Since the widespread use of exercise trackers and activity monitors, for example Fitbits and Garmins, the term cadence is being used more and more by runners. Most running watches will now give you data on your cadence across your run. But what is cadence and why is it important? Quite simply, cadence is the number of times your feet contact the ground per minute. As I’ve written about previously, when your foot is in contact with the ground, there is a force that comes back up your leg from the ground, known as the ground reaction force. If you have a lower cadence, it’s most likely your foot is in contact with the ground for longer, meaning there are higher joint forces being placed on your legs.

So what cadence should I be aiming for? The widespread view is that ideally, your cadence should be somewhere between 170 and 190, with the strongest held view that 180 is the optimal cadence. However, individual feel and preference is also very important. If you find you run more efficiently, faster and can recover better from runs at 175 than 180, then I’d argue your body and running style is suited to running at a cadence of 175.

Changing cadence should also be done gradually. A good rule of thumb is to only increase your cadence by about 5-10% per week. Often runners find they fatigue more quickly when they increase their cadence, so it’s important to make changes during a training phase and not right before a race, or even during a race.

If you want to know more about cadence or any other aspect of your running technique, book in for a running assessment with one of our running retraining physios today!

Written by: Nick Rees – Physiotherapist