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Cadence and Running

Clients often ask if they should worry about cadence when running. Let’s break down what cadence is, discuss if we really need to worry about it, and talk about some ways can we change cadence if desired.


1. Cadence is also known as stride rate and refers to the number of steps per minute (SPM) you take as you run.

Your overall speed is determined by this equation—

Running speed = running cadence (SPM) x stride length

So, the take home message is that there can be advantages to shortening your stride and increasing your cadence (keep in reading for more!)

2. Research from the 1980’s touts that 180 steps per minute (SPM) is the optimal running cadence to shoot for. Most recreational runners actually fall below this naturally, especially trail runners.

180 steps per minute means each foot hits the ground 90 times every minute.

If you use a gps watch and use Strava, you can probably find these metrics in your data.

Otherwise, count the number of times your left foot hits the ground in 30 seconds, then double that to get the total for 60 seconds, then double that number again to get the total for both feet.

So should we try to increase cadence? Possibly.

Increasing cadence can -

-increase speed

-improve running form and running economy (making you more efficient at running and expending less energy)

-reduces the impact on your knees and hips

A running cadence of less than 160 spm is usually seen in runners who overstride—which can put you at risk of injury.

3. If your cadence is particularly low, you can work on increasing it over time. But please be aware that runners can be successful at many different cadence values. 180 isn’t necessarily the magic number.

To increase cadence—

-Start by increasing your cadence for only one to two runs per week or for short periods during each run.

-Practicing on a treadmill is often the best way to start since you can set your correct speed and it will remain steady.

-Pretend you are running in hot lava to promote faster turnover.

Questions? Let me know and I’ll try my best to answer!

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