Why High Running Cadence is Better

Increasing your running cadence is better for your health and for your forefoot running performance because the feet spend less time on the ground and more time in the air, which lowers impact forces and reduces knee and hip pain as well (Heiderscheit et al.).

Running Cadence

Why High Running Cadence is Better

I have read numerous pieces that forefoot runners have a higher cadence rate than heel strike runners, which suggests that a higher cadence is a classical phenomena of forefoot running.

(Click here to learn more about the health benefits of forefoot running)

Forefoot Runners Have Higher Cadence – Forefoot running increases cadence because smaller steps must be taken to achieve a forefoot strike landing.

In contrast, heel strike running results in a low cadence because of over-striding and foot rollover, both of which increases ground contact time. The downfall to this is braking, peak impact, and compressive forces are greater as compared to forefoot running.

Click here to find out how heel striking causes more injuries than forefoot running.

Less Injury

A study by Hiederscheit et al. found that increasing preferred cadence by 10% or more, reduces impact and work on the knee.

Evidently, increasing cadence appears is the gift that keeps on giving and here’s why:

  • The scientists found that increasing cadence minimizes over-striding and braking because it decreases stride length by bringing foot strike position closer to the body.

When subjects increased their preferred cadence by 5%, mechanical work on the knee reduced by a whopping 20%. Why?

  • The researchers found a higher cadence rate caused a more flexed, less stiff knee at initial ground-contact.
  • Other work has shown that increasing your cadence may reduce the risk of shin fractures.
  • The researches noted that instructing injured runners to increase their cadence may provide relief on the hip and knee because doing so reduces loading on these areas.

Therefore, reducing loading on the legs by increasing cadence would enable an injured runner to continue running without aggravating existing symptoms.

But, taking more steps while running seems like more work, doesn’t it?????

Previous studies have reported that increasing cadence significantly improves running economy. Yet, when subjects increased their preferred cadence, they reported a greater rate of perceived effort.

  • The researchers speculated that the increase in perceived effort reflected the increase in attentional focus and not actual energy costs. Thus, increasing cadence may seem like more work at first, but your body is not using more energy to do it.
  • The study found that increasing preferred cadence by 10% did not increase oxygen consumption, or heart rate.

So, if you are a runner who experiences shin splints, knee pain or hip pain while running, try taking smaller steps and land forefooted. To learn how to run forefoot, click here to see what a forefoot strike looks like. 


More From Run Forefoot:

Knee Pain From Running – Find out how heel strike running leads to osteoarthritic knees across time.

Forefoot Running Shoes – Read my reviews on the best barefoot like shoes for forefoot running.

Overpronation  – Learn how to avoid overpronating with this simple suggestion!

The Role of the Achilles Tendon in Forefoot Running –  Learn how forefoot runners use the Achilles tendon to their advantage.

Why Take Smaller Steps – Learn why shortening your stride during forefoot running takes load off the hips and knees.

Don’t Overthink How You Run – Understand why it’s important to avoid the pitall of obsessing over your mechanics while you run.

References :

Derrick TR., Hamill J and Caldwell GE. Energy absorption of impacts during running at various stride lengths. Med Sci Sports Exerc, 1998; 30(1):128-35.

Heiderscheit et al. Effects of step rate manipulation on joint mechanics during running. Med Sci Sports Exerc, 2011;43(2):296-302.

Kilpatrick et al. Heart rate and metabolic responses to moderate-intensity aerobic exercise: a comparison of graded walking and ungraded jogging at a constant perceived exterion. J Sports Sci, 2009; 27(5):509-16.

McMahon TA., Valiant G and Frederick EC. Groucho Running. J Appl Physiol, 1985; 62(6):2326-37.

Bretta Riches

"I believe the forefoot strike is the engine of endurance running..."

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.
Bretta Riches

P.S. Don't forget to check out the Run Forefoot Facebook Page, it's a terrific place to ask questions about forefoot running, barefoot running and injury. I'm always happy to help!

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