Barefoot Running Seminar- Cadence Q & A

27th April 2012

The April Barefoot seminars proved to be a huge success and we had loads of great questions. Over the next few weeks I will aim to post some of these, with my answers, onto the blog. For now I’ve added all of the questions relevant to this weeks topic of ‘Running Cadence’.

Q. What is the average cadence that you see in your clinic?
A. The average I see tends to be between 150 and 155, although I’ve had one patient whose initial cadence was 134! Slower cadences are a problem as they mean the runner is more likely to be over-striding, producing a larger breaking phase, and greater impact forces (heel strike in front of the center of gravity).

Q. What about running downhill? Should technique or cadence change?
A. To maintain good technique whilst running downhill you should increase cadence even higher, to reduce tendency to over-stride and heavily heel strike. A forward lean (from the ankles, body tall) will enable you to work with gravity rather than against it.

Q: Do most Elite runners stick to the 180 cadence?
A: Studies usually find cadences of 170 and higher, with most being around 180-184 (for males) for distances from 1500m to marathons.

Q: What benefits does (high/ optimal cadence) have for performance?
A: A quicker cadence means greater efficiency (less O2 consumption) and increased running economy (more elastic recoil, less muscular work, less vertical displacement and reduced impact forces)

Q: What benefits does quicker cadence have for injury prevention?
A: It decreases vertical loading rate and vertical oscillation, meaning less stress on the skeletal system. Also by discouraging over-striding we reduce torque forces through the knees, hips and lower back.

Q: How easy is it to change cadence?
A: Just increasing cadence is pretty easy using something like a metronome. The problem I see in my clinic is that a lot of runners are going out running with metranomes (usually in response to advice they’ve read on the internet) and they’re not changing their posture or running form in any other way, they just increase their cadence. If you only change cadence you are potentially just doing more of a bad thing! I’ve seen this repeatedly where a runner who has worked on cadence is still over-striding and heavily heel striking, they’re just doing it faster. Cadence is just one part of a good-running–form jigsaw. Stride length, rhythm and posture are also really important.

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