Spikes. You love them, you hate them. Regardless of the scars, scratches, and cuts received, no carpeted log even comes close to the traction and control provided by spikes. The chosen footwear for competition, spikes have been around since the beginning of the lumberjack. They originated from the boots that the river drivers (or river pigs) wore during the spring river drives. They were commonly referred to as caulks, or caulked boots. The boots the commonly used had a very hard wooden or leather bottom, filled with crude looking spikes that were not nearly as sharp as their predecessor’s. Over the years of competition, the boots were lost to shoes, typically soccer shoes. But because of technology (or a lack thereof) they retained the thick wooden bottoms due to their durability while rolling. Hard leather and wood were difficult to use, as they were inflexible, and needed to be soaked in water before they could be used.
J.R. Salzman’s Spikes worn in the 2000 and 2001 competition season. Click to enlarge.
Fortunately, todays rollers have the benefit of advanced footwear and technology. Todays professional rollers still use soccer shoes, but with a “factory” bottom that has been machined down to their liking, and filled with spikes. The brand of shoes varies from Nike, Reebok, to Adidias. Most rollers have been found to use Nike. Having used all major brands of soccer shoes, and been the creator of more than a dozen professional logroller’s spikes, I have found Adidas to be my favorite brand because of it’s hard plastic bottom. However, I have found that any are sufficient as long as they are not leather, and do not have a soft rubber sole. Harder plastic bottoms tends to be much like the early wooden bottomed spikes, in that they are durable and resist the “pulling through” of spikes (unlike Nike’s soft rubber bottoms). One benefit I found of the plastic bottoms is how thin they can be ground. Not only does it provide for a very light shoe when ground thin, but a very flexible shoe that conforms to the foot well. I haven’t noticed any major drawbacks to grinding the soles thin. Logrolling spikes typically have a life of 2-3 competition years any ways, so I do not worry about the life span of my spikes, nor should you.
An inside view of log rolling spikes. Click to enlarge.
The spikes that are inserted in the bottoms of the shoes are composed of two parts: the spike, and the t-nut (backing nut).
They come from a couple different places around the country. One place is Baileys, a source of lumberjack equipment for the everyday lumberjack, as well as the weekend competitor. They feature everything from axes to saws to boots. Another source of spikes, and my personal favorite, is White’s Boots. Their spikes, unlike many I have encountered, have a needle sharp point (vs. a flat tip) that provides for superior gripping power. Although, they actually need to be slightly dulled at first to prevent sticking in the log (walking on gravel or concrete seems to do the trick). There are a few other sources around the country, but the previous two I have mentioned are the most widely used and are readily available.
Most rollers, unless they have an unlimited supply of logs to spike up log rolling, use dock shoes to train in. The dock shoes that most use are called Shore Mates, Dock Mates, or any other type of cheap shoe with a soft rubber bottom. They are lace-less, usually white, and are available at most discount stores, such as Pamida, Walmart, and K-Mart. They have a white, v-grooved bottom that is made of a soft rubber that wears off quite easily while rolling. There are some that look exactly like these that have a different bottom. The bottoms on those are made of a harder, more durable bottom but tend to be rather slippery. Your choices for shoes are almost limitless though. Just because I specify to use Shore Mates doesn’t mean that you have to use them exclusively. Many rollers have found other shoes that seem to fit their purpose well for them. Experiment with different shoes to find a pair with the proper traction, durability, size, etc. Don’t be afraid to look at a variety of different places either. Many of the experienced rollers have found that you never know where you’ll find a good pair of log rolling shoes. Tina Salzman, 9 time Women’s Log Rolling World Champion, and J.R. Salzman, 8 time world champion found a brand they like so much they have them flown in from Australia purely for the purpose of log rolling practice. You don’t exactly have to go to this extreme, but if you find something that works, buy them up!! These shoes are often here today, gone tomorrow. An experienced roller can easily burn through a pair in 3 weeks of rolling, so it’s nice to have a reserve. Don’t worry about price either, since cheap log rolling shoes are typically around 6-9 dollars a pair. These shoes are not used for boom running. Only spikes are used to insure safety and the proper grip.