There seems to be a consensus that 180 steps per minute is a physiologically optimal running cadence. I don't understand how that can be universally true: Isn't the leg/arm system in running essentially a pendulum? If so then the natural cadence should decrease as height and leg-length increases. E.g., if you found someone with a "perfect" running stride and then increased their height by 25%, that cadence would naturally decrease by Sqrt(1/1.25).

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    As a tall guy, I've wondered the same thing. I've used music of specified tempo to monitor and advance my cadence. One thing I have observed is that I CAN run at varying speeds while using the same cadence, but that faster cadences definitely seem to "fit" into faster paces more comfortably. With the limit of my current abilities, stepping any faster than 172-174 feels difficult and unnecessary. Whether that is a factor of my height or my fitness, I do not know... Jun 22 '15 at 18:37
  • @AlexPritchard - Probably both. :) As you get more efficient as a runner, your pace will increase for the same cadence, and the faster you run, the more your cadence will increase as well.
    – JohnP
    Jun 23 '15 at 15:28

Short answer, 180 is an example cadence, not the optimum, although it's a typical minimum number for competitive runners and a good starting point.

Your height, weight, leg and stride length and running ability will determine your optimal cadence. Everyday runners generally fall between 160-170 steps per minute, while elite runners strike the ground around 180 steps per minute or higher—with some getting above 200 at their fastest speeds.

Unfortunately, there really isn't a formula, so it's basically a matter of determining your cadence, and then trying to change it and seeing if it works for you.

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