Cadence - The Why | The What | The How


Your body loves rhythms. Heart rate, breathing rate and blood pressure for example are all consistent and measurable rhythms of the body. We all know what happens if any of these get too high or low. So think of cadence like the rhythm to your running. You don’t have to be a marathon runner or even a serious runner to need to know what it means.

“Anyone that even does a little bit of running should have some idea of what their cadence is”

Cadence is essentially the number of steps per 1 minute of running.

Why is it important?

A shorter stride length and a quicker stride rate will help you to run faster and better! If you have a low cadence you are likely to have a long stride. Runners who over-stride tend to slam their heel into the ground which effectively puts the brakes on creating a choppy, bouncy looking run which puts extra pressure on bones and muscles leading to conditions such as:

  • Shin splints and stress reactions

  • Runners knee

  • Hip pain during and after running

  • Jarring pain in Lower back

  • Plantar Fascia and heel pain

What is the magic number?

Well, think of cadence like sleep. With sleep there is no magical number of hours and minutes that each of us should sleep. However we do have general guidelines that it should be between 7-9 hours per night. Essentially it is the same with cadence - there is no magic number. There are however guidelines that you can follow to help you know if you need to work on improving your cadence.

“Most good fitness tracking watches can track your cadence for you but if you don’t have one, here is a method by which you can track it yourself!”

Step 1

Cadence is best measured at an easy pace of running. We first need to calculate what an easy pace is for you. So step 1 is to go for a light 1.6km run. Do not try to set a world record here! It is just an easy run. All you are looking to do is see whether it takes you longer or shorter than 10 minutes.

If you ran it in

  • Faster than 10 minutes: Your target cadence should be between 170-180 steps per minute

  • Slower than 10 minutes: Your target cadence needs to be 160 steps per minute or higher.

Step 2

Run at the same speed for another 60 seconds and calculate how many times your right foot hits the ground. Multiply this by 2 (To account for both feet). This will give your cadence.

For example if your ran the 1.6 km run slower than 10 minutes and then you measured your cadence in the next 60 seconds to be 140 steps per minute, you will need to increase it!

Step 3

Adjust your cadence accordingly, if you were well below the target range try and download a cadence trainer or a metronome app and use it to help your trial out faster cadences. It is best to try this on a treadmill first so you can see how it feels on your body and you can keep the run at a consistent pace.

Step 4

Some other ways that can help to improve your cadence are

  • Add hill training

  • Get your running shoes fitted correctly

  • Condition your legs with some specific strength training and technique drills

  • Focus on using ‘small steps’ instead of ‘running fast’ as your main cue

IF YOU’RE STRUGGLING WITH YOUR CADENCE OR ARE SEEKING RUNNING TECHNIQUE ADVICE SIMPLY CONTACT THE CLINIC ON 5174 7250 or BOOK ONLINE with myself or one of our expert Physio's below. We can't wait to help get you back to your best!

AUTHOR: NITIN MADAN - Physiotherapist