The Role of Cadence
Forefoot, midfoot, heel strike…
There are so many schools of thought out there when it comes to footstrike however, there is not enough of an emphasis on the solution to many running related injuries that are often played off as a foot strike issue. We do not take a firm stance on foot strike, but we do believe the source of most injuries related to heel strike has more to do with one over-striding and not having a proper cadence. Over-striding is when the plant of the foot is further away from your center of gravity, or simply put not underneath your hips. Often this can be altered by increasing your running cadence.
Cadence or how quickly the feet are hitting the ground, is more than just one of the stats that your average GPS watch tracks. It plays a huge role in efficiency and injury prevention. By having a quicker cadence, you are reducing your “air time” or vertical oscillation and this reduces the maximum load the body is absorbing in midstance (the moment when you are on one leg and the body is taking full impact). Another advantage to increased cadence is the decreased likelihood of landing with a locked out knee in front of the body. This motion is the prime culprit to many over-striding related injuries.
What does good Cadence look like and how do I know what my cadence is?
Famous running coach, Jack Daniel’s studied runners during the 1984 Olympic Games and found that only 1 elite distance runner of the 46 he studied had a cadence less than 180 steps a minute, and even that one runner was reaching the upper 170s. Now 180 is not the “magic” number as this number will be slightly variable for height and speed the runner is going, but it is a good range to aim for. At higher speeds many runners will be going higher than 180 steps a minute.
Now the cadence average recreational runner may look a little different than the elite distance athlete, but increasing cadence is important nonetheless. If you have a modern GPS watch, chances are you will be able to find cadence in the data fields. If you do not have a GPS watch, on your next run count how many times your right foot hits the ground in a minute and multiply it by 2.
Lastly, increasing your running cadence should be a gradual process. One should not strive to go from 150 steps a minute to 170 -190 in the span of a day. We believe this is best achieved gradually over time. Start with working on your cadence during speed work and then try to incorporate similar turnover to distance runs over time.