Why Do Runners Use Spikes?

Written by rona aquino
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Why Do Runners Use Spikes?
Runners wear spike shoes to increase efficiency. (Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images)

Spike shoes are used by many athletes including golfers, soccer players and runners. Spikes increase the safety of the sport, although they may not be suitable for all conditions. Before you choose a pair of spike racers for a running competition, make sure they are beneficial, instead of detrimental, to the specific conditions of your running terrain.

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Spikes are small pointy objects that are placed under the sole of running shoes. Typically made of metal or ceramic, the spikes are screwed into the bottom of the shoe in various arrangements. Spikes come in many shapes including pyramid, pin or needle, stud and Christmas tree. Pyramid spikes are the most popular type; they have a wide base and a pointy tip. Pin or needle spikes are similar to pyramid, but this shape has a thinner neck. Stunt spikes have blunt ends, while Christmas tree spikes have ridges swirled around them.


Spikes are used mostly by competitive runners to provide increased traction over racecourse surfaces. Spike shoes are especially useful over soft surfaces like loose dirt and grass. Spike shoes are not used for racecourses on paved ground and packed dirt surfaces. Spikes can vary in length; longer spikes are more suitable for more slippery surfaces like muddy trails. Increased traction aids in increasing speed and efficiency because instead of slipping, the force from your body is put more into the forward motion.


The types of running spikes include track and cross-country. Track spikes are used by sprinters, though distance runners also wear them. Track spikes have removable spikes and are extremely lightweight, with little or no padding on the heel to keep the shoe hard and stiff. Spikes are typically positioned on the toe and ball of the running shoe bottom. Cross-country spikes have longer, removable spikes threaded into the bottom because cross-country trails require more grip. Just like the track spikes, cross-country spikes are also lightweight, and often removable.


Running competitions may have spike shoe regulations. Restrictions may be in place regarding the type and length of spikes allowed on the course, so be sure to consult with your coach or adviser regarding the appropriate footwear. Before you choose a pair of spike running shoes, always inspect the racecourse first so you can properly evaluate which style and type of footwear best fits your needs.

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