Sprinting is specialized, and to get the best performance, you must get the best equipment. Also, your gear needs to be suitable for your running surface. Many different schools of thought have weighed in about the best size and shape of spike for each sprint distance. Plus, metal studs can be used in place of spikes. Many tracks are of differing age and quality, so choosing the correct spike for each surface is key. Sprinting shoes should always be used for short-distance sprinting; molded, studded shoes from other sports such as football or soccer will not provide the grip and are much heavier than track spikes.
Short Sprints on Newer Track
For the shorter distances like the 100 meter, 200 meter and 400 meter, speed is paramount. Use sprinter spiked shoes, which are very lightweight and designed for speed. They have five to eight spikes that can be interchanged with studs or other spikes of varying sizes and shapes. Spikes can come in sizes as small as 3 mm, used primarily for indoor events, to 7 mm for outdoor tracks. Rounded studs will not grip nearly as well as spikes on a good surface. For short sprints on surfaces in good condition, 3 mm to 5 mm pyramid-shaped spikes will give you adequate grip and acceleration.
Longer Sprints on Newer Track
Spiked shoes for longer sprints and middle distance are slightly larger and more comfortable than sprinter spiked shoes. The soles are fuller and offer more support, especially in the heel. They also have spikes that are used and changed like sprinter spikes. Pin-shaped spikes are suitable for these distances, but longer spikes can become heavy during longer runs and drag along the track, while too short of a spike might not give the grip needed to accelerate and pass. Some runners substitute some of the spikes for studs for comfort and running style. The length can be adjusted to suit your running style.
Studs and Spikes on Hard Surfaces
Most high schools and colleges run on tracks with modern surfaces, but sometimes you will have to run on an older track or a less-than-ideal surface. Most of the time these surfaces will be harder than the newer tracks, and adjusting your spike size and type is key. A shorter pin spike works better on harder tracks; longer spikes tend to drag and can slow you down. 3-mm pins are a suitable choice to start with. Some sprinters will substitute some of the spikes for studs on harder track surfaces. Always try to warm up and learn the conditions of the track before the race if possible and adjust accordingly.
When to Use Studs or Spikes
Based on preference, spikes and studs can be mixed and matched into different positions in the shoe. Some sprinters like to have spikes near the toe of the shoe with studs or shorter spikes near the ball of the foot to increase traction at the toe and reduce drag while running. Some middle-distance runners will use studs instead of spikes on the outside of their foot for added comfort and more traction in the turns. It is mostly up to the athlete what they choose, but spikes are definitely needed in sprinting to get the most acceleration, speed and overall performance.