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Running Cadence: Why It Matters & Tips To Improve It

If you’re new to running, the importance placed on having a good running cadence may be a little lost on you. However, in this article we here at OriGym will walk you through the basics, answering questions such as “what is running cadence?”.

We’ve also got advice on how to improve your running cadence through specific training exercises!

These two topics are not the only subjects we’ll tackle, as the article will also teach you how to measure cadence when running and why measuring it is important should you want to improve your running ability. 

Before we jump in, have a look at OriGym’s personal training diploma: this combines the level 2 and level 3 personal training courses into one package! A worthwhile investment if you’re looking at joining the fitness industry.

Download our latest course prospectus as well as this contains more information on the rest of our courses and packages!

What Is Cadence Running? 

what is cadence in running

As we look to answer the question “what is cadence in running?” the answer is simpler than many newbies may expect. To offer a running cadence definition, the word cadence simply refers to how many steps in total you take per minute whilst running. 

It is important to note that the cadence definition in running may alter depending on the way in which your steps are measured. 

Some individuals may choose to measure the number of steps both feet take whilst running, while others may only focus on the number of steps one foot takes every minute. For example, the cadence meaning in running may be marked as 90, when you took 180 steps in total using both feet. 

It has also been determined that cadence is one of two factors that help to make up a runner's speed, with the other factor being a runner’s stride length. 

Running cadence and stride length combine together to help determine a runner's speed as monitoring these two factors will teach you how many steps it takes you to reach a specific distance. 

So in short, an answer to the question “what is cadence in running?” can be summarised as a unit of measurement that runners, both professional and amateur alike, use in order to track their rate of progress. 

If you’re planning on training every day then read up on the benefits and risks of running every day before you start.

Download OriGym's FREE 16-week half marathon running programme to reach new targets!

How to Work Out Your Running Cadence

Now that we have covered the basic cadence running meaning, we can now move on to discussing how you can personally work out your own running cadence. 

As we have previously discussed, running cadence and stride length are factors that contribute to the measurement of an athlete's speed. But what factors contribute to the development of your cadence?

Your cadence is determined by your training history, running ability, as well as your anatomy. 

The latter of which can play a factor in your overall performance, with taller athletes having a lower cadence as they traditionally have longer strides than shorter athletes. 

Be warned, when it comes to developing a cadence running technique, runners who overstride have a tendency to lock their knees and slam their heels to the ground with every step. This not only slows you down but can create a choppy, bouncy gait which puts extra pressure and stress on your muscles and bones. This then makes you more susceptible to injury. 

OriGym’s guide on how to prevent ACL injuries can be helpful here!

So, is cadence important for running? 

cadence running meaning

We argue that having a good cadence running technique is good for a number of aspects of running and not just for speed. By increasing your optimum running cadence you’re changing where your foot lands. Rather than having your foot land in front of your hips, by adjusting running cadence accordingly your feet can land directly underneath your centre of gravity. 

This then translates into your stride length decreasing which means you will waste less energy when moving forward. In turn, by simply adjusting the running cadence of your body, you will be able to take more steps without tiring yourself out. 

Taking some running gels along when you run is a good way to give yourself an energy boost.

If you’re looking to improve your overall running performance, then solely focusing on your optimum running cadence won’t prompt vast improvements. Instead, we would recommend that you focus on improving your speed, strength and coordination; all of these factors will have you seeing improvements in your cadence.

Through training, as you become stronger and faster, you will eventually find your optimal running cadence and stride length. Once you have achieved this, it means that you’ll be able to run at the same speed and distance that you do now, but it will require significantly less effort. 

However, if you focus on improving your stamina specifically, you may be able to increase your optimal running cadence and stride length, and travel at a further distance within the allotted time of 60 seconds. 

But what is a good running cadence? 

Typically, well-trained athletes will have a good running cadence, which traditionally comes in around 90 steps on one foot per minute. However, beginners aren’t usually that far behind with an average cadence running of 78-82 steps per minute. 

