I stick my hand straight up and say I wasn't that great at this when I was a teenager! The fun was in using them – not maintaining them.
On more than one occasion my spikes ended up in my metalwork teacher's vice, with him (thankfully) removing my stuck-in spikes. I did learn to look after them eventually, so here are some tips on keeping your spikes in good shape to run with you.
Preventing Problems with Spikes
First thing to learn is how to clean and look after them – then hopefully you won't need the second half of this post.
- Don't put them in the washing machine! I know this is tempting when they are muddy from cross country, but by letting your spikes rattle around in your machine you risk damaging the spike plates or spike housings, along with the usual upper shrinkage and sole separations that can occur after a trip through a wash cycle.
- Definitely don't put them in the tumble drier! The heat involved will certainly damage the spikes.
- Clean them by hand in warm soapy water. It's okay to gently use a brush on them, and a toothbrush is often useful to clean the spike plate. To dry them, stuff newspaper inside and leave them under a radiator or another semi-warm spot. Avoid placing them on top of the radiator or in any direct heat, as again this can distort the shoe.
- After using your spikes on grass tracks or cross country, try to remove the excess mud and grass caught on the spikes straight away before putting them in your bag. This helps keep them a little drier and cleaner, and so decreasing the chances of rusty spikes.
- Remove the spikes regularly – even if you're not changing lengths or the spikes themselves. If you leave them in too long without doing this, you run the risk of letting them get rusted in. So every couple of weeks it's good to loosen them all off and put them back in again.
- Don't let them get too short! Once your spikes become 'stubs' there is often not enough left for a key to get purchase.
- Use Vaseline or WD40 on the spike threads if you notice any of the spikes feel a bit stiff to screw in. Doing this will help keep the threads working smoothly and make changing the spikes easier.
- For cross country, use the right length of spike for the course. If there are firm sections on the course, try and not use too long a spike, as this can cause the spike to 'buckle' into the shoe. Pick the balance between running comfortably on the harder ground, yet still having enough spike length to purchase in the mud.