How Should Running Cadence Vary with Pace?

running cadence range

Often when working with runners to improve their running efficiency, one of the main aspects of running technique for us to work on is to reduce the impact and braking forces that occuer upon foot strike. We can do this by reducing any tendency to over-stride (land the foot too far ahead of the centre of mass).

One of the most simple and highly effective ways to achieve this is to increase running cadence at a given pace.

However, we don’t target one single step rate for running cadence across all paces. Your running cadence should change naturally as you run at a faster and slower pace. As you speed-up or slow-down, you will notice that your leg speed (cadence) increases along with your stride length. This is normal.

The issue comes when cadence either doesn’t increase enough when we’re trying to run fast… or it slows down too much when we’re running slow and steady. In both these instances runners often compensate by over-striding.

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Running Cadence Range

I often refer to a runner’s cadence range. This refers to the natural differences shown in running cadence of an individual’s running style at an easy pace compared to a tempo pace, compared to their short interval pace (400m reps, for example).

As discussed in a previous article on running cadence, the “magic number” approach of striving to hit 180-184 strides per minute, regardless of running pace is fundamentally flawed when applied to the distance running masses: A runner will naturally run with a slightly slower rate of cadence when running slow compared to when running at a faster pace.

This is shown on the running cadence chart below.

running cadence chart

The key to improving efficiency through manipulating cadence is to shift the cadence range to the right by initially increasing it by 5%.

The “Easy Pace” cadence, previously 164spm will become 172spm, while the “Hard Pace” changes from 176spm to 184spm.

All of which will result in less over-striding at a given pace, compared to the lower cadence version of the same pace.

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Last updated on November 1st, 2021.


  1. This is a great article. I have been working on increasing my cadence and improving my running form for a while now. It took a lot of adjusting to get used to increasing my cadence versus my old style of lengthening my stride out in front of me. But once I was able to change I noticed a big difference in my speed and exertion level.

  2. With me I tend to have a cadence of 165-175 for easy runs; while faster runs I hit 179-182. At faster paces I automatically pick up the speed of my legs going forward, hence the higher cadence. I know that the cadence should remain the same at all speeds but that is easier said than done.

  3. Hi James, thanks for following me on twitter @yooglecas i had a look at your site and would be intrested to know how you would evaluate cadence, vertical osolation and contact time that is being mesured by new watches in the Garmin range.
    for example i guess that higher cadence would reduce vertical osolation and increase contact time if we are running at a gliding motion rather than high knee long gaint running used by top Keyan runners where we would see higher vertical data and less contact time.

    thanks very much.

  4. I am trying to increase my cadence. I weigh just over 13st and about 6ft 1″. Cadence Currently at around 160-165. The problem I find is breathless as I increase cadence. I am running 10k in 42 and aiming for 40 and 134 for a half and aiming for 130. Any tips please?!