Cadence - what is it and how does it affect your running

Cadence, leg turnover or stride rate, is the number of times your foot strikes the ground in a given time period, usually measured per minute. Having a the right cadence will improve your running performance and reduce your injury risk, as cadence has a big impact on your running economy.

Optimal cadence You may have heard that magic number for cadence is 180–or but ultimately your height, weight, leg and stride length, running ability and pace will determine your personal optimal cadence.

At race pace recreational runners generally fall between 160-170 steps per minute, while elite runners strike the ground around 180 steps per minute or higher—with some getting above 200 at their fastest speeds.

Why cadence is important Runners who have a low cadence tend to have a long stride or ‘overstride’ which is inefficient and can increase your risk of injury. Overstriding is when your foot lands excessively in front of your body, producing negative forces that impede your running. Runners who overstride generally have an inefficient running gait because they have a long contact time with the ground per step which essentially puts the ‘breaks on’.

Because forward movement only happens when your feet strike the ground, it benefits you to get them on the ground as quickly as possible, but also to get them off again so you minimise any ‘breaking’ forces.

Determine your cadence To establish your baseline cadence count the number of times each foot strikes the ground in 1 minute. To make it simpler, pick either your right or left foot and count the number of times it strikes the ground and multiply by two. This is your training cadence.

It’s important to determine your cadence for all your training speeds, so find your baseline for your steady, long, tempo, hill and speed sessions.

How to boost your cadence Learning to increase your cadence can help you become a more efficient runner but it’s important to make small changes over time to minimise injury risk.

Increase your cadence gradually by no more than two to five steps per minute every few weeks. It’s unlikely you will be able to maintain the increase in cadence for a whole session, so add bursts of 1-2 minutes of a higher cadence into your run session so your body adapts and learns how it feels.

Counting your cadence for a minute or two during your run is a really good habit to get into, and it’s a tool you can use on race day when you need to pick up the pace.

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