What is Cadence;
Quite simply cadence is how many steps you take per minute whilst you are running. Some runners who take really, really short fast steps would have a cadence of 170-190. Other runners with big, long, looping strides would have a cadence of 150-170.
There is no ideal cadence for everyone. It will depend on your body composition, your stride length, your speed, your fatigue levels and many other factors.
THERE IS NO IDEAL CADENCE (worth repeating :D) there is no magic number. It is ALL about your goals at that point in time. A runner who is trying to reduce knee issues might select a higher cadence than someone who has no niggles but just looking to run faster.
What can Cadence do?
Cadence is a tool to change the way the forces of running are distributed through your body. We know that someone with a lower cadence, that over-strides and lands with their toe pointed to the sky, will incur more forces through the hip and knee joint.
Increasing cadence tends to use a more muscle or spring loading strategy. It takes the forces away from the joints and you will start to use the muscles in your foot and lower leg more. You can see now – THERE IS NO IDEAL CADENCE – and the force doesn’t magically disappear – we just move it around – but this can be handy if you have a niggle or injury.
A really simple rule that Christopher Johnson of the runners zone (https://chrisjohnsonpt.com/runnerszone/) first taught iMove was;
“5 gives you 20”
In other words increasing your cadence by 5% can take up to 20% of the joint forces away from your knee.
That has HUGE implications for any runner. Slightly shorter faster steps can potentially be the difference between running with or without pain.
If I take more steps isn’t it harder?
Research shows us that if you increase your cadence by 5% it won’t come at any extra metabolic cost. Therefore it shouldn’t be taxing your body, heart and lungs any more than normal.
We usually only change cadence by 2.5-5% and this often has our runners saying, “it feels easier” or “I feel lighter”.
Some people may want to go beyond 5% to deliberately make it harder on their cardiovascular system and use it as a training tool. AGAIN, THERE IS NO IDEAL CADENCE, it just depends on your goals.
How should I go about it?
Try a 500m section on your next run with shorter, faster steps and see what you feel. Often using the cues, “shorter, faster” or “quite steps” will increase your cadence and have you feeling lighter. This will be your first experience at increasing cadence.
Get a run assessment: In a run assessment, we can tell you your current cadence, vertical oscillation (how much you’re bouncing), ground reaction force (how hard you’re hitting the ground) and much more. These are all crucial bits of information for runners increasing training or constantly niggled.
We then trial small changes in cadence and combine the hard numbers with how you feel. At this point, there are several ways to implement a new cadence such as Spotify, RunCadence App, Metronome or just external cueing such as “run quieter”.
Key Take Away Points;
- There is no magic number for cadence – the key is getting assessed and starting with 2.5 to 5% increase on your current cadence.
- 5% increase in cadence comes at no extra metabolic cost. Ie it shouldn’t be more taxing for you to run this way.
- Forces don’t disappear we are just changing what structures take the loads of running. Eg shifting forces from your knee or hip to you calf complex.
- Fantastic for anyone increasing running load or constantly niggled.
- Start with “shorter, faster steps” or “run quieter”. Progress with a run assessment and using training tools like Spotify or a metronome app or RunCadence.
- ONLY CHANGE YOUR CADENCE WITH GUIDANCE OF A HEALTH PROFESSIONAL – every runner and every bodies body is different – do it with care and under watchful eyes.