Own the Track in the Best Sprinting Shoes (2024)

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Own the Track in the Best Sprinting Shoes (1)

These racing shoes will inspire you to kick it up a notch.

By Adam Schram and Jeff Dengate

No matter your pace during a race or workout, it’s fun to feel fast. Whether you’re doing short intervals on the track or racing up to 10 kilometers on the roads, you can find some extra motivation in a snappy sprinting shoe that unleashes your top gear.

This used to mean lacing up the lightest pair you could find, since the fastest options typically offered just a stiff sole with tread or spikes to grip the track. But serious innovation in recent years has radically changed what speed shoes look like—even road-racing models with thicker midsoles and tall stack heights are well-suited for your speedwork sessions.

The Best Sprinting Shoes

What to Consider

Should I Get Spikes or Racing Flats?

For serious racing and training on the track, you’re best served by a pair of track spikes—extremely lightweight, stiff-soled shoes that envelop your feet and have spikes (a.k.a., pins) underneath the forefoot. Track spikes have minimal structure in the heel, while spikes for middle and long distance have fewer pins at the forefoot and thicker midsoles for comfort. There’s no faster footwear for track running—but you can’t wear them anywhere else but the track.

Racing flats, which are lightweight shoes meant to maximize your effort, are more versatile than track spikes—you can wear them to run and race both on the track and on the road. Unless you’re a pro, even lightweight running shoes will work just fine on the oval, though they’re not quite as fast around the turns as track spikes. Your legs (especially your calves) also don’t get beat up as badly in road shoes compared to spikes.

Own the Track in the Best Sprinting Shoes (2)

We hit our local track on a rainy afternoon to see how these spikes performed at fast speeds in wet conditions.

How We Selected

Between our staff and a 250-strong wear-test team, we’ve laced up almost all of the spikes and road racers we recommend below. We hit our local tracks to see how they performed in both wet and dry conditions during demanding speed sessions including ladder workouts, wind sprints, and 400-meter repeats. On the pavement, we evaluated the racing flats on this list for their fit, cushioning, and comfort during longer tempo runs and in real race situations.

For those we couldn’t get on our feet or in the lab, we researched best-selling sprinting shoes and selected our picks based on cushioning, spike layout, and any standout technologies we recognized from other shoes we’ve tested.

TRACK SPIKES

Best for All-Out Speed

Under Armour Sprint Pro 3 Sprinting Shoe

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Best for All-Out Speed

Under Armour Sprint Pro 3 Sprinting Shoe

Pros
  • Own the Track in the Best Sprinting Shoes (4)Incredible traction and stiffness
  • Own the Track in the Best Sprinting Shoes (5)Breezy upper
Cons
  • Own the Track in the Best Sprinting Shoes (6)Pretty uncomfortable off the track

Key Specs

Weight6.3 oz.
Target DistanceSprints

When you’re trying for a standout performance in a race that lasts less than a minute, you want a spike that never falters. Every errant strike or low-traction toe-off can sneakily tack on milliseconds that could put you just a whisker behind where you need to be. According to our testing, the superior responsiveness and traction in these spikes from Under Armour won’t leave you second-guessing your times.

With eight solid pins, an aggressively forward-leaning geometry, and an upper that molds to your foot, you’ll be locked into your perfect stride for every precious second of your competitive sprints. The one compromise this sprinting shoe makes is in its comfort-enhancing features, which effectively don’t exist. This is one seriously stiff shoe, and it won’t feel good if you put it on right before you’re in the blocks. However, if you’re looking to knock every possible decimal point off your most blistering race paces, comfort isn’t necessarily most important.

Best Beginner Spike

Nike Rival Sprint Sprinting Shoe

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Best Beginner Spike

Nike Rival Sprint Sprinting Shoe

Pros
  • Own the Track in the Best Sprinting Shoes (8)Reduced weight from previous version
  • Own the Track in the Best Sprinting Shoes (9)Extra comfortable for beginners
Cons
  • Own the Track in the Best Sprinting Shoes (10)Only 4 pins

Key Specs

Weight7.1 oz.
Target Distance400m to 5k

Newcomers to the track might want a sprinting platform that’s more forgiving and budget-friendly. After all, track spike geometry is a fairly dramatic departure from any other running shoe silhouette, especially modern road shoes with a chunky heel.

This entry from Nike doesn’t have a full plate like many of its higher-end siblings, resulting in a sole that’ll flex more naturally under your foot. Even better, it’s still durable enough to last a full season, and its weight is still manageable at high cadences. Just know that this shoe runs a bit small, so notching up a half-size will likely feel more comfortable.

Best Foot Security

New Balance Sigma Harmony Sprinting Shoe

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Best Foot Security

New Balance Sigma Harmony Sprinting Shoe

Pros
  • Own the Track in the Best Sprinting Shoes (12)Interchangeable pins
  • Own the Track in the Best Sprinting Shoes (13)Boa system provides the perfect fit every time
Cons
  • Own the Track in the Best Sprinting Shoes (14)Dial system is heavier than laces

Key Specs

Weight6.2 oz. (Unisex)
Target DistanceSprints

At a glance, these spikes look like they’ll clip into a set of road bike pedals—you can thank the Boa dial lacing system for the unorthodox look. Unlike traditional shoelaces, a Boa system ratchets the upper together in tiny, tiny increments, which means you can quickly and consistently fit your shoes as tight as you need, one-handed, without worrying about squeezing too hard and starting all over.

