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Cadence of 180 steps/min to treat and reduce risk of running injury

Discussion in 'Biomechanics, Sports and Foot orthoses' started by Craig Payne, Dec 10, 2011.

  1. Craig Payne

    Craig Payne Moderator


    Members do not see these Ads. Sign Up.
    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:
    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.

    I found this quote and argument
    (*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:
    Then there was this paper:
    Effects of step rate manipulation on joint mechanics during running.
    Heiderscheit BC, Chumanov ES, Michalski MP, Wille CM, Ryan MB.
    Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2011 Feb;43(2):296-302.
    The above study was discussed here.

    Back to the forum linked above, another made this comment:
    That is certainly consistent with Irene Mclay's recent publication: Landing Pattern Modification to Improve Patellofemoral Pain in Runners.

    One blogger interpreted this research as:
    ..... but they do need a lesson in what science is!

    Another runner blogged about their experiences:
    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!

    On the other side of the coin, Sweat Science had this blog: The problem with 180 strides per minute: some personal data:
    Some interesting discussion are followed that post.

    Over at RunBlogger, there was this: Running Speed: Human Variability and The Importance of Both Cadence and Stride Length:
    He concluded that:
    There was also this from a former RW editor:

    I also notice that in none of my looking into this, did I come across anything on stiffness and its relationship to the concept (eg we had this thread: Step Frequency, Clinical estimate of leg stiffness left/right differences)

    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.

    What say you?
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 22, 2016
  2. These days I try to avoid these kind of threads because they seem to pull in the non-healthcare professionals (i.e. amateur runners), but here goes....

    Lets start with a bit of Socratic learning- why do people adopt a given natural cadence when running?
  3. "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."

    Nope, just plain old slower running with identical kinematics will result in a lower cadence regardless of "height off the ground". JEEZ, there is so much wrong with the above statement :bash: :bang::butcher:
  4. OK, nice Java applet here: http://www.lon-capa.org/~mmp/kap13/cd361a.htm

    Set the right hand slider to 1 N/m and press start allow it to run for about 10 seconds, press stop. Set the righthand slider to 100 N/m press start.

    Things to note- the amplitude of the oscillation is unchanged; the frequency of the oscillation increases with increasing spring stiffness- think about the implications of this when running is modelled as a spring mass system.
  5. David Smith

    David Smith Well-Known Member

    I believe what is missing from the consideration of force reduction with increased cadence is 1) Velocity of forward progression and 2) In what respect force is reduced. So if the velocity of forward progression is constant then increasing cadence will attenuate the GRF impulse/integral at the foot ground interface at each step.

  6. increase or decrease rather than increase alone I would argue

    as in a formula where n = 1 at which if 180 is the cadence there will some who increase and some who decrease there cadence.

    so some will increase their impacts per min some will decrease - if this takes them into or out of their own personal physiological window will determine injury chance.

    got to go finish some electric wiring before I finish the shed attached to the caport before the snow stays

    have a good weekend
  7. David Smith

    David Smith Well-Known Member

    Actually Mike my first statement was not entirely correct since this person (quoted in Craig's OP) did equate velocity with cadence.

    "How can you limit this force? A more recent study 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. The researchers analyzed the stride of runners who decreased stride length—and increased their cadence—by ten percent and found a significantly decreased chance of injury. This isn’t a true empirical test, but the model the researchers used did find that likelihood of injury is reduced with a shorter stride. The other studies Hreljac mentions in his review support this model: They find fewer real-world injuries in runners with less vertical impact in each stride."

    The 'recent study' they refer to is this one:

    Effects of stride length and running mileage on a probabilistic stress fracture model.
    Edwards WB, Taylor D, Rudolphi TJ, Gillette JC, Derrick TR.
    Department of Kinesiology, Iowa State University, Ames, IA 50011-1160, USA. edwards9@iastate.edu
    The fatigue life of bone is inversely related to strain magnitude. Decreasing stride length is a potential mechanism of strain reduction during running. If stride length is decreased, the number of loading cycles will increase for a given mileage. It is unclear if increased loading cycles are detrimental to skeletal health despite reductions in strain.

    To determine the effects of stride length and running mileage on the probability of tibial stress fracture.

    Ten male subjects ran overground at their preferred running velocity during two conditions: preferred stride length and 10% reduction in preferred stride length. Force platform and kinematic data were collected concurrently. A combination of experimental and musculoskeletal modeling techniques was used to determine joint contact forces acting on the distal tibia. Peak instantaneous joint contact forces served as inputs to a finite element model to estimate tibial strains during stance. Stress fracture probability for stride length conditions and three running mileages (3, 5, and 7 miles x d(-1)) were determined using a probabilistic model of bone damage, repair, and adaptation. Differences in stress fracture probability were compared between conditions using a 2 x 3 repeated-measures ANOVA.

    The main effects of stride length (P = 0.017) and running mileage (P = 0.001) were significant. Reducing stride length decreased the probability