What Are The Rules Of Hurdling?


To better understand hurdling events, it is crucial to understand the rules of the race. Hurdling, originating in early 19th-century England, involves a race in which runners jump over multiple spaced-out hurdles until they reach the finish line. Below are the rules that govern hurdling.

Hurdling Basics

The most basic rule of the sport is to jump over or clear all of the hurdles before the finish line. The first person to cross the finish line wins. These basics seem relatively simple, but there are more nuances. For example, men’s and women’s events use different heights and distances. A short hurdle is 110m for men and 100 meters for women, while the distance for a long hurdle is 400m for both men and women. In-depth specifications regarding the rules of hurdling will be discussed in the following sections.

Equipment Rules

hurdling equipment

The most essential pieces of equipment in hurdling are the hurdles themselves. There must be ten hurdles in a lane, and the distance between each hurdle depends on the hurdling event. For the women’s 100-meter race, the first hurdle must be 13 meters after the starting line, each hurdle must be 8.5 meters apart, and the last hurdle must be 10.5 meters from the finish line. The men’s 110-meter race has slightly different measurements, with 13.72m to the first hurdle, a distance of 9.84m between hurdles, and a last hurdle that is 14.02m from the finish line. However, for the 400-meter race in both men’s and women’s races, the first hurdle must be 45 meters after the starting line, each hurdle must be 35 meters apart, and the last hurdle must be 40 meters from the finish line. All of these dimensions are set by the IAAF, which is the International Association of Athletics Federations. Also, when placing the hurdle, the feet of the hurdle must face the racer when they run towards it.

The construction of the hurdle is also crucial. They must be constructed so that a minimum of 3.6 kilograms would overturn the hurdle if someone applied that amount of weight to its center. The hurdle’s height can be adjustable, especially since the heights of different hurdling events vary. For the women’s 110-meter, the hurdle is 106.7 centimeters tall; the men’s 100-meter hurdles are 83.8 centimeters tall; the women’s 400-meter hurdles are 76.2 centimeters tall; and in the men’s 400-meter, the hurdles are 91.4 centimeters tall. The width of the hurdles must be between 1.18 and 1.20 meters.  If any of the above parameters are not met, world records cannot be set with those hurdles.

The second most essential piece of equipment for hurdling is an athlete’s shoes. According to IAAF technical rules, athletes may run barefoot or with shoes on both feet. Most hurdlers wear athletic shoes with spikes, so there are specific rules about the size and number of spikes allowed. A hurdler’s shoe can have up to 11 spikes on a single sole and heel of their shoe, and each spike should not exceed 9mm in length. These shoes must also be considered “reasonably available” by the IAAF for the sake of universal competition in athletics.

Starting blocks are also needed for hurdling. These starting blocks have two adjustable footplates on a sturdy frame. Uniforms are also required; they must be non-transparent and have the same colors on the front and back. They also must have their number or name on the front and back of the uniform.

Starting Rules

Hurdlers start at their starting blocks before the race. There are typically a maximum of eight lanes, with one competitor and one starting block in each lane. The positioning of the starting blocks depends on the length of the race. For the 100-meter or 110-meter hurdles, all starting blocks and competitors are in a horizontal line. For the 400-meter hurdles, the starting blocks and the hurdlers are staggered for the start of the race. This rule was implemented to keep the race fair since the curves in the track for longer races cause the outside lanes to be slightly longer.

At the starting blocks, competitors must wait to hear specific instructions from the announcements. “On your marks” is the first announcement, which lets the competitors know that the race is about to start. Shortly after this announcement, “set” is said by the announcer. This signals the hurdlers to touch both of their hands and one knee to the ground. Both feet must also be on the starting blocks at this point. “Go” is the next and final announcement, and this is when the competitors start to run the race. Most competitions actually use a starting gun instead of saying “go” to signal the start of the race.

Competition Rules

One rule during the race dictates the lanes that hurdlers run in. Each competitor must stay in their lane during the whole duration of the race. This rule includes landing in your lane after you have cleared the hurdle.

More rules deal with clearing the hurdles. A hurdler cannot knock down a hurdle on purpose. If it is an accident, there is no penalty. Each competitor must attempt to clear every hurdle in order for their run to count, so going around or under hurdles is prohibited. A hurdler’s whole body must clear the hurdle. This fact means that a trailing leg, the leg that clears the hurdle last, cannot be lower than the lowest part of the top of the hurdle. The lowest part of the top of the hurdle is called the horizontal plane. The trailing leg also cannot go outside of the hurdle when the hurdle is cleared; this is a common mistake in the 400-meter race.

The first person to cross the finish line with their torso is the winner; an arm or a leg doesn’t count. If the first person to cross the finish line is found to have broken a rule, they will be disqualified, and the win goes to the next fastest hurdler.


There are many ways a hurdler can get disqualified in a race. The first way to get disqualified is from a false start. This disqualification is given when a competitor starts running before the announcer says “go” or the starting gun goes off. Hurdlers are disqualified after their second false start. However, in the Olympics, the runner is disqualified on the first false start.

Second, if a runner goes outside their assigned lane, they are also disqualified. Regardless of if they exit the lane when running or after clearing a hurdle, they will still be disqualified.

Many disqualifications have to do with the hurdles. Competitors can be disqualified for intentionally knocking over hurdles. An example of this is someone purposely pushing over a hurdle with their hand or a foot. The race official determines whether or not knocking down the hurdle was intentional. A hurdler can also be disqualified if they trail their foot or leg below the horizontal plane. Avoiding the hurdle by going around it in any way will also get a hurdler disqualified.

Race Officials

The main focus for a hurdling race official is illegal hurdling. These umpires, as they are also called, are responsible for giving out all disqualifications. When a disqualification occurs, a red flag is raised to signify it. All of the reasons above are grounds to raise the flag and disqualify a hurdler from the race.