We are now right in the heart of the track season. Many athletes have made their season openers and are working towards fine tuning their performances for up and coming domestic and international championships. To really enhance and prepare for the big kicking, last lap championship racing style, lots more speed work is being done with even some sprint specific sessions.
This faster training and heavy summer race loads calls for a good pair of spikes to get that extra edge and light feeling allowing you to still glide across the track despite feeling like you’re walking on water during the final home stretch. Personally, I love training in spikes as much as I do racing in then. There is always a certain feeling of bounce and zippiness added when running in these pure minimalist, almost barefoot equivalent shoes which instantaneously allows you to subconsciously increase your cadence for what previously felt like a heavy, slow effort.
The idea behind wearing spikes to improve performance has been around for a while now, made famous perhaps by the more advanced pair worn by Sir Roger Bannister during his infamous breaking of the 4 minute mile barrier in 1954.
Now, just over 60 years on, the technological advances have been huge with large brands such as Nike and Adidas busting onto the scene to maximise the profile of running with multiple endorsements to athletes with large sponsorship deals. The highlight of this promotion within the sport was the use of the stand out yellow spikes used by Nike in the 2012 Olympic Games in London. Almost every athlete seen on the track was wearing these newly introduced vibrant coloured shoes, adding to the unforgettable spectacle.
These spikes specifically – on the distance side at least – were the new Nike Zoom Victory 2 spikes. These were the upgrade from Nike’s original Zoom Victory spikes which were introduced all the way back in 2008 for the previous Olympics in Beijing. The key selling point of the new version was the use on Nike’s flywire technology which is designed to hold the place upon impact.
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The original Victory spikes opted for a more compact and predominantly forefoot structure, focusing on a solid front spike plate placed upon a rigid EVA foam sole. This would certainly encourage and allow greater flexibility within forefoot striking. This however, is in stark comparison to the newest version introduced and used by Nike in the London Olympics. These Victory 2 spikes took a more structured approach, using a larger spike plate which would extend into the midfoot section of the shoe, giving much more stability in each stride, encompassing those midfoot runners allowing this spike to be more readily used in longer distance races, not just the pure middle distance races which maybe previously the original Victory spikes had been preferred to.
As previously mentioned, the other noticeable change in the Victory 2 – along with the more apparent use of a heavier mesh material for the main section – was the debut of the flywire in these distance spikes. Personally I believe this is a defining factor which moves these later versions steps ahead of Nike’s previous spikes as well as any other competitions on the market. As I have owned both the originals and the Victory 2’s, I can certainly say that I prefer the stability and structure that the flywire gives you whilst running, cementing your foot upon each stride, unlike the original versions which felt as if there was certainly some lateral movement due to the weaker, less rigid structure used.
Despite this fact, I do prefer the more forefoot design of the original Victory spikes which really allows a full range of motion due to the less restrictive spike plate. My opinion may not be singular though as Mo Farah has always opted for the original spikes over the newer generations.
Others, including those at Nike would certainly see the new spike plate as a advancement on its predecessor. This is definitely seen by the introduction of the Elite spikes which incorporate carbon-fibre support over the more ‘amateur’ plastic plate used on the general spikes. Although I have never worn a pair with the carbon-fibre plate instead, I can only assume that the difference offered would be minimal, giving perhaps a more sturdy and rigid feel.
I must also mention that there are two types of these distance spikes used by Nike. They have the Zoom Victory spikes which I have already taken about – these are said to be suited from 800m to 5000m – but there are also the Zoom Matumbo spikes which are the more distance orientated choice for those running the 10,000m on track. These spikes are very similar in all forms in comparison to the Victory spikes, however they a much more built up arch support in the mid foot from EVA, removing the spike plate from the majority of the shoe, leaving a more minimalist trainer feel, more than a speed specific shoe. The spike plate wouldn’t be neglected completely, with the forefoot once more gaining specific sections of grip along with a four spike system, rather than the six on the Victory.
These spikes made by Nike are certainly a market leader. Each year, attractive new colours have been brought in and with a respectable price tag, they allow everyone to gain their use in all standards of competition. The Zoom Victory 2’s currently are being adopted by most elite level athletes sponsored by Nike and many – including the likes of Farah – opt to use them in events as long as the 10,000m showing how versatile and successful these shoes are in middle and long distance running.