The ideal cadence

15. May 2024

Photo: / sportpoint

Is there an optimum cadence? And what influence does cadence have on injury? Expert Viktor Röthlin explains all.

One thing is for sure: your cadence can never be too high, particularly as an amateur runner. For example, I used to start my marathons at a cadence of 180 steps per minute. To maintain a consistent pace, I'd then increase my cadence towards the end to 210 steps per minute as this would compensate for the shorter flight phase due to fatigue.

In running, pace is really dependent on the flight phase and cadence. However, if you're really not covering much ground when you run, you should certainly try to take slightly longer strides.

Under 160 = stride too long

A cadence below 160 means your stride is simply too long. While this varies slightly depending on your body size, the leverage of such a low cadence can result in overloading in the medium term.

For a better understanding, I always use the pile dwellers as a comparison. The wealthy built their houses on a hundred piles, whereas the poor only built them on four. Whenever a violent storm arrived, the poor people's houses were naturally destroyed.

This is similar when running: If I run my training route in 10,000 steps, the loading per step and on my body overall is far less than if I covered the same distance in just 8,000 steps.

So, how can we increase our cadence? Frequency exercises or a regular running ABC are ideal here. Both should feature regularly in your training.

Hip-hop and rap are too slow

Anyone who likes to listen to music while running should pay attention to their cadence accordingly. The reason: most songs are played at less than 160 bpm (beats per minute). Hip-hop and rap typically feature 60-110 bpm while house and disco are 120-135 bpm.

If you run while listening to this kind of music, especially if you have a reasonably good sense of rhythm, you'll end up running in sync with the music. While that feels satisfying, it generally means that your stride will be too long and your cadence therefore too low.

As mentioned before, professionals increase their cadence when they get tired. However, amateur athletes often tend to do exactly the opposite. The more fatigued they feel, the longer their stride. Perhaps this is because they think that they'll reach the finish line faster with longer strides.

However, the reality is that the longer the strides that long-distance runners take, the sooner they'll end up in physiotherapy due to overloading!