Using Cadence Properly in Run Training

author : mikericci
comments : 9

Studies have shown a correlation between pedaling at a high cadence and running at a high cadence, which leads to faster running. The shorter your ground contact time , the less chance for injury.

Benefits to a higher cadence

When we learn to ride a bicycle, we are usually classified as a “masher” or a “spinner.” A masher is someone who turns the pedals over at around 85 rpms or slower, and a spinner is someone more likely to spin at 85 rpms and higher. When running, we either “plod” or we ”float,” and the difference once again is how quick our cadence is. One of the common denominators in faster runners is quick run cadence.


Most elite runners can maintain 200 steps (or better) per minute. That is 100 foot cycles for our purposes. As a coach, I like to see triathletes maintain a cadence of 90 or better. There have been studies done that have found a correlation between pedaling at a high cadence and running at a high cadence, which in turn leads to faster running. If we continually work on our cadence in cycling it will carry over to our running and vice-versa.

If you have ever watched an elite Kenyan run, you will see that they look like they float across the ground, and at a cadence greater than 100, they almost are. Their ground contact time is very low, which means they touch the ground, and get off the ground very quickly. The shorter your ground contact time, the less chance for injury.


If you look at the size of the average running shoe these days, it has a pretty good sized heel on which to land, and lots of cushion under there. If you look at the racing flat of an elite runner, it’s normally a pretty small shoe with not much to it. The smaller, lighter shoes promote running on the forefoot and quicker, faster turnover. Hopefully you are seeing the pattern here?

Next time you are out running, try this workout:

Run a set of 8x400s on the track:

Try to run the first two at 90 cadence.

The next two at 92-93 cadence.

The next two at 95-96 cadence.

The last two at 100 cadence.


You will find that the faster your cadence is, the faster your running pace will be. If you think you can run as fast with a cadence of 80, try it for yourself. Better yet, don’t try this as it will most likely cause injury! Hopefully during your cadence test above, your 400s will get faster. If you can make each set of two 400s get faster, you can extend the set to 800s and try to maintain the pace for an even longer distance.

How to count cadence


 A tempo trainer

Counting steps-per-minute can get confusing and fortunately Finis came out with a new product called a Tempo Trainer (TT). This is a great tool to help you learn to maintain a 90+ cadence .The device can be set to beep at any cadence desired to help you stay on track. It’s a small watch-like disc that can be set to beep at any frequency. The number on the unit is based on a percentage of a second, so when it is set at 1.0 it beeps once per second or a 60 cadence. Running should be done at 90+ which is .67 on the unit (3/4’s of a second). If the unit was set to .60 it would be 100 beats per minute.

Other workouts

A few more examples of workouts would be to run an out/back course, where you run out at 90 cadence and come back at 92-95 cadence. Another set would be to run 20 minutes at 90 cadence (or a .67 setting), 20 minutes at 92 cadence (a .65 setting), and 20 minutes at 95 cadence (a .63 setting). You can create many different workouts incorporating heart rate (HR) into the equation as well. Speaking of HR, here is one thing to keep in mind: when you first start working with the Tempo Trainer, your HR will be higher and it will take a few weeks for your body to adjust to the new cadence.

Take the time to increase your cadence as it will lead to a faster run-split over time. Be patient with your adaptation and challenge yourself to different cadences. Feel free to experiment and see how it goes – hopefully you will see improvement in your run cadence and run speed over the next few weeks and months!

**Tempo Trainers can be purchased through Swim Your Best  (Use coupon code tempotr20ainer for 20% off!) and other stores. 

Michael Ricci is a USAT Level III certified coach. He can be reached for personal coaching at [email protected]. Please visit his website at


Click on star to vote
101967 Total Views  |  53 Views last 30 days  |  15 Views last 7 days
date: October 2, 2006