Nowadays, when it comes to virtually any sport, a sneaker is never just a sneaker, and this goes double when it comes to choosing the best shoes for the diverse selection of track and field events. With improvements in design and technology, track and field footwear has become more and more specialized so as to provide optimum performance in each specific event. Things like the presence or absence of spikes, the location of spikes, the inclusion or omission of cushioning, and varying degrees of sole flexibility all combine to create a more or less ideal shoe for each event. Here are a few things to look for in a specific track and field shoe as well as some of the better options available.
When it comes to the ideal sprinting shoe, a lightweight sneaker with a high concentration of spikes at the toe is your best bet. Soles on sprint shoes tend to be more on the rigid side rather than flexible and have virtually no cushioning at the heel. This is because the best sprinting form doesn’t involve much heel contact with the track, if any. Good examples would be the Nike Zoom Superfly 3 or the women’s ASICS Prima Diva Sprint 2. Hurdler shoes are similar, but have some cushioning on the heel and bit more flexibility in the sole, such as the Turbo Phantom 3 from ASICS.
While distance running shoes are still quite lightweight, shoes for middle distance running have slightly more cushioning on the heel, while those for long distance running have even more and are flatter than sprinting spikes. Good examples for mid-distance running include the Nike Rival MD and the Mizuno Geo Silencer. For long-distance running, try The Wire from Brooks.
For throwing events, such as discus, shot put, or hammer, the best shoes will have a completely different set of design features than running shoes. Because forward movement and speed are not an issue, soles of throwing shoes are flat rather than spiked. Throwing shoes should also have a wide, flexible sole for increased stability while spinning. Shoes for hammer and weight throws should have a rounded heel and a smooth sole. Shoes for discus and shotput throwing are better with a little bit of texture or grip on the sole, and because the throw is from the balls of feet, the rounded heel is less important. Good shoes for throwing include the ASICS Cyber Throw London, the Adidas Throwstar AllRound Throwing Shoes, and the Nike Zoom Rotational IV.
Shoes for the triple, high, and long jumps, as well as those for pole vaulting and javelin throwing, are all fairly similar with a few important distinctions. Shoes for the pole vault, long, and triple jump all have spikes towards the toe and have a flexible sole with some cushioning and support for the initial sprint. Some brands combine styles to work for more than one event, such as with Puma’s Complete TFX Jump 2 Pro for pole vault and long or triple jump, while others have a dedicated shoe for each event, such as Nike’s Zoom LJ 4 for long jump, PV II for pole vault, and TJ 2 for triple jump. High jump shoes have spikes at both the heel and the forefoot, such as New Balance’s HJ 1010. Javelin shoes have a similar spike pattern to those for the high jump but are heavier and more like boots for additional support, as in the Adidas adiZero Javelin shoe.