All runners want to feel lighter, faster and stronger on their way to the finish line—and most understand that cadence is a significant factor. But how do we go about increasing the number of times our feet strike the ground, and how much is too much?
Bad running form can lead to running injuries, but can a less than ideal cadence also leave runners more vulnerable to injuries?
We talked to Stephen Seiler, professor of sport science and director of research at the University of Agder in Norway, about why optimized cadence is so important for runners and how runners can reach their own peak cadence.
Find your cadence
Cadence in running is the number of times the foot hits the ground. The easiest way to calculate cadence is to start a timer while running on a flat surface for 60 seconds and count the number of times your left foot hits the ground. Multiply that number by two to account for both feet.
Seiler says that number should be in a range of 150 to 200 steps per minute.
Watch your stride
“The underlying reason that increasing cadence is a popular issue right now is because of the tendency for recreational runners to overstride,” Seiler says. “When you overstride, foot contact occurs at a leg angle which actually results in a ‘braking force’ in the first part of each foot contact.”
According to Seiler, a braking foot impact transfers force through the leg and throughout joints, increasing the risk for injury. The goal, instead, should be to create a “wheel effect” that directs forces backwards and propels the runner forward.
Of course, learning how to stride and land differently may mean breaking bad habits.
“The optimal cadence and the optimal running technique are connected,” Seiler says.