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What's the Optimal Cadence for Running?

Updated: Dec 23, 2021

Posted by the guys at The Running School HQ on in June 2020, and could have said it better myself!

180 steps per minute, the magical number put forward by some coaches, therapists and online running gurus as the answer to running technique, injury prevention and running efficiency!

Should you worry about your cadence not being between 180 -190 steps per minute or are you wasting time and energy? A few facts you should know:

Everyone is different, height, weight, age, fitness, speed, and very importantly running experience, all influence our running. Cadence is linked to how fast we a run and how tall we are. Increasing your speed will increase your cadence. When you increase your pace your step frequency will increase.

Taller runners who have longer strides have a lower cadence than shorter runners because of the length of their legs.

Running experience plays an incredibly significant role in optimising your individual cadence. There is a difference between recreational and elite runners, who have had more time to develop and optimise their running over the years. One of the key characteristics of elite runners, is they have less contact time with the ground. Because they have better running efficiency, better cardiovascular ability, can maintain speed for longer and can manage their pace and optimise their stride. Elite marathon runners for instance do not focus on cadence when they are training or competing. Their cadence in the last 600m-800m could be over 200 Steps Per Minute.

Because everyone is different, there is big variation in cadence between individual runners, depending on their speed. If you are jogging or running at slower speeds your cadence will be slower. The cadence could vary from 150 to 190SPM.

Just increasing your cadence by 5% is not the answer to better running technique or better running efficiency or injury prevention. There are a lot more factors to take into consideration. Heart rate, fitness, speed, recovery, running mechanics. Yes, some runners will benefit from increasing their cadence to help reduce the load on the knee, the hip or the IT Band. But it doesn’t mean everyone should change their cadence to 180.

In answer to the question should you worry about your cadence number? No, don’t overthink it. Focus on changing your running technique, increasing your cardio vascular fitness and implementing more strength work in to your training to help you become a better runner!

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