Pace vs. Cadence

track run

“If you take 180 steps a minute you must be going really fast!”

Not true. You can take 180 steps per minute and maintain a 13 minute mile if you want. Cadence has more to do with stride length, push off, and turn over than the pace.

The benefit of having a high cadence is that it reduces the impact forces that reverberate through your body when your foot hits the ground. Reducing the impact forces on your body reduces your risk of injury including shin splints, runner’s knee, and ITband issues.

Like with everything in running, if you want to increase your cadence you have to do so slowly. In order to count your cadence, count each time one foot hits the ground for thirty seconds and then multiply by four.

Not everyone should run at the 180 cadence, you have to find what is optimal for you.

What you are looking for is a cadence that places your foot beneath you as you contact the ground. Your knee is slightly bent. Your ankle, knee, and hip act like a spring. If your stride length is too long, rather than landing on a spring, you are landing on a straight stick.

Try it. Take a spring and push it on to the ground, feel the gentle impact. Now, take a straight stick and push it into the ground, pound it on the ground. Can you feel the vibration go through the stick? That’s what you are doing to your body when you land with your foot too far in front of you, not pleasant.

A higher cadence, keeps your feet below you. You can still maintain a slower pace even with a high cadence. Go to a track and try it out. Maintain your pace and shorten your stride length. Your feet should stay closer to the ground because you are not pushing off as hard. Now increase your pace, you will notice you push off harder, you have more air time, and your stride lengthens.


2 thoughts on “Pace vs. Cadence

  1. my1sttrirace March 2, 2015 / 3:19 pm

    I usually keep my cadence around 185. It took about 2 years to build up to that cadence. I used a metronome app on my phone to bee the correct steps.

    • Nicole Lowe March 6, 2015 / 10:59 pm

      The iphone apps are a wonderful way to improve your cadence. I’ve had a few runners I work with use them.

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