What is Running Cadence?

You can become an outstanding runner by regular monitoring of your running cadence. But you must be wondering as to what is running cadence. I will give you the dictionary meaning later but let me put it this way that cadence helps to enhance the efficiency of running, decreases the threats of injury, reduces the damage of the muscles while training, and improves the rate of recovery.

Although according to the experts, there is no such thing called ideal or universal cadence for running, there should be a specific rate that every individual should target. I will not recommend you on going after a particular number but keeping a careful eye on the cadence while running includes numerous benefits.

What is Cadence in Running?

What is Cadence in Running?

The above screenshot has been taken from my Forerunner 245 smartwatch that I use on all my runs to improve my running form, speed and endurance.

In running, Cadence is calculated as the total number of steps you take every minute. One of the simplest ways to calculate the cadence while running is to count the total number of times your foot is hitting the ground in one minute.

Among the two factors that determine the speed of a runner, one is running cadence, and another one is stride length.

In simple words, Cadence is calculated as number of steps you take per minute (SPM). There are a lot of things that determine your average cadence which includes your height, weight, fitness level, stride length, and leg length.

The higher the cadence the better it is for a runner and the lower the cadence the more are your chances of injuries.

A lot of runners (including myself) have an average cadence between 150 to 170spm. 

The best runners in the world have a higher average cadence as they have a higher running speed than the beginners.

Many experts believe that the cadence of 180SPM (steps per minutes) is the best that a runner can get, but this number may vary for individual runners.

How to determine your Optimal Cadence?

What is Running Cadence?

The cadence of running is determined by the runner’s anatomy, physical fitness and running form. For example, taller runners have natural lower cadences due to longer strides.

Every runner has a different cadence for running. One person might take long strides to run economically, while others may also run economically by taking shorter steps every minute.

The shorter your stride length the better your running cadence will be. Since you are taking shorter strides it means your foot will spend less time in the air which ultimately reduces the chance of any injury. The longer your stride is the more are your chances of being injured and that is why monitoring your cadence is very important for every runner.

How to Monitor your Cadence?

There are a couple of easy techniques to find out your exact cadence. You can use a stopwatch and count each step you have taken in 30 seconds. You just need to double that to get the steps for both legs. Now you just need to double this figure to get the accurate steps per minute (SPM). 

OR you could use a smartwatch or an app that will indicate your live record. Many running smartwatches like Garmin Forerunner 245, Apple watch, Suunto 3 and few others have the cadence tracking feature

You can see the screenshot of cadence tracking feature that I use on my Garmin Forerunner 245 Music.

Why it is necessary to monitor your Running Cadence

Now that you’ve understood what is cadence lets understand why it is important to monitor your cadence if you are a regular runner.

To Improve Running form

Variety is the primary key to improvement. It is much important to take the help of an ideal cadence running app OR a running smartwatch that can properly guide you in the training sessions.

Run different sections of a workout at various cadences like low and high. In this way, the body can respond to the diverse stimulus of the exercise. With time, you will notice speed, coordination, and strength while you run.

Risk of Injury

If your ideal running cadence is low, then it means that you are taking longer strides, landing on your heel first, and efficiently braking against the forward motion. To enhance your cadence for running, you have to practice for landing on your feet nearby to the gravity center.

You can improve your cadence while you are running, but for a long term effect, it is compulsory to address the primary cause of the issue. The leg muscle’s increased strength is another way to do this that will have a long-lasting effect on your running.

Spot on Need for Improvement

If you are admiring about how to increase running cadence, then do not overtire yourself. During the long run, if you tire yourself out, then it will affect your running procedure. You will not notice the changes instantly as the body will always try to maintain an equal pace automatically.

Keep a watch on your cadence while you are on your running spree.

Are you starting to feel tired? If yes, then your cadence will begin to reduce. It is a symptom that shows that you will not be able to sustain your current form of running for a long time and you require adding a different variety of training to improve it.

Ways to Increase Your Cadence

According to the expert, the only way to increase your cadence is to minimize the over striding, lessen the impacts on the legs, and proper maintenance of the forward momentum. But the optimal running cadence is dependent on the pace.

Even the Olympians take only a few steps to run at a slow speed every minute. For instance, if you have a cadence of 180 while running a 5K marathon, then it needs a boost to win the race. Below are some of the ways to increase your running cadence.

Take Notes 

Always establish a specific baseline for all the training speed. Begin your warm-up at a slower pace and then increase it to one mile every 30 minutes. As you reach the target, give yourself some time to adjust to the set speed, and then begin to count the steps for 60 seconds. After a few minutes, accelerate to the next speed and check if your cadence also increases with your speed.

Set a Specific Target

Now, you must be wondering as to what is a good cadence for running? To each of your recorded numbers, add a total of 5% to make it your goal for next run.

Practice it more

The easiest and simple way to enhance the speed of the step is to run with a Smartwatch. It helps to monitor your running cadence for every mile. To increase the speed for the transition, schedule some workouts like the Fast feet.

If you are finding the new target tough to achieve, then lower it by three percent. Now practice that revise cadence for at least three weeks. After three weeks, if you are not having any difficulty, then target again to increase the speed.


The Best Exercises for a Faster Cadence

Below are a few of the best workouts that can help you to achieve a better running cadence.

Downhill Sprints

In this exercise, you require five accelerating sprints after running. You can practice it down the grade of 150 to 200 meters with the top speed reaching the bottom. You can then walk for 5 minutes for recovery.

How to improve Cadence

Race pacing Tester

Run in the fartleks style for 30 seconds, 1, 2, and 1-minute cycle at the pace of 5K. Jog for one continuous minute in between the reps. Carry out this workout in a set of two. You can count your steps or implement a metronome for every step during the second set.

Fast Feet

In this exercise, implement quick and short strides while taking each step in 10 meters of the run. Try to keep the ground contact as minimal as possible and then jog for 10 meters. Repeat this workout for five times.

What is cadence and how to improve cadence

Additional Tips to Increase Your Cadence

Apart from the above exercises, below are some of the most vital tips for increasing your running cadence. They are as follows.

Run to the beat

One of the most productive ways to improve your running cadence is with the use of an App. You can use an App like Weav Run to improve your running cadence.  In place of counting the steps, you can run to the music’s rhythm where every beat is equal to the step.

Track the Progress in Real-time with an App or Smartwatch

Remember that it is vital not to augment the SPM too much, and an application can assist you in doing that. Here the SPM meaning / SPM cadence means the total number of steps a runner has taken while exercise, jogging, or running.

Concentrate on the smaller steps

Speed in your pace will come naturally to you once you have enhanced your cadence. But for a start, take smaller steps and gradually increase the speed.

Do workouts that are specially designed for Running cadence

Workouts like running in a fixed place and downhill sprints help to train your body for moving faster.


I would suggest that if you are willing to become a better runner, then you need to add numerous varieties to the training and not blindly focus on the change in the cadence for running to meet some unachievable and predetermined goal. 

I hope that I have cleared all your doubts about what is running cadence with this article and you’re now ready to become a better runner. 

Happy Running!


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