What is cadence?
Cadence is the number of footsteps per minute, also known as stride rate. The ideal cadence is between 170-190 steps per minute.
How to monitor it?
Similar to checking your heart rate, count the number of steps when running over 15 seconds and multiply by 4. Wearable can be used to assist with checking cadence.
Why is cadence so important?
Increasing cadence will allow the runner to be more efficient, reduce impact, reduce heel strike and most importantly reduce and correct over striding. Over striding is the most common mistake made in recreational runners and the reason for many running injuries.
The ideal and most efficient landing position of the foot is when it lands underneath you, ie: your center of gravity. Over striding is when the foot lands outside the center of gravity, typically in front of the body, resulting in a higher heel strike angle. This will increase the ground reaction forces traveling up the leg, making the runner more susceptible to injury.
Another reason why a higher cadence is advised is simply because it reduces the amount of time the foot spends on the ground. The longer the foot is on the ground during stance phase, the more ground reaction forces will impact the body. Optimal running includes getting the foot in and out of stance phase as quickly as possible, limiting time spent on the ground, propelling the runner forward and ultimately improving efficiency and preventing injuries.
Here a few a few tips and tricks for improving your cadence:
- Shorten your stride and run gently. Try to run as quietly as you can. Imagine that you are running over hot coals or over thin ice on a lake. Focus on smaller steps.
- Check your cadence at the beginning, middle, and end of your run to see how it varies with warm up and fatigue.
- Run to a beat by using a metronome app on your phone in 30-60 sec intervals during your run or download music by beats/minute from Apple Music, iTunes, or Spotify.
- Try cycling or spinning for 5 minutes before your run at a high RPM, then running. See how briskly your feet want to move!
- After your runs, slip off your shoes and run for 2-3 x 30-50m on grass in your bare feet!
From my own personal experience, changing your cadence will feel very weird at first. It is definitely something to get used to. A common mistake runners make is to simply run faster. The best advice I could give a new runner trying to improve their cadence is to not focus on speed. Cadence should be trained independently from speed in those beginning phases, best done on a treadmill while maintaining a consistent speed. This will improve overall efficiency and over time speed will also increase.
See the link below on YouTube for more information re: using a metronome.
Registered Physiotherapist, Running Enthusiast
The Running and Gait Centre: Pan Am Rehabilitation Services, Pan Am Clinic