Why You Should be Monitoring Your Running Cadence 

If you want to know how to measure cadence when running, then the answer lies within the practice of monitoring. 

Cadence monitor running is a term that relates to actively counting how many steps you take when running. It is named as such because you are monitoring your steps and for those of you who are more advanced you can also monitor your overall running technique. 

If you want to improve your workouts then take a look at our tips on how to improve your running technique!

You can approach this from a traditional standpoint, setting a timer for one minute on your phone or a stopwatch and then counting your steps in your head. However, whilst this is a perfectly fine method of monitoring it won’t give you an average cadence for running.

For example, on the run that you monitor you may have a cadence of 76, but then on your following run when you’re not monitoring that number could increase or decrease. 

We would recommend downloading a running app that specifically tells you your running cadence, after calculating an average based on a mile of running. Whilst traditional running and fitness apps usually offer insight into your cadence, we are going to recommend apps that specifically focus on this aspect of running. 

Knowing what your current cadence is will allow you to train in order to increase cadence running, whilst also providing you with information that will allow you to set yourself ideal cadence running goals. 

We would recommend the following apps:

cadence training running

Weav Run 

If you’re looking to learn more about the cadence running meaning, then we would recommend that you check out Weav Run. This revolutionary app was designed to help create the perfect music for runners, syncing your music to the beat of your feet. 

The way this works is with what Weav calls beats per minute (BPM) so for example if you run at 180 bpm the running cadence would adjust the music to play at 180 bpm.

However, this isn’t all that the app can do as it can also be used in order to measure your cadence. In order for this to be done successfully, you must run at your average speed - don’t run faster now that you’re being monitored as that defeats the purpose of the test. Once you have completed your mile run, you will have your cadence explained to you minute by minute, finally giving you an average running cadence. 

If you would like to try this aspect of the app, simply select the ‘Match My Stride’ option and get ready to monitor your cadence. 

For some other great useful apps take a look at OriGym’s reviews of 13 running apps for beginners.

RUNZI

This one is for all the Google and Android users out there who are looking for the ideal cadence running app. 

RUNZI is specifically designed for tracking cadence, operating on an average based system. After running for however long you wish, the app will tell you how many steps you took in total, then divide that by your overall run time to give you a personalised running cadence.

According to the reviews left for this app, many of its customers use the RUNZI app for cadence training running. Among these reviews, many users state that the training guidance that the app provides has helped to improve their overall running performance, as well as their running cadence specifically.

Now that we have discussed the benefits of using apps in order to monitor your running cadence, we can also recommend the use of smartwatches too. Many of these running watches come with a built-in pedometer or health-related app that comes pre-installed. 

Much like the apps, these watches will traditionally give you an average cadence based on a long-distance run.

Whilst monitoring is incredibly useful, it is also important that you record your cadence results too. Seeing the results in front of you will allow you to track your progress as you participate in your cadence training running.

Physically tracking these results will also prompt you to set further goals for yourself, as you attempt to achieve your personal best running cadence. Try using one of OriGym’s favourite fitness journals to keep track of your best running cadence!

As you can see there are many ways in which you can practice cadence monitor running. Much like the prospect of cadence itself, you need to fit monitoring around you and your lifestyle. We would recommend trying a few different methods of monitoring before you settle on one that you definitively use. 

Why Is It So Important To Monitor Your Running Cadence? 

Now that we have discussed how cadence for running is monitored, we will now highlight why monitoring is so important whilst in pursuit of our own personal best running cadence. 

#1 To Avoid Overstretching 

We have already briefly touched upon this already, but monitoring your cadence will help those who overstretch as they run. Naturally, if you fall under this category of overstretching, you will have a much lower score compared to runners who place their legs directly underneath their centre of gravity. 

