Run cadence: how to improve yours to gain extra speed

Increasing your run cadence is a proven way of becoming a faster runner. Biomechanical and run expert Ben Barwick of coaching outfit Full Potential reveals how to develop a swift stride rate


Increasing your run cadence – how many times you stride each minute – is a proven way to become a more efficient triathlete, and thanks to training-tool advancements, watches like the Garmin’s Forerunner 630 now automatically measure cadence.


Of course, measuring cadence and actively doing something with that information are two very different things, but one thing’s clear: there’s no optimum cadence at any level; each triathlete is different and has a different cadence range. But ultimately, the shorter the race, the higher the cadence because you’ll be running at a faster pace.

How to improve your run cadence for when you’re tired

How to improve your run cadence and efficiency

Gwen Jorgensen’s former coach Jamie Turner put it best when he said every triathlete should develop a ‘cadence bandwidth’. If you have a wide cadence range – say 160spm for easy running; 166spm for faster running – it really comes in handy when fatigued. Again, as Turner says, the treadmill is a good place
to play around with cadence and stride rate.

Tied in with running when fatigued, to help with jelly legs, when approaching T2 you should shift your bike into a lower gear and increase cadence so you’re spinning your legs more. This will shift bloodflow to more run-specific muscles and prepare you for a faster cadence – and more speed – from the moment you leave T2.

Cadence should be a function of speed – the faster you want to go, the faster cadence needs to be – and you should aim to increase each level’s bandwidth (easy, threshold and 5km/10km pace) by 5-10%. An easy-running 160spm, for instance, would rise to 168-178spm. That’s why during speed sessions, focus on a quicker cadence and pushing off the ground with more force, so you’re developing both stride rate and cadence to go faster.


1. Landing and toe-off

Your foot should strike the surface with the ball of your foot in a dorsiflexed (upwards) position, with your toes pointing forward not downwards. The landing should be light, not heavy, before gripping and gently scraping the surface underneath you.

2. Focus on the hips

Think of your leg working in a circular motion from the hip joint. This brings the heel of your foot behind your body. The hamstrings and gluteus maximus (bottom muscles) play a key role in this action. Your hips and waist must remain steady with little side-to-side movement.

3. Upper-body

Shoulders should be relaxed with arms bent at 90°. The motion should be from the shoulder not the forearms. As the arm moves back, keep the 90° flexion. Hands should be held with the palm facing inwards not down. If you hold your hands in a fist, the thumb should rest on the forefinger.



10mins easy

Gradually increasing speed throughout so your heart rate’s increased and a mild sweat has formed on your brow

Main Set 

10mins at threshold

This is around 80-85% of your maximum HR and is known as the exercise intensity or blood-lactate concentration we can only sustain for a specific period of time. It’s about 25-35secs slower than 5km race pace and 15-20secs per mile slower than 10km race pace

90secs jog recovery

5 x 2mins at 10km pace with 60secs recovery

5 x 1min at 5km pace with 60secs recovery



10mins of gradually slower running