In high school, virtually all of the distance runners that I"ve observed used regular running shoes. However, elite level distance runners all seem to use track spikes.

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Have there been any studies that have quantified the benefits of using track spikes versus regular running shoes in longer distance track and field events (I"m thinking 1500+ meter/1+ mile)?

Not sure where you"ve been watching track, but when I was in high school, nearly everyone wore track spikes (and xc spikes for cross country). The advantage isn"t just in the traction, it"s as much in the weight. I haven"t found any serious studies on it, but the rule of thumb seems to be about 1-2 seconds/mile for each ounce of shoe - 10-15+ seconds/mile, 30-45+ seconds off a 5k. Now, is there absolute proof for this? As I said, not that I can find, but take a 5-ounce shoe in one hand and a 15-ounce shoe in the other and lift them both up and down a few thousand times and tell me which hand gets tired first.

The entire purpose of using track spikes is simply to increase the traction you have on the track surface.

Imagine you tried to run on ice with your running shoes. You"re not going to have any traction and you"re not going to get very far. Actually you"ll probably slip. If you were to use track spikes, the spikes would dig into the ice and you would gain significantly more traction.

It is the same principal when running on the track surface. The spikes catch the surface and give you more traction. Thus there is less "slipping" of your shoes on the track surface.

All in all, it is basically used for performance optimization. I"m not sure if there are any studies done on whether or not they actually increase performance, but I personally would suspect they do.

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