RUNNING GAIT MODIFICATIONS: CADENCE

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We are finding we are doing more and more Run Analysis Consults at the clinic. We are also finding more and more runners getting themselves into trouble attempting to change aspects of their running gait to either improve performance, or manage their own “niggles” and injuries based on information gathered through the internet & media, or passed on by other runners who have had success in modifying their technique.

Running is a complex functional task, and as we have touched on previously, changing any aspect of running technique changes your loading profile. The load does not just disappear. You move it, change it & re-organise it. If not done carefully, gradually, and for the right reasons, modifications to running technique can increase your risk of running-related injury.

Over the coming weeks, we will look to give you a run-down on a couple of modifications to running technique and their proposed effect on running-related injuries….

RUNNING GAIT MODIFICATION #1 – CADENCE

Cadence, or step rate, is the number of steps you take per minute. It varies greatly amongst runners, and has been linked to running-related injuries including: Anterior Exertional Lower Leg Pain; Achilles Tendinopathy; Calf Pain; Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome (Shin Splints); Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome; Patellar Tendinopathy; Hamstring Pain (& Proximal Tendinopathy); Gluteal Pain (& Tendinopathy).

The biggest question is…What is the ideal cadence? What should your cadence be?

Like any modifications to running gait, it depends on the individual. Many people would have heard of the infamous 180 steps per minute. This is a step rate advocated by many run coaches, but there is limited evidence to support this exact figure.

It is safest, supported by both evidence and expert opinion, and we certainly advocate for a gradual change to running cadence, as with all changes to running gait.

What we say, and what the evidence says is an increase in running cadence of 5-10%. This is an increase above what is ‘preferred’, or the running cadence that you naturally adopt. The trick is to increase your step rate without increasing your speed. Quicker, shorter steps…not a sprint.

AN INCREASE IN CADENCE: LOAD CHANGES & INJURY

So what happens when we increase out cadence? Again, it depends on the individual, but there is evidence (very limited – moderate) to suggest a reduction the following…

Ankle Dorsiflexion at Foot Strike; Soleus Muscle Force; Achilles Tendon Stress; Peak Tibial Acceleration; Tibial Contact Force; Patellofemoral Joint Stress; Peak Knee Flexion; Peak Knee Flexion; Knee Energy Absorption; Internal Knee Extensor Moment; Quads Force During Stance Phase; Patellar Tendon Force; Hip Energy Absorption; Peak Internal Hip Extensor Moment

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HOW ARE THEY LINKED TO RUNNING-RELATED INJURIES?

  • Injury: Anterior Exertional Lower Leg Pain

Proposed Load Change: Reduced Ankle Dorsiflexion at Foot Strike

 

  • Injury: Calf Pain

Proposed Load Change: Reduced Ankle Dorsiflexion at Foot Strike

Reduced Soleus Muscle Force

 

  • Injury: Achilles Tendinopathy

Proposed Load Change: Reduced Achilles Stress

Reduced Soleus Muscle Force

 

  • Injury: Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome (Shin Splints)

Proposed Load Change: Reduced Peak Tibial Acceleration

Reduced Tibial Contact Force

 

  • Injury: Patellar Tendinopathy

Proposed Load Change: Reduced Quads Force during Stance Phase

Reduced Patellar Tendon Force

  • Injury: Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome

Proposed Load Change: Reduced Patellofemoral Joint Stress

Reduced Peak Knee Flexion

Reduced Knee Energy Absorption

Reduced Internal Knee Extensor Moment

 

  • Injury: Hamstring Pain (& Proximal Tendinopathy)

Proposed Load Change: Reduced Hip Energy Absorption

Reduced Peak Internal Hip Extensor Moment

 

  • Injury: Gluteal Pain (& Tendinopathy)

Proposed Load Change: Reduced Hip Energy Absorption

Reduced Peak Internal Hip Extensor Moment

SUMMARY

We can’t stress enough, if you are wanting to change your running technique…do it for the right reasons, and do it gradually. Whilst changing parameters such as cadence may improve symptoms associated with running-related injuries such as those listed above, there are always multiple contributing factors to any injury. Running technique and biomechanics may not be the most important factor in your presentation.

If you’re currently experiencing a running-related injury, or have been contemplating changing your running technique…come and see us. Let us work with you to achieve the gains you’re after!

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