What Is Running Cadence?

You may run into the term “stride rate” or “cadence“. What are all these jargon about?

Cadence or “stride rate” refers to how many times the feet hit the ground per minute.

What’s an “ideal” stride rate. Is there a magic number? Why?

The short answer, 180 is a “magic number”, as you’re spinning the legs like rotating wheels. At this rate, it’s most efficient and reduces the risky of injury. The world renowned running coach, Jack Daniels studied the most efficient runners, and the stride rates are typically over 180 steps per minute, which is associated with high running economy.

So, should I ALWAYS run at 180 steps per min?

Not necessarily. While 180 is a good number in general, there are so much more to it. The stride rate does fluctuate slightly with different paces.

As you run faster, the stride rate will increase, especially when you get into the anaerobic zone (under 400m), the stride rate can go up to 200 or more, but that requires anaerobic power and will not last long.

On the other hand, as you run slower, the stride rate tends to drop. However, if you let it drop to too low (eg. lower than 170), the form starts to become compromised and the risk of over-stride and injury increases.

If you can, try to keep the cadence over 170 even for your recovery runs, or at least 165.

Cadence for beginners:

It’s not uncommon for a new runner to have a cadence significantly lower (165 or less). It usually takes a while for the beginner to get to a cadence of 170, as the strength and coordination builds up. 

If the cadence is lower than 160, it would be better to work on the running mechanics before doing long endurance runs (half marathon, marathon or longer) to minimize injury.

How can I apply this to my run?

The takeaway…try to reach 180 steps per minute on you comfortably hard runs (such as tempo). For easy/long runs, listen to your body, it can relax a little under 180, but still try not to let it drop too much, so that your body can get used to it. Focus on light and quick leg turnover, reduce the stride length to get the stride rate up. 

Finally, cadence can be an indication of fatigue as well, indicating a loss of form and body mechanic. I’ve seen this happen in runs were I pushed the limit, towards the end I’m exhausted and start to lose form, the cadence drops, and ground contact time all suffer.


Learn more about our Signature Coaching Program that Rachel used to make her marathon dreams a reality here: https://learn.sparkhealthyrunner.com/coaching

Related Podcast Episodes:

Episode 159: How to Grow as A Runner with Dr. Duane Scotti

Episode 156: Running Isn’t a Battle of the Sexes with Dr. Emma Ross




Learn more about working with Coach Lu here: https://learn.sparkhealthyrunner.com/lubio

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You can teach an old dog new tricks!!!  I have never considered myself a runner and I knew I needed to be smart about it because I am no spring chicken. Spark preached getting strong and healthy to be injury free and they practice what they preach.  I am soooo glad I made the investment in me!  I finished my half marathon last weekend and couldn’t be any happier!  The program fed me all the steps I needed to essentially learn how to run long distance, build strength, nutrition help, a forum of other runners and probably most important was the 1:1 coaching.  I had no idea how to tackle training for a 1/2 marathon and this program broke all of it down, had it individualized for me and we tweaked as we went to make sure I was staying healthy and strong.  I had so many questions the week prior to my race and Coach Cat was always there for me and answering all the questions and issues I had-and believe me there were a lot!  The biggest benefit I think I got was the strength. I am strong and fit. But most important was what I gained emotionally.  I built confidence and strength I didn’t know I had, even at my age.  Honestly could not have done this without Spark Healthy Runners!

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I just ran my second half marathon, both with Duane’s coaching, and PR’d by over 9 minutes! I got all choked up in the last mile when I realized that I felt strong and could still kick it up a notch.

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