Is cadence important for running?

Wondering how important run cadence is and how fast your foot turnover should be? Here's Andy Bullock with the answers


Most runners experience this question at some point – just how fast should your legs be working for maximum efficiency? Wonder no more, as two-time 220 coach of the year Andy Bullock explains…


What’s run cadence?

Run cadence, and its effect on efficiency, is an interesting area. With running, the speed you move at is a combination of the distance provided by each propulsive action (ie, stride) and the rate at which you repeat this action (turnover or cadence).

What’s a good run cadence?

Generally, the most common number you’ll hear as a target is 90 strides per minute (or 180 if you count both feet hitting the floor). However, there will be individual variation and it might be that 90 isn’t right for you.But that doesn’t mean a higher stride rate than your current one wouldn’t be beneficial.

Individual variation happens because of factors like leg length and strength, and those with longer legs may find themselves taking longer strides with a slower turnover, while those with shorter legs may find they run with shorter strides and a faster turnover.

One of the most important effects of increasing leg turnover is a shortening of the stride at the front of the action. This, in turn, means feet hit the floor closer to your centre of mass, reducing the likelihood of a heel strike and, therefore, less injury risk. For this alone, it’s worth looking at.

As for increasing turnover and efficiency, some studies show that it actually results in higher oxygen use during running. If you’re interested in increasing your leg turnover you can try running on a slight downhill or counting your strides over a 10sec period, and then simply trying to increase this number by one stride at a time.

Off-season run technique session: work on your stride rate

Like this article? Check out our triathlete’s guide to bike cadence

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