Best Track and Cross Country Spikes

Buyers Guide | Fleet Feet

By The Fleet Feet Editors Updated on
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If you want to top the podium and hit your personal best on the track, cross-country course or in your field event, then finding the right pair of track or XC shoes will help you crush your next meet.

The best track and cross country spikes do two things really well:

  1. Feel lightweight and quick on your feet for the distance or event you are competing in
  2. Are secure and grippy enough to handle top speeds, twists and turns.

Many of today's best spikes and racing flats include cutting-edge technology like rigid plates, lightweight cushioning and advanced lacing systems, so you can focus on performing.

Whether you’re sprinting, jumping, throwing, or running middle to long-distance races, we’ve got you covered to help you find the best shoes and spikes for any event. When the gun’s about to go off, lace up one of these speedy spikes to light up the track or course.

[This article is part of the Fleet Feet Buyer's Guide for The Best Running Shoes 2022. Find all the best running shoes from the top brands for all situations.]

What You Need To Know About Spikes

Austin Track Spike Screw

Understanding how spikes can improve your performance will help you pick the best pair for your race. The quantity of spikes in the shoe’s spike plate, length of spike and overall fit are the most important factors to consider before your next meet.

How many spikes do you need?

A good rule of thumb: the longer the distance, the fewer spikes in the spike plate. Cross country and long distance track spikes typically have four or five spikes, while sprinting and mid-distance spikes can range from six to eight spikes, which gives you the extra traction needed to push top speeds.

What spike length do you need?

Track and cross country shoes have spikes that can be screwed in and out of the bottom plate. Depending on the surface you race on, you’ll want to choose the appropriate spike length so you don’t find yourself carrying extra turf with you on the cross country course, or sliding around an indoor track.

Quarter (¼) inch spikes are generally safe for most track and cross country races. If you are racing on an indoor track, there can be regulations on the length of spike you are allowed to wear in order to keep the track intact as it’s used; on average, one-eighth (⅛) inch spikes are the standard for indoor track.

As you gain experience and fine tune the feel you prefer in your spikes, you can toy around with a variety of spike shapes from pyramid to needle spikes on the track, but always be sure to check the meet rules before changing out your spikes.

How should track spikes fit?

Fit is important when it comes to spikes. They often will not fit or feel the same as your trainers. For instance, you may want slightly less space between your longest toe and the front of your spike compared to the thumb’s width you would generally shoot for in a running shoe. This will give you a more secure fit and better control during toe-off. If you’re not sure which track or cross country spikes to buy, visit your local Fleet Feet and meet with an expert Outfitter to help you find the perfect fit.

Cross Country Race Shoes

Looking to prepare for cross country season? When you’re battling for position during your next meet, you want a cross country spike with grip, security and speed.

Cross country shoes are different from the running shoes that you train in outside of competition. Cross Country racing shoes are lightweight and built with low-profile foam cushioning for better control and responsiveness. They also have a glove-like fit around your midfoot and heel for extra support without weighing you down.

Whether you choose a spikeless XC shoe with finer lugging or a spiked shoe, cross country race shoes will give you better grip in slippery conditions and help you generate speed across the course.

Conquer steep climbs, rolling hills and tight trails with these best cross country spikes:

  • Brooks Draft XC Spike
  • Saucony Kilkenny XC9
  • NB XC5K v6
  • NB XC Seven v4
  • Brooks Draft XC Spikeless

Long Distance Track Spikes

For events ranging distances from 1500m to 5K, the best long distance track spikes have a low spike count (4-6) with just enough cushioning in the midsole and heel to keep your legs fresh enough for your final kick.

Tip for beginners: Many of the best cross country shoes transition well into long distance race shoes come track season. Do not use track spikes for XC, however.

To let your foot move naturally as you run, long distance track spikes are often more flexible and do not use a firm, plastic plate on the outsole compared to sprinting spikes. Instead, designers will use carbon-fiber or PEBAX plates in the midsole of premium long-distance track spikes for extra speediness.

Here are our picks for the best long distance track spikes:

  • NB LD5K v7
  • Saucony Endorphin 3
  • NB LD5000 v6
  • Nike Rival D 10
  • HOKA ONE ONE Rocket LD

Mid-Distance Track Spikes

Looking to compete in multiple events on the track or hone your skills in events like the 400m or 800m? A middle distance spike could be your race shoe.

The best mid-distance spikes have the perfect combination of lightweight cushion and rigidity for snappy transitions and fast speeds. They’re super versatile for athletes who need an all-around track spike and typically have a few more spikes underneath compared to long-distance models.

If you’re looking to shave some seconds off your PR for track season this year, check out our top picks for the best mid-distance spikes:

  • NB MD500 v6
  • Saucony Vendetta v3
  • HOKA ONE ONE Rocket MD
  • NB MD800 v7
  • Saucony Ballista MD
  • Nike Zoom D

Sprinting Track Spikes

When you have to go all out, the best sprinting spikes will give you the push you need to finish strong.

Ultra-light, aggressive and super fast, track spikes for sprinting are designed with a rigid spike plate to keep your weight on the ball of your foot and promote snappy transitions. Ready to explode off the blocks, they can use anywhere from six to eight spikes so you can dig into your starting position.

The best spikes for sprinting use little to no padding on the heel and focus much of their technology on the forefoot and spike plate. While some experienced mid-distance runners may elect for the faster feel of a sprinter’s spike, these race shoes are designed for events under 400m, where every second and every stride counts.

Built for top-end speed, here are our top picks for the best sprinting spikes:

  • Saucony Spitfire 5
  • NB Vazee Verge
  • Nike Zoom Rival M 9
  • NB SD100 v3
  • Saucony Showdown 5
  • Nike Zoom Ja Fly 3

Field Spikes

For field events like the high jump, long jump, pole vault and shot put, the best spikes help support your foot and ankle while you grip, twist and turn to generate the most power.

To accomplish this, field spikes are built to be lightweight with enough rigidity to push you faster and higher. They often have a higher spike count and can take needle spikes, which are longer than traditional spikes to help stabilize you as you jump and run.

Throwing shoes for events like shot put or discus are typically spikeless to allow for a free rotation while giving you enough grip to generate momentum to throw your farthest.

Whether you pole vault, jump or throw, these spikes give you the grip and traction you need to perform your best on meet day.

Here are our picks for the best jumping and throwing spikes:

  • Saucony Unleash SD 2 (throwing)
  • Saucony Uplift HJ 2
  • Nike High Jump Elite
  • Saucony Lavar Jav 2
  • Nike Zoom Long Jump 4

Standing Behind Our Picks

We picked the best running shoes based on what we think will work for the most people in the most situations. If you buy a pair of running shoes from us and you don’t like the way they look, fit or perform, bring them back within 60 days for a full refund.

Plus, we offer free shipping on all orders over $99 on fleetfeet.com, and we’ll match a lower price from a qualifying retailer. That’s our Happy Fit Guarantee.