Ask Coach Henry…What Are Spikes For? Do I Need Them?

On the last day of  USATF JO 2008  Championships Lauren ran in the Bantam Girl 100m final and took a 7th place finish. As she took her spikes off so we could get ready to travel to Detroit she handed them to me and to my utter amazement she had only 2, yes 2 good spikes in her shoes. I was shocked. Not only did she have only 2 good spikes she was totally missing 2 to 3 on each shoe.

 We tell her that it is  her responsibility to make sure her equipment and clothing is ready to roll. We usually  do a double check but ,the night before I was packing and that morning just rushing around, going to the airport to change flights and then rush back for the final at 9am…. We Just  missed checking the  spikes.

When Henry saw the lack of spikes he couldn’t believe it. All he could say is “LAUREN   didn’t you feel the difference?” she looked right at him and said, NOPE…

So what are the spikes for exactly? You might ask, I asked Henry .

Ask Coach Henry

What are track spike shoes for?

The actual spikes in the shoe creates a traction between your foot and the track surface. These shoes help you to transfer as much (energy) power as possible into forward momentum.

Track spiked shoes are suppose to keep you in proper fore foot position to help you sprint in the most proper form possible.

Should I train in my track spikes?

Only when  necessary. Common workout and pre-competition routines such as warm-ups should be done with your regular training shoes. In most other instances, you need not wear track spikes. In fact, the more you use a track spike, the more wear and tear it will cause.

Throwers may want to take exception to this rule. When practicing throwing techniques, the thrower may want to consider wearing his/her throwing shoe. Many throwing events, especially the discus and the hammer throws, put great stress on shoes, and may prematurely wear out other types of athletic shoes. In addition, athletic shoes may hinder a throwers form due to its outsole traction configuration. If you’re unsure when to wear a track spike or shoe, consult with your coach.


How should a track spike fit?

Snug, but not tight. As a result, most spikes are manufactured slightly smaller and narrower than running or training shoes. Nevertheless, many male athletes usually select spikes that are a half size larger than their typical athletic shoe. Since, most spikes are available in men’s sizes only, most girls select a track shoe which is a half size smaller than their typical, women’s sized, training shoe.

For those considering a throwing shoe, most models are not constructed as small as track spikes. Nevertheless, most throwers reportedly obtain a shoe which is a half size larger than normal. Note that desired fit is a personal preference which also has to be taken into consideration

Is weight really that important?

To certain degree, yes. However other factors may be more important than weight, so it should not be the sole consideration when selecting a track spike. Generally speaking, the lighter the shoe, the less support, cushioning and durability it will have. In many instances, the specialized and more expensive track spike will weigh slightly more than the less expensive, counterpart model due to the shoe’s unique structural characteristics.


Does a youth athlete really need track spikes. Can’t They just compete in my running  shoes?

Of course a youth athlete can compete without track spikes. However, athletes competing in track spikes should notice some improvement in performance. The degree of improvement will vary though based on many factors such as personal ability, the type of event, weather, and track surface just to name a few.


Should I wear socks with my track spikes?
Yes, as a cautionary suggestion, though many athletes do not. For most track events, wear properly sized and structured socks which utilize thinner textile materials. Tube socks or other types of bulky socks which do not a have a  heel should not be worn.

I run cross country and track. Do I need a separate shoe for each?

 Generally speaking, a cross country spike is suitable for track events 800m or longer. However, not all long distance track spikes make good cross country shoes. Cross Country spikes provide more cushioning, traction, and stability than their track spike counterparts in order to accommodate the diverse range of terrain and distances covered. However, all this extra protection comes at a cost in terms of extra weight which on the average is few ounces. If your first love is cross country, then obtain a cross country spike. If the opposite is true, then purchase a track spike, and be sure that it makes a suitable cross country spike. Of course, like track, one need not wear spikes when competing in cross country.

I need to obtain a new set of replacement spikes. How do I know which will fit into my shoe model?

Fortunately, track spikes utilize a universal thread design. As a result, you should be able to obtain any type or brand of replacement spike.

