What Is Running Cadence?

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In a recent article in Runner’s World, Hailey Middlebrook explains running cadence is the old gold standard that is running speed of 180 steps per minute.

For decades, we’ve been told that 180 steps per minute (SPM) is the ideal cadence for running—a number that legendary running coach Jack Daniels observed after counting the turnover rate of pro distance runners racing in the 1984 Olympics—but research has found that cadence rates vary greatly depending on runners’ speed (meaning you shouldn’t expect to have the same steps per minute when doing a speed workout versus an easy recovery run.)

In the article, Middlebrook cites a recent study conducted by researchers from University of Michigan, which found:

The runners’ cadences were all over the board. When Burns—who finished fifth in the race and included himself in the study—mapped the participants’ average step frequency throughout the 100K race, the data ranged from a guy who took 155 SPM to someone who took 203.

The study author and ultramarathoner Geoffrey Burns, Ph.D., a sport science postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Michigan, was reportedly a participant in the study. According to Burns “One of the most striking findings was that the highest and lowest averages finished within a couple minutes of each other.”

Think of cadence as a barometer, not a governor. It’s a useful thing to monitor, but you can’t be prescriptive with it, because everyone’s mechanics are different.

Dr. Geoffrey Burns (Source: Runner’s World)

More detailed information on how to boost Cadence and suggested workouts for a faster cadence are described in the article.

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