The Running Diaries: Improve Cadence - simple changes to increase speed and reduce injury

August 18, 2020

What is cadence?

”The amount of strides/steps taken per minute (SPM)”

In the running scene, cadence is the most common metric to measure running form. Put simply, the shorter your stride length and quicker your stride rate, the faster and more efficient you run. Aside from enhancing performance, research has found that a higher cadence is associated with a decreased likelihood of overuse type injuries (i.e: shin splints, achilles tendinopathy, plantar fasciitis).

Optimum running cadence is considered 180pm (meaning each foot strikes the ground 90 times per minute)

Softer impact and more efficient

Improving cadence reduces overstriding, and thus knee extension that occurs on foot strike, allowing for the GRF (ground reaction force) to be absorbed under your body’s centre of gravity.

The image on the right has less knee extension and a more rigid foot on striking, creating a more stable point of contact and reducing the likelihood of lower limb injury

Measure your own cadence:
Count how many times one foot strikes the ground in one minute and multiply that by 2

Drills to improve cadence

  1. Metronome assisted running (Pop your headphones in for this one)
    - First, measure what your average cadence is during a regular run
    - If it is 160 strides per minute over a 5km distance, at the same pace increase cadence by 5-10 over a 1km distance
    - Do this by using a metronome app on your phone, set the beats per minute to 165-170. Aim to have a foot strike on each beat
    - Complete 2-3 reps of this
    2. Downhill sprints (100-200m)

    - Running downhill naturally forces you into an improved cadence
    - Focus on not overstriding and short steps that are very controlled