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I'm slightly confused: several sources define a given cadence (normally around 180 steps per minute) as ideal, but without mentioning the pace.

For instance, Garmin Connect says:

An often-citen target for running cadence is 180spm.

However, if everybody should run at 180spm, the difference between a person runnig at 4:00min/km and another one running at 5:30min/km or 7:10min/km or whatever other pace can only be the stride length.

That doesn't seem to be right... am I missing something here?

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    I believe I found a good explanation here (explaining that the adequate cadence does indeed change according to the pace), but I'll wait for proper answers. Sep 7, 2021 at 3:08
  • You can always answer your own question as well. :D
    – C. Lange
    Sep 7, 2021 at 13:26
  • The vast majority of runners self select the cadence that is appropriate for their pace. As the article says, they counted the steps of elite runners mid race. Hardly a good representative sample.
    – JohnP
    Sep 7, 2021 at 14:59
  • I've read in Daniels' book that the cadence among average to elite (long distance) runners is indeed comparable. So yes, the pace correlates mostly with the stride length! Sep 8, 2021 at 8:31

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Speaking from experience, I almost always run between 180-190spm, even when doing long, slow runs. When going all out (final sprint on races etc.) the spm might go up to 210 at the very maximum.

Your pace is made up by multiplying your spm with the average length of each step, there is not much more to it. So when I run with a slow pace, my running probably looks like a comically short shuffle more than actual running. The faster I run, the farther each step must be, and the more it will resemble actual running.

I can only speak for myself, but running with a fast cadence feels very fine and natural to me; I never had to actively train to get a faster spm.

As far as I can tell (without having a source for it), the scientific reasoning is that a fast cadence tends to make it less likely that a runner runs with a bad form - i.e. the classic extremely heavy heel strike combined with the feet landing in the front of the midline. The faster you move your feet, the more likely it is that your joints (ankles, knees) perform their natural function of shock absorbers. So; while a fast cadence might not necessarily guarantee good form, bad form might be associated with slow cadence. As usual, it seems very hard to tell which way the causation goes.

There is also a question of health - is it better for the joints, especially knees, if there are many small strikes (high spm), or fewer more heavy ones (lower spm -> relatively more flight time -> harder ground strike). I have read papers on PubMed about that IIRC, but the results were kind of inconclusive - not much data, not clear if the methodology was great, etc.

So, to sum up: there are many aspects regarding spm, but it is perfectly fine if you figure out the spm that you like the most for yourself. If you feel uncomfortable with your current running and have no idea what to try, then 180spm seems to be an average value that seems fine for a majority of people, but it is not a magic number; you can try running like that and see what happens.

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