Increasing run cadence

I’ve read a bit in the past about run cadence and this magical number of 180. Was just wondering what your collective thoughts are about this. I am on the skeptical side for mortals vs elite runners but open to be persuaded.

I currently have a cadence around 165-170 depending on effort - 165 for easy runs and 170 for 5k flat out. I’m 190cm (6’2") if that makes any difference.

So a few questions for you all.

Should I bother?
Has anyone done this? - What difference did it make?
If it is worth doing, how do you go about it?
If it is worth doing, how long does it take to adjust?
Er, anything else I should know about?

I was 180-185 over 5-10km last time around.
I was 70kg at 184cm, 17:07 and 35:01 LTS PBs.

I’m down at the following now, at 79kg

165spm Outlaw mara (3:22:xx)
168spm 113 half (1:29:xx PB)
168spm stand-alone half (1:20:41 PB)
167spm 10k (36:40)
167spm 5k (18:04)

I have one speed, one turnover rate and one mission to increase it.
I don’t know if it helps? But in cross country season, you can overtake so many people running the downhills properly. Way more than Pass you going uphill.

Now my cycling cadence is lower, with higher gearing, higher power and more comfort, I have found my run cadence has settled to match my cycling one.

If I focussed on getting my cycling cadence back up to 92rpm, then my running spm would follow.

It killed my Achilles and calves, but got me onto forefoot running and leaning forward (that string holding you up and all that jazz) - took time to adapt to that and saw a massive improvement. But that was accompanied by 5kg drop of weight too.
It feels nicer and looks better, too :see_no_evil:
You just feel more “pro” if you’re turning over 180spm - I think that helps propel you to faster times.
It took about three months for it to sink in - lots of downhill running and just turning those legs over (spin drills at 110rpm help!)

Should I bother? I’d say it’s worth looking into, maybe in the off-season or when you don’t have any particular race focuses in the near future.
Has anyone done this? - What difference did it make? I know of a few people who have sped up quite dramatically by increasing their cadence, but I think like a lot of things it’s very individual how well you respond.
If it is worth doing, how do you go about it? Adding some running drills using a metronome to the beginning of every track session/speedwork session can help.

Without increasing your cadence, you can only go faster by increasing your stride length. Increasing half of the equation without thinking about the other half seems a bit limiting - so it’s almost definitely worth thinking about

FWIW - this is the cadence graph for my recent 5k, against the pace graph.

When I started the run, I was up over 200 before settling at 178-182 and then getting it back up to 200 for the sprint finish. For an easy run I am around 170spm.

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There are significant advantages to having a ‘high’ cadence, however just changing cadence alone is not the answer…it is simply one component of good running form…

Should you bother? That’s up to you…

Is it worth doing? Yes. if you are regularly injured or want to develop your form…

What difference does it make? It can reduce ground reaction forces, it definitely reduces stance time, it can allow for forefoot strike and it encourages the correct use of running muscles…however, it can and often does, result in reduced stride length…

Is it worth doing? Yes…

how do you go about it? In simple terms, you increase your stride rate, but there is of course more to it than that…

Is it worth doing? Still yes…

How long does it take to adjust? The adjustment starts straight away, but this really depends on how much you have to correct (assuming that you are doing more than just increasing stride rate). It took me two years to go from a sub 3 heel striker to a sub 3 forefoot striker…

Anything else you should know? Yes, loads…it is not just about cadence.

Poet makes the observation about learning to run downhill effectively and efficiently…a high cadence is a component of that…

Thanks for the replies.

So it does indeed sound like it is worth some further investigation. But it also sounds like it will take quite a long time to adjust - but in the end can be worth it in terms of pace / injury prevention / improved running form.

Is this the sort of thing where initially you go backwards in terms of performance before everything clicks? I am sure when I have briefly attempted higher cadence in the past I end up with high HR for same pace as before.

Now, how do I self-diagnose my poor running form (or if indeed my running form is poor - which I am sure it probably is)

indeed your performance will initially decline if you are trying to train at the same time as increasing cadence…you will be taking more steps, it is more fatiguing (initially), your HR will be raised…

self diagnose poor running form by comparing yourself to good running form…

Now what is good form? That is the question…

I increased run cadence post ITB injury and it made a huge positive impact on my running performances, but as EJC has alluded to, the increased cadence was merely a symptom of a physio giving me a run assessment as part of the rehab and pointing out the bad mechanics, (as well as prescribing lots of glute activation and balance work).

Previously I had low cadence, was over-striding, not really using my arms and using mainly quads and calves, thus I fatigued quite quickly so whilst I was OK up to 5K, I was under performing at longer distances and my easy HR running pace was relatively slow.

Moving toward better running form (engaging core and glutes, more upright, shorter stride and therefore higher cadence, straighter arm drive), it actually didn’t take long to see some rapid improvements in easy HR running pace, and subsequently a few months later some PBs :slight_smile:

I was the same as I was suffering from a prolapsed disc that was made worse with bad running form. After extensive work in a body brace on a treadmill 3 years ago this forced me to work on my form by running up right with weight over the pelvis instead of leaning forward and increased turn over. I am now running at an average cadence of 184 had more success because of it.

