The optimal cadence and stride length for runners

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There are many ways to reach your running goals. The optimal training with a good balance between load and recovery is one performance factor, running technique is another. Stride length and cadence are two aspects that often cause questions. So, it is high time to shed some light on these two topics.

Cadence

Cadence is often measured by modern running watches and describes how often we put our feet down per minute. To get a rough picture of the individual cadence, you do not necessarily need a modern measuring device. Count each left foot attachment for 60 seconds and double the value obtained to obtain the cadence per minute.

The running speed is basically the multiplication of the cadence and the stride length. At the same pace, a lower cadence means that larger steps are taken. Too long steps, however, bring with them the danger that the foot is placed in front of the body’s center of gravity, which in turn slows down the running movement, since the body must first be moved over the center of gravity and the movement dynamics are lost somewhat.

What is the optimal cadence?

THE perfect cadence does not exist, because the optimal cadence also depends on physical conditions (such as body length). You should also differentiate between different intensities, because the cadence is generally lower during loose jogging than during intense runs. Nevertheless, it can be said that hardly any elite runner is running at a competition pace with a frequency of less than 180 and this can even exceed 200 steps per minute. For occasional runners the average value is more likely to be between 150 and 170 strides per minute.

Stride too long

If your cadence is in a range below 160, there is also a risk that the step length is too long. The problem is not the fact that the foot often rolls over the heel when taking large steps (most runners do this for longer distances), but the fact that the foot is often placed in front of the hip, i.e. in front of the body’s center of gravity and at the same time the knees are stretched. Landing in front of the center of gravity with stretched knees exposes the body to strong forces due to the reduced cushioning possibilities.

How can cadence be increased?

First of all, you should approach the change slowly and not try to increase the stride rate by 20 strides per minute at once. An increase of about 5% over a longer period of time can be useful.

To work out a slow increase of cadence it can be useful to start with shorter “intervals”. The goal should be to increase the “normal” step frequency by about 5% during a not too long period. Music can be helpful here. Search on your streaming service for a playlist with songs that have the desired number of “BPM” (for example “170 BPM”). You will see that it is much easier for you to keep the beat.

Suitable running drills

Of course there are also exercises of the running ABCs, which can help you work towards a higher cadence.

Bounce Skip

Bilateral ankle jumps

Alternating but kickers

High Knees

But do not forget what was explained in the introduction: The “optimal” cadence is very individual. So don’t become a slave to an arbitrary optimal value, but find your own way.

This article was written by: Jonas Merz

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