The topic of cadence has been widely discussed in the running world, but what actually is it?
Cadence is defined by the number of steps you take per minute whilst you are running, for example 160 steps per minute. This is a simple measurement that you can take on your next run. Find a steady conversation pace and then count the number of times your feet strike the ground in one minute. Being aware of your cadence is a powerful tool as cadence can be adjusted to improve your running technique and avoiding running related injuries.
What should my running cadence be?
This is a difficult question to answer as there is NO one ideal running cadence or ideal running technique that is going to be suitable for everyone. There is a general consensus that a running cadence should be between the range of 160-180 steps per minute, however, we know that this will vary depending on speed, height, level of experience and distance (Luedke et al. 2018). Each individual will move in their own unique way to maximise efficiency and to suit their type of running. For example, a track sprinter will have a different running style and cadence to a marathon runner. As with anything related to our bodies, there is no one shoe fits all!
How can adjusting my running cadence reduce my risk of running related injuries?
There is a wide range of research relating to the relationship between running cadence and forces through certain structures of the body. We know that increasing your cadence (taking more steps per minute) can significantly reduce the forces placed on the lower limb. For example, a 5-10% increase in the cadence will result in;
- 15-20% reduction in knee load
- 9-11% lower demand on the hip abductors (muscle on the side of the hip)
- 10% reduction in foot and ankle loads
- 3.6% lower achilles tendon force
- 20% or more reduction in vertical load reaction forces
So to put it simply, increasing your cadence (taking more steps per minute) will result in less force going through the hip, knee, foot and ankle. Less force going through these structures each time we run means there is a decreased likelihood of developing running related overuse injuries if you are able to manage your training load appropriately.
When should I increase my cadence? And how do I go about doing it?
During any 12 month period up to 70% of recreational runners and competitive runners sustain overuse related injuries. One of the most common presentations in young adults is patellofemoral pain syndrome otherwise known as runners’ knee.
For example, if an injured runner had a low running cadence, we might observe signs of over-striding in their running pattern. This is demonstrated in the diagram below (image on the left) where the foot is positioned out in front of the knee as it makes contact with the ground.
In this scenario it is possible that the individual’s gait pattern may be contributing to increased stress on the patellofemoral joint. In this situation, increasing their running cadence by 5% can reduce the amount of over-striding (image on the right). This will reduce load on the knee and decrease their symptoms whilst running. Increasing running cadence can be done by using a metronome or running app and may be a useful strategy in the short term. This is just one example however the same principles can be considered with other running related lower limb injuries.
What else can I do if I am experiencing pain while running?
While modifying cadence can be a great tool to help ease discomfort in the short term and keep you running throughout your recovery journey, it will NOT fix the injury in isolation. Adjusting training loads, increasing muscular strength and restoring tissue capacity are some of the more important aspects of the rehab journey and will have more of a long term influence on recovery and prevention of future injuries.
Feel free to contact us if you have any questions about running cadence or would like more information!
Heiderscheit, B, Chumanov, ES, Michalski, MP, Wille, CM, Ryan, MB 2011 ‘Effects of Step Rate Manipulation on Joint Mechanics during Running’, Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, Vol 43, pp 296-302.
Luedke, L, Heiderscheit, B, Williams, D, Rauh, M 2018, ‘Factors associated with self selected step rate in high school cross country runners’, Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, vol. 00, no. 00, pp 1-8.
Willy, R, Willson, J, Clowersm K, Baggaley, M, Murray, N 2016, ‘The effects of body-borne loads and cadence manipulation on patellofemoral and tibiofemoral joint kinetics during running’, J Biomech, vol 49, pp 4028-4033.
Wellenkotter J, Kernozek T, Meardon S, Suchomel T. The effects of running cadence manipulation on plantar loading in healthy runners. International
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