Monday, January 30, 2012

A Note about Cadence

 (Originally published on
One of the key components of successful barefoot/minimalist running is cadence.  It is an element that is probably the overlooked or misunderstood in its importance.  Almost anytime I am out running and something doesn’t feel right – yep, it can most often be corrected by cadence.
The magic number is 180 steps per minute.  Of course, if you can manage a higher cadence, you’re doing great!  To get an idea of what this “magic number” is visit the following (or any other) metronome site  Set the slider bar to 180 beats per minute and hit start.  Count off in your head to the beat . . . one, two, three, four.  (One cautionary note, don’t emphasize the first “beat” or you may find yourself driving your left foot into the ground on every “one” count.)
When I first started barefoot running, I would often count off in my head “one, two, three, four” over and over.  Another trick you can do (for you math whizzes out there) is to count your steps for 15 seconds and multiply that number by 4.  If you get a number 180 or greater, then you are on the right track.

So, as I mentioned at the start, when something doesn’t feel right – pounding through my body, excessive noise from my minimalist shoes (slapping), hot spots developing (in minimalist shoes or barefoot)- I check my cadence.  More often than not, I have slacked off on my cadence. 
Why does cadence matter so much?  Well, if your cadence is below 180 steps per minute you are likely striding out, pushing off or being inefficient in one way or another.  A high cadence requires you to significantly shorten your stride.  By shortening your stride, you tend to run lighter (no pounding or slapping shoes) and you are less likely to “push-off” (no blisters).
A couple of final notes – running with a higher cadence does NOT necessarily mean increase your pace or “run faster”.  It simply means increase the number of times your feet touch the ground.  Also, keeping your knees bent helps with lighter impact.  Lastly, think “lift your foot, lift your foot” as you run.  This will reduce the likelihood of blister-creating “push-offs”.
So, when you’re out on your next run and something doesn’t feel right – check your cadence.


  1. If we all ran with the same cadence, would the winner be the person with the longest legs?

    1. Due to individual runners' variation in force and ground coverage per stride.

  2. Good point. I wonder??? It's not necessarily speed though, more about foot turnover. However, stride length would definitely play into it with a longer-legged runner (shorter stride but still longer legs).