Track and field athletes need specific shoes for the different track events. For example, sprinting spikes are completely different from the shoes jumpers or distance runners wear. Sprinting spikes are specifically designed to be lightweight and flexible for the speed demands of sprint events.
Sprinting events are considered to be running events of 400 meters or less. These include the 100-, 200- and 400-meter dash for outdoor events. There are some variations in those distances for indoor events. Hurdling events may be considered sprint events as well. Hurdling events include the 100- and 400-meter hurdles, and the 110-meter high hurdles. Most athletes who compete in these events wear a sprinting spike or cleat.
Sprint Spike Design
Sprint spikes are designed to help you to achieve maximum speed; that means they are made as light as possible. Manufacturers usually cut out all of the cushioning in the heel and leave little cushioning elsewhere. RunFresh notes that sprinters are supposed to run more on their toes for speed, so cushioning in the heel is not necessary. Sprint spikes can be made with either a flexible or stiff spike plate or spike attachment. This option is a matter of personal preference; the more flexible the plate, the less support you'll have at the front of the shoe.
Length, Style and Number of Spikes
Sprint shoes can vary in the number of spikes they have -- varying between three and eight spikes -- depending on the size of the spike plate and the manufacturer. Most competitions and officials specify a 6-millimeter spike length, but spike length can vary between 3- and 9-millimeters. Track spikes vary in shape: "pin" or pointed end, "pyramid" or slightly blunted end and "Christmas tree" or tiered. You can choose spikes made from steel, ceramic or titanium alloy.
Some hurdlers choose a spike designed for middle distances because they provide more support in the heel area. Because of the jumping and landing hurdlers do, their feet take more stress and some athletes prefer the extra cushioning. Middle-distance spikes have a smaller spike plate compared to sprint spikes. This means that middle distance shoes have fewer spikes because traction is less of a concern.