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Owning a pair of spikes (not cleats!) is a simple process. But you have to treat them a bit different than a pair of trainers or running shoes.
So here are my top 7 tips for your Track spikes (not cleats!):
- Don’t leave them in your spike bag
- Dip the spike pins in 10W30 oil before inserting
- Carry extra pairs with different spike lengths and types
- Carry a pair of pliers
- 200m specialists pin placements
- Differences in spike plates
- 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
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
Omni-Lite 7mm Xmas Tree Spikes
Asics 6mm Compression-Tiered Spike
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, 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.