Tip of the Week: Cadence and Foot Strike

Cadence or step rate (steps/minute – spm) is defined as the number of times that your feet strike the ground in one minute. The ideal cadence that most running experts agree upon is 90 spm . Cadence is important because it is how you efficiently improve your running speed (running speed is defined as step rate x step length). Most runners need to first focus on improving their cadence. This can be accomplished by implementing running drills and strides into your weekly workouts to improve your running form. By doing so, we teach our “feet” how to turn over more quickly and more efficiently. In our order to achieve our quest of becoming a faster, more efficient runner, it is critical that we realize that step rate is only part of the equation. If we increase our step rate at the cost of decreasing our step length (i.e. shuffling gait) we will then negate any changes in running speed. The same can be said if we try to increase our step length (i.e. over striding) at the cost of our step rate. The key, increase your step rate (running drills, strides, etc..) without compromising your step length, or vice versa. It’s important to note that step length can be increased through exercises that increase your mobility, stability, flexibility and strength (ie. your weekly “strength” workouts).

Equally important, and synonymous with cadence, is knowing exactly where your foot strikes the ground (heel strike, midfoot or forefoot) – see illustration attached. The most efficient foot strike patterns are either a midfoot or forefoot strike. Landing below our center of gravity allows our muscles, fascia, etc., to absorb the impact we create while running. The issue with heel striking is that it typically causes a runner to strike the ground out in front of their body (forward to their center of gravity), slowing down their forward motion. In other words, a runner is essentially hitting the brakes with each and every step. This causes a runner to waste more energy and creates a greater amount of impact than necessary or desirable, thus contributing to the frequency of injuries among runners. Improving our cadence occurs when we land directly below our pelvis or center of gravity and take shorter, quicker steps. After all, an increased step rate = increased running speed; what runner do you know who doesn’t want to get faster and do so with less chance of injury?

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