What Are Running Spikes and Why Do I Need Them?

For everybody who is serious about their training, running spikes will undoubtedly be a great investment, alongside other necessities such as road running shoes, moisture wicking vests and shirts, running watch and water bottle. A great deal of time and care is usually taken by most people when they go to buy some running shoes. Of course, often it is the style or the brand name that is important, especially if they are more into the image than the actual sport – there’s no shame in that, as long as they actually do some exercise and feel and look good as a result.

For the serious athletes though, buying even “normal” running shoes can mean a trip to a specialist shop; then trying on several pairs and getting filmed running on a treadmill. What you are looking for with this type of gait analysis is whether you are flat-footed (called overpronation) or have high arches (supination). In both of these cases, special running shoes are available to compensate. Naturally, there are normal running shoes for people who neither overpronate or supinate.

It is worth remembering that a majority of people buy these types of shoes for long distance jogging, and normally for jogging around the local area or parks on concrete paving. So comfort and padding are paramount. If you are more interested in track racing – or indeed any type of racing – your times are very important too. Spiked running shoes can give you a serious advantage because of the extra grip they provide at each footfall. You of course want some protection from injury and some comfort, and this is why several types of shoes are available from sprint running spikes (short distances) to cross country running spikes (longer distances).

So you are probably wondering what makes running shoes with spikes any different to normal sneakers. The obvious difference is that the former have a hard plastic plate on the sole which extends from the toes to the middle of the foot. They have threads which allow you to screw in the spikes, of which there are various shapes and lengths. It is the spikes which grip the ground as you run, and because you do not need to worry about your grounded foot slipping backwards as you push off it, you can generate far greater forward momentum. This is a major advantage over normal running shoes, where often you cannot really be 100% confident that your foot will not slip slightly, especially if you race in wet conditions – this means you might be tempted to hold back, and your times will suffer as a result. Spiked running shoes tend to be lighter in weight than other shoes, and some even have zipper fasteners rather than laces. These features are all about squeezing out that extra speed in sprint racing.

It pays massive dividends to actually spend a substantial portion of your training time using your running spikes, as they have a completely different feel to them than ordinary jogging sneakers. And if you are somebody who drags their feet across the floor, the spikes will stop that, so be careful first time out, or you are likely to end up flat on your face!


Neil (nickname Ironman) is an avid runner and sports fan, who writes about all things triathlon-related, especially running and cycling. He also writes about sports injuries and regaining fitness – mainly from personal experience rather than academic knowledge – although he does study that too!

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