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What is a Good Cadence for Running?

Good Cadence for Running

This post was written by Coach Carly Guggemos of Organic Coaching

If you are looking to improve your running speed and reduce your chance of injury, then you will want to pay attention to your running cadence. Cadence is an important aspect of your running form to focus on because it ensures that you’re running as efficiently as possible.

What is Running Cadence?

Running cadence (also known as stride rate or stride frequency) is defined as the total number of steps per minute (SPM) that you take.

Most runners have a running cadence between 150 to 170 SPM, with a high near 180 SPM. While typiaclly a running cadence of less than 160 SPM is seen in runners who overstride. The good news is that as you improve your running cadence, you will also be improving your overstriding.

To calculate your running cadence, follow this formula:

  • Try counting your foot strikes on one side for 10 seconds
  • Multiply that by 2 (to account for both feet)
  • Multiply that by 6 (to account for 1 minute)

To understand this better, let’s look at an example of running cadence calculation.

Example Running Cadence Calculation:

  1. I counted 15 left foot strokes in 10 seconds.
  2. 15 x 2 = 30
  3. 30 x 6 = 180 SPM

Let’s learn more about how our running cadence affects our overall running performance to see what a good running cadence is for you.

How Does Running Cadence Impact My Running?

When talking about running cadence, we also need to take into account stride length. These two combined make up our running speed.

Stride Length x Running Cadence (SPM) = Running Speed

The shorter your stride length, the quicker your stride rate (cadence), and the faster and more efficient you run. If you have a lower cadence, you most likely have a longer stride which makes for a more “bouncy” run. The more bounce and overstriding in your running gait, the more susceptible you are to injury. Shortening your stride length and increasing your cadence, will lead to a more efficient and faster runner who is less injury prone. Who doesn’t want that?

What is a Good Cadence for Running?

First off, it’s important to note that there is not one perfect running cadence for everyone. Runners are of different heights and have different leg lengths, so the best running cadence will vary depending on the person. Rather than being one number that every runner should follow. Taller runners, for example, typically have a lower cadence as they naturally take longer strides. However, the most ideal cadence for most runners generally falls between 170 to 180 SPM.

Why 170 to 180 SPM? While running when you take quicker, shorter steps, you naturally shift your center of gravity and reduce braking forces with every foot strike. This allows for a less prominent heel strike, less ground contact time, more forward momentum, and overall less wasted energy. Which leads to running faster with a more efficient running stride.

You also prevent your knees from taking on excessive loading forces and reduce injuries related to over-striding. It may feel counterintuitive to aim for a shorter stride versus a longer one. But research has found that increasing your running cadence by as little as 10 percent helps reduce knee pain and increases running efficiency.

How Do I Find My Running Cadence?

To improve upon your cadence, you need to know where you’re starting from so you can make a game plan to improve it. That’s why we start with a baseline. 

Run at a comfortable pace, running however you naturally would. Count how many times your foot strikes the ground for 10 seconds on one side. 

Then use the formula above to find your current baseline cadence. Once you have your baseline number, you can focus on increasing your cadence with the following tips.

Tips to Increasing Running Cadence

Just like when you increase distance, you’ll want to work slowly as you increase your stride rate, aiming for no more than a 5-10% increase at a time.

running cadence tips

Don’t spend your whole running focusing on your running cadence, this will without a doubt lead you down the path of overthinking and make your head spin. Instead, focus on your cadence for short periods. After you are warmed up, check your cadence. See where you are, and try to increase it by just 5% for 30-60 seconds at a time. 

For your next run, focus on your cadence for 1-2 minutes and so forth. Once you can comfortably (and without overthinking it) do a whole run at your new cadence, add another 5%, and repeat the process.

Run with a metronome or download a metronome app. Listening to the rhythmic beep helps with rhythm and timing as you slowly work on increasing your cadence. One of the best ways to use a metronome is to simply start by matching the beat to your current running pace. Then do a few minutes at that speed to get accustomed to running with the beat. Increase it by 5-10 beats and run for 1 minute using that cadence. Then, increase it by another 5-10 beats and repeat. Do this until you work your way up to 180-190 beats. 

Once you know your current cadence, you can also use the metronome to help you increase by just 5% during your next easy run. Later in your run as you start to fatigue, you’ll quickly notice how much more difficult it is to maintain the rhythm.

Words of Encouragement

Remember, your running cadence is not something that will magically improve overnight. Just like with training, consistency triumphs, the same goes for practicing running cadence. It’s something you will need to be diligent about. 

As with other types of training, it’s important to take it slow so you can allow the body to adjust and adapt to your new cadence. This transition takes time, it might take a solid six to eight weeks before you start feeling comfortable and well-adjusted to your new faster cadence. For added motivation keep tracking your cadence and you’ll keep improving!

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Carly Guggemos Triathlon Coach Michigan
Carly Guggemos
Triathlon Coach at Organic Coaching | Website

Co-founder of Organic Coaching, Carly Guggemos is a triathlon coach with an extensive background in 70.3 and full-Ironman events. Carly is an age group winner at both long-course distances and has competed at the Kona Ironman World Championships in 2014 and 2015. With nearly a decade of coaching experience, Carly has expertise supporting athletes with busy or non-traditional schedules.