What is running cadence?
In running, cadence refers to how many steps you take per minute (SPM).
Your cadence will be presented to you as a number, with the most desirable cadence being around 180 (although we’ll get onto this later).
How to measure running cadence
The easiest and most effective way of measuring how many steps you take per minute is with a running watch.
Almost all smart watches and running watches now have a built-in sensor to measure your cadence as you run.
What is a good running cadence?
Many running experts suggest that around 180 steps per minute is optimal. However, your physiology such as height and build can affect this.
Generally, elite runners have a cadence between 170-190, but there have been cases when elite runners fall out of this range and still perform well.
If you realize that your cadence isn’t within this range, it might not necessarily be best to change it. Especially if you run longer distances, it’s important to try and keep your shape as natural as possible. This is because trying to change the way you run could have a negative impact and lead to injury. It can also make you a less efficient runner, affecting your race times.
However, there are ways to increase your running cadence if it falls much lower than this range. You can include running drills into your training, as well as working on strength training and plyometrics to make you stronger.
There are times when it is suitable to adjust your cadence throughout your run. For example, when running either uphill or downhill, it’s advisable to shorten your running strides and increase your cadence. This will help you to conserve energy and reduce the impact on your joints.
Can cadence affect your chances of getting injured?
Some runners believe that achieving the perfect cadence is a good way to avoid injuries. A higher cadence can help you to run more efficiently. When you have a higher cadence, your feet spend less time on the ground, which means that you are less likely to overstride. Overstriding is a common cause of injuries, so by increasing your cadence, you can help to reduce your risk of injury.
One review of several scientific studies found that increased stride rate (cadence) appears to ‘reduce the magnitude of several key biomechanical factors associated with running injuries’. What this means is that generally, if you have a higher cadence and take shorter steps, the shock absorption of key joints will be smaller and so you’ll be less likely to injure them.
How to improve your running cadence
If you want to improve your cadence, there are a few things you can do. You can try to focus on taking shorter, quicker steps. A great way to stick to 180 steps per minute is by finding a song at this tempo and running to the beat. This will help you to stay consistent and your body can get used to running at this cadence.
You can also incorporate tempo runs into your training. Speed work can help you to improve your running mechanics and efficiency, which can lead to a higher cadence.