Mend Physical Therapy Blog and Injury Information

How Does My Running Cadence Impact Forces In My Legs?

April 11, 2019


Cadence, or the amount of steps taken each minute, is a common and effective running assessment. This assessment can be done in both healthy and injured runners, but its’ modification is most impactful in the latter group. In our Boulder Physical Therapy practice, we routinely utilize running gait retraining to reduce abnormal forces in the lower quarter. While most runners self select between 160-180 steps per minute (up to 200 in elite runners) this rate can be altered to change force distribution across injured and healthy tissues. For example, a faster cadence (shorter stride) may be utilized to reduce knee pain from arthritis and a slower cadence (longer stride) can take pressure off a healing achilles tendon. Recent evidence has shown self selected cadence to be unrelated to load rate in a healthy runner, but cadence remains a valuable assessment in the injured runner.

A recent research article examined the relationship between cadence, loading rates, and a runner’s leg length (Tenforde et al. JOSPT. 2019). Authors performed a cross sectional study of both healthy (N=40) and injured (N=42) runners who utilized a rear foot strike pattern. All runners underwent a structural assessment and biomechanical analysis while running. As expected authors reported an inverse relationship between a runner’s leg length and their cadence rate, but leg length only explained a small relationship indicating others factors are at play. Injury status did not influence the association between leg length and cadence. Surprisingly, no relationship was found between cadence and vertical loading rates when normalized to a runner’s leg length.

This research adds to our understanding on cadence rate, loading rates, and injury status. Based off the current research, cadence remains one variable which may be altered to reduce ground forces among injured runners.