What is Running Cadence?

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garmin620Running cadence is a term that is making the rounds. Garmin has a watch/monitor that will measure cadence. Altra Running and Under Armour are introducing shoes that will transmit cadence to a compatible watch or smart phone app. Newton Running, Altra, and many running form programs mention running cadence as a key to successful running.

So what is a running cadence?

Running cadence is the number of steps or strides taken in a minute. A step is recorded each time a foot contacts the ground while running. A stride is recorded each time the same foot contacts the ground. So a step is L-R-L-R, where as a stride is L-L or R-R. One stride is the equivalent of two steps. It doesn’t matter whether you are counting a step or stride cadence, you just need to know the difference between these two terms.

If the device reporting your running cadence is showing numbers between 120 and 220, you can be pretty sure this is reporting a step cadence. If the reported number is between 60 and 110, then you are most likely getting a stride cadence.

It is commonly reported that an optimal stride cadence is around 90 strides/minute (180 steps/minute). While there can be much debate about what is optimal, chances are there is no one optimal cadence for everyone. Cadence is influenced by running experience, strength, pace and terrain.

Why does it matter?

So if there is no blanket optimal running cadence, why does it matter? That is a discussion for another day. However, like other variables associated with running performance, cadence is something that can be manipulated. If you know your typical running cadence, you can then alter your cadence during some runs and see what happens. Over time you can see if a different cadence better suits your running.

Determine your own baseline cadence.

The starting point is determining your baseline cadence. You can do this by running at a steady state and counting the number of footfalls for 30 seconds. It is easier to count just one foot, so pick one and count the number of ground contacts that foot makes in 30 seconds. Double that number to get your stride cadence per minute (double this number again to get your step cadence). If you want a device to record your cadence, you can get a cadence-compatible Garmin, Altra IQ shoe (scheduled for an April 2016 release), Under Armour Gemini 2 Record shoe or other wearable tech items.

We will discuss running cadence and running performance in the near future.