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Undeniably, the most significant part of the track and field sport is the running event. In fact, when track-and-field is mentioned, the image that first comes to mind of many people is one from a running event, such as a sprint or a hurdle. Because running events are distinguished from the other games in a track-and-field meet, it only makes sense that there are track running shoes available in the market that are specially designed for the event.
Different types of running events in track and field
To further understand why and how track and field running shoes are utilized, this section will talk about the various games or contests that fall under the running event of the track and field sport.
Also called short-distance runs and dashes, sprints are the most basic running event in track and field. The sprint is also the oldest type of running competition, as recorded by the Ancient Olympic Games. Sprints at the professional level involve athletes in complete gear, including track and field running shoes, and starting in a crouching position in the starting area that is marked by blocks.
Sprints are classified into distances of 60-m, 100-m, 200-m, and 400-m. The first two shorter distances are races that focus on the athlete’s speed, while the latter two categories of distances include the element of endurance. When training for a sprint, athletes do various running workouts that target acceleration, endurance, speed development, and high-intensity strength workouts. During these preparations, athletes wear conventional training or running shoes and save the actual track and field running shoe for the race day.
The running events that span 800 meters to 1500 meters are classified as middle-distance runs. Unlike sprints that rely only on speed, middle-distance runs also require an athlete’s endurance, pacing, and tactical skills. Runners who participate in this event category would need track and field running shoes that are durable and flexible to help them get through the race with no problems.
Middle-distance runs start out in staggered lanes and do not require the athletes to stay in one lane. Track and field running shoes that are specially designed for this event should be able to handle the erratic changes that occur during the race in order to keep up with the runner.
Long-distance runs are relatively the most physically challenging among all the events in the running category of track and field. Also called endurance running, the long-distance event is a continuous run and requires not only stamina but also mental strength. Despite the strenuous nature of the long-distance race, there are medical journals that have proven its positive effects on the body, particularly to the bones and the hormones.
A unique event like the long-distance run requires an equally unique track and field running shoe. Shoe manufacturers produce these shoes with particular construction that contributes to strengthening the foot muscles as it runs. Therefore, track and field running shoes that are comfortable and standard styles are favored over running spikes that have special features.
By casual definition, hurdles are races that are taken up a notch by incorporating the use of obstacles that athletes need to jump over. These obstacles are weighted and have precisely measured heights and distances, in which knocking over or going under the hurdles will result in disqualification.
The standard—and shortest—hurdle race distance is 100 meters for women and 110 meters for men, while those that are participated in by both men and women is at 400 meters. Because it is different from ordinary running, hurdles need track-and-field running shoes that allow the athlete to execute a powerful force for a maintained speed while jumping over the barriers. These track running spikes should also minimize the risk of slips and falls, especially as the athlete reaches the top speed.
The relay race, as the name implies, is a competition that is participated in by a team that takes turns in completing parts of the racecourse. Relay races come in many forms, such as swimming, skiing, or orienteering, but running is the most common one. Standard running relay races have distances of 100 meters each for 4 runners (4 x 100) or 400 meters each for 4 runners (4 x 400). Because the standard length of relay races fall in the same qualification as sprints, track running spikes for short-distance runs can also be utilized by relay race athletes.
Different types of track and field running shoes
Although all the events mentioned above fall in the running category of track and field, they require different kinds of track running shoes. Here are the distinctive features of each type for better differentiation between one another:
Sprints are the most basic event in the track and field sport, and, as such, the track running spike used in this competition is the one most commonly recognized by athletes and spectators alike. Generally, sprint spikes have a stiff spike plate. They also have the most number of wells for the spike pins. Compared to other track and field running shoes, sprint spikes have the highest and most rigid taper, as it aims to maximize the efficiency of energy transfer with each step.
A typical sprint spike has a tighter fit than ordinary athletic shoes, in order to provide runners the optimal power and speed.
Because middle-distance runs fall in between sprints and long-distance runs, the track-and-field running shoe for this event may look like a hybrid of sprint spikes and long-distance track shoes. This means the shoe has an intermediate level of taper and rigidity of the spike plate. The cushioning and support also falls in the middle ground for this track and field running spike.
The most flexible among all track and field running shoes, the long-distance spikes also feature the least taper and accommodate the fewest number of spike pins. Long-distance track spikes also focus on providing support through the midfoot and heel. Therefore, these track and field running spikes have a softer outsole compared to sprint spikes; they also have a snugger fit, although not as tight at sprint shoes.
Track running shoes for cross-country races have many similarities to long-distance track spikes, save for a few minor contrasts. These differences include a more durable outsole and a more cushioned midsole, which are done so to accommodate the wide range of terrain encountered by the athletes.
Although usually classified under the long-distance run, the steeplechase event sometimes merits its own track and field running shoe, depending on the brand you are looking into. Nike track and field shoes often release models that are particularly meant for steeplechase. Because this event involves water, steeplechase shoes are made with water-resistant materials, as well as mesh, to maintain the breathability of this track and field running shoe.
Comparison of track and field spikes and traditional running shoes
For track and field athletes, it is a given that they would choose track running spikes over the conventional running shoes. But why is this the case? Here, we briefly describe the differences between the two athletic shoes:
- Structure and weight - It is apparent from first glance that the traditional running shoe looks bulkier—and, thus, heavier than the track and field running spike. This is the result of track shoes using fewer materials and minimal construction to allow the athlete to go faster.
- Details - Track running spikes are carefully built to be thin and flat as it aims to promote speed and endurance. The presence of the spike pins in track running spikes is another noticeable detail that separates it from the conventional running shoe.
Frequently asked questions
How beneficial are track and field running shoes?
Track and field running shoes are highly significant in the sport, most especially in the events of a sprint, distance running, and jumping. The construction of track running shoes provides the athlete with a powerful toe-off that evolves into rapid acceleration; it also enables optimum traction. In addition, the lightweight structure of track and field running spikes allow quick and efficient movements, factors that are critical in races.
How do I choose a suitable pair of track and field running shoes?
Naturally, the biggest aspect you should keep in mind when buying a pair of track and field running shoes is the event you would be using them in. As discussed in the sections above, each running event has a track running spike that is specially designed for it. However, in addition to this, other factors that you could consider:
- Spike pin type - This factor is dependent on the surface you would be running on. Each track and field running shoe has a set of spike pins, which could come in different types. For example, track running shoes with pyramid spikes are good for rubber, dirt, and grass surfaces; while needle spikes work best on soft, wet grounds.
- Fit - It is always preferable to try first the track running shoe before purchasing it to ensure it fits accurately. To achieve a precise fit, a track and field running shoe should not cramp the toes despite its snug structure. It should also provide support and cushioning on the appropriate areas.
15 best running track & Field shoes
- Nike Zoom D
- Adidas Adizero Prime SP
- Nike Zoom Rival D 10
- Saucony Endorphin 2
- Nike Zoom Victory 3
- Nike Zoom Victory Elite 2
- Nike Zoom Rival S 9
- Nike Zoom JA Fly 3
- Adidas Adizero Avanti
- Adidas Adizero Finesse
- Nike Zoom Rival M 9
- New Balance Vazee Sigma
- Adidas Distancestar
- Nike Zoom 400
- Adidas Adizero Ambition 4
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