Do track spikes come with spikes. How do I insert them into the shoe?
Track spikes, except shot & discus shoes, should include one set of spikes and an accompanying spike wrench. Some shoes may arrive with the spikes already inserted. In that case, use the spike wrench to insure tightness. Many spikes come with spikes packaged in an individual container, usually a small bag. Inserting spikes into a shoe is almost the same as inserting household screws, and is very simple process. Pick up the spike at the head, and not by the thread, and place the thread to one of the available receptacles located at the bottom of the shoe. Rotate the screw clockwise into the receptacle by hand until the spike can no longer be rotated by hand. Use the spike wrench to finish the job by aligning it correctly to the base of the spike using normal rotational effort.

Once the spike tightens into place, use one quick extra turn to ensure fastness. Do not over tighten; one quick effort should do it. Some users apply a small amount of household oil or Vaseline onto the threads first before inserting the spikes. This may allow a smoother rotation, and possibly extend shoe life by reducing rust in the receptacles, and will not harm the shoe itself. If you do utilize the oil or Vaseline method, be careful, as it can be messy if you overdo application, and your brand new shoes may inadvertently get grease spots due to greasy hands before the shoe is even used. To remove track spikes, align the wrench to the base of the spike, and turn counter-clockwise until the spike is loose. Use the wrench to finish removing or use your fingers to finish the job, if preferred.

How do I remove broken or stubborn spikes from my track shoes?

This answer derives from  years of personal experience with track spikes that become well worn or broke. There are probably other remedies and solutions, however, the following has always worked – but may require some effort and patience. The track wrench that accompanied the shoe is great for screwing spikes in, but dismal in removing heavily worn spikes.

Your coach may have a “real” spike wrench – one made of solid metal. If he/she does, try using it. Apply it over the spike, GENTLY rotate the wrench counter-clockwise and find a locking point of sort where the wrench meets some resistance. Even if the spike is broken, there should be a small fragment that the wrench can “grab”. At that point press down hard on the wrench while maintaining grip on the spike, then rotate the wrench counter-clockwise until the spike is loose. Once it is loose, use your fingers to remove the spike.

If that does not work or you do not have access to a metal track spike, then spray WD-40 or similar lubricant into the threads of the spike via the seam where the track spike is attached to the shoe, wait a minute or two for the threads to lubricate, hit the spike with the wrench to jar it a bit, then use a needle nose plier to remove it. Try not get the lubricant on the spike itself to maintain friction, and use a good plier that has serrated or grooved teeth. Firmly grasp the pliers onto the spike with as much grip as possible, and rotate counter-clockwise. With perseverance, the above two methods should work.

Coach Henry Wiiliams

Well, there you have it. Learn the lesson on Lauren…Check you kids spikes the night before the race and remind him/her to do the same so maybe you won’t have to . Did the lack of spikes hurt her race? Well perhaps a little,but in the end she didn’t have the speed for a faster finish. She had to provide the speed at AAU  and she did and it all worked out.

Until Next time


  1. Awesome article! I wish I would have had this resource when I was a youngster.

  2. Victor says:

    What advantage can Track shoes with spikes can bring to triathles in training (repetitions on the track)

  3. Coach Dean says:

    Trackmom/Coach Henry – great article! You’re right on!

  4. Rachel C says:

    I was wondering what I should do with my track spikes that I used for only a year. I really like them and It seems like a waste to donate them. Can I take out the spikes and just use them as regular shoes?

    • tib says:

      Yes…you can certainly use them as regular shoes…without spikes…however it is also a GREAT thing, to donate to those less fortunate!

  5. trackmom says:

    Rachel,it is never a waste to donate what you are unable to use, to someone that can have benefit from them ,with that said, you can use them more than one season if your foot has stopped growing. No you can’t use them as a ‘regular shoe with out the spikes…


  6. lovepurple says:

    what are some brands suggestible for track shoes?

    • trackmom says:

      You know it just depends on your budget, taste in shoes.There are many to choose from .Obviously Nike has a lion share of customers but there are some good shoes made by other companies.Just depends on what you like. Good Luck!

    • lucy says:

      Nike is a good brand for spikes but you can also look at puma but it isn’t as good as Nike.

      i hope this helped you!

  7. lucy says:

    if the cross-country track you are running is a race course and doesn’t allow spikes , can you take out the spikes and use the shoe like a waffle?
    And why cant you use them as normal shoes without the spikes?


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