What is Cadence?

Quite simply put, cadence is how many steps you take per minute whilst you are running. Some runners who take really, really short fast steps would have a cadence of 170-190. Other runners with big, long, looping strides would have a cadence of 150-170.

There is no ideal cadence for everyone. It will depend on your body composition, your stride length, your speed, your fatigue levels and many other factors. There is simply no magic number – it is ALL about your goals at a particular point in time. For example – a  runner who is trying to reduce knee issues might select a higher cadence than someone who has no niggles but is just looking to run faster.

What can Cadence do?

Cadence is a tool to change the way the forces of running are distributed through your body. We know that someone with a lower cadence that over-strikes and lands with their toe pointed to the sky will incur more forces through the hip and knee joint.

Increasing cadence tends to use a more muscle or spring loading strategy. It takes the forces away from the joints making you start using the muscles in your foot and lower leg more. Again, there is no IDEAL cadence, and the force doesn’t magically disappear, we just move it around which can be handy if you have a niggle or injury.

A really simple rule that Christopher Johnson of The Runner’s Zone first taught us at iMove Physiotherapy was – “5 gives you 20”. In other words increasing your cadence by 5% can take up to 20% of the joint forces away from your knee. This has HUGE implications for any runner. Slightly shorter, faster steps can potentially be the difference between running with or without pain.

If I take more steps isn’t it harder?

Research shows us that if you increase your cadence by 5% it won’t come at any extra metabolic cost. We usually only change cadence by 2.5-5% and this often has our runners saying, “it feels easier” or “I feel lighter”.

Some people may want to go beyond 5% to deliberately make it harder on their cardiovascular system and use it as a training tool. Again, there is no ideal cadence, it just depends on your goals.

How should I go about it?

There will be no harm in trying a 500m patch on your next run with shorter, faster steps and see what you feel. Often using the cues, “shorter, faster” or “quite steps” will increase your cadence and have you feeling lighter.

Get a run assessment – In a run assessment, we can tell you your current cadence, vertical oscillation (how much you’re bouncing), ground reaction force (how hard you’re hitting the ground) and much more. We then trial small changes in cadence and combine the hard numbers with how you feel. There are several ways to implement a new cadence such as Spotify, the RunCadence App, a Metronome or just external cueing such as “run quieter”.


Original article by iMove Physiotherapy.

If you’re in Sydney, contact iMove for an individual run assessment or with help in managing any of your running niggles/injuries – https://imovephysio.com.au/contact-us/

About Rachel Allworth (99 Articles)
Owner & Coach - Rachel's Runners

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