Person Running on pavement

What is Running Cadence?

Your running cadence can help you level up as a runner. According to some experts, it can even help reduce your risk of running injuries. 

However, if you’re new to running, the idea of “running cadence” might sound confusing. What is running cadence? Why exactly does it matter? In this article, we’re going to examine everything you need to know regarding your running cadence. Let’s take a look!

Running Cadence – What Does It Mean?

Your cadence is your stride rate. In other words, it’s the number of steps you take per minute. In order to determine your running cadence – without the use of a running watch – count the number of steps your right foot takes in 30 seconds. Multiply this number by four and this is your current running cadence.

Why Does Running Cadence Matter?

The benefits of a good running cadence include preventing injuries, running with better form, and running faster (which enables many runners to achieve personal bests). Generally, when your stride length is shorter, you run faster and better.

Why is this better? Runners with longer strides often lock their knees and pound their heels into the pavement as they run. In turn, you run slower, and you bounce throughout your run, which places unnecessary pressure on your knees and other joints. Consequently, you actually increase your risk of injury.

When you run at a higher cadence, your feet inevitably move faster and the foot landing position differs. This prevents your feet from landing in front of your hips. Instead, it promotes proper landing underneath your center of gravity, which reduces the amount of energy expended and the amount of force placed on your joints, including your knees, back, and hips.

How to Measure Running Cadence

Measuring your running cadence can easily be done via sports or running watches. However, for the accuracy, or if you don’t happen to have a watch, you can simply count, as previously outlined above. To recap, count the number of times your right foot strikes the ground for 30 seconds, then multiply this number by four. 

This will give you a base cadence to work with and improve upon when the time is right. If you’re just starting out, your running cadence may be lower than more veteran or elite runners. And this leads us right into the next section of this article.

The Ideal Running Cadence for Beginners

On average, most runners have a running cadence between 150 and 170 steps per minute. Faster long-distance athletes typically have a running cadence of around 180 steps per minute. 

While a beginner running cadence is often lower than these, it’s definitely something you’ll want to work on. In fact, a slower running cadence is part of the reason why many beginner runners might face injuries and thus, potentially give up early on. Knowing what to focus on when running matters a lot here! 

How to Improve Your Running Cadence

There are many ways to improve your running cadence. Initially, this often involves shortening your stride length to ensure your feet are landing in the correct positions as you run.

Some other practices you can begin including to increase your running cadence include:

1. Run Sprints

At the end or beginning of your run, accelerate to the fastest pace you can comfortably go. Try to maintain this for 8 to 20 seconds. This signals to your nervous system to create new neural pathways for this type of movement. 

Aim to perform this drill a couple of times a week. Focus on moving your feet faster rather than propelling your body forward.

2. Change Your Arm Rhythm 

Your arm rhythm impacts your stride. The faster you move your arms, the quicker strides you are more likely to take. Use this to your advantage. Simply, drive your elbows backward at a faster speed and amp up your running cadence to match.

3. Run Tall and With Your Feet Under Your Body

The major problem facing runners with a slow cadence is the fact that they often extend their feet far in front of their bodies. By focusing on keeping your torso tall, with your head up, and landing your feet under your body, you will likely be able to increase your stride per minute.

Start Improving Your Running Cadence Today!

Use the above tips to help create an efficient and improved running cadence. Not sure if you’re getting your stride down-pat? At Corydon Physiotherapy, our experienced team can help you get on track and prevent injuries. From custom orthotics to physiotherapy, we offer a variety of services that can help you optimize your running gait. Call us at 204-900-8250 to book your appointment today or for more information regarding how we can help.

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Ernest Raymundo, MPT, B. Kin
Ernest graduated from the University of Manitoba with a Masters of Physical Therapy Degree in 2018 and a Bachelor of Kinesiology Degree in 2015. He's excited and keen to be part of our team. During the Physical Therapy program Ernest had the opportunity to contribute to the physiotherapy profession by taking on many leadership roles. Ernest was elected the Vice-President of the College of Rehabilitation Sciences Students’ Association in his first year of the program and President in his second year. He was also the student representative on the Manitoba Physiotherapy Association - Orthopaedic Division. As a life-long learner, Ernest plans to be certified in acupuncture by the Fall of 2020, and will be pursuing other advanced physiotherapy courses. Ernest was inspired to become a physiotherapist after he sought physiotherapy services following a sports injury when he was 15. Now he wishes to help others return to the activities that they love, whether it is a return to sport, work, or activities of daily living. Ernest enjoys lifting weights at the gym, biking at the park, and relaxing at the lake. He also enjoys snowboarding and skating in the winter. When he is not outdoors, Ernest can be found playing musical instruments, especially the piano, and he occasionally daydreams of his next travelling adventure.
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