How Important is Cadence?

“Higher Open” drill work can help improve cadence

“Higher Open” drill work can help improve cadence

Your running watch says your cadence is 168. Is that good or bad? Does it matter? What does cadence really measure and what does it means for your running?

Cadence is defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as "the beat, time, or measure of rhythmical motion or activity.” For runners, cadence is the average number of steps you take per minute (spm). A recommended target cadence for runners is 180 spm for long and recovery runs. Speed work and downhill running should be higher. From our Gazelles Milestone Pod data, average cadence within the group is about 170, with the highest being 207!

Some running stats are hard to interpret, but cadence is simple and important. Keeping your cadence at or near the target spm helps reduce stress on your feet, ankles and knees, improves running economy and reduces injury risks. A higher cadence typically means a faster running speed and better form. A lower cadence (less than 160) often means you are over-striding which can slow you down and increase stress on the knee and hip joints.

When working to increase your cadence, make sure to do so gradually. If your current average cadence is 160, don't start doing your long runs at 180 or you'll risk injury. Increase slowly.

Some ways to increase cadence involve working on turnover in general, not specifically just running faster:

  • Do more drills such as: A-Skips, knee extension (Gilbert calls these "higher open"), butt kicks, high knees, etc. These drills should be done after your warmup before the main part of your workout

  • Add Strides: 10–100m strides at the end of recovery / easy runs

  • Run with someone with a slightly faster cadence than you and try to keep in sync with their foot strikes (this works best on a recovery run)

  • Count the number of steps you take per minute during your run (intermittently throughout your run)

  • If you run with music—not typically recommended, but if you do—find and add songs with the same beats per minute of your target cadence

Most current running watches will track cadence, but if you’re in need of something to track it, talk to Gilbert about getting a Milestone Pod (available in the Gazelle store.)

Of course if you want to talk with Gilbert about your cadence, you can schedule office hours with him to go over your questions one on one.

If you want to read more about cadence, here's an article to check out.