That lockdown pays dividends when combined with the shoe’s eight interchangeable pins that offer superb traction on varying terrain.

ROAD SHOES

Fastest Road Racing Shoe

Nike Nike Women's Vaporfly 3 Road Racing Shoes in White, Size: 10 | DV4130-102

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Fastest Road Racing Shoe

Nike Nike Women's Vaporfly 3 Road Racing Shoes in White, Size: 10 | DV4130-102

Pros
  • Own the Track in the Best Sprinting Shoes (16)Unmatched energy return
  • Own the Track in the Best Sprinting Shoes (17)Lightweight despite plenty of cushion
Cons
  • Own the Track in the Best Sprinting Shoes (18)Upper isn't particularly comfy

Key Specs

Weight7.0 oz. (M), 5.8 oz. (W)
Target DistanceMile to Marathon

When you make the world’s fastest shoe, you don’t mess it up. And, good news: Nike didn’t. In fact, the changes to this third version of the Vaporfly, while expansive, do little to change the shoe’s overall silhouette and feel—the biggest change longtime Vaporfly fans will notice is a boost in stability, especially on corners.

You still get exceptionally lightweight, soft, and springy ZoomX foam underfoot and a rigid, carbon-fiber plate to help you bound down the road at high speeds with less effort. This shoe’s optimized to help elite marathoners who run at a sub-5 minute mile pace consistently, but it translates well to shorter distances for those of us with a little less octane.

Buy Men’s Buy Women’s

Best for the Mile and 5k

Nike Streakfly Sprinting Shoe

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Best for the Mile and 5k

Nike Streakfly Sprinting Shoe

Now 30% Off

Pros
  • Own the Track in the Best Sprinting Shoes (20)Extremely lightweight
  • Own the Track in the Best Sprinting Shoes (21)Everything you need for race day, and nothing you don't
Cons
  • Own the Track in the Best Sprinting Shoes (22)Heel strikers might prefer firmer foam

Key Specs

Weight6 oz. (Unisex)
Target DistanceMile to 5k

While the Vaporfly is versatile on the roads all the way up to a marathon, some runners want even less shoe for short road races like the 5k and 10k. Enter the Streakfly. It’s Nike’s lightest racing shoe, harkening back to the time when we all believed a shoe had to be lighter to get faster. But unlike the old, thin racing flats, the Streakfly uses ZoomX, the brand’s springy foam compound.

There’s no carbon-fiber plate here; instead, the shoe uses a short Pebax plate under the midfoot only, designed to stabilize your foot as you roll through your stride. Based on our testing, where one runner used this shoe on tempo runs and even a 20-miler, we find it best suited for speedy runners with an already efficient stride who land on their midfoot or forefoot. If you’re a heel-striker, you’ll feel the foam bottom out—there’s a noticeable thunk as the foam compresses as far as it’ll go and your foot runs out of room to travel.

Best for Training and Racing

New Balance FuelCell SuperComp Elite v3 Sprinting Shoe

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Best for Training and Racing

New Balance FuelCell SuperComp Elite v3 Sprinting Shoe

Pros
  • Own the Track in the Best Sprinting Shoes (24)So. Much. Foam.
  • Own the Track in the Best Sprinting Shoes (25)Aggressive rocker sole keeps you rolling through every strike
Cons
  • Own the Track in the Best Sprinting Shoes (26)Lofty geometry can feel precarious at first

Key Specs

Weight8.1 oz. (M), 6.4 oz. (W)
Target DistanceMile to Marathon

Building atop the common skeleton of most other carbon-plated racing shoes, New Balance’s sprinting shoe stands out as an option that doesn’t skimp on the midsole foam.

That extra thickness not only improves cushioning, but it gives New Balance more space under the hood to beef up the engine. This update manages to maintain plenty of its predecessor’s stiffness, but it now has enough squish that your feet and ankles won’t feel raw after a few intense intervals.

That extra stack does make the shoe feel a little more precarious in turns, as you can feel the heel squirming, but that shouldn’t matter in an all-out, straightforward effort.

Buy Men’s Buy Women’s

Best Value Speed Shoe

ASICS MAGIC SPEED 3

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Best Value Speed Shoe

ASICS MAGIC SPEED 3

Pros
  • Own the Track in the Best Sprinting Shoes (28)Carbon plates under $200? Sign us up!
  • Own the Track in the Best Sprinting Shoes (29)Responsive traditional design
Cons
  • Own the Track in the Best Sprinting Shoes (30)Toebox can feel small

Key Specs

Weight7.8 oz. (M), 6.6 oz. (W)
Target DistanceAny

The Magic Speed was designed with some trickle-down features from shoes like the MetaRacer, and it has more budget-friendly components from shoes like the NovaBlast, making it a viable race day option with a price tag that falls well below what you’d normally expect from a carbon-plated shoe.

