When I see a runner in our clinic my first goal is to get them pain free again. Once I accomplish this I then need to analyze their running form and try to correct any poor body mechanics they might have. Heel striking and excessively swinging the arms, rotating the trunk and bouncing up and down are all common running technique errors. If I had to choose one thing I would work on with everyone presenting with these issues, it would be cadence!
What is cadence?
Cadence is the number of times your feet hit the ground per minute. The ideal cadence is 180 steps/minute, or 3 steps per second. However, the majority of runners especially beginners have more of a 150-160 cadence.
Why is cadence so important?
If you heel strike you have a large stride length. This in turn will increases your joint reaction force. This excessive force can eventually lead to joint pain and injury. You also are putting the brakes on and slowing yourself down with every step by placing your foot way out in front leading with the heel. By improving your cadence to 180 you don’t have time for a long stride length therefore you start landing on the midfoot as opposed to the heel. You also don’t have time to excessively swing the arms around, rotate the trunk or bounce up and down so it greatly improves running technique and removes unnecessary movement patterns that waste energy!
What’s the best way to work on your cadence?
- Start by running on a treadmill. Warm up for 5 minutes at a relaxed easy pace.
- Settle into your regular comfortable pace (for example the pace you would do on a long run).
- Over a 15 second interval count how many times your feet hit the treadmill. Multiply this number by 4. Ideally you want to be around 180!
If you are below 170, it will take a little bit of work. Try to shorten your stride and try to land on the middle of your foot as opposed to your heel. Recheck your cadence and it should be closer to 180. You’ll notice a difference in that you usually run very loudly on the treadmill but it’s quieter when you make this change. Once you’ve mastered this on a treadmill, you can move things outdoors. Some running watches like Garmin can actually track your cadence and will beep at you if you go below a preset number.
Initially it will take a lot of concentration to improve your cadence but with practice it will become natural and you will be able to run with a 180 cadence without focusing on it constantly!
Feel free to contact me with any cadence/running/physio questions. I’m here to help!