Cross country and track and field racers fear sliding as much as falling. Either accident will add time to their race and could result in an injury. To keep from slipping, they usually wear spikes on the bottom of their racing shoes. This practice is so common that runners call their special, nail-studded racing shoes "spikes." Racing venues formulate and enforce rules about the shape and length of spikes allowed in the competitions they manage.
Running spikes are especially helpful at the beginning of a leg thrust and in slippery racing conditions. Racers often carry spares of several types of legal spikes to fit into the special plates on the soles of their racing flats.
Running in spiked shoes takes practice, so a good proportion of training runs are conducted with spiked shoes on one's feet.
Cross Country vs. Track & Field
A cross-country runner's spikes tend to be longer than a sprinter's, because the surface of a cross-country racing course tends to be softer, or at least more variable, than an artificial track surface.
Some distance runners use particularly knobby-soled shoes for racing. They swear by the efficient conversion of leg thrust to forward motion. These permanent spikes are protrusions permanently molded into shoe soles.
Types of Spikes
Pyramid spikes are most common, pictured near the beginning of this article. In addition, there are needle spikes (which are thinner), blunt-nosed spikes and Christmas tree spikes (which have ridges and help a hurdler launch off the track).