Whether you’re new to track and field or you want to take your performance to the next level, a pair of running spikes can make a huge difference to your performance. By providing extra traction and grip, you’ll be able to reach a faster speed with more foot control. However, finding the right pair of spikes can be part of the challenge. 

Our guide is designed to help you understand the different types of spikes available to help you make the right choice for your chosen discipline. We’ll be running you through the different shapes and sizes of spike pins, as well as the shoe options that are available for short, medium, and long-distance running. If you’re interested in buying a pair of running spikes, keep reading to learn more about these shoes and ensure you are able to make an informed choice.

What is the difference between running shoes and running spikes?

Typically, when it comes to running, regular running shoes are better used for training whereas spikes are designed for competition races on the track. However, some athletes will use spikes when intensively training on the track as they offer more control of the foot and improve grip which can positively impact performance. 

You will visually be able to tell the difference between running shoes and running spikes, as spikes visibly feature towards the front of the shoe. They also have a thinner sole and less cushioning of the heel to provide a lighter feel for competitions and track training sessions, both of these features can be seen in the Adidas Adizero examples below.

Why use running spikes?

Running spikes are light and provide extra traction and grip on uneven surfaces, which is why they’re used in track events. This extra grip at the front of the shoe allows you to transfer more force forward and generate more momentum when you push off. They also give you more foot control, ultimately helping to improve your speed. However, it should be noted that not all track and field events require running spikes, nor are they exclusive to runners. For example, javelin and long jump athletes may also benefit from the extra grip of field spikes.

What are the different types of running spikes?

When it comes to choosing a pair of running spikes, there are many different options available. Which option you’ll need depends on your chosen event, distance, and personal preference. To help you decide, we’ve listed some of the different types along with examples below. 

Sprint spikes

Sprint spikes are best for running short distances of 100m to 400m and hurdle events. Since these distances are typically run at maximal effort, sprint spikes offer almost no cushioning at the heel as sprinters are trained to maintain minimal heel-to-ground contact, and lack of cushioning also helps to provide the lightest possible weight. The spike plate boasts a rigid curved design to keep the athlete’s feet in the correct position for improved power output.

Additionally, many new running spikes also feature a lightweight super foam in the forefoot that works alongside the stiffness of the plate to provide a trampoline effect.

The Adidas Adizero Prime SP 2 shoes feature this new technology and are an excellent choice for sprinters.

Shop Adizero Prime SP 2 Running Spikes

Middle-distance running spikes

Suitable for 800-1500m distances, middle-distance spikes offer a lightweight feel. They are slightly more flexible than sprinting spikes because the spike plate is not as far forward which allows a more moderate speed to be maintained, and they also have more heel cushioning for support over longer distances.

The Brooks Hyperion Elite LD spikes are classed as a super spike like the Adizero Prime SP2, and feature an ultralight carbon fibre propulsion plate with responsive full-length cushioning to help you power forward, whilst allowing you to conserve energy for your final lap sprint.. These spikes have also been used by the world 1500m champion Josh Kerr, which is a testament to their performance.

Shop Brooks Hyperion Elite LD Running Spikes

Long-distance running spikes

Long-distance running spikes are used for distances between 1500-10,000m. Since they are designed to handle more force over longer distances, they are a more cushioned option than sprint or middle-distance spikes.

The Puma evoSpeed Nitro Elite Running Spikes are a good example of long-distance spikes, as they feature a flexible and supportive design that can handle bouts of force at a more moderate pace. They also maximise propulsion by utilising a carbon plate and light responsive full-length cushioning.

Shop Puma evoSpeed Long Distance Running Spikes
Adidas Adizero Xcs Ie9962

Cross country running spikes

Cross country spikes are better equipped to deal with grassy, muddy and uneven terrain, as they feature longer spikes and more cushioning to provide better support to the ankle. They have more cushioning than the other options, and they will be able to withstand repeated force across long distances whilst keeping your feet comfortable.

The Adizero XCS Cross Country Running Spikes feature a foam midsole that helps to create softer landings in each stride, as well as a lightweight and breathable upper body that provides stability to your feet and ankles.

Shop Adizero XCS Cross Country Running Spikes

What are the different running spike shapes?

