Choosing The Best Track And Field Shoes

A guide to selecting the best type of track and field shoes for competitive athletes.

Track and field is one of the most popular sports in the world. At nearly every high school and college, by far the largest sports team, in terms of numbers of participants, is track and field. One of the major reasons for this is the wide variety of skills and abilities which the sport accommodates. However, this diversity of sport also vastly complicates the purchasing of equipment, especially footwear, and the correct footwear is essential to optimal track and field performance.

The first step in choosing the right footwear is identifying the events you plan on competing in. As this is something that most beginning track and field athletes do not necessarily know, it might be best, if you are just starting in the sport, to buy a basic pair of running shoes. These shoes will allow you to do basic conditioning runs and drills, while providing the versatility to compete fairly well in most track and field events. Though sport-specific shoes will always be better, running shoes are a cost-effective way to start out. Once you've settled into a few events, you can then select which shoes are best for you using the remainder of this article as a guide.

Sprinters / Hurdlers:

If you're a sprinter or a hurdler, you know the kind of power you can put out. Sprinting and hurdling shoes help you try to transfer as much of this power as possible into forward momentum. They have stiff front soles, with very little material in the heel at all, as ideal form involves minimal heel contact. As a result, if you run a longer event, like the 400m run or 330m hurdles, you may want to test a middle distance shoe as well before buying. Sprint shoes tend also to have high numbers of spikes. Be sure to check with race officials to see how many spikes are legal to use before competing.

Jumping / Pole Vault / Javelin:

Jumping spikes are similar to sprinting spikes, but generally less aggressively oriented toward the toe, to allow for the last second corrections and hard landings that can be part of the jumping events. Javelin shoes far more closely resemble jumping spikes than any other type of shoe, due to the similar approach involved in javelin and long jump. Javelin shoes generally have higher cuffs, though, for more support when stopping to launch the javelin, and have soles designed for use with heel spikes, for added traction.


Dedicated throwing shoes for discus, shot put, and hammer are different from other track footwear in that they have no spikes. Instead, these shoes have smooth, soft rubber soles for better execution of the spin technique. Some models also have high cuffs for better support and more power.

Middle / Long Distance:

Middle distance shoes are like sprint shoes, but with more cushioning and a more flexible sole for a natural running motion. Though different companies recommend different events for their shoes, all middle distance shoes are generally fine for events 400m to the mile. Longer distance spikes come in far more varieties, from spikeless marathon shoes, to fast-drying steeplechase models, to shoes that look almost identical to your average pair of middle distance spikes. Because you'll be wearing your shoes for a while in events 3,000 meters and up, take any footwear you're interested in for a test run before buying. Keep in mind that rough seam is a minor inconvenience in a 400, but after 10 minutes of racing, it's a raw, oozing blister.

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