Running Cadence – a key metric for faster times, better recovery, and fewer injuries

Like any other athletic movement, running is a skill that can be measured, trained, and improved. Your ability to run fast and without injury is heavily dependent on the efficiency of your running technique. Studies have shown that real-time feedback on your running technique can reliably improve your stride, help you run faster and longer with less effort, and reduce the stress you place on your body along the way.

Every step you take while walking can impose a load on your knee comparable to 2 to 3 times your bodyweight. When you start running, those loads can increase to anywhere from 5 to 12 times your bodyweight. While this load is higher, you also experience for a shorter time. While walking, your feet are on the ground about 60% of the time. When running, this decreases to around 30%.

The increased force is somewhat balanced by the decreased time upon which that stressor is placed on your body. But, 5 to 12 times your bodyweight still a very wide range, and where you fall within this range depends heavily on your technique.

Your running cadence is an important window into your running technique that can inform many things about your efficiency and your ability to run fast and far without injury.

Running cadence | Cipher Skin

What is Running Cadence?

Cadence is the number of steps you take per minute. If you comb through data on runners, you’ll find that better runners tend to have faster cadences, and cause impact forces and injury rates to increase as cadence drops.

Many running coaches advise that cadence should be in the 170-180 steps per minute range, although it’s difficult to give an exact number without accounting for a various individual characteristics. This number will decrease if you’re taller and increases as your running pace quickens. A short runner sprinting for a mile could have a cadence above 200, while a 6’ 4” athlete running a half marathon may be running efficiently at 160 strides per minute. The important thing is developing your running technique in a way that produces an optimal cadence for you. 


Developing the perfect running cadence

If cadence steps are too low, you’re taking long strides that slam forcefully into the ground and slow you down – an effect known as a braking impulse – causing you to pull yourself forward with the help of momentum to re-accelerate. This is inefficient, diminishes the return of elastic energy in your soft tissues, and increases impact forces on the knees, hips, and ankles.

A faster cadence places the initial loading of each stride closer to your center of mass, which reduces ground contact time and the braking impulse of each step and decreases pressure and force measures across the heel and metatarsals of the foot. It also increases the “stiffness” of the legs by positioning joints in a way that allows for more springlike movement with each stride.

Changes in running cadence mean that your ankles and knees are landing at different angles because of shorter, faster strides with your feet landing more underneath you. This changes many other things like the angle of your tibia (your shin) relative to the ground at contact and throughout the running stride, as well as the rate of acceleration of your tibia at different points in your stride.


Improving running cadence

The Cipher Skin BioSleeve knee sleeve can measure all of these angles, velocities and cadence data in real-time. This allows you to see real-time feedback on your running form so that you can see the results of your training efforts as well as make informed decisions about the efficiency of your stride.

Cipher skin - running

This goes beyond the narrow data set that can be extrapolated from a wrist-top device and provides a more complete picture of everything that your body is doing as you run. This new level of insight means more effective training and performance for individual athletes, as well as revolutionary level of data management for coaches and researchers. Cipher Skin takes the data power of a biomechanics lab and puts it into a comfortable, wireless sleeve that anyone can benefit from.


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