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How To Increase Cadence While Running

Try out these six tips from our expert run coach.

Your running cadence is your stride rate, or the number of steps you take per minute.

Your running speed is a product of your stride length and your cadence. In other words, the longer your stride, the more ground you cover, and the more strides you can take per minute, the more ground you cover.

Increasing your stride length, or overstriding, can potentially increase the risk of running injuries, but increasing your cadence may actually reduce the risk of injury while simultaneously increasing your speed and improving your running pace.

It’s a win-win.

In this guide, we will look at how to increase cadence while running and how a higher cadence can help you run faster to nail the PRs you’re after.

How To Increase Cadence While Running

How Can I calculate My Running Cadence?

Running cadence is a metric that refers to the number of steps you take per minute as you run. It is often represented as STP for steps per minute and may also be considered stride rate or stride frequency. 

You can determine your running cadence by counting the number of steps you take in a minute while you run or by counting the number of times your right foot strikes while running for 15 seconds. 

Multiply this number by two to account for both feet. Then, multiply that result by four to extrapolate the pace for the full 60 seconds in a minute.

For example, if your right foot lands 22 times in 15 seconds, you take 44 steps with both feet. Then, multiply 44 by 4 to get 176 steps per minute. So, your running cadence would be 176 SPM.

Most running watches can also determine your running cadence, as it does with heart rate, distance, pace, time, etc.

Why Should I Increase My Running Cadence?

Before we discuss how to increase running cadence, it’s important to cover why you might want to increase your running cadence in the first place.

As mentioned, your running cadence is one of two things that determine your pace. In a nutshell, how fast you run is determined by your stride length multiplied by your stride rate or cadence.

Running speed = stride length x stride rate

To run faster, you can increase your stride length, cadence, or both. However, evidence suggests1Baggaley, M., Vernillo, G., Martinez, A., Horvais, N., Giandolini, M., Millet, G. Y., & Edwards, W. B. (2019). Step length and grade effects on energy absorption and impact attenuation in running. European Journal of Sport Science20(6), 756–766. https://doi.org/10.1080/17461391.2019.1664639 that increasing stride length can increase the risk of injuries because it increases impact or loading forces.

Longer stride rates can lead to overstriding and heel striking.

In contrast, research suggests2Heiderscheit, B. C., Chumanov, E. S., Michalski, M. P., Wille, C. M., & Ryan, M. B. (2011). Effects of step rate manipulation on joint mechanics during running. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise43(2), 296–302. https://doi.org/10.1249/MSS.0b013e3181ebedf4 that increasing your cadence by 5-10% above your current stride frequency can reduce the risk of musculoskeletal stress and resultant injuries by reducing the impact and loading on your hip and knee joints, decreasing the braking force when your feet contact the ground and reducing your vertical ossification (bouncing).

Essentially, a faster running cadence keeps your feet closer to a position under your body (reducing stride length), which takes stress off the lower limbs, so it’s a healthy and safe way to run faster and smash your PRs.

With this in mind, let’s look at how to increase that lower cadence while running.

How To Increase Cadence While Running

6 Tips for How to Increase Cadence While Running

Any time distance runners try to change anything about their running form or running technique, including increasing running cadence, it can initially feel unnatural.

We form habits when running, and if you have always run with a low cadence, any change will feel different.

This can initially detract from the joy and ease of running but can pay off long-term. And remember, you don’t have to make drastic shifts to a high cadence all at once. 

When approaching how to increase your cadence while running, it’s perfectly acceptable—if not more ideal—to increase your running cadence gradually and just do a little bit of dedicated cadence training per run.

Below, we share actionable tips on how to increase cadence while running:

How To Increase Cadence While Running

#1: Use a Metronome

There are metronome apps for runners, such as Smart Metronome and Run Tempo, or you can use an actual metronome for music practice to guide the cadence while you run.

Like an orchestra conductor, the metronome will keep you honest and on track with your running cadence goals.

To begin, settle into your comfortable training pace on a run. Once you’ve reached your steady-state pace, turn on the metronome and simply dial it up or down until it matches your current running cadence. 

Then, start increasing the beat by 5% and try to hold that cadence while you run for the next mile. Afterward, allow your body to run at whatever cadence feels normal.

For example, if you determine your cadence is 160 SPM, increase it to 168 SPM (160 x 1.05).

The next time you head out the door, try to hit 2 miles at 168 SPM.

Once your whole run is at 168 steps per minute, increase your running cadence by another 5% for one mile again (168 x 1.05 = 176.4) to 176 SPM.

