Track and field is made up of a collection of events that appeal to athletes of all kinds. There are tests of speed, stamina, strength and combinations of those things. There are hundreds of varieties of track and field shoes and the selection of the proper shoe can be driven by factors that include cost and the events an athlete participates in. The shoes for certain field events are very different than running shoes, and the shoes that work for a sprinter are probably not ideal for a two-mile runner. There are some general characteristics of shoes that help identify their best fit.
Most track and field shoes are recognisable because of the small, sharp spikes that help runners grip the track. All shoes for the sport, however, are not alike. There are specialised shoes for some sports that do not even have spikes on them because the spikes are not conducive to the event for which the shoes are designed. Shoe companies have developed shoes that fit the needs of all athletes in the sport, whether they run or throw or jump.
The best sprinters do not have a heel to toe weight transfer as they run because that is an inefficient way to generate speed. Athletes who participate in the 100-meter, 200-meter and the 110-meter hurdles especially fall in this category, while the 400-meter runners may need to explore middle distance shoes as an option as well. Sprinter spikes characteristically do not have much material in the heel, but they are made strong in the toe to absorb the contact there. Asics, Nike and Puma all provide a number of options for sprinters, with Puma focusing more on the high-end runners, while Nike and Asica have products that run the full range from economical to very expensive.
Marathon runners compete in what is essentially a road race, so they wear good running shoes that do not have spikes. Because of the pounding on the foot during the longer events, from the 800-meter to the 10,000-meter and the steeplechase, distance runners wear shoes that provide more support throughout the sole to absorb the impact of their events. Nike and adidas both have full lines of distance shoes both for middle distance and long distance runners, while Puma has a good line of middle distance shoes, it is Reebok that fills the needs of many longer distance runners.
Discus, shot put and hammer throwers need shoes without spikes to aid them in getting traction as they generate power through the spin that leads into their throws. Throwing shoes have a smooth rubber sole. Adidas and Nike are the primary manufacturers of throwing shoes, and both offer shoes designed specifically for the different throwing events.
Types of Spikes
For track shoes that do utilise spikes for traction while competing, there are different options depending on the type of track surface on which the competition is being staged. Compression spikes are usually 1/4 inch long and tend to provide a combination of bounce on the track and dig into the surface for traction. Pyramid spikes are also most common in 1/4-inch length and they are most popular among distance runners because they do not dig in as much. Needle spikes are designed for the all-weather tracks that are now very common. They are a bit shorter, but are designed for the best traction. The fourth variety is the tartan spikes that have a dull point on them as they are designed more for an indoor rubber running surface.
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