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This concept has popped up on my radar a bit recently, so I looked into it some more. This comment in the context of managing a runner with patellofemoral pain first got my attention:
Address their running form....... Make sure they are at a proper cadence, 180 steps/minute. This is verified in literature to be a great injury reduction factor.
The poster in Mike Reinold's forum that stated that was challenged as to that "literature" and then quite rightly conceded that there is none, but i looked around and followed their links and it seems that this concept is gaining some legs.
Yet beginning and recreational runners typically have a cadence closer to 160, which Daniels* says puts them at risk for injury because the longer strides necessitated by a slower cadence take runners higher off the ground. This in turn means that each footfall is harder, and many running injuries are associated with the shock of landing. While Daniels can’t cite a study associating slow cadence with running injuries, I put a lot of weight on his experience coaching thousands of runners.
(*described by Runner's World as the "World's Best Running Coach" is known for his comprehensive research in sport performance and coaching of elite runners.). They obviously missed the evidence about how few running injuries are actually due to impact shock, but lets stay with it for now:
Anecdotal evidence suggests that if your cadence is slower than 180 steps per minute, you might be able to reduce your risk of injury associated with landing shock by increasing your cadence.
the objective of this study was to characterize the biomechanical effects of step rate modification during running on the hip, knee, and ankle joints so as to evaluate a potential strategy to reduce lower extremity loading and risk for injury.
three-dimensional kinematics and kinetics were recorded from 45 healthy recreational runners during treadmill running at constant speed under various step rate conditions (preferred, ± 5%, and ± 10%). We tested our primary hypothesis that a reduction in energy absorption by the lower extremity joints during the loading response would occur, primarily at the knee, when step rate was increased.
less mechanical energy was absorbed at the knee (P < 0.01) during the +5% and +10% step rate conditions, whereas the hip (P < 0.01) absorbed less energy during the +10% condition only. All joints displayed substantially (P < 0.01) more energy absorption when preferred step rate was reduced by 10%. Step length (P < 0.01), center of mass vertical excursion (P < 0.01), braking impulse (P < 0.01), and peak knee flexion angle (P < 0.01) were observed to decrease with increasing step rate. When step rate was increased 10% above preferred, peak hip adduction angle (P < 0.01) and peak hip adduction (P < 0.01) and internal rotation (P < 0.01) moments were found to decrease.
we conclude that subtle increases in step rate can substantially reduce the loading to the hip and knee joints during running and may prove beneficial in the prevention and treatment of common running-related injuries.
During a journal club where we discussed all of this, another PT stated that she thinks part of the reason this seems to help, especially with knee pain, is that the quicker cadence means less time on the ground and less time to fall into the really common overpronation-knee valgus-lower extremity internal rotation-contralateral hip drop, all of which have effects on the knee, hip and ankle. I have definitely seen this to be the case, as most people don't strike the ground in this pattern, but rather "fall" into it. Increasing cadence means they're not spending as much time on the ground, and thus don't have time to "fall" into this pattern. I have found that increasing cadence tends to put people at a little more of a midfoot pattern (which opens a whole other discussion), but it is a really easy training tool and I really think it prevents people from over thinking their gait mechanics, which is rather invaluable with Type A runners.
suggests that one way this can be achieved is by reducing stride length while maintaining the same speed. The only way to reduce stride length at a constant speed is to increase cadence, which is exactly what Daniels suggests.
..... but they do need a lesson in what science is!
In my frustration, I tried all kinds of ways to prevent injuries. Icing, running on softer surfaces, abstaining from speedwork, taking walk breaks, taking anti-inflammatories, changing my shoes, stretching religiously before and after every workout, walking around on my heels, even shaving my lower legs so I could tape them (really). The list goes on. Some of it seemed to help a little, but none of it solved my problem.
Until I discovered the answer. I read a piece by running coach Jack Daniels, where he wrote that most of the world's best marathoners have a leg turnover rate of about 180 steps per minute.
They also offered some advice on how to shorten the stride and increase the cadence to 180 steps/minute.
One of the basic principles of Pose running is a cadence of 180 steps/minute. The short choppy stride of Chi running would also be up around that as well!
I found this video from Newton Running Shoes on cadence: (ignore the bit that was made up about the braking action of heel striking)
I next consulted my bible on running, the Lore of Running by Tim Noakes ... there is no better evidence based review of running than this,....and he did not even mention it!
Of course, this doesn’t mean I don’t think stride rate is important. I definitely agree with those who suggest that overstriding is probably the most widespread and easily addressed problem among recreational runners. But rather than aspiring to a magical 180 threshold, I agree with Wisconsin researcher Bryan Heiderscheit, whose studies suggest that increasing your cadence by 5-10% (if you suspect you may be overstriding) is the way to go.
Some interesting discussion are followed that post.
Alex pretty much sums up my feelings on cadence, and I absolutely agree that 180 need not be some magic number that all runners need to shoot for
ne often hears the magic number of 180 strides per minute thrown around these days as being the optimal cadence for a runner... I believe this number can be traced back to famed coach Dr. Jack Daniels observation that elite runners tend to run at a stride rate of 180-200 steps/minute. I’m not sure that we have any conclusive data saying that the 180 number is optimal for every person, but Heiderscheit et al. 2011 showed that running with a faster cadence/higher stride rate (5-10% increase) reduced loading on the knee and hip, allowed for a more level carriage of the center of mass (less vertical oscillation), shortened stride length, and created less braking impulse (read my post on the Heiderscheit paper here). All seem like reasonably positive outcomes if you ask me, and this paper might be a useful guide in that a mere 5% increase in you cadence might be all that is necessary to realize some benefit. It turns out that the 170-190 range would probably be where most people would land if they increased cadence by 5-10%.
He concluded that:
I think perhaps the biggest take home message here is that stride rate can and does vary considerably with speed, and also between individuals. The 180 number gets thrown around a lot, but I see no reason why this number need be the gold standard that everyone should shoot for.
But as journalist, physicist, and former elite runner Alex Hutchinson notes, the 180-strides-per-minute benchmark isn't all it's cracked up to be. There are serious problems with Daniels's observations (among them, a small sample size and no analysis of stride length plotted against speed), and other research has contradicted some of its conclusions. More likely, Hutchinson writes, runners play with both stride length and stride frequency when they run, and 180 makes sense at some speeds and not at others. Blogger and Nike coach Steve Magness has made similar observations.
Why is this important? In reporting of the form story, the 180-strides-per-minute rule came up as one of the few objective measures of good form. Nobody said it was the most important measure—if good form exists, it probably has more to do with dorsiflexion angles and knee position at ground contact—but for runners to change form, it helps to know what to aim for. And it's much easier to count strides than it is to measure dorsiflexion angles, never mind figure out what dorsiflexion means.
It is shame that so many aspects of this concept of 180 steps/minute is underpinned by the misuse, misrepresentation and misunderstanding of the research evidence (or lack of), not to mention the cherry picking and confirmation biases ... let alone the making up things! Despite that, as I said above, it is gaining legs as a means to treat and prevent injury.