Frequently when working with athletes to improve running efficiency, one of the main considerations is to reduce impact and braking forces on foot strike, by reducing the tendency to overstride (land the foot ahead of the centre of mass).

One of the most simple and highly effective ways to achieve this is to increase running cadence at a given pace.

Running Cadence Range

We often refer to an athlete’s cadence range. This refers to the natural differences shown in running cadence of an individual’s gait at an easy pace compared to a hard pace.

As discussed in a previous blog post, the “magic number” approach of striving to hit 90-92 strides per minute, regardless of running pace is fundamentally flawed when applied to endurance running: A runner will naturally run with a slightly slower rate of cadence when running “easy” compared to when running at a “hard” pace.

This is shown on the graphically represented example below.

running cadence

Cadence plotted against speed from various studies.

The key to improving efficiency through manipulating cadence is to shift the cadence range to the right by initially increasing it by 5%. One way to do this would be running on a treadmill at a set speed and using a metronome to set your rhythm.

A lot of watches these days will take a reading of your cadence, but you could also just count your strides. For example, you may run easily at 8 min/mile and do 160 strides/80rpm. If you were to increase this cadence by 5% it becomes 168 strides or 84rpm. Set your metronome to this beat and aim to run on the rhythm.

The “Easy Pace” cadence, previously 82spm will become 86spm, while the “Hard Pace” changes from 88spm to 92spm.

All of which will result in less overstriding at a given pace, compared to the lower cadence version of the same pace. This means less vertical movement so hopefully less force through your legs and body.

Rather than trying to make major changes to you your cadence, 5% is a manageable change that won’t cause major muscle trauma and should be more maintainable.

** Proper running technique is not “one size fits all” **

As always, I encourage your comments, experiences, and questions about cadence and technique in the comments section. See what’s up next week for our #RunFormFriday tip! For more in-depth understanding on how to put this into practice, get in touch and we’ll see how we can help!