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Cadence running! Stop towing, start flying !!

Updated: Mar 14, 2022

Many runners talk about holding their wrists correctly, loosening the fingers of each hand, hitting the tip, the right angle in their forearms, and other aspects of that magical mantra called the "right running technique." But many of them forget the absolute foundation that protects runners from fatigue injuries and that boosts performance. It is not beyond the feeling of lightness that the high cadence of a running step will bring to the run. As Christopher McDougall wrote in Born to Run, "The best runners leave no trace." I don't think there's anything to add to this statement, because it's not just the hovering that will leave traces. However, with the cumbersome impact of a long step, we will not really achieve that.

What does running cadence mean?

When we talk about running cadence, we are talking about the number of foot impacts in one minute. In order to be able to imagine what is low, what is nominal and what is already a good running cadence, I will add a few numbers. Most novice runners achieve a cadence of 150 to 165 steps per minute. Good amateur runners are already moving somewhere between 170 - 180 steps per minute. Well, elite racers reach a range of 180-200 steps per minute. You may think of a clear relationship between a runner's racing pace and his cadence. I.e. the faster the higher the cadence. However, this does not always work. An elite runner can hold a cadence of 190 steps both in trot and in a 10 km race, regardless of pace, rebound force and stride length.

The importance of high cadence

We can explain it simply without foreign expressions and incomprehensible studies. With a high cadence, your running step is significantly shorter. By shortening the step, we get several benefits:

  • The energy savings you invest in running can be up to 10% over the same distance. How is this possible when you are taking more steps than before? By shortening the step, you will significantly reduce the muscle work of the large leg muscles. In particular, the thighs shorten the range of their movement, the impact is directed in the axis rather under the body and there is no braking of the impact to the heel.

  • Forward energy replaces vertical oscillation. Simply put, increasing cadence has a direct effect on reducing vertical oscillation, that is, inefficient upward bouncing. Instead, the forward energy, ie the ability to use energy to move forward, increases slightly.

  • Injury prevention is probably the most important benefit of high cadence. Short step = less shocks and less hard impacts. The weight transfer on impact usually changes immediately from the heel area to the middle part of the foot, and thus to its entire surface. Some studies state that when you hit the heel in a long step, you can put your joints under a load corresponding to up to three times your weight. So it's not hard to calculate how many tons your joints have to absorb during each low-cadence run.

  • Changing the dynamics and rhythm of running - from initially strenuous activity to high and cadence becomes an easy and dynamic affair. The body works as a whole and the rest of your parts adapt quickly. The range of arm movement is shortened, thus reducing torso rotation. Respiratory rate also changes subconsciously along with cadence.

How to measure running cadence?

There are many options today. We will analyze their accuracy. Step counting - run and count the impacts of one of your legs for 30 seconds. Then multiply this number by 4 and you will get your cadence. The method is very primitive, but accurate. Unfortunately, it lacks the ability to measure cadence throughout the run. Who would also like to look underfoot and still count and multiply…

Sports testers and footpods already offer us much more sophisticated measurement methods. To do this, we get an overview of our cadence throughout the run. Visualization of the trend due to elevation and pace in individual places is very valuable information for the future. However, even sports testers may not be omnipotent. If they calculate the stride length and cadence using formulas from your height, weight and running pace, then the measurement has its inaccuracies. In the best case, you can manually set the average length of the running step, which will make the measurement significantly more accurate. Better models of sports testers are already able to measure cadence very accurately using built-in motion sensors or external sensors called footpods, which are most often placed on shoes. They can also be part of chest straps for sensing heart activity. They contain motion sensors and calculate your cadence and other values ​​such as stride length or ground time based on your movement with high accuracy.

How to increase running cadence?

Today, there are many ways to train cadence. Probably the most effective way is the running alphabet combined with a conscious increase in cadence during the run itself. Another very popular way are headphones, from which music rumbles in your ears in a rhythm that corresponds to the desired cadence. So if you are one of the "headphones", make your work easier and play music in rhythms of 170-180 BPM (beat per minute).

So what cadence is right?

It cannot be said with certainty that 180 steps per minute is correct and that is your goal. It depends on many aspects, including your height, leg length, condition, etc. Many elite marathon runners who run under 2.5 hours have lousy technique and low cadence in terms of the latest knowledge. However, this does not mean that they cannot stay at the very top. I recommend trying and coming to your own golden center that will suit you.


Personally, I chose the analogous path of the running alphabet and consciously shortening the step. Although I'm not an elite runner and I'm more average, my cadence normally ranges between 185-195 steps per minute. When I occasionally hook into a group of runners during a race, I find it comical how much visible the difference in step exists. I feel more like I'm cupping than running. During slow runs, this impression is enhanced by a short step. I have been watching the running cadence for many years and it is exactly the same time that I do not suffer from any running injuries.

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