History and buying guide, by Tony Dziepak, December 2005, last updated August 2007; thanks to Abe Sheinker for additional information.
Since I have been throwing in various shoes since the 1980s (Remember the Puma Special #2246?), I thought I would put together this article to help throwers select proper shoes.
Aside from javelin shoes,
1) Nike and Adidas are the two companies that have two distinct shoe designs for different combinations of glide shot, spin shot, discus, and hammer/weight. As such, these are somewhat more specialized shoes. The other brands may have two shoe models, but they differ only in the sole texture--either rough or smooth. As such, these shoes are somewhat less specialized.
2) You may see several variations in color and style of the upper in the same shoe. For the most part, the companies are updating their style each year--with little or no change in the technical performance of the shoe. Extreme example: Last year, I bought a pair of Nike Zoom Rotationals off EBay. This was the first color style--manufactured over 10 years ago. I suggest you buy the older model if they still have your size. While it is true that running shoe cushioning degrades over the years, and distance runners should thus get a "fresh shoe," this is NOT the case for throwing shoes.
3) Unlike running shoes, throwing shoes should fit snug. In running shoes, you want a little toe room to allow for foot expansion, but in throwing shoes, you don't want too much extra toe room. However, if the shoes are causing your toes to bend in, the size is too small. As a result, I find that my throwing shoe size matches my casual shoe size--which is 1/2 size less than my running shoe size.
4) A few throwing shoes are available in the running specialty stores and the larger mega sports stores. Look in the track spikes section. Try the shoe or try a pair of spikes in the brand of throwing shoe you are considering purchasing online--to determine your size in that brand.
5) Beginners don't have to wear throwing shoes. (Aside from javelin), throwing shoes probably offer the most advantage for the hammer/weight, then discus, then spin shot, and lastly glide shot. If you don't have throwing shoes, you should wear a shoe with low heel and little or no tread. The low heel makes it easier to stay on the ball of your foot, and the smooth sole allows you to pivot on the ball of your foot more easily. The best shoes are worn out tennis shoes; the worst are running shoes. I recommend you come to track practice wearing your running shoes (to warmup, do conditioning, etc) and then change into your worn tennis shoes for throwing.
6) For hammer and weight throw, the attributes you are concerned with is 1) sole smoothness and 2) sole roundedness. The smoother the sole, the faster the shoe. Shoe preformance is an interaction between the shoe's sole surface and the circle surface. My preference is for the smoothest sole on the smoothest crircle--except possibly for wet conditions. But if your technique is sound and your acceleration gradual, the risk of slipping in the hammer/weight is much less than in spin shot or discus. A sole that is rounded up to the side of the foot at the ball, toes, and heel, allow for a more natural contact with the side edges of the foot with the circle.
7) For discus throw and spin shot, the heel roundedness is not important because the entire throw is from the balls of both feet. In fact, an overly rounded (side-to-side) ball of the foot can affect your lateral balance through the South African position. The best shoe is one with a broad, flat ball. The sole can still curve up the sides as long as there is a wide flat base.
7b) Also, discus and spin shot require a cretain amount of lateral friction in the drive from the back of the circle. For this reason, the smoothest sole on the smoothest circles in wet conditions means you may have to meter your drive out of the back so you don't slip. A secondary place in which you might slip is the front block foot. A shoe with some texture on the sole or one made with tackier rubber might help, but then you may encounter some resistance when pivoting.
8) For glide shot only, lateral balance at the heel is important for the back pushoff foot. You need to set up your glide on balance. If you are wobliing left and right as you seat, aside from being a distraction to concentration, this will throw off the direction of your glide momentum. So the ideal shoe is one with a wide, flat heel. However, this does not mean a tall heel--especially one that extends back from the heel. these designs may impede the rock back to the heel on pushoff.
8b) Another important feature of a glide shot shoe is that the shoe should not be excessively curved from toe to heel. This makes it easier to place the toe against the back of the circle rim. Try that with a hammer specialty shoe and you are likely to foul on the top of the rim.
9) New: if you are throwing spin shot or discus from an extremely rough circle that limits your turning from the back of the circle or your pivot in the middle of the circle, a faster shoe, such as the Nike Zoom Rotational, might be of benefit to advanced throwers with good control.
