A Runner’s Checklist: Cadence

A Runner’s Checklist: Cadence


By: Paul Stefanac, PT, DPT | Doctor of Physical Therapy | UP Rehab Services | Kingsford


When the foot hits the ground and the ground hits back, making sure the body manages forces in a healthy way is important for efficiency and injury prevention.

Cadence, or step-rate, is a term which describes how many steps a runner takes per minute. Research links cadence to stress on the body. Increasing cadence (more steps per minute) results in lower strain (ground reaction force) on muscles and bones. Picture someone jogging ten steps and imagine the feeling of striking the ground—the force involved, the energy it takes to bound to the next stride, the brief flight in the air, and the rhythm of each footfall. Then envision covering the same distance in only ONE step—or a giant leap. Picture what the landing would involve—the speed of the jump, the plummet downwards, the stress of striking the ground. Granted, this may be a dramatic example of an especially harsh landing, but running with fewer steps per minute leads to increased vertical displacement, overstriding, and with each, heavier, footfall the body experiences punishing ground reaction forces.

Overstriding is when a runner reaches out too far with each step, well in front of the center of their body. This is only possible with long, slow steps, and causes a force that pushes the runner backward with each step, and leads to sharper impact with the ground. Vertical displacement is the up and down movement of the body while running. Efficient running minimizes extra vertical movement to save energy for driving forward.

Many research studies have found a higher cadence to be beneficial, and one study points out that increasing cadence by +10% of a runner’s preferred step-rate can lead to 14% reduced stress on the muscles and joints. This may be the difference between a healthy running career or repetitive stress injuries.


What is an ideal cadence? To learn more about running, or schedule a free injury screen, contact UP Rehab Services at one of our locations.




Lenhart RL, Thelen DG, Wille CM, et al. Increasing running step rate reduces patellofemoral joint forces. Med Sci Sports Exerc 2014; 46:557–64