By monitoring your cadence, you will be able to make any needed corrections should you have a low cadence score. Some of these corrections may be related to your overall speed, however, they may also relate to your running form too. 

When it comes to running, form is everything and when you achieve good form the running cadence of your overall performance will significantly increase. 

But this brings up the question - what are the benefits of a good form for running cadence?

As you’re running with proper form, e.g. planting one foot below your centre of gravity, you’re effectively training your body to run in a safe and more efficient manner. 

The form is particularly important in certain environments, for example, running downhill

A study conducted in 2014 set out to research the influence of stride frequency on your body and running performance. Within this study, the researchers hypothesised that overstriding leads to significantly larger rates of injury and also hinders a runner's overall performance. The researchers compiled a large database of previously existing research available on the internet and set out to investigate how running mechanics change when stride frequency is lowered. 

The researchers found that there was consistent evidence that lengthened strides affected your mass vertical excursion, ground reaction force, shock attenuation and energy absorbed by the hip, knees and other joints. 

When it came to injury rates among runners, the researchers found that participants were more likely to get injured when they had a high stride rate, with body parts such as the lumbar, knee and rearfoot being the areas that are most affected from overstriding

A secondary study further supports this idea of strides negatively affecting your health. This research found that increasing cadence running through smaller and more frequent strides will result in less impact on your hips and knees, reducing the risk of injury. 

Another point that may be worth noting is that the researchers noted no change in speed among runners who did not correct their running form. This means that if you wish to improve your speed then you’re going to need to improve your cadence. 

Remember, a fast running cadence translates into more steps per minute and therefore more speed. 

#2 To Become a More Versatile Runner 

what is good cadence for running

Cadence meaning in running is all about highlighting how many steps you take during a run. 

But who’s to say that having a higher running cadence is the ultimate goal? Who’s to say that you should be constantly looking to have a higher cadence each and every time you set off on a run?

As we have already discussed, goals are entirely subjective from person to person, you may not want to be constantly improving, instead, you may want to achieve the best running cadence for you. 

One day you may decide that you want to get an average cadence of 80, whilst another day you may really want to push yourself and try to double that. 

Monitoring your cadence ultimately allows you to become a more versatile runner. As you closely watch the numbers each time you run, you’ll be able to train and condition your body to run at a specific speed and for a specific length. 

This will come in handy when you’re participating in long-running events such as marathons, or practising high-intensity training, which requires you to push yourself hard for short intervals. 

Read up on the benefits and risks of long-distance running here before you head out!

You will be able to work out an average of how many steps you should take depending on what kind of run you’re competing in. 

Additionally, you don’t have to treat every run individualistically. You could try and do some running cadence drills, where you alternate your cadence according to pre-set goals prior to the run. 

Constantly alternating your runs will increase your exercise stimuli and over time you’ll notice an increase in your strength, speed and form!

#3 It Acts As A Diagnostic System

If you feel that there is something wrong with the way in which you run, the chances are that you can discover what is affecting your performance by monitoring your cadence score. 

We have already briefly touched upon one of the things that may influence your overall cadence in the form of running strides, but monitoring can help you pick up on other issues too.

During a long run, you may get tired at a specific point and begin to slow down; without closely monitoring your cadence levels throughout your run this will go unnoticed and your performance will be affected. 

For example, say you begin your 5 miles run with a high running cadence of 100 steps per minute, this will be your optimum performance level. However, after around 3 miles your body may be starting to become tired, thirsty or hungry and your running cadence may begin to lower.

If you want to achieve the best cadence for running then you should closely monitor your runs, as that way you’ll be able to accurately see when your performance begins to decrease. In turn, this diagnosis will allow you to take preemptive measures that will cancel out this negative running effect. 

These measurements may be a simple solution such as making sure you pack yourself a snack or a running water bottle to ensure that your energy levels don’t deplete. 

Alternatively, if you know that you constantly begin to slow down after the 3rd mile, for example, that can be your own incentive to push on through and maintain your regular speed.

