Over the summer we saw a lot of runners pass in and out of the clinic and a topic that I usually like to bring up and discuss as an intervention strategy in most cases is running cadence. A lot of runners aren’t familiar with the term and couldn’t be bothered with it and that’s understandable. If the running machine ain’t broke, don’t fix it. But when you’re suffering from an injury or even a string of recurrent injuries, manipulating your running cadence can help to reduce the load on certain tissues that may be causing you grief. So first let’s talk about what cadence is, and what the research is surrounding it.
Running cadence is defined as the number of steps you take per minute while running at a given speed. Average cadence ranges between 150-180 steps per minute, with some elite runners maintaining a cadence upwards of 200 steps per minute. So what is the difference between running with a lower cadence or a higher cadence at the same speed?
A study done a few years back looked at the effect that changing cadence had on joint kinematics (how joints move) and kinetics (the forces at each joint). They had participants run at a constant speed on a treadmill at: their preferred cadence, ± 5% of their preferred cadence, and ± 10% of their preferred cadence. They found that as step rate (cadence) increased, vertical excursion, peak vertical ground reaction force, and braking impulse (peak force acting in the opposite direction that you’re running) all decreased. They also found reduced energy absorption at the hip and knee when running at a higher than preferred cadence.
I know this all sounds a bit technical, but in simpler terms, running at a higher than preferred cadence can change and influence the location and extent of loads when running, which can be very useful for those battling injury. Only smaller case studies have looked at modifying cadence as a treatment for running related injuries with promising results. Anecdotally, we have also seen success in clinic with increasing cadence (~ 5%) in those runners we think might benefit.
If you’re curious what cadence you run at, take a count next time you’re out on a run and remember it includes both feet. And if you want to learn more about your cadence, running style, or are suffering from an injury, feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or pop by the clinic on your next run out.