There are plenty of options when it comes to spike shapes, with the pyramid shape being the most common. To help you understand what the different shapes are used for, we’ve provided a brief summary of some popular spike shapes.

  • Pyramid spikes - These are a versatile shape that can be used across disciplines and also work well on grass, rubber, and gravel tracks
  • Needle spikes - This shape sinks deeper into the ground as they have a sharper point than pyramids which makes them more suitable for lighter runners
  • Christmas tree spikes - This shape compresses the ground rather than punctures it, they feature a flat tip and a layered design which provides more contact with the ground.

How should running spikes fit?

Running spikes should be a more snug and narrow fit than regular running shoes, and this snug fit should be maintained regardless of whether you wear socks or not. It is recommended that you wear socks with running spikes to reduce the chance of friction-induced blisters. Additionally, your toes should be close to the front of the shoe, but they shouldn’t be squashed and there should still be a little room for movement. We would recommend sticking to your regular shoe size at first, but if this doesn’t feel a tight enough fit for maximum performance output, try a half size down from your regular fit.

How do I choose running spikes?

Aside from the style of the shoe and the distance it is made for, you might want to consider additional factors to ensure that you have the best experience when running. By thinking carefully about what you need your running spikes to achieve, you’ll have a better idea of what you need to look for when buying. The following three points are key criteria that you should take into account when purchasing running spikes.


The surface of where you’ll be training should be a very important factor that you consider when you are choosing running spikes. If you are going to be running somewhere that is very muddy and uneven, you will likely need running spikes that are between 12-15mm. However, spikes that are over 6mm are usually prohibited on track events, so if you’ll be competing professionally you’ll need to check the regulations of your chosen sport.


All spike shapes and lengths are designed for different things, what may work well for one type of sport may not work as well for another. Before buying your spikes, you should always think about what you need them to do and how they should perform. For example, pyramid spikes are the most common spike shape and can be used across events, but hurdlers may see more benefit from using ‘Christmas tree’ shaped spikes as they provide more grip in every direction for when your footstrike isn’t the same each time. You can always change out your spikes at a later date if you find that one shape isn’t working for you.


There are rules when it comes to competitions on the length and shape of spike you can use, but there aren’t any when it comes to training. Ultimately, you should choose running spikes that provide you with ample support and comfort during your training sessions. If you’re new to running, you might find that the more cushioned options are better for you until you’ve perfected your technique. Alternatively, if you plan to run long distances over dry roads and tracks, you may not need cross country spikes as long-distance may feel more comfortable for you.

Sole Thickness

The rules set out by World Athletics will need to be followed so that you can compete in your event. Certain sole thicknesses are allowed which are defined by event type, this is a new ruling that many athletes are not yet fully familiar with. The official guidelines can be seen below.

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Track Events (Inc. Hurdle and Steeplechase)

Maximum thickness of the sole: 20mm spike shoe or non-spike shoe

Further requirements: For relays, the rule applies to the distance of the leg being run by each athlete. For Track Race Walking Events, the maximum thickness of the sole is the same as that for Road

Field Events 

Maximum thickness of the
20mm spike shoe or non-spike shoe

Further requirements: For all Jumping Events, the sole at the centre of the athlete’s forefoot must not be higher than the sole at centre of the athlete’s heel referred to at Regulations 10.3 and 10.4 (i.e. at centre point of the shoe at 12% and 75% of the shoes internal length)

Road Events

Maximum thickness of the

Further requirements: N/A


Maximum thickness of the
20mm spike shoes or 40mm non-spike shoes

Further requirements: Athletes may wear spikes or non-spike shoes (i.e. road shoes). If wearing spike shoes the maximum thickness of the sole must not exceed 20mm. If wearing non-spike shoes the
maximum thickness of the
sole must not exceed 40mm.

Mountain and Trail Races

Maximum thickness of the

Further requirements: N/A

Find your ideal pair of running spikes with Start Fitness

To help you achieve your best, we stock an impressive range of men’s, women’s, and junior running spikes for all distances. Browse through an array of renowned brands such as Asics, Adidas, Puma, and Brooks. For more specialist performance-enhancing equipment, explore our range of running accessories and running clothes.