The Sweetest Cadence

I may be a musician in my spare time (soundcloud) but I think the sweetest cadence of them all is the sound of foot falls on the pavement. Whether it be the crunch of a gravel trail, the swoosh of the grass, the echoes from the stadium seating at the local high school track, or the plain old roads in my neighbourhood. It is all good to me.

Then I read up on running techniques and it seems that your running cadence is an important contributor to your style. I’ve been running for years and never calculated what my cadence is, so that ends today.

Some people talk of a magic number, but that seems to be falling out of repute (at the current time; these things are surely cyclical).

I did the test at the end of one of my normal short run so my legs were warmed up but not tired out. I measured by setting up my iPhone to a one minute countdown timer (as that is the shortest interval it allows), then starting to run. Once I was running comfortably I pressed the start button and counted the foot falls of one leg. I did this two times and because the numbers were so similar I didn’t do any others, but common practice is to do three or more and take an average. You then double this number to get the number of strides you took in the minute.

First minute: 98 left leg strides
Second minute: 96 right leg strides
Average: 97 strides per leg.

Double this gives a cadence of 194 strides per minute. If the current web literature is to be believed then this is quite a healthy rate. I have to admit to being surprised at how high that was as I was expecting something in the 160-170 range.

So what can you do with this information? Well you can work to improve your cadence if you want to bring this up in the the currently favoured range. You can use it as a guide for your longer runs to ensure that you are keeping up. The running blog by Kinetic Revolution has some other suggestions about using a metronome (perhaps a smartphone app is the answer here; or petitioning existing running app providers to put a metronome into their products?). Another article here from the Science of Running website is also a good and detailed read. There are many other sources of information about this out there, so it should be easy to find advice and guidance on this.

With a cadence of 194 being in the right range I guess I must need to increase my stride length slightly to improve my time. I will investigate.

On today’s run I could not seem to focus on all the components at the same time; if I watched my strike, my breathing and arms went off; if I watched my breathing my leg motion (pull backs) faded, etc. I decided that the foot strike was currently the most important thing for me.

Some days you will not be able to do all the techniques you are experimenting with at the same time while you are transitioning your form, but there’s no need to beat yourself up over it. If you can feel what you are doing wrong then it means you are still learning. Note those things down and enjoy the run. That is part of the reason why we do it, right?

Despite the focus issues my pace was still much improved at around 7:40.


4 thoughts on “The Sweetest Cadence

    1. pauldburton Post author

      I tried those years ago and also tried running a tool to index my iTunes library by bpm, but they were quite unreliable.

      While adjusting your cadence it may be better to have no music or to use a metronome. More on that later…


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