedEndurance.com
I am a Masters Athlete and Coach currently based in London UK. My other projects include the Bud Winter Foundation, writer for the IAAF New Studies in Athletics Journal (NSA) and a member of the Track & Field Writers of America.
Jimson Lee
Jimson Lee
Jimson Lee
  • Great post. Love these little tidbit of info… One question about spikes that’s not addressed here- my Nike Zoom Powercat shoes came with risers. When and why would I want to use these?

    • @Mark, good question, as I got 3 emails asking the very same topic.

      Risers, as the name states, rises your body to a taller height. Think golf with your 7 iron vs your 3 iron. Taller means better for longer shots. Same with your legs acting as (longer) levers.

      But in a 200m, with that curve, I would not use risers, because it all comes down to power vs stability. In a 100m, yes, risers are okay. In a 400m, yes, because your velocity on the 2nd turn isn’t as fast as an open 200m.

      However, that was the old days in spikes. Today’s spike plates have much stronger material, and more stiffer, and thus returns force better. Think titanium/carbon graphite golf clubs vs the old metal ones.. So I feel the risers are getting obsolete, at least in high end spikes over $100 USD.

      • Hey i was just trying to find some information about risers, and i was wondering if they would improve my 400m hurdles time or not?

  • Hey Guys,

    Would like to ask for suggestions regarding overcoming turf toe. I have a couple high school sprinters who are also competitive soccer players. Both sustained turf toe injuries about 18-24 months back. They are mostly recovered (turf to never goes away completely due to changes in the big toe knuckle) but have recurring push off issues for starts and jumps. Both are very strong for their size/age so I have considered switching one’s start but the other is a hurdler and switching jump foot is out of the question at this point. Spring steel shoe inserts helped some but have there issues as well. In soccer I tape their toes to lessen upward force but it is an issue in track. Any thought will be appreciated

  • Nice write-up. I need a pair of track spikes for training and was interested in the bit about ‘half plates’ being better for Achilles problems. As Jimson knows I snapped my 5 years ago but I’m back in training now. Any recommendations on a good training spike? I’ll be doing 100’s mostly this year. Thanks!

  • I’ve just acquired ‘Asics Cyber Jump Beijing’ spike shoes with 8mm Spike Pins.

    Firstly, is this spike shoes good enough for Long Jumping?
    Also, how efficient is the ‘Pins’ compared to the traditional ‘Pyramid’ spikes.

    I like your blog very much. Well informed

  • Track season has just started for me and as a first time high school sprinter I was running what kind of spikes would be best for the 400m.

  • My second meet is tomorrow, and this blog has put some of my worries to rest, thank you.
    I am currently running the 1600 m and 4x 800 relay. I use nike rival md, and I’m wondering if I should buy distance spikes, or if these will be good. Varsity highschool track, also pole vault.

    • My general understanding is that mid-distance shoes are fine for 800/1500 distances. LD shoes are better for 3K, 5K, 10k, etc. Just make sure you are using the correct type of spike in the shoe for the surface. I also understand that, for asphalt tracks, flats are actually sometimes preferred to spikes for these distances, as the hard surface will wear down the spike and give no advantage (or even impair traction).

      • @BobT, thanks for the tips, and yes, keep an eye on the correct spike length and surface. It’s usually trial and error to find the right combination.

    • @Mckayla, yes they are called “blanks” but they don’t give them anymore as there is no longer a 6 pin limit like the old days.

  • we are new to track & wondering where we can fine information about how to determine the correct spike (LD/Sprinter) configurations should look like? Our athelete is running mainly 800s & Jav; just needing basic info & youth coach is of no assistance.


    • You’ve come to the right place to ask these questions. I can quarantee you that the answers you read or receive on this site is always good advice, good information and data. Any info you need is bound to be found here, if not, i am certain that Jimson, the coaches and other readers will direct you to other resources if needed.

      good luck to you.., and happy running time.

    • @tata347, you can fill all the pins in today’s spike. In the old days, it was 6. The type of spike will be determined by the surface.

  • I am a returning Masters MM40 thrower, and I live and train in Florence, Italy. I have been to every store in Florence, and called about every store in Italy to find javelin shoes size 13(us)/12(uk)/47-48(EU). I am going crazy. I threw Javelin last week with flats…aargh…and have another Jiav competition on Sunday. Is there a store in Rome I am not aware of? Any advice? Urgency appreciated.

    +39 327 9386493 (Italy)
    +1.623.207.1309 (US)

    • @David E, sorry, I order all my spikes by mail order. In fact, Amazon.co.uk is my new best friend for most items except maple syrup (I am Canadian)