Track spikes are worn by runners to maximize their grip during competition and training. The spikes, usually made of metal, screw into the sole of the shoe and the length and configuration of the spikes depends on the running surface and event. Track shoes are very light and have thin soles and low heels to maximize your running performance. Although track spikes are an essential part of most runner's equipment, they can also be the cause of injury.
Achilles Tendon Injuries
Regular running shoes have a raised heel, whereas track spikes have a much lower or even nonexistent heel. Changing from running in regular workout shoes to track spikes can cause Achilles tendon problems. Your Achilles tendon, sometimes called the calcaneal tendon, connects your calf muscles to your heel bone. A slow onset of pain that increases with exertion is likely to be tendonitis, whereas a sudden pain may be a partial or complete Achilles' tendon rupture. Achilles' tendon injuries are slow to heel and, in the case of ruptures, can even require surgery. Avoid Achilles tendon injuries by gradually increasing the duration and intensity of your workouts when you first use track spikes and warming up thoroughly before maximal exertion.
Track spikes are much less cushioned than regular running shoes. This keeps the weight of the shoe as low as possible and also enhances your feel for the ground. The lack of cushioning can cause a number of foot injuries including bruised feet, plantar fasciitis --- inflammation of the sheath that surrounds the muscles of the foot --- and heel spur growth. Minimize your risk of foot injury by only wearing your track spikes for competition and the most essential training sessions. You can customize your track spikes by using padded shoe inserts and/or heel pads that will protect your feet but will add a small amount of weight to your shoes.
The knee joint is a hinge joint that flexes and extends. The knee joint is also capable of a small amount of rotation when bent. Excessive rotation places a potentially injurious stress on the knee ligaments, specifically the anterior and posterior cruciate ligaments. Because track spikes increase traction, rapid changes in direction can result in twisting of the knee. Ligament injuries are very slow to heel and severe injury may require reconstructive surgery. To avoid knee ligament injuries, change direction gradually and not at top speed.
The spikes in track shoes are very sharp and can cause superficial injury to you or anyone you accidentally come into physical contact with. This type of injury is more common in middle- and long-distance events where runners bunch close together and jockey for tactical position. Running shoe spikes may be dirty so if you suffer a laceration, either in training or during competition, make sure you cleanse and disinfect the wound thoroughly to minimize your risk of infection.