In forefoot running, cadence is naturally greater than in heel strike running. But increasing your preferred step-rate by 5% is even better on the shins and knees. The best method to develop an efficient running pace is with a metronome. In fact, runners are better able to regulate their pace with a metronome instead of with music (Bood et al. 2013).
How to Develop an Efficient Running Pace
Humans evolved as endurance runners, and are also predisposed for auditory-movement synchronization while running (Karageorghis and Priest, 2012).
Many forefoot runners enjoy listening to music during their runs which is acceptable as a symphony of research suggests listening to the right kind of beat may improve endurance capacity in runners. Better yet, listening to the beep of a metronome is more effective than music in optimizing target cadence.
Many ‘serious’ runners however, prefer to listen to their body, but newbie forefoot runners need to learn to develop a faster cadence and therefore, may benefit from listening to high-tempo sound.
Metronome Better Than Music
A study by Bood et al. (2013) investigated the effects of different auditory conditions on movement-synchronization and performance in runners, and found that runners who listened to a metronome performed similarly to runners who listened to high-tempo music.
- The motivational element of music enhanced running performance in the music runners, whereas improved running performance in the metronome runners was due to enhanced cadence consistency.
However, the researchers reasoned that a metronome may improve running performance better than music because the constant, steady tempo of a beep prevents the energy loss associated with rapid cadence acceleration and deceleration caused by high-tempo music. In other words, different elements of a song, including lyrical content, may affect movement consistency in a way that could suddenly reduce, or increase speed, making it difficult to converse energy during running.
So to best match your target cadence, the researchers recommended running to the beep of a metronome to ensure pace consistency.
The Take Home Message
Music not only provides a stimulus for stride-synchronization during forefoot running, it provides a strong motivational element, too. However, a metronome appears to take it one step further by regulating cadence more effectively, enabling a runner to better pace themselves.
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Bood et al., (2013). The power of auditory-motor synchronization in sports: enhancing running performance by coupling cadence with the right beats. PLoS One, 8(8):e70758.
Karageorghis, CI and Priest, DL. (2012). Music in the exercise domain: a review and synthesis (part 1). Int Rev Sports Exerc Psychol, 5(1):44-66.
Lenhart et al., (2014). Increasing running step rate reduces patellofemoral joint forces. Med Sci Sports Exerc, 46(3):557-64.
Terry et al., (2012). Effects of synchronous music on treadmill running in elite triathletes. J Sci Med Sport, 15(1):52-7.
Don’t forget to check out the Run Forefoot Facebook page, it’s the best place to ask questions about forefoot running, barefoot running and injury. I’m always happy to help!
BSc Neurobiology; MSc Biomechanics candidate, ultra minimalist runner & founder of RunForefoot. I was a heel striker, always injured. I was inspired by the great Tirunesh Dibaba to try forefoot running. Now, I'm injury free. This is why I launched Run Forefoot, to advocate the health & performance benefits of forefoot running and to raise awareness on the dangers of heel striking, because the world needs to know.
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