As these previous three points explain, running cadence is explained through the process of monitoring. If you want to get a better understanding of the way you run and why it is that you run that way, then you should consider monitoring yourself.

OriGym have some other valuable guides on running so check those out too!

How to Increase Your Running Cadence

So we've answered what it is and how to measure it, but what about how to increase your running cadence? 

We here at OriGym can offer you some advice on how you can increase your cadence in manners that are both safe and efficient for your body.

#1 Determine Your Ideal Running Cadence 

Before you even begin to put your running into practice, you’re going to want to set yourself a running cadence goal. To achieve this you’re going to want to first analyse your current cadence score in relation to a specific distance.

For example, you may want to start with monitoring your cadence during a 5K run (for some other great running challenges and races take a look at our recent blog post!).

Hypothetically let’s say your average running cadence over the course of this run is 100 steps per minute. You now have this information at hand should you want to set a specific target in cadence whilst running.

However, it is once again important to stress that you should be reasonable with yourself when it comes to goal setting. 

Take your current performance into account and slowly build upon that, rather than setting unrealistic goals, as that may lead to a lack of motivation should they not be met. 

Steadily working towards a goal will allow you to find greater success when pursuing high cadence running goals, compared to just jumping to an unsustainable fitness level. 

But how do we set these reasonable goals? Well, perhaps our next point could offer some insight into just that.

Don't forget to download your FREE 16-week half marathon running programme!

#2 Stick to the 5% Rule

optimal running cadence

When questioning how to increase your running cadence the safest and most recommended method of training is commonly referred to as the 5% rule. 

This simply refers to a method of practice in which you attempt to increase your cadence by 5%. Using the previously discussed 100 steps as an example, if you were to increase this by 5% you’d be aiming to achieve 105 steps per minute. 

This may not sound very drastic, however, it is much easier on your body than immediately jumping to a 10% increase. The previously mentioned research supports the notion that this smaller increase is easier on your body, as it found that runners who stick to the 5% rule reduce stress to their knee. 

If you do have knee pain, try using a knee compression sleeve to alleviate some of the aches.b

Whilst 5% may not initially offer high cadence running levels, it will build up slowly over time and eventually you could improve your cadence to the likes of 150 steps per minute, should you really put the work in!

Alternatively, once you have successfully upped your cadence by 5% multiple times, you could take the daring move to slowly increase that percentage even further. 

Once again we would not recommend immediately jumping to a ridiculous level such as 20%, rather we would suggest that you increase your practice, with high cadence running levels that are slow and gradual, to avoid injuries and strain to your body. For this reason, we would recommend gradually moving up to an increase of 7.5 - 10%.

#3 Use A Running Metronome 

The last point in our short recommendation list into how to increase running cadence is by using a running metronome. 

This is a fun way to increase your running cadence, as a metronome will offer you a rhythm that you can attempt to match with your running. 

Metronome apps such as Weav can help you manage your goals in an effective way, as they will slowly train your body to adjust your footing to the increased rhythm. Initially running to a beat may feel a little strange, or even forced for some of you. However, try not to focus on the initial unnatural feeling, as once you have become better familiarised with the app's mechanics, your running technique will adjust accordingly. 

These apps traditionally want to train you to reach 180 bpm in running cadence, however, it is so important that you don’t jump straight into this and have it set as a goal for later down the line. 

Rather you should use it to gradually elevate your running in order for you to deal with an increased rate of activeness. 

Using a metronome is also a great tool for those of you who suffer from fatigue. As we have previously discussed, many runners have a tendency to unknowingly slow down at specific points during their run. However, with a metronome, you’ll be able to immediately tell when you’ve slowed down as your running won’t match the beat. 

The metronome's beat is the thing that will allow you to sustain high cadence running levels, throughout your journey. In fact, metronomes are great for cadence drills in running, as you’ll be able to do short bursts of high-intensity training, all of which is guided by the beat of the songs.

