How Can an Improved Running Cadence Make You a Better Runner

How Can an Improved Running Cadence Make You a Better Runner

running cadence

There are a lot of reasons runners get injured. It could be incorrect running form, overtraining, wrong running shoes or something else.

Nothing is more frustrating than getting sidelined by an injury in the middle of training.

But there are a few things in running that can be changed easily and the results are magnificent!

Running cadence is one of them.

Let’s talk about it in this article. Why and how to change your running cadence and what results can you expect.

What is Running Cadence?

Cadence or stride rate is simply the number of steps you take per minute.

To know your cadence, next time you go for a run count how many times your left foot hits the ground in a minute. Double that number. That’s your cadence.

For example, if your left (or right) foot hits the ground 85 times in a minute; your cadence is 170 spm. Do this a few times to make sure you get the accurate number.

What is the right cadence?

A cadence around 180 spm (steps per minute) is considered optimal.

Most elite runners have a stride rate of 180 spm or more. This doesn’t change a lot when they run at slower paces. When they run at faster speeds their stride length becomes longer.

On the other hand new runners can have a cadence as low as 160 steps per minute.

One important thing to note is 180 spm is a good number to target. But there are other factors which should be considered. Height, weight and running experience are some of them. Height being the most important.

For example, let’s assume two runners with different heights are running the same distance at the same speed. The taller runner will have longer stride length and a lower cadence than the shorter runner. This is totally fine.

Benefits of higher cadence

Let’s take a look at some of the benefits of higher cadence:

  1. Improved running form – You can greatly improve your running form by focusing on your cadence. With an increased step rate you’ll not land ahead of your body. And you are less likely to land hard on your heels.

  2. Injury prevention – A higher cadence also reduces the risk of many running-related injuries. By taking shorter steps you will not overstride. Runners who overstride generally land on their heels with a locked knee.

    With a low cadence, you also hit the ground harder on landing which increases the landing shock on your hip and knee joints.

    This results in high impact on knee and hip joints making you prone to many running-related injuries.

    A lot of research has been done on this subject. A study[1] was conducted to determine the effects of cadence modification on the hip, knee and ankle joints.

    45 healthy recreational runners participated in this study. They were asked to run at their preferred speed under five different stride rates.

    All joints displayed substantially more energy absorption when they ran at lower than preferred cadence.

    The study concluded that small increases in cadence can significantly reduce the loading impact to the hip and knee joints during running and may prove beneficial in the prevention and treatment of common running-related injuries.

  3. Improved running economy – Higher cadence also makes you more energy efficient, making you a better runner. A study[2] concluded that stride frequency has a direct effect on energy efficiency and impact intensity when the foot strikes the ground.

How to change your cadence?

The best thing about cadence is – it’s easy to change.

Many GPS watches in the market today have a feature that shows you your cadence in real-time.

If you have one, great! If not, no need to worry! There is a very easy way to do that.

Just download a metronome app on your phone, set your desired number of beats per minute and run to the rhythm.

The benefit of this method is that you don’t have to count the number of steps. Just run to the beats of the app.

Make sure you do it gradually. For example, if your current cadence is 160 spm; you should aim for 170 instead of 180 directly.

It may feel a little awkward in the beginning but you’ll be fine once you get used to it. It may take you from a few days to a few weeks.

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