Cadence

Want to fix your running fast?

Try cadence change…otherwise known as step rate. More often you want to increase it.

When you are looking to improve running technique and/or reduce injury re-occurrence one of the first things you want to change is your cadence.

Why?

Because it has been shown to improve many of the mechanics that are associated with running injuries.

Studies of the impact of an increase cadence on mechanics. Credit: Barton et al. (2014). Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport.
NB Green = improved (positive) effects; Red = negative effects

When people come into the clinic for a running assessment or have a running related injury, the most common running technique we see is someone who:

* overstrides

* heel strikes

* lands heavily

* has poor hip control on landing

* knee collapses in on landing

* foot rolls in (pronates) excessively

One of the first things we try to change is to increase their cadence (step rate) because through research and clinically we can get some improvement in all the above metrics.

The other benefit is that it is also quite an easy cue for people to change.

The main mechanism of improvement is that it helps reduces the load going through the joints. It does this by helping you land closer to your centre of mass (under your hips), with the idea that you want your shin to be more vertical on landing.

This reduced loading on the joints is especially helpful for people with the following conditions:

* knee pain particularly pattelo-femoral pain

* ITB issues

* gluteal tenidopathy

* shin splints

Now you’ll probably ask what is the best cadence. A figure that has been widely used is 180 steps per minute (an observation made by a coach – Jack Daniels in the mid-1980’s).

Since then a more effective guide has been given.

Research shows that an increase in cadence of 7.5% is effective in those with the above conditions by “reducing impact forces, peak hip adduction and eccentric knee joint work” (Dr R Willy, 2015). Therefore rather than aiming for 180 steps per minute, a general guideline is to increase your cadence by 5-10%.

(NB: This is not as effective in people with a cadence of 190 and above.)

A good way to achieve this is using a function on common GPS watches like Garmins, otherwise there are many metronome apps you can use on your phone.

So for most of you out there – if you are looking for a quick and easy way of improving your running technique, have a go at increasing your cadence.

References

Willy et al, 2015. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sport.