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What Are the Different Types of Track Shoes?

A runner wearing track shoes.
Sprinters use specialized running shoes.
Sprinting shoes typically have spikes that grip the ground for better traction.
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  • Written By: Rachael Cullins
  • Edited By: Susan Barwick
  • Last Modified Date: 29 September 2014
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    Conjecture Corporation
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There are various types of track shoes available to athletes, and selecting the right shoe is one of the most important considerations in choosing track apparel. The kind of shoe needed for optimum performance generally depends on the event in which one is participating. Specialty shoes are available for sprinters and distance runners as well as participants in other field events. Spiked shoes are common for track athletes.

Various lengths and shapes of spikes for track shoes are available with high toe spikes and little or no heel spikes for elite sprinters. Using toe spikes allows sprinters to grip the track and get an explosive push-off with each step. There is often no heel strike in a sprinter’s gait, negating the need for spikes on the heels of sprint shoes. Beginning sprinters should use smaller spikes until they are used to this type of track shoe.

Non-sprinters can also use spikes, but shoes for distance runners often have smaller spikes that are spread over the entire bottom of the shoe. Spikes help a distance runner grip the track, but running longer distances usually requires a gait with some kind of heel strike, making toe-only spikes an ill fit. For much longer distances, some runners prefer track shoes with no spikes in order to get the extra cushioning that a non-spiked, road-racing shoe provides. Compared to traditional running shoes, track shoes designed for all types of running are lighter weight.

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There are track shoes available for non-runners, too. Long-jump or triple-jump participants often wear lightweight shoes with spikes only on the toe. This allows the jumper to get a well-gripped, strong push-off when leaping. Pole vaulters wear a similar kind of shoe in order to achieve good traction when running with the pole and a strong lift-off.

Athletes who participate in the shot put or discus throw events wear completely different shoes than runners. Spikes are not important in these events, as the athletes do not require any sort of push-off. Foot and ankle stability, however, is key for these events, so shoes designed for throwing often include a support strap across the top of the foot and a firm area around the ankle. An athlete who participates in multiple track and field events might own several different pairs of shoes and change footwear as appropriate for specific events.

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