Running Tips: Cadence

Posted on Jan 11, 2016

Posted in: Running Tips

We are back with more tips to make you a faster, stronger and more efficient runner.  Whether you are brand new to running or a seasoned pro, we have advice that can help.  Our tip this week focuses on cadence.

First, what is cadence and why is it important to runners? Cadence is how often your feet touch the ground, or your steps per minute.  A high cadence allows you to benefit from the natural elasticity in your tendons.  Think of your feet as basketballs.  When a basketball hits the ground, it stays for a specific amount of time before rebounding back up.  When you run with a low cadence, you are holding your foot on the ground when it naturally wants to “bounce” off and rise again.  In order to get your foot off the ground, you then need to push off the ground.  A high cadence will shorten your stride reducing the over-striding and heel striking that exemplifies poor form.  Quick, soft steps also decreases the forces on the body, reducing injury rates.  Finally, quick turnover increases forward momentum, resulting in increased performance and decreased injury rate.

The latest research reveals that there is no ideal cadence.  However, increasing a runner’s natural cadence by 5-10% significantly reduces the stresses placed on bones, ligaments, muscles and tendons. Clinically, we have seen great results by increasing our patients’ cadence by approximately 10%.

How do you apply this?

Let’s define cadence as number of steps per minute.  You increase your cadence by taking shorter, faster steps while keeping your speed constant.  It is easiest to practice cadence on a treadmill where your speed is held constant or while running with a group whose speed is constant.

With most patients, the ideal cadence is 175 steps/minute or more.  However, it can be difficult to measure your preferred cadence.  You tend to change tempo and the result is not a true measurement.  Luckily there are also a variety of tools available to help you reach a higher cadence.  A simple Google search of “running cadence app” reveals a wealth of links for your phone.  Using a metronome and matching your steps to the beat is a simple way to measure your cadence.  If you happen to be running with a group, find a runner that has a high cadence and match your steps to theirs.  Just remember that when making changes to your running mechanics, it is best to do it gradually.  Focus on cadence for a few minutes and then give your self a break for a few minutes, then repeat.  Good luck!

running cadence