Technical Tip- All about Cadence
By Ambassador and Adv. Run Coach Lydia Palmieri
What is Cadence?
Put simply, cadence – also known as stride rate – is the number of steps a runner takes per minute (SPM). It’s the most common metric used to measure running form and remains important for several reasons.
For starters, the shorter your stride length and the quicker your stride rate, the faster and better you run. If you have a low cadence, you likely also have a long stride. Runners who overstride tend to lock their knees and slam their heels to the ground on every step. This slows you down, creates a choppy, bouncy gait, and puts extra pressure on muscles and bones, making you more susceptible to injury.
By increasing your cadence, you’re doing more than moving your feet faster; you’re changing the positioning of where your foot lands. Rather than having your foot land in front of your hips, with a higher cadence, it lands underneath you – in your center of gravity. This naturally decreases your stride length and increases your turnover, which means you’re wasting less energy moving up and down (from the ground to the air and vice versa). Rather, your body is focused on moving forward, making you faster.
When you increase your cadence, you also limit the force with which your body hits the ground. If you have a low cadence, you’re spending more time up in the in air displacing your body mass so you hit the ground much harder than if you had a high cadence. The more steps you take per minute, the less time you spend in the air, equaling a softer impact on landing.
How do I work out my Cadence?
Another word for stride rate is cadence. It is measured in strides per minute (spm).
You can easily determine your own cadence by counting the number of times your left foot hits the ground whilst running for 30 seconds.
Let’s imagine yours was 40.
Double that to get the total for 60 seconds (80); then double it again to get the total for both feet (160). Your cadence (for that particular running speed) is therefore 160spm.
How to Increase Your Running Cadence
Determine your ideal running cadence
Using the counting your steps method described above, determine your current cadence for a speed you would use for a 5km+ race.
Let’s imagine it is 160spm.
Adding the 5% increase (10% could well be too much of a jump), your new target is 168spm.
Change your new cadence for short periods to start with.
Start by adding short distances into your runs in which you try to maintain your new target.
There are heaps of apps that allow you to find music with beats per minute (bpm) to match your desired spm.
Otherwise, you can always just monitor your progress with a 30-second one foot count (then multiply it by 4).
Run on a treadmill to measure your cadence
Practicing your new stride rate on a treadmill can sometimes be handy as you can set the speed to stay the same.
Increase your running cadence by 5% at a time
Once you can comfortably run your a 5km+ pace at your new stride per minute (without thinking about it – remember we are seeking unconscious competence), add another 5% and repeat the process.
Why do I need to improve my Cadence?
A number of studies have suggested that a faster running cadence helps to adjust a runner’s form, and in turn, may lead to fewer injuries.
In a recent study, published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, the biomechanics of step rate were analysed. Researchers monitored three-dimensional kinematics and kinetics in 45 healthy, recreational runners and paid special attention to the hip, knee and ankle joints. They found that slight increases in stride cadence led to significant reductions in loading on the knee and hip joints, which, they hypothesize, might help prevent some of the most prevalent running injuries.
“It decreases the vertical loading rate and the stress on the skeletal system, in particular the knees, hips and lower back,” says Dubois about increased cadence.
A quicker cadence generally leads a runner to hit midfoot compared to runners with longer strides. This longer stride causes runners to extend their legs out in front of their body, creating a breaking effect. This can slow you down and lead to injuries.