Track spike rules

Updated April 17, 2017

As track spikes become one of the most important tools in a runner's arsenal, rules have been put in place to prevent any unfair advantage. Regulations at three levels of competition differ across various dimensions, including number of spikes allowed, and size and shape of the spikes. Some individual tracks prohibit the use of some spikes, while governing bodies outline the rules for the use of spikes across all competitions.

Interscholastic Track Spike Rules

High school level regulations differ across states. States such as Illinois allow spikes up to one-quarter inch in length, according to the Illinois High School Association. Pyramid spikes one-quarter inch or shorter are generally acceptable at all meets, although some states require spikes to be one-eighth inch or shorter. Some states, such as Connecticut, defer to the track owner (usually the town) in the matter of spike length, as stated by the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CIAC). Always check with track officials before you use spikes.

Collegiate Track Spike Rules

Collegiate rules are uniform for all divisions. All spike types are permitted. The number of spikes must not exceed 11, and there is no minimum. When competitions are held on synthetic surfaces, including traditional rubberised tracks, spikes may be no longer than 9mm; though in the javelin throw and high jump, spikes up to 12mm are allowed.

Length is defined in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Cross Country Track and Field 2009 and 2010 rulebook as “the part of the spike that projects from the sole or heel," meaning the part of the spike that is visible from the side of the shoe after the spike has been screwed into the spike plate on the shoe. The maximum diameter of a spike is not to exceed 4mm.

International Track Spike Rules

The International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) has adopted similar rules to the NCAA. According to the IAAF 2010-2011 Competition Rules, all spike types are legal, no more than 11 spikes may be attached to a shoe and the maximum length per spike is again 9mm, with the 12-mm exception for javelin and high jump performers. The IAAF and the NCAA carry the same definition of length. The spike must also fit through a square 4-mm gauge. However, there is no rule for spike length on nonsynthetic surfaces such as cinder.

USA Track and Field rules are identical to the NCAA. On synthetic tracks spikes may be no longer than 9mm (or 12mm for javelin and high jump competitors) and no thicker than 4mm. On nonsynthetic surfaces, 25-mm spikes may be used. All spike types are permitted.

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About the Author

A professional travel writer since April 2010, Doug Leenhouts has written for and He has a Bachelor of Science in management information systems from the Worcester Polytechnic Institute and three years of service in a consulting firm.