Most running shoes are designed to provide cushioning and shock absorption to protect the runner when on concrete or other hard surfaces. Because tracks are typically built with materials that provide these features anyway, a typical running shoe will actually cause a runner to run slower on a track, former Boston Marathon winner Bob Glover writes in “The Runner’s Handbook.” Instead, track-specific shoes called “racing spike” or “track spikes” are a better solution.
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Nike Zoom Victory
Beaverton, Oregon’s Nike has obtained what could be called the Holy Grail for racing spikes with its Zoom Victory, a shoe that weighs less than 100 grams. Considering that the famous “Gold Shoes” worn by Olympic sprinting legend Michael Johnson weighed just 112 grams, Nike’s engineers scored an important victory for the company in coming up with the design. The shoes allow Nike to claim the title of best lightweight racing spike for short- and middle-distance track runners.
In an article for SpeedEndurance.com, Masters athlete and track coach Jimson Lee points out that when famed miler Alan Webb became the first athlete to run a competitive race in the Zoom Victory shoes, he not only won the race, but he shattered the previous American record for the mile (completing it in 3 minutes, 46.91 seconds). It's that kind of performance that gives the Nike Zoom Victory the title of best shoe for running on a track among elite professional track racers.
Nike's Zoom Powercat
For the runner in need of a solid sprinting spike but leery of the zoom Victory's ultralight weight and design, Jimson Lee points to the Nike Zoom Powercat as ideal. At 6.6 ounces, it’s not as light as the Zoom Victory, but the tradeoff is beneficial for the short-distance sprinter.
The Zoom Powercat is a technical sprint spike. It was designed with input from and tested by the world’s fastest 100- to 400-meter sprinters. The shoes provide maximum stability necessary for the sprinter to ensure faster breakover during a stride as well as solid contact between the track surface and the spikes, leading to maximum traction. Traction is critical during sprint distance races, allowing the runner to drive harder out of each stride and ensuring a faster speed. The sprinting community's online magazine Sprintic.com labels the Zoom Powercat as “the most support under the feet in a minimal and light package.”
Asics Japan Lite-ning
Kobe, Japan-based Asics also produces racing spikes. According to Coach Lee’s SpeedEndurance review and ranking of contemporary racing spikes, the "Japan Lite-ning" from Asics is another high-quality lightweight spike. Weighing a mere 4.5 ounces, the Japan Lite-ning is the lightest track spike available from the running shoe company. Lee points out that the “polymeric monodensity spike plate offers a stiff platform for sprinting efficiency,” while the removable spikes allow the runner to replace worn spikes, a task that is far less expensive than replacing the entire shoe (and necessary with most other track spikes).