Running Technique- is there a magic cadence for injury prevention?
There has been a great deal of interest recently on the ideal running cadence, with increasing cadence rate being one of the integral elements of most running technique programmes including ours!
A recent paper published in Japan has provided yet more support for the importance of increasing cadence to reducing lower limb loading and therefore injury risk. The study by Hobara et al. is titled: Step Frequency and Lower Extremity Loading During Running and was published in Orthopedics and Biomechanics.
The study found that, when runners increased their stride frequency by about 18 %, while maintaining the same pace (10:45 per mile) they demonstrated lower loading rates and impact forces. Vertical loading rate has been shown to directly influence some running injuries (e.g., stress fractures). The authors concluded that it “may be practical in reducing the risk of developing a tibial stress fracture by decreasing lower extremity loading variables.”
Another recent paper from the University of Wisconsin, USA, (Chumanov et al, 2012) reported similar results. Here it was suggested that the shorter stride could help runners who have problems with knee pain. It was shown that running with a faster cadence/higher stride rate reduced loading on the knee and hip, allowed for a more level carriage of the center of mass (less vertical oscillation), shortened stride length, and created less braking force.
Lower impact forces may also increase running speed and efficiency, at least in distance racing. Norwegian researchers (Storen et al, 2011) found last year that impact forces were inversely associated with running economy at 3,000m race pace. That is, the harder you hit the ground, (due to a bouncy stride or to over-striding) the lower your running economy. Running economy is suggested to be a key factor behind distance racing performance.
There is now a plethora of research demonstrating effects of shorter stride lengths and higher cadence, for both reducing impact forces and increasing running efficiency. They appear to be key factors to consider when it comes to reducing injury risk amongst runners.
There were a lot of questions on running cadence at our recent barefoot seminars- As promised I have uploaded some of these, together with my answers here.