Run Cadence

by | Run, Training

An athlete was asking me about Cadence today, so I googled ‘Nikki Reiter’ in conjunction with cadence to see what she might have to say on the subject. Nikki’s views always seem well grounded and, like me, she seems to dislike fads when it comes to sport. My search brought up an?article by Mens Health that quotes Nikki and Jack Daniels (no, not the booze).

So, rather than re-invent the wheel I am going to get from point A to point B as quickly and efficiently as possible. Here’s the article.

The Right Way to Run

Cadence is one of the biggest buzzwords in running circles today, and it?s usually uttered in the same breath with the number 180. As in, ?You should be taking 180 steps per minute as you run, otherwise you?re doing something wrong.?

But that?s simply not true. The 180 number rose to prominence through the research of legendary running coach Jack Daniels, immortalized in the book Born To Run. ?We sat at the Olympic stadium and counted the steps of all the runners in all the different running events,? Daniels tells ?I think out of the 46 athletes who we evaluated, only one took fewer than 180 steps per minute, and that was 176.?

So it?s easy see the flaws in the 180 argument: For starters, 180 was not an average cadence, but rather a minimum. Second, the runners Daniels observed weren?t your average Joes, but Olympians?the elitist of the elite. And finally, Daniels considered many running events in his research, which will give you a wide spread of data. An elite marathoner may run with an average cadence of 190 steps per minute, but U.S. sprinter Tyson Gay runs the 100m around a cadence of 288.

Still, running cadence does matter?especially if you?re a beginner. The biggest mistake most beginning runners make is over-striding, says Nikki Reiter, a biomechanist and coach at the Run S.M.A.R.T. Project. That is, they land each step with the heel out in front of them. Each time the heel hits like that, it?s like hitting the breaks.

By shortening your stride length and increasing your cadence (stride rate), though, you force yourself to take smaller steps, with your foot landing directly underneath you. This minimizes up/down movement and translates that energy into forward momentum. Once you have your stride rate down, you can gradually increase your stride length to gain more speed.

Every runner has his or her own ideal cadence. How can you figure out yours? Use these techniques from the pros to dial in your sweet spot.



1. Hop on a Treadmill? – ?A treadmill eliminates wind and will keep you going at exactly the same speed throughout your testing, Reiter says. Set it to an incline of 1 percent, which more closely matches running on a real, outdoor surface.

2. Pick Your Pace? – ?Think of your next race goal. How fast do you want to run it? After a warm-up, set the treadmill to that speed.

3. Count Your Steps? – Count the number of times your right foot hits the ground in?15 seconds. Multiply that by four, and that gives you how many steps each leg is taking per minute. Multiply again, by two, and you get your steps per minute, Reiter says.



Here?s the tricky part: There isn?t a formula where you can just plug in your height, weight, and age and out pops the answer, W. Brent Edwards,?Ph.D., a professor at the Department of Kinesiology and Nutrition at University of Illinois at Chicago, tells

As for your ideal cadence, Edwards says it?s all about determining your optimal energy efficiency. Here’s how: After you have a baseline step count, try increasing your cadence?without changing the treadmill?s speed. Repeat the counting technique, and sustain that rhythm for at least 3 minutes. Use a heart rate monitor to check your beats per minute, and remember or jot down your bpm and cadence numbers. Repeat the process several times, gradually increasing your cadence. Where was your heart rate the lowest? That’s the cadence where you’re most efficient at that given speed, Daniels says.

The ideal tool for gauging your efficiency is a VO2 meter, but that’s a very involved (and expensive) test you can’t do on your own. Fortunately, a simple heart rate monitor should be the next best thing.


From an article originally publish by Brent Rose @?