Last Updated on April 21, 2014 by Amir Rehman
This article will discuss choosing a pair of spikes and the different type of pins. I won’t discuss the infamous illegal 1968 Brush spikes worn by Lee Evans and John Carlos… I’ll save that for the documentary.
I always have 2 pairs of spikes. One is the inexpensive variety that is usually heavier and more durable for every day training. The other pair is usually more expensive and much lighter which I save for race day or time trials.
Usually you buy spikes half a size smaller as you want it to fit like a glove. Also, most people don’t wear socks when wearing spikes. I don’t want to sound like your Mama, but do trim your toe nails before meets!
Always arrive the day before a competition and check out the track surface and how “fat” the curves are. You want to know EXACTLY where you are at when you come off a turn for the 200 and 400 meters. 100 meters to go? 85 meters to go?
Always check the surface of the track (from indoor wooden boards to outdoor mondo surface) and if possible, do a warm up on the track. Get a feel for the bounciness or hardness.
Choosing a Shoe
The first criteria is usually lightness. For some, it’s the brand name. I gave a summary of some decent spikes in a previous article.
In a perfect world, you will be PAID to wear a certain brand of spikes but that’s another story.
The second criteria is flexibility, or lack of. If the spike is too stiff, it’s bad for the Achilles as it’s like a ski boot or ice skate. Your foot is anchored, and the weakest link is the Achilles. So if you have Achilles problems, consider buying a spike that bends easily.
Sprint spikes usually has no heel to cut down on the weight. Shawn Crawford’s spike is an exception (see below).
Sprint spikes also has a flexible or stiff spike plate. With all the talk about greater force production and longer toes, you may want to consider a flexible spike plate or a custom shoe from Adarian Barr.
Choosing the Spike Pins
Top 8 Spike Elements for Spikes
1/8″ (3mm) Needle Track Spikes
3/16″ (5mm) Needle Track Spikes
3/8″ (9mm) Needle Track Spikes
3/16″ (5mm) Pyramid Track Spikes
Omni-Lite 9mm Pyramid Spikes
1/4” (6mm) Thread-Resin Pyramid Spikes
1/4″ (6mm) Pyramid Track Spikes w/ Thread-Resin
Omni-Lite 7mm Xmas Tree Spikes
Omni-Lite 7mm Ceramic Xmas Tree Spikes
Asics 6mm Compression-Tiered Spike
ASICS 6mm Steel Compression-Tiered Spikes
There are generally 3 criteria when choosing spike needles or pins.
- shape of spikes: Pins (or needles), Pyramid, and Christmas Tree (also known as compression tier spikes)
- length of spikes: 5mm, 7mm, 9mm (13mm for Javelin throwers). 1/4” or one quarter inch = 6.35mm and 3/16” = 4.77mm
- material of spikes: steel, ceramic, titanium alloy
Traditionally, the maximum allowable spike length for outdoor tracks is 7mm.
They still check spike lengths at track meets, especially big meets with control areas, so prepare to have a 2nd set handy with a spike wrench (or better yet, a second pair of spikes with smaller needles). Oh yes, ALWAYS carry a set of needle nose pliers, in case you strip the spike.
For indoor running on the “boards”, I prefer using pins or needles, but some prefer using pyramid spikes. Again, check the maximum allowable length! Usually it’s 5mm.
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. Just look at golf clubs today on how light they have become.
[Tweet “Track Spikes – Facts”]
Positioning the Spike Needles
Historically, only 6 pins were allowed for Track events, so the 7th pin must be a stud
That rule has changed sometime in the early 90’s and you can now have 7 or 8 pins per shoe.
I like my track spikes 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. And you don’t want to slip, either.
Some like a spike right in the middle as they land on the ball of their feet. It’s all a matter of preference.
Differences in the Spike Plate
Here is a sample selection of spikes I chose for discussion purposes only.
Note the emphasis on the landing portion of the spike plate… 4 pins immediate when landing, or clawing. Note 8 pins.
8 pins – made to maximize ground contact with your toes as long as possible, as well as greater force output.
One of the lightest commercial spikes on the market… with only 6 pins! Ask Adarian Barr for a custom made lighter spike!
Shawn Crawford’s shoe in the 2004 Olympic Games. Note the seven permanent compression pins are not removable! Michael Johnson had a similar RETAIL pair right after 1996.
Where to Buy Spikes
I’ve been a customer of Eastbay since 1988 and never had a problem. Yes, they even ship to Canada.
I will be wearing a modified pair of the brooks F3 this track season. I think they have the best spike plate pattern.
Why do you prefer needles for running in the boards (indoor track)?
In my opinion indoor track is quite stiff, similar to mondo track outdoor.
So what about a christmas tree spike or a pyramid spike there?
I have never used needles before..
Jimson Lee says
I find the needles help penetrate the wooden boards. The newer indoor tracks with thick Mondo can use Christmas Tree spikes… check the length and rulebook! I used Pyramid spikes for flat indoor tracks.
I bought the Puma Women’s Feline Track Spikes Lime Punch my younger sister (11 years old) and We want to know if you can give us an advice for one thing:
Here in France, she do different races where she practice’s the 50 meters and a also the 100 meters.
So we wanted to know what’s the best between put 1/4″ Pyramid (6mm) spikes or put 3/8″ Pyramid (9mm) spikes?
i know i have no right commenting cz i just started training seriously for track and field about a few months back and ive been using NIKE ZOOM MAXCAT. it uses a carbon fibre shank and its pretty good but then as u use it more often it get weaker. it is specifically made for the 200m and 400m. at the moment, i recommend a weaker spike plate for the longer sprint the 400m and recently i tried the NIKE ZOOM POWERCAT and it was sex on my feet so i recommend a stronger spike plate for 60-200m.
what kind of spike is recommended for outdoor 400m?pyramidal , needle or christmas tree?
Jimson Lee says
depends on the track surface.
Being an employee at the oldest running speciality store in America,( Dick Pond Athletics in the Chicago land area), i would not reccomend using a website to order shoes, especially track spikes. To my knowledge, eastbay is an only online store. Simply put, everyone’s foot is different and to save time and money it is much easier to try on shoes in a store before purchasing. Just a tip.
I TOTALLY AGREE WITH YOU!! I was just going to comment the same thing, so I’m so happy you got to it! You need to go somewhere where you can try things on – because not every size 9 will fit the same – and where the associates know about their products – and about the rules in that state – For example, in Illinois christmas tree spikes are not allowed! Eastbay isn’t going to give you that information!
Bryan Roberts says
I know that you are not meant to promote your own gear. But no-one ever mentions track spike covers. Very important, maintain performance and reduce cost in the long-run in terms of replacing spikes. Try these: http://www.sportstechlab.com/ProductDetails.asp?ProductCode=CLSK12TRK001
Jimson Lee says
@Bryan, no worries, I have to admit these are pretty neat, and as an ex-curler (I am from Canada), we used to use something similar like this to slide on the ice!
Do Christmas tree spikes really return any kind of mesurable performance and power return as to a plant foot in the high jump. Also, is there any data that proves so, or is it base more on opinion and individual preference?
My 11 year old daughter has fairly flat feet. What kind of spikes should she wear?
Hey man, you have mentioned running spikes with as little as 6 pins, well mine have only 4 per shoe. Do you feel this would make a difference?
Also, I have been using small, pyramid spikes which I think were only about 4-5mm, and I have some 9mm pyramids which I was thinking of trying. Are these too big? I am a sprinter by the way. Cheers.