Running Cadence and Injury

Injuries are epidemic in running. Studies suggest that upwards of 50% of runners experience injury. Of that injured population, 70% of those runners will experience another injury within 12 months. So what can be done to improve our chances of staying injury free? 

The single most powerful thing we can manipulate to reduce our chances of getting a running injury is CADENCE. Cadence is measured by counting the number of foot strikes taken per minute. “Inappropriate” cadence can lead to increased stress on your legs. For the majority of people when cadence is a problem, their cadence is too slow. If you can get your feet turning over a little faster you can reduce the stress on your legs significantly. 


5 will give you 20 

A 5% increase in your cadence will reduce the forces at your knee by 20%! 

A subtle increase in cadence can substantially reduce loading to the hip and knee joints during running and often proves beneficial in the prevention and treatment of common running-related injuries. 


So what number should I target? 

Contrary to a lot of what a lot of people will tell you there is not one number that everyone should strive to achieve. There is no magic in 180 steps per minute. However, there is a target range which tends to be a better. Above 172 tends to be the tipping point for reducing stress while below 164 is more strongly correlated with injury risk. Now that's not to say everyone should immediately shoot for above 172. There is some context to these numbers. The pace at which you run, your leg length, and a number of other factors will effect what the best cadence is for each individual. 


How to work on this:

Start by measuring your cadence. The easiest way is to go the app store and download Runcadence. This app will measure as well as help you retrain your cadence. Or you can measure your cadence on your own. This is best done on a treadmill. 

Warm up for 10 minutes, start running at a moderate 5/10 effort, now count the number of times your left leg strikes the ground over the course of 30 seconds, take this number and multiply it by 4. This will be your preferred cadence. 

If you think you need to increase cadence, start by increasing by 5%. There are a number of metronome apps which you can use, I find Runcadence to be the best. Typically people adopt the new cadence fairly quickly, but it will take some training. If needed you can go up by 7.5% or 10%. However, changes above 10% are rarely necessary and also come at an increased energy cost.

Wether you are battling an injury or want to avoid one. Check your cadence and see if you need to make an adjustment. 

Michael Lord1 Comment