Many metronome apps will give you the option of what you want to increase your running cadence by. We recommend that you stick to the advice previously given in the point above and stick to the 5%. In the midst of running to a beat, it is easy to get caught up and carried away in this new fun way of exercise. But you must remember to take it easy on yourself, for the good of your health.

Will running with music really aid your performance? Find out more.

We hope you have found this shortlist into how to improve running cadence to be insightful. Remember, when taking improvements into consideration you may wish to incorporate all of these practices or just one. 

Training is entirely subjective to you, and you’re going to want to train in the most productive fashion for your body. 

The only thing we could add is if you’re using your own training method, remember running is a high impact sport and can cause stress-related injuries to your muscles and joints. For this reason it is so important that you gradually increase your training, rather than pushing yourself to the extremes.

Workouts for Faster Running Cadence

If you want to see improvements in your workouts then you’re going to have to do a lot of running cadence drills. These drills will help manage your intensity and your stamina, both of which you’ll need to work on should you wish to improve your running cadence score. 

What are running drills?

Running drills are dynamic exercises that help you to ingrain proper movement patterns into your muscle memory. Once these movements are ingrained, they become automatic and can help you to achieve a number of things in relation to running, such as:

  • Improves strength in your muscles, tendons and joints, which will help you to run faster.
  • More efficient communication between your brain and legs. This will help your footwork, reducing the risk of overstretching.
  • Better balance, thus preventing you from tripping or falling whilst running.
  • Higher stamina: the longer you are able to push yourself at an intense rate, then the easier casually running for longer distances will become.

Cardio and aerobic training is also a great way to boost your stamina!

What is running cadence specific training? 

If you are looking for training that will specifically improve cadence in running, then we would recommend primarily sticking to high-intensity drills. 

But what drills should you specifically focus on?

#1 Butt Kick Drills 

These kicks to the back will help to increase your cadence by improving the flexibility of your hip flexor. Once this flexibility has been improved, your legs will be able to move more freely, giving you the opportunity to put in more steps whilst out on your run. 

#2 A-Skip Drills

These kinds of drills are all about the footwork! A-skips will reinforce the midfoot landing, ensuring that you don’t fall into a bad habit of overextending your leg. 

This means that your running cadence will rise, as you won’t be as tired from the legs overextension. If you want to improve your cadence, whilst also learning about the reinforcement of positive form, then we would highly recommend that you practice some A-Skip drills.

#3 High Knees 

Much like A-skip drills, high knees are all about reinforcing the behaviour. 

Much like the previously mentioned drill, high knee drills are about teaching midfoot landing and ensuring that your placement is directly below your centre of gravity. 

If you need a bit of a boost while practising your drills then why not try running supplements

#4 Fast Feet

Another cadence running drill that also reinforces the importance of positive footwork is the fast feet drill. 

Whilst A-skip and high knee drills teach you about the placement of your legs, fast feet is all about reinforcing the placement of your feet when running. This will help to improve your cadence, as you’ll gradually learn how to reduce your contact time on the floor. 

Advice for Running Drills

When it comes to cadence training, running drills are a necessity should you want to see improvements. 

However, there are some potential pitfalls that may hinder your overall performance. Here is some advice that we would recommend to everyone practising drill training.

#1 Pay Attention

running cadence definition

Because these cadence drills are all rooted in skill and form, you’re going to need to pay attention to every exercise you do. If you continuously perform a drill incorrectly, you’ll only be reinforcing bad habits when running in your everyday life, which could lead to injuries or premature fatigue. 

Take time with each drill, if you find yourself being unable to perform it correctly, take a rest and then return to it with good form. If you want some tips as to how you can maintain a good cadence running form, we have you covered in that department too. 

