Cadence: the key to running more efficiently

woman in black sports bra and black pants running on water during sunset

Running cadence is the number of steps you take per minute (SPM) when you’re running. It’s also known as stride frequency or foot turnover. A higher cadence means that your feet are moving more quickly, while a lower cadence means that your feet are moving more slowly.

The “ideal” running cadence is a hotly debated topic, but most experts agree that a cadence of 160-180 SPM is a good target for most runners. A higher cadence is associated with increased speed, decreased contact time with the ground, and increased shock absorption.

However, there is no one-size-fits-all answer, as the optimal cadence will vary depending on individual factors such as height, weight, and running style.

Benefits of a higher running cadence

There are a number of benefits to running with a higher cadence, including:

  • Increased speed: A higher cadence can help you to run faster, as it allows you to take more steps in a given amount of time.
  • Decreased injury risk: Studies show that a higher cadence reduces your risk of injuries, such as shin splints and plantar fasciitis.
  • Improved efficiency: A higher cadence can help you to run more efficiently, as it allows you to conserve energy.
  • Smoother running form: A higher cadence can help you to develop a smoother running form, which can make running more enjoyable.

Finding your running cadence

There are a couple of ways to find out what your running cadence is.

  1. Count the number of times your left or right foot hits the ground in 30 seconds. Double the number to find your cadence for one minute.
  2. Check the metrics section of your watch or running app. Many of these track your cadence automatically.
Watch displaying running cadence
Most watches have metronome and cadence features

Improving your running cadence

If your cadence is lower than 160 SPM, you may be able to improve your running performance by increasing it. There are a few ways to do this:

  • Focus on your footstrike: Try to land with your feet underneath your body, rather than in front of you. This will help you to shorten your stride and increase your cadence.
  • Use a metronome: This can help you to track your cadence and make sure that you’re staying within the target range. Many watches have this feature built-in.
  • Do strides: Regular strides can help develop the muscle memory and coordination needed to maintain a higher cadence during your regular runs.


Running cadence is an important factor in running performance. If you’re looking to improve your speed, efficiency, and injury risk, it’s worth paying attention to your cadence and making sure that it’s within the target range.

It does, however, take time to improve your running cadence. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t see results immediately. But with a little practice, you should see improvements and reap the benefits that come with it.

Picture of Dan Cross

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