Running efficiency is a sum total of various factors such as body composition, posture, running form, etc. Running cadence and stride length plays a huge role in running economy and form. Cadence is simply the number of steps you take per minute. Stride length on the other hand is the distance you cover in a stride. Runners, both beginners, and advanced often feel confused in picking and focusing their training on?
A question which most runners ask themselves is that “If one takes more steps in the same distance, won’t it be slower and require high energy?” “Is high cadence high in energy demand?” “Will shorter stride length lead to slow runs?”
Part of this is true. When one increases cadence, the stride length becomes shorter. The relationship can be explained that if one wants to maintain the same pace, high cadence will require shorter steps.
The pace and stride length relationship is quite linear. As we increase pace keeping cadence constant, stride length will increase. But remember, increasing stride length requires higher force and hence high energy requirements.
When we talk about pace and cadence, it is here that things start to become interesting. When you increase cadence, the pace increases even at the cost of slightly lower stride length. And this is exactly where the relationship gets interesting for runners.
Research On Stride Length And Cadence
Research was conducted with a recreational runner’s group for 10 Km runs at varying paces. The runners were told to run at various paces as slow as 6min/km and as fast as 4:30 min/km. Also, the study was done both on track and treadmill. The results showed the right training method.
With an increase of about 35% in pace, the increase in stride length was about 23 to 25%. However, the same runners increased their cadence only by about 5% from slow to fast pace. An average cadence of 166 steps per minute at 6 min/km and 173 steps per minute at 4:30 min/km showed that they only increased 7 steps per minute to increase the pace.
Higher cadence has been related to improved performance and reduced injury risk. As a runner one should focus on increasing cadence and not pace. Stride length should be left the happy zone as that is what body fuel economy dictates. Work to slowly get your cadence in the 170 to 190 zone and then you will hit your PR.
How To Increase Cadence
The most important thing in training is not to make sudden huge changes. So mix training with happy zone and high cadence zone. You will require a device or a tracker to know your cadence. You can mix your runs with higher cadence stretches or you can have high cadence days. As you improve your cadence, increase the distance which you run on high cadence or increase number of days of high cadence per week. In about 3 months’ time, your happy zone should move up by at least 5 to 7 steps per minute.