The Rhythm of Your Step Matters

Originally Posted on July 5, 2017

If you are a runner you have heard many popular terms over the years on how to help your form. Some of these could be heel striker, minimalist shoes or maybe barefoot running. It is hard to distinguish what we should be paying attention to and what is important. In some instances, this can be difficult to answer, but in this case I would like to simplify this for you. In doing so I will introduce a new word, cadence.

Before I explain this word to you I would like to explain why it is important. Currently we do not have any research that states it is better to land on your heel or the ball of your foot. In fact, a study would state that somewhere between 80-90% of elite marathon runners heel strike. So how do you reduce risk of injury? We do know that if you land with your foot under your hips and not out in front of your body it significantly reduces the amount of load the legs have to absorb. One way in which we can ensure you do this is to change cadence.

In the end, cadence means how many steps you are taking per minute. For a good visual, I would like you to imagine someone walking their dogs. One dog is a chihuahua and one is a Great Dane. The biggest difference being the speed at which the feet are moving; the chihuahua moving the feet, or paws, much faster than the Great Dane. This means the chihuahua has a much higher cadence than the Great Dane. I will explain in the next few paragraphs why everyone should strive to be chihuahuas.

What do you need… Someone to measure your cadence, which is best done on a treadmill. There are many phone apps out there in order to help with this. Your amazing helper will tap the application to the rhythm of your steps and this will give you your cadence. Generally, this will be around 150-180 beats per minute. The goal is to be close to 180 BPM, but if you start at 150 BPM you should be slowly progressing to 180 BPM or else you will have a difficult and frustrating time. This can be done by increasing by 10 BPM, or adding 5% of your overall BPM each time. Now you should go on a few runs until you find it becomes your natural rhythm. Most apps also allow you to play any beats per minute repetitively, and you will notice that your legs will naturally want to copy the rhythm.

So why is this important? If you can land with your feet closer to underneath your hips, you decrease the amount of force that goes into your legs with this adjustment. You can hopefully prevent some of the repetitive stress injury that can occur with running. This does not always work perfectly, but surprisingly helpful. There are many other dysfunctions that can occur with running to cause pain, so by no means is this a cure at all. This is why I recommend you should see a professional to assess your running to be sure you have solid running mechanics. Now go find a friend, assess and add this knowledge to ensure you continue to have a life full of healthy running.

Written by Travis Moore, Physical Therapist at Lafayette Physical Therapy, Inc.

Arranged and Edited by Zack Krumland, BSBA, PR & Marketing Coordinator

This article is intended as general health information and is not intended to provide individual specific medical advice, professional diagnosis, opinion, treatment or services to you or any other individual. Please consult your doctor or a medical professional before starting or changing a health, fitness, or nutrition program.

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