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Answers to your questions about athletics spikes

We have ANSWERS TO ALL OF YOUR QUESTIONS ABOUT track & field athletics spikes.

Have a question that we haven’t answered below? Please get in touch and we’ll try to help!

How do athletics spikes work?

Spikes increase the amount of traction between a runner’s shoe and the track surface. This added grip allows the runner to exert a greater amount of force into the track than they otherwise could without slipping.

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Do you run faster in spikes?

Yes and there are a few reasons for this. The main reason is the increased traction provided by the spikes. But there are also other factors:

• Spiked shoes tend to be lighter than other shoes;
• In sprints and jumps, the spike plate is designed to assist the foot to be in biomechanically desirable positions, and also can provide better mechanical energy return; and
• The psychological boost that athletes get from wearing spikes.

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How much faster do you run with track spikes?

Empirical studies show an improvement in sprinting ability of 2-3% when wearing spikes.

A 2015 study at the University of Leon in 2015 found a 1.8% improvement for women wearing spikes, compared to wearing runners. 1.2% of the improvement was attributed to the spikes and 0.6% was due to the weight effect of spikes being lighter than runners.

Interestingly, the study analysed biomechanical variables and found that the step rate remained constant with either type of footwear. However, stride length increased due to the spikes’ effect, and the contact time decreased due to a combination of the effect of the spikes and their reduced weight.

The study was replicated in 2018 with male sprinters, where a 2.7% improvement was found. Again, approximately two-thirds of the improvement was from the spikes’ effect, with the remaining third attributed to their lighter weight. In contrast to the women’s study, the researchers found that in the men’s study that both the stride length and stride rate of participants increased when wearing spikes.

The research aligns with a common rule of thumb, that spikes provide an improvement of approximately one second per lap around the track.

However, it is likely that the improvement from spikes is most pronounced in explosive events. While still useful in middle distance events, the relative difference between spikes and racing flats in long distance events is perhaps more marginal.

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When were athletics spikes invented?

Spikes date back to the 1850’s, where they were essentially nails that were driven through the hard soles of heavy leather shoes. They provided extra grip on the cinder tracks of the day.

The further development of spikes is a fascinating story, with pioneering shoe companies, family feuds, non-ratification of world records and IAAF corruption all playing a role. You can read our summary of the history of spikes here.

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Which spikes are BEST for different surfaces?

For synthetic tracks, either 6mm Pyramid Spikes or 7mm Christmas Tree Spikes are suitable for most events. Pyramid Spikes are a useful all-round spike for all events, while Christmas Tree Spikes tend not to be worn by athletes in distance events.

Our comprehensive guide will assist you in picking a spike for your event, but whether an athlete prefers Pyramid Spikes or Christmas Tree Spikes is generally a personal preference.

For grass tracks, the added length of Grass Spikes is useful to get better grip. We stock 12mm Grass Spikes, which is the longest length of spike allowed in Little Athletics. We also have 15mm Grass Spikes, designed to be used by powerful sprinters training and racing on grass tracks.

For cross country races, Pyramid Spikes or Grass Spikes are most suitable. Generally, the harder the surface, the shorter the spike. However, the distance of the race is also relevant, as longer spikes might not suit a tiring athlete towards the end of longer race.

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Are pyramid or needle spikes better to use on synthetic tracks?

Pyramid Spikes are far superior to Needle Spikes. The latter are designed for tartan tracks and can damage the surface significantly. They are generally not allowed to be worn on synthetic tracks in Australia.

Pyramid Spikes are a versatile all-round spike. Athletes may also wish to consider Christmas Tree Spikes for use on synthetic tracks.

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What are ceramic spikes?

These are spikes made from an aluminium-based ceramic by a US manufacturer. They are lighter weight than steel spikes but also not as hard, and thus wear out more quickly.

The difference in weight between ceramic spikes and steel spikes is negligible in absolute terms: approximately 5 grams per shoe on a normal pair of spikes. However, there’s also a psychological boost that athletes may feel from wearing lighter spikes, or spikes that they only use for ‘big competitions.’

In terms of durability, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology claim that steel spikes last up to 20 times longer than ceramic spikes.

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How should I care for my spikes?

Here’s a few tips on how to maximise the lifespan of your spikes:
• Avoid hard surfaces
• Keep them dry
• Remove dirt
• Loosen and tighten the spikes regularly
• Check spikes for damage

Read our detailed guide for more information on how to care for your spikes.

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Can you wear track spikes on concrete?

No! This is the quickest way to damage your spikes. Wearing spikes on hard surfaces such as concrete or bitumen will blunt the spike and potentially bend it, making it more difficult to remove.

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How do I remove spikes that are stuck?

If you take good care of your spikes they shouldn’t get stuck. However, sometimes things go wrong!

We have a couple of tips for hard to remove spikes:
• Remove any clumped dirt from around the spike
• Spray the spikes with a lubricant like WD-40
• Try pliers instead of a spike key
• If all else fails, use a workbench vice to get a strong grip

You can read our tips in more detail here.

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How often should you replace track spikes?

You should always change your spikes if they become blunted, bent or if they rust. Some athletes also like the psychological boost from replacing their spikes prior to a significant competition.

Generally, how often you need to change your spikes will depend on:

• How often you wear your spikes;
• What surface you wear them on; and
• How well you take care of them.

If you take good care of your spikes, you should only need to change them every six to twelve months. This would apply to using them for training and competition on either grass or synthetic tracks.

However, spikes worn in cross country races will need to be changed more frequently. This is particularly the case if there are rough surfaces or loose rocks and stones on the course.

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How do you INSTALL track spikes?

A special tool called a spike key (or spike wrench) is used to screw the spikes into the spike well of shoes. Your shoe manufacturer will usually provide you with a spike key when you purchase your spiked shoes, or you can buy one from us.

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Are track spikes universal in size?

The screw thread element of a spike is a universal size. However, beyond that, the length and design of track spikes vary, with four main designs:

Pyramid
Christmas Tree
• Needle
Jumps

Common spike lengths range from 5mm to 15mm, depending on the track surface and the event they will be used for.

According to World Athletics’ Technical Rules, spikes must also be constructed so that it will, at least for the half of its length closest to the tip, fit through a square sided 4mm gauge.

The majority of spikes can be screwed in using a spike key that accommodates the 4mm gauge rule, having a flat section that the spike key grips. However, there are some obscure spike designs that use a hexagonal spike key instead.

Athletes should beware of low cost spikes not meeting the above specifications (e.g. some merchants on eBay). Our spikes are manufactured with a focus on quality and precision, and made from quenched and tempered steel for strength and durability.

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Where can I buy spikes?

Our motto is spikes for athletes that want more, so you’re at the right place! We stock spikes that cater for all track and field events, with fast and free delivery across Australia.

How long will my spikes take to arrive?

We offer two delivery options:

  • Free delivery: 5-7 business days, via Australia Post (no tracking available)
  • Express upgrade: 1-3 business days, via Express Post (tracking provided)

We dispatch our spikes from Melbourne, on the same day as you order (for orders received by 1pm).

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Do you cater for bulk orders to ASSOCIATIONS, clubs, centres and schools?

Yes. We offer cost effective bulk rates for purchases of 25 bags of spikes or more. Please check out the wholesale section of our website or contact us with your requirements and we will be pleased to assist you.

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