Think of your head as an anchor: you want your chin parallel to the ground, with your head nicely stacked over your shoulders. Your shoulders should in turn be stacked over your hips and your hips over your ankles. Additionally, you should be aiming to run whilst leaning forward from the ankles, avoiding a bend at the waist. 

Good posture isn’t just advantageous for running - find out more about the benefits of a good posture here!

Pay attention to your form whilst running at all times, otherwise, you’ll just end up running incorrectly later on.

#2 How Many Drills Should You Do? 

The answer to this question may be dependent on your skill level as a runner. Naturally, beginners won’t be able to do as many drills as trained athletes. 

However, the recommended performance for most drills is 2-3 sets, regardless of your skill level. For example, you may do 3 sets of 10 high knees, meaning that you would do 30 in total. 

One thing to bear in mind is that most drills should be completed over a distance of 20-40m. You can start with shorter distances if you’re new to drill routines, as it will slowly ease you into the practice. 

It is also recommended that you walk back to where you started the drill from, as the walk back will be time to rest and unwind, instead of rushing into the next drill when your body may not be ready.  

Taking rest days is also vitally important to every training program!

Drills are a great method of exercise that will help to increase your stamina and intensity. This translates into an improved running cadence, as your body will be able to handle running for longer distances, thanks to the intensity training which cadence drills provide. 

FAQ 

Why is 180 BPM Running Cadence Considered to be ‘The Ideal’? 

good form running cadence

If you do your own research into what is running cadence, you’ll often find that 180 BPM is referred to as ‘the magic number’ or ‘the ideal’. 

This notion dates back to the 1984 Olympics, where coach Jack Daniels noted that all the runners seem to surpass 180 steps per minute. This translated into a theory that stated that all trained athletes who are competing at a professional level must uphold themselves to this ideal running cadence level.

However, it is important to keep in mind that this was the Olympics and trained athletes are going to be much better at running than the everyday person! If you do your own research into this subject, please do not feel disheartened by this rate being branded as ‘the ideal’ running cadence. You can join running forums as these are valuable tools to help get advice from like-minded runners!

We encourage you to disregard questions relating to ‘what is a good cadence for running?’ and instead find your own ‘ideal’ by setting a goal and working towards it.

Is Cadence Important for Running?

Whilst cadence is a useful tool for helping us to become better runners, we would advise all you runners out there to avoid making it your sole goal. Instead of concentrating on your cadence constantly, check back in on it every now and again. It should be used as a tool to gauge your progress, rather than a progression goal.

Before You Go!

We hope you have found our article  informative and helpful on your own fitness journey. As always, we’d like to remind you that due to running being a high-impact sport you should take care of your body whilst practising. Try not to overdo it, work at a pace that is uniquely comfortable for you rather than pushing yourself too far into the potential risk of injury. 

Don’t forget to take a look at OriGym’s fantastic range of REPS and CIMSPA accredited personal training courses as we can give you the qualifications you need to make a difference in the fitness industry! We’ve also got a variety of CPDs to further your career, too!

Download OriGym’s course prospectus for more information!

References: 

  • Amy G. Schubert, Jenny Kempf and Bryan C. Heiderscheit (2014) Influence of Stride Frequency and Length on Running Mechanics. PMC
  • Bryan C. Heiderscheit, Elizabeth S. Chumanov, Max P. Michalski, Christa M. Wille and Michael B. Ryan (2012) Effects of Step Rate Manipulation on Joint Mechanics during Running. PMC

Written by James Bickerstaff

Content Writer & Fitness Enthusiast

James holds a BA (Hons) in Creative Writing and Film Studies and has recently gained a MA degree in Film, both of which he attained from Liverpool John Moores University. After taking up the couch to 5K challenge on a whim, James found a new passion for running, which he combines with his love for healthy cooking and writing. All of this led him to becoming a copywriter for OriGym.  

When he is not writing content for the site, James can be found researching new recipes, writing music reviews, reading and watching latest film releases.   

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