It’s more traditionally styled—it has a lower stack height than most other super shoes—and it’s made to feel less like a lofty lump o’ foam and more like an amped up version of an old-fashioned, minimalist racing flat.

Buy Men’s Buy Women’s

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Adam Schram

Adam Schram is an Assistant Editor of Commerce at Runner's World, though you might see his byline on Bicycling and Popular Mechanics, too. A lover of all things outdoors, Adam's writing career comes after six years as a bike mechanic in his hometown of State College, PA. His journalism experience is steeped in cycling and running gear reviews, and he's also a published creative nonfiction and satire author. When he's not writing, riding, or running, you can catch Adam at home mixing co*cktails, watching Star Wars, or trying in vain to do the Sunday crossword. You can check out his latest work below.

Own the Track in the Best Sprinting Shoes (32)

Jeff Dengate

Runner-in-Chief

Jeff is Runner-in-Chief for Runner's World, guiding the brand's shoes and gear coverage. A true shoe dog, he's spent more than a decade testing and reviewing shoes. In 2017, he ran in 285 different pairs of shoes, including a streak of 257 days wearing a different model.

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Own the Track in the Best Sprinting Shoes (33)

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Own the Track in the Best Sprinting Shoes (2024)

FAQs

What are the best track cleats for sprinters? ›

Nike Air Zoom MaxFly showed unmatched speed and comfort among all the sprint spikes we brought on track, making it our top lightweight choice for races. It has all the advanced technology to enhance speed while ensuring a light, steady, and comfortable ride.

Do shoes matter in sprinting? ›

The biggest advantage of choosing the right type of shoes for running is they offer support and protection to help prevent injuries you might otherwise sustain while running – like ankle strains and sprains, ligaments and tendon injuries, and foot fractures.

What type of shoe makes you run faster? ›

The plate works as a sort of shock absorber, which rebounds as you run so that you can push off the ground harder and with less effort—which explains why a recent study found that 100 percent of runners who raced in carbon-plated shoes said their kicks helped with their performance.

Can you sprint faster without shoes? ›

However, as mentioned earlier, since nearly all elite runners race in shoes and not barefoot, the increased metabolic efficiency of barefoot running doesn't seem to equate to faster racing speeds for elite runners.

How do track sprinters get faster? ›

Building power throughout your body means focusing on jumping and landing exercises, also known as plyometrics. The ability to perform both broad jumps and vertical jumps is the best predictor of top speed. Most athletes who jump well can also run fast.

What cleats did Usain Bolt wear? ›

Bolt competed in Puma track spikes throughout his career, while Bromell does so in New Balance track spikes.

How to run a sprint? ›

That said, Amie Dworecki, USATF and RRCA Level I- and II-certified run coach, outlines the basics to help you nail your optimum form. Run tall with your head, neck and shoulders in line with your hips. Move your arms front to back; don't let them cross your torso. Keep your elbows bent 90 degrees.

How to get faster at running? ›

5 Different Methods to Improve Speed When Running
  1. Interval training.
  2. Add sprints into your long runs.
  3. Choose lightweight running shoes and gear.
  4. Skipping rope workouts.
  5. Build your strength.

What are the fastest running shoes? ›

Because we believe that there's no one shoe for all runners, we have selected top picks from different categories.
  • Best lightweight. Hoka Mach 6.
  • Best overall. Saucony Endorphin Speed 4.
  • Best cushioning. ASICS Novablast 4.
  • Best low drop. Saucony Kinvara 14.
  • Best for track workouts. Nike ZoomX Streakfly.
  • Best stability. ...
  • Best budget.
Jul 31, 2023

What is the lightest track spike for sprinters? ›

At sub 4 ounces, the Saucony Terminal VT came in as the lightest track spike we tested.

Should sprint shoes be tight? ›

Your toes should be close to the front of the shoe but still have room to move around. The shoe should hold your heel in without movement and have a solid hold through the midfoot. There should be a small amount of space in the toebox, but with a snugger fit than standard running shoes.

Are lighter shoes better for sprinting? ›

For the researchers, to see a tangible performance difference in a distance as 'short' as 3,000m was quite a surprise and they rightly highlighted the possible implications of their findings - that an elite marathon runner wearing shoes just 100 grams lighter than normal could potentially run roughly a minute faster.

What are sprinting shoes called? ›

Track and Field event shoes, more often called Track Spikes, are highly-specialized competition footwear that provide a unique advantage to the athlete. In this guide we'll break down the best track and field shoe options for 2024, by event group.

Are flat shoes good for sprinting? ›

Enhance your speed – Flat shoes work exceptionally well for runners looking to improve their speed. Between the lightweight nature of the shoe and the desired alignment it can provide, flats could help you break your long-held records.

What kind of shoes does Usain Bolt wear? ›

Amazon Live - Puma Ignite XT Running - Usain Bolt.

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