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.
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.
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.