Some runners choose not to wear socks with their spikes.
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Even when running on the same track surface, sprinters and long-distance runners have different needs -- one requires instant speed, whereas the other seeks more long-term endurance. These differences mean that they need different shoes. When these shoes have pins on the bottom, they're called spikes, and both sprint and distance track events have spikes specifically designed for competitors' needs.
Why Use Spikes?
Spikes aren't required equipment at track meets, but the shoes serve multiple purposes for participants. Designed to be lightweight, these shoes help reduce fatigue and can increase a runner's speed compared with what he might achieve wearing heavier training shoes. The pins attached to the bottom of the spikes grab the track to increase traction, keeping racers more stable while helping them dig in for more speed.
On the Scale
Although all spikes are similar, small differences separate them. Sprinting spikes are the lightest, offering hardly any cushioning material. These shoes trade comfort for speed. Any cushioning resides in the front half of the shoe, leaving the heel without it. This works for sprinters, who tend to run on the balls of their feet. It doesn't work for long-distance runners, however, who land on their heels with a more traditional running stride. Their spikes are a bit heavier to allow for extra cushioning, which also adds comfort when running long distances.
By the Numbers
When you look at the bottom of racing spikes, you can instantly recognize the difference between those designed for sprinting and those for long distances. Sprinting spikes have several pins, sometimes up to 11, clustered under the front half of the shoe for instant traction. Long-distance spikes use fewer pins, typically three to seven, that are scattered around the entire sole for long-term stability AMD traction.
Sprinting spikes have rigid soles that help increase speed while sprinters are on their toes. Long-distance spikes use more flexible soles, enabling more natural foot movement and providing more comfort than the sprinting versions. The shape of long-distance spikes also tends to be flatter. Some long-distance runners group pins along the shoe edges to dig in around turns. For example, when racing around left-hand turns, they group pins along the outside edge of their right shoes and the inside edge of their left shoes. Positioning the spikes to face the wide edge of the turn helps runners push inward toward the shallow side of the turn so that they don't drift outward. Sprinters often have no or few turns on their routes, so they spread the pins more evenly across the soles under the toes.
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