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One of the events in track and field jumping meets, pole vault is rightfully unique on its own. What makes it unusual is its requirement of specialized equipment-- a long flexible pole. It is what’s mainly utilized by the athlete in order to jump over the horizontally laid bar that’s placed at a certain height between two upright standards without dislodging it. 

Strength, speed, agility- these are the main characteristics that can make a jumper stand out in the pole vault competition. However, technical skills are also very important. In order to enhance such attributes from the vaulter, the sport demands an equally aggressive track spike that can supplement unmatched performance on the tracks. 

Modern pole vault

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Best pole vault track and field shoes - May 2020

Today, pole vault is one of the pillars of the jumping events in track and field. It is even dubbed as one of the most technically challenging athletic matches. Modern pole vault began in the year 1850 in Germany when it was established as one of the exercises of Turner gymnastics clubs. In Britain, it became part of the Caledonian Games. 

Pole vault works similarly with high jump; athletes can choose the height they would prefer to enter the competition. The poles used in today’s pole vault tournaments are also made of fiberglass and carbon fiber.  These updated pole versions are much more flexible and durable than the previous ones.

Pole vault techniques

To maximize the usefulness of your pole vault spikes, it is worth learning about some of the various techniques associated with the sport. Mastering these techniques allow athletes to utilize their pole vault spikes to the fullest.

Approach

The process by which an athlete sprints through the track in order to gain momentum. This is the part where the jumper initiates the position for take-off at the end of the approach. Approaches usually involve 18 to 22 strides (each step of each foot is counted as one stride.) 

Plant and take-off

The plant takes place when the vaulter drops the pole tip into the box. The take-off follows when the jumper drives the knee from the dominant leg into the air. As the pole carries the weight of the body, it bends, propelling the athlete up and forward. 

Swing up

As its name suggests, the swing up involves the process of swinging the non-dominant leg while the pole bends. While doing so, the vaulter also needs to row the pole, helping it to bend longer in order to get into the optimum position.

Extension

In general, the extension helps place the jumper in an upside-down position. It is generated by the extension of the hips upward with outstretched legs as the shoulders drive down. At this phase, the pole starts to recoil, bringing the athlete upward. 

Turn

The jumper takes a 180-degree turn over the bar while extending the arms down past the head and shoulders. 

Fly-away

It is considered as the easiest part of the vault. It is the moment that the athlete releases and pushes the pole away from the bar. This is to avoid the removal of the bar which might cause disqualification. After this action, the vaulter will fall into the landing mats. 

Qualities of a pole vault spike

As discussed, pole vault is a highly strenuous track and field event. Physical strength will not work alone. That is why the jumping spike needed in the competition should possess the following attributes: 

  • Great traction. Pole vault is not only centered on jumping; it’s a mixture of both running and jumping. In order to build up the vaulter’s momentum before take-off, he/she has to sprint first. In order to yield maximum propulsion during the run, a track shoe with grippy traction should be worn by the athlete.
  • Lightweight. The last thing that a jumper would want from a jumping shoe is to weigh him/her down. That is why when choosing a pair of track jumping shoes, one should make sure that it consists of featherlight materials. Moreover, a shoe that employs minimal weight also heightens the speed of the vaulter. 
  • Secure. Since pole vault involves a lot of twisting and other movements, a secure-fitting track spike should be utilized. It helps prevent premature removal of the shoe during training and matches.
  • Supportive. A jumping shoe that enables stability is one that possesses highly supportive components. When we say supportive, it means that it keeps the foot in place, promoting a steady pace when performing. 

The anatomy of a pole vault spike

Upper

Usually, the upper construction of a pole vault spike is one that integrates ultra-light, flexible materials. This is to enable foot conformity while maintaining minimal weight. One of the materials commonly used in a jumping shoe’s upper is mesh. Not only does it employ form-fitting properties, but it also increases ventilation within the platform. The same upper component is found in the famous Adidas Adizero LJ.

Some pole vault spikes are furnished with a dual lockdown system. They are equipped with both the classic lacing closure and either a midfoot or forefoot lockdown strap that is made out of a Velcro strap. This helps push the foot down into the midsole for a more snug fit.

Midsole

The midsole composition of almost all pole vault track spikes is usually graced with a full-length, thin midsole foam. This is to help improve the shoe’s cushioning to be able to provide comfort and support. It also is a factor in attenuating shock during impact while keeping a lightweight makeup.

Outsole

Just like any other track shoe, a pole vault shoe should have a grippy and high-strength outsole. To be able to achieve this, most pole vault spikes are equipped with the infamous Pebax® plate. It is known for its rigid yet lightweight qualities that make it a perfect addition to the design of a track jumping shoe. It is observed in the engineering of the Adidas Adizero TJ/PV.

With its stiffness, it increases propulsion that helps further the speed of the vaulter. Moreover, its overall configuration poses for sturdiness that helps the shoe withstand natural wear and tear, as well as, the inherently abrasive track elements. 

Pole vault spikes vs. other track and field spikes

Pole vault spikes vs. running spikes

Pole vault spikes generally have a stiffer underfoot construction than that of running spikes. This is to help in the forward motion of the vaulter. A pole vault track shoe also has a different heel composition compared to the running spike in order to promote slip-resistance and heighten stability.

Pole vault spikes vs. throwing shoes

The main difference between a pole vault spike and a throwing shoe is that the former employs spike pins while the latter does not. The track throwing shoe is also generally heavier than the pole vault spike so that the athlete is kept on the ground when the throw is initiated. 

Frequently asked questions

What kind of spike pins should I attach to my pole vault shoe? 

The type of spike that you should affix to your pole vault jumping shoe is dependent on the track surface that you are going to compete on. To guide you, here are some of the track types and spike pins that are best paired together: 

    • Pyramid spikes. These are best suited for rubber, dirt, or grass surfaces. 
    • Needle spikes. These give optimal traction on all-weather track surfaces. 
    • Christmas Tree spikes.  They are also known as the compression spikes, and they yield maximum grip on rubber and tartan surfaces.
    • Tartan spikes. They are intended for rubber tracks only and look very similar to the needle spikes. 

Is a pole vault shoe heavy? 

A pole vault track shoe is fashioned to be relatively lightweight in order to up the efficiency and momentum build-up of the vaulter. With lightweight engineering, it also helps the athlete conserve energy to be able to last in the competition.