Again, gradually increase the percentage of your run at this faster cadence until the whole run (perhaps aside from the first few minutes of warm-up) is at your new quicker running cadence.

You can use the metronome throughout the run to ensure you’re stepping in time, or you can shut it off and turn it on periodically while running to check whether you’re maintaining the proper cadence.

You can also make a playlist of songs in the beats per minute (BPM) range you are shooting for.

How To Increase Cadence While Running

#2: Run Strides

Running strides after a run is a great way to improve your biomechanics and increase your running cadence.

As a running coach, I suggest adding strides to the end of an easy run to incorporate cadence practice into your training plan.

To focus on quick turnover and short ground contact time, land as if each footfall lands on hot coals. Pump your arms to drive your legs forward and propel you into the next step.

#3: Jump Rope

You may be surprised to see jumping rope on a list of tips for increasing cadence while running, but envisioning yourself as the next star in the Rocky films and harnessing your inner boxer can help.

The key to using jumping rope to increase your cadence is to keep your jumps low and fast. Don’t think of the leisurely jumping rope on elementary school playgrounds; this is an athletic style of jumping rope that trains boxers, soccer players, and other athletes.

Jumping rope can not only help you increase your running cadence but can also build aerobic fitness, bone density, coordination, and core strength.

How To Increase Cadence While Running

#4: Run Downhill 

Although you don’t want to do extensive downhill training because it can put excessive stress on your knees and shins, downhill strides can help you increase your running cadence. 

When your body is working with gravity, it’s easier to increase your stride frequency. 

Start by running downhill accelerations of 100-200 meters long. Pick a gradual or moderate downhill slope, preferably on grass or a softer surface, to attenuate impact forces.

Run each stride with the fastest turnover you can handle, accelerating throughout the duration of the hill until you’re at the bottom. Complete 4-6 reps.

After a few weeks, extend the stride by continuing on the flat ground after the downhill, trying to maintain the same max running cadence you achieve on the downhill.

How To Increase Cadence While Running

#5: Practice Your Arm Swing

Did you know that one of the most effective ways to improve your cadence while running has to do with your arms?

When we run, our arms drive our legs forward. In other words, the rate of your arm swing dictates your stride rate. When you pump your arms faster, your feet will follow suit and you will run with quicker, shorter strides.

One of the best drills to increase the speed of your arm swing is incorporating descending weighted arm swings into your strength training workouts.

Here’s how it works:

Grab two pairs of dumbbells—if you’re fairly strong, a pair of 10-pound dumbbells and a pair of 5-pound dumbbells, or if you’re not as fit, a pair of 5-pound dumbbells and a pair of 3-pound dumbbells.

Holding the heavier dumbbells in each hand, rapidly pump your arms in an exaggerated running motion (as if sprinting to the finish of a 100m dash) for 30 seconds. Count how many reps you can do over the 30 seconds. 

How To Increase Cadence While Running

Keep your core tight and stagger one foot in front of the other for balance if it’s more comfortable.

Take 30 seconds of rest, and then repeat with the lighter dumbbells. Again, count your reps, aiming to beat the number you got for the heavier set by 20% or more.

Finally, drop the weights altogether and repeat the exercise, pumping your arms as vigorously and rapidly as you can. Your arms will feel light, and you should be able to crank out a ton of reps.

Repeat this exercise several times per week. It will build strength, power, and speed in your arm swing that can carry over to your running cadence.

How To Increase Cadence While Running

#6: Pedal Your Heart Out

You can help train your legs to move faster by doing indoor cycling at a fast cadence. Drop the resistance to something light, and work on your turnover. Aim to maintain an optimal cadence of 180 or above.

Are you eager to run faster? Now that you know how to increase your cadence while running start by counting your steps on your next run to determine your individual running cadence.

To improve other aspects of your running economy, check out this next guide:

References

  • 1
    Baggaley, M., Vernillo, G., Martinez, A., Horvais, N., Giandolini, M., Millet, G. Y., & Edwards, W. B. (2019). Step length and grade effects on energy absorption and impact attenuation in running. European Journal of Sport Science20(6), 756–766. https://doi.org/10.1080/17461391.2019.1664639
  • 2
    Heiderscheit, B. C., Chumanov, E. S., Michalski, M. P., Wille, C. M., & Ryan, M. B. (2011). Effects of step rate manipulation on joint mechanics during running. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise43(2), 296–302. https://doi.org/10.1249/MSS.0b013e3181ebedf4
Photo of author
Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a NASM-Certified Nutrition Coach and UESCA-certified running, endurance nutrition, and triathlon coach. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

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