Understanding Running Shoes and Spikes

There are different categories of running shoes or racing spikes. Categories of running shoes make a difference so hopefully this little summary will help when you enter the store and see a wall full of racing spikes. Try to resist the temptation of merely choosing running shoes that look the coolest and get into something that will provide a good racing experience.

There are spikes made specifically for sprints and others for mid distance and cross country. Cross country spikes usually support the foot better so the risk for injury is less. Long distance spikes have a little more substance under the entire foot bed. What the photos can’t fully show is the stiffness of the soles.  The softest shoes are racing flats, then the LD (long distance), the MD (mid-distance), and the stiffest soles are the sprinting spike shown at the bottom of the post. Sprinting spikes are stiff so the foot can quickly react and they tend to keep a runner on the ball of their feet. They could be very uncomfortable for longer races however and blisters could surely result.
For mid and long distance runners (800m-5k) you don’t always need to wear spikes on the track. The only time spikes should be worn for sure is if the track or field is wet. There is a shoe called a “running flat” and is essentially the same weight as a spike shoe without the spikes. Some runners find them more comfortable so it’s good to know that you can wear either one and not suffer on performance. The racing shoes below are popular and top rated by other runners.

Mizuno Unisex Wave Universe 4 Running Shoe

  • Racing Flat (no spikes)
  • Sole is flexible
  • There is some thickness to the sole for cushion, but not as thick as a training shoe
  • Distances of 2-mile and above, including cross country courses
  •  Mid-distance spikes
  • Sole is stiffer than long distance spikes but is still semi flexible. This allows mid-distance runners some rigidity in the middle of the foot for quicker toe off.
  • Sole has some thickness for overall foot protection
  • Distances of 800 meters – 2 mile

Saucony Men’s Endorphin LD4 Track Shoe

  • Long-distance spikes
  • Sole is flexible but with some rigidity under the mid-foot for support of the spike plate
  • There is some thickness in the sole for protection for overall protection
  • Distances of 2 mile and above, including cross country courses

Nike Monsterfly Unisex Track Sprint Spikes

  • Sprinting spikes
  • Sole is very stiff and rigid for the quickest toe-off as possible
  • There is no cushion in the sole for foot protection
  • Distances of 100 – 400 meters

You would never want to run distance races in sprinting spikes. You can see they look similar enough that purchasing the wrong type of spike can be an easy mistake.

By shopping at a specialty running shoe store you’ll increase the odds of getting into the right racing shoe, or you can simply click on the links we’ve provided for you in the article.

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