10) New: Some say that sole flexibility is important for hammer shoes, but I think this preference came from the fact that shoes with little or no sole thickness tend to also have more felxibility. While I think the minimal heel padding is important to maximize the tactile connection between the foot and the ground, I think flexibility is of secondary importance. In the extreme, some hammer throwers were throwing in ballet shoes in the 1960s. I guess a good shoe would be to take a ballet shoe and paint the bottom and sides with that vinyl hand tool handle dip coating that you can get at Home Depot.
Part II: The companies:
Reebok: making throwing shoes since at least 1996. Current design goes back to at least 2002, Although the upper style and cut has changed somewhat. Since at least 2002, Reebok always has two models with the same design except that the sole comes in two different styles: smooth or textured.
Reebok Spin and Reebok Glide
current: "JW Foster" silver w/ yellow stripes
??: "JW Foster" white w/ orange stripes
former: "Global" white & blue
former: "Pro" white & blue w/ yellow stripes
former: "Pro" black w/ red stripes
former: "Pro" red w/ yellow stripes
Model first introduced in 1996 ("World Throw" white w/ blue stripes)
The smooth spin is not as fast as the Nike Zoom Rotational, and edges are not as rounded. Consequently it is more of an all-around shoe that can be used for glide shot and spin shot, discus, hammer and weight. The spin is always faster for hammer & weight, but the textured sole might be better for discus and spin shot during wet conditions on a smooth circle. The textured sole would always be preferred for glide shot. I would advise HS-youth throwers to buy the smooth shoe because you are more likely to encounter rough circles, but the textured sole would not be bad either. I also like the Spin as an indoor shoe for spin shot on a plywood or synthetic surface.
Nike has been making throwing shoes for a long time--they have been making the "Glide" model since at least the early 1980s. These shoes had really sharp sole edges and were nice for shot-disc, but not good for hammer/weight. They introduced a "Spin" model to complement the Glide in the late 1980s. The early Spin models had a more rounded heel and sole sides, but the rubber in the sole was still soft.
The Zoom Rotational was introduced in the early 1990s--the first shoes with the hard, fast carbon rubber sole.
Nike Zoom SD
black w/ white swoosh
red & white w/ black swoosh
Good all-around shoe, ideal for spin shot and discus, can also be used for glide shot and hammer/weight. Textured sole--not the fastest shoe. The shape of the sole is flatter than the Zoom Rotational model.
Nike Zoom Rotational
2008: Black and white
2007: Red & white with black sole and white swoosh
2006: light silver & black w/ red swoosh
former: black & red w/ light silver swoosh
Model first introduced in early 90s with white & purple w/ salmon swoosh
Fastest hammer/weight shoe. Most rounded heel and sides of outsole. Also can throw spin shot and discus. Heel too rounded for glide shot. Not recommended as your first pair of throwing shoes. Pricey. Older models to be found on E-Bay. Can be slippery in wet conditions on a fast circle--problematic driving out of the back in discus and spin shot. Some hammer throwers say not flexible enough due to hard plastic plate inside of the outsole.
Adidas has been making throwing shoes for a long time--since at least the early 1980s. They are pricey, but older models can be found at a discount. Like Nike, they carry two distinct shoe styles--different shaped soles.
Adistar Shot Put
current: light silver & black w/ orange-yellow inner liner
former: blue w/ silver stripes
former: black & white w/ blue stripes & red pinstripes (1st yr current design)
This is a glide shot-put oriented shoe with a grippier sole, wider heel for lateral balance with the push-back foot, and lower toe to prevent rim fouls at the pushback foot. This shoe also has rubber around the sides of the toe and ball--useful for cushioning when striking the toeboard. The glide shot is the event in which a throwing shoe provides the least improvement over worn-tread tennis shoes, so I would not spend retail price on the current model, but you might pick up a discounted older model. You could also throw discus in these--perhaps as your backup footwear for slick circles in downpour conditions.
Adistar Shot Put (older design)
white w/ green stripes
Older design, heel less stable than current model, less side toe rubber than current model. Good for glide shot, also good for rotational shot and discus. OK for hammer/weight. Actually better for hammer/weight than current shot model because the older version of the Adistar Shot Put was less differentiated from the Adistar Discus/Hammer.
current: black & orange with white stripes *I think this may be a new design*
former: blue w/ silver stripes
former: black & white w/ blue stripes & red pinstripes
This is a good shoe for discus, hammer, and rotational shot put. The heel and toe are a bit rounded for glide shot--this will give you less lateral balance with your pushoff foot a the start of the glide, and the distraction of worrying about touching the top of the ring with your toe. The sole textured for grip, but not the fastest shoe for hammer. The Adidas hammer and discus shoes in the past (the ones I have tried) have been very flexible, with a minimal amount of materials in the sole that would contribute to stiffness. Recommended for discus.
Adistar Discus/Hammer (older design)
white w/ green stripes
Red w/ black stripes
Older model, does not have the sole extensions around the back of the heel or the side of the foot as in the current design.
Mizuno makes throwing shoes, but haven't tried them. Koji Murofushi is sponsored by Mizuno, and wears Mizuno shoes. They appear to be more flexible--perhaps similar to Adidas.
New Balance ROT 1000F
New Balance GLD 750F
Navy & Red
New Balance just recently reintroduced throwing shoes (They made them in the 1960s). At the time, Nike Rotationals and Nike SD Glides were $100 and $75, respectively, which gave the names for the New Balance models. However, these two models are identical in shape except for the sole texture--the ROT is smooth and the GLD is textured. The smooth ones would be faster for hammer and weight, although the sole edges are not as rounded as Nike Rotationals. Textured sole would be good for glide shot. New Balance has a history of supplying alternative-width (narrow and wide) foot sizes in running shoes, and extra large sizes. ROT is good all-around shoe for glide or spin shot, discus, and beginner hammer/weight. Some have commented that, like the Nike Zoom Rotational, this is a very stiff shoe.
VS Athletics has their own house brand of throwing shoe "TH" at a good price. This is made by the same plant that makes the Reebok shoes--same sole as the Reebok Spin (smooth).
Asics Cyber Throw
current: mostly white with beige and black stripes
former: blue w/ silver stripes
A few years ago, Asics has added throwing shoes--haven't tried them. Has unique concentric circle pivoting tread on the ball of the foot--might be nice for discus and spin shot.
Asics Hyper Throw
lt gray & white w/ blue stripes
This is either an earlier or a cheaper model the Cyber Throw. Also has the concentric circle pivot tread on the ball of the foot. Looks like a beginner/all-around shoe.
Best in category
Best glide shot shoe: Adistar Shot Put.
Best hammer/weight shoe: Nike Zoom Rotational.
Best Discus and spin shot Shoe, dry conditions: Reebok Spin or VSAthletics TH
Best Discus and spin shot shoe, wet conditions: Adistar Discus/Hammer
Best beginner or all-around shot-disc-hammer shoe: Reebok Spin or VS Athletics TH
I do not have as extensive knowledge on specific brands and models of javelin shoes, but I can tell you these basics:
1) Most athletic shoe companites that make track spikes also make a shoe specifically for javelin.
2) Javelin shoes (or boots) sometimes come in low-cut, high-cut (covering the ankle), and mid-cut uppers. I can't advise you as to whether you need the ankle support of mid-cut or a high-cut shoe.
3) Javelin is the only throwing event that is (sometimes) thrown on the (rubberized) track surface. It is also commonly thrown on a grass surface--even when the track is rubberized. But it can also be thrown on an old cinder track surface, dirt, or hard asphalt, but almost never on concrete.
4) Javelin throw and high jump are the 2 events that use spikes in the heel--as well as the toe and ball--of the foot.
5) The length of the spikes depend on the surface. You use the tiny track spikes on a rubberized track runway, and you use longer spikes on a grass, cinder, or dirt runway. On most javelin shoes, the spikes are interchangeable.
6) You cannot wear spikes on hard asphalt--in fact, you cannot even wear your shoes without spikes because you might slip on the hard plastic soles. Therefore, you will have to wear a shoe with a rubber tread--perhaps tennis shoes.
7) Alternatives to javelin shoes: Grass surface: golf shoes. Grass, dirt, or cinder surface: football, soccer, or baseball/softball cleats.
8) There is a heel spike add-on product that allows you to convert most track spikes to a shoe with heel spikes for javelin throwing (or high jumping). This consists of a hard plastic heel covering with spikes--worn outside the shoe, and secured with velcro straps. This is an economical solution for multievent athletes.
9) Beginner javelin throwers can just wear running shoes on any surface--although more tread is preferable on grass, and be careful throwing on wet grass--your foot might slip forward upon hitting a hard plant.
Where to buy:
Eastbay.com, choose sport: Track & field XC, then choose throwing shoes.
Firsttothefinish.com, choose footwear, then choose throws.
vsathletics.com, choose footwear/spokes, then choose throwing shoes.
ebay.com has used shoes and unused older models--especially from Ebay stores such as Shoebacca.
Other stores in my market links page.