Finding this thread really interesting.
I’m currently just re-starting the running after yet another bout of Achilles issues. With no fitness, my cadence is at 175. Looking back at last 5kish and I’m mid 180s.
My stride length is absolutely abysmal tho - which leaves me with 5k time normally hovering around 19mins. That cadence feels completely normal.

I am absolutely AWFUL at running downhill tho, and just viewing some hill reps from earlier in the year - turns out my cadence goes right down to mid/low 60s.

For Sam and Poet, can you look up what your cadence was for a long training run near to the point where you were recording these good race times. Just interested to see if on a steady run you are still at 180spm.

I am definitely interested in trying this out. How best to go about this? Currently, my rough training schedule for the week has an easy 5 mile run with the dog every morning and then a 6 mile run at lunchtime (2 speed sessions, 3 steady). At the weekend I try to get a long run and a parkrun in. In case you’re wondering I very rarely manage all of these sessions in a week as life gets in the way.

Should I be aiming to increase cadence every run, or just for some of them? I know I have work to do with form as well - particularly that I don’t use my arms much and have a very ugly arm position. I was thinking just to up the cadence by a small amount on all runs until I feel like I have adjusted and then repeat this process again and again until some time in the distant future 175+ feels comfy

I increased mine on a bit of a whim a few years back. Just thought i’d try to see if it made a difference so spent a few weeks increasing it consciously on every steady run (my sessions i didn’t really worry about). At first it just felt silly, like a shuffling Japanese Geisha taking minute steps, but it quickly normalised.

Mine was definietly aided by the trainers i was wearing at the time - NB Fresh Foam Boracay - as they seemed to really invite a square mid foot landing, that warranted a quicker cadence rate. I don’t have the stats on what it was before (to hand). But i recall working on it for a few weeks, and then it sort of just took over as normal. I think it dropped a bit from my conscious high cadence, but remained higher than my original.

When i do steady, normal, tarmac runs now i tend to sit in the 170-176 range and that’s really comfy. Again, my trainers will have an impact on this figure. I have a lower cadence in my Pegs and a higher cadence in my NB Fresh Foam Beacons.

When i race or rep however, the cadence dramatically increases. My last 3 5kms all averaged 188-189, with my last 100m up over 200 as i sprinted for the finish.

I used to really overstride on downhills, but tonnes of trail running has fixed that for me! You don’t want to be landing on your heels on steep, slippery slopes!!

There are a couple of comments suggesting over striding - what do you mean by over striding?

So I’ve just looked up a bit more data from recent races:
3000m - 183spm
5km - 182spm
10km - 181spm
HM - 178spm

Long easy run - 172spm.

Hope that helps a bit!

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Useful data, and it is not uncommon for cadence to range dependent on distance…however, there is good evidence to suggest that increasing the longer distance cadence is also beneficial (it may result in the shorter distance cadences increasing further).

I did similar to GB a number of years ago. There was no real science behind it, I’d just read that a higher cadence was likely better, so got a footpod and monitored my cadence on most runs and tried to keep it up there near or above 180. I did actually find some improvement at that point, and it got me to run a bit lighter on my feet for want of a better phrase.

I’ve since stopped focusing on it during runs, but I generally am observing the same as GB with lower cadence on easier training runs, but that it shoots back up in races. Although nothing like to his levels. I seem to have normalised a little below 180 now.

Not to drag a different thread into the mix, but the one thing that has influenced that is the vaporflys, at least in my standalone running races (not so much in tri’s). I’m now much lower cadence over shorter distances than I was before which I attribute to subconsciously trying to leverage the “spring” in those shoes a bit more by lengthening the stride.

At the start of last year, I probably hovered around the 170-174spm range for an easy run.
I’m probably still about that range, with some recent easier runs coming in around 170ish.

At the Big Half last year, I did 182spm ave with a recorded average stride length of 1.46m.
70.3’s came in at 176spm, 1.29m stride length; and 177spm, 1.32m stride length.

This year, in the vaporfly, I did 179spm at the Big Half, 1.50m stride length.
My single 70.3 also in the vaporfly was 177spm, 1.32m stride length.

I’ve also done more other running races this year, so have the following (both in vaporfly):
10k (pb): 176spm, 1.58m
5k (pb): 175spm, 1.65m

I was expecting to see the same, with shorter distances showing the highest cadence. I was surprised when I just looked back through results/data and saw the complete opposite. I wonder if there’s something to be gained there :thinking:

there is an energetic penalty for simply increasing cadence…thus it needs to either replace some other energy cost (which it sometimes does) or needs to be accompanied by additional changes in form…

Presumably the main factor is that it should stop people landing their foot ‘in front’ of them, so therefore you reducing any braking effect of foot strike and this outweighs energy cost.

On a more hocus pocus note, isn’t the body’s ‘frequency’ supposed to be 180bpm and therefore the coiled spring/rebound through the lower leg and ankle works best at that cadence.

For anyone wanting more tips on how to do it, imagine you are ‘running in a phone box’. :thinking:

Why would you not want your foot to land in front of you?

It causes a braking effect.

I can’t draw diagrams on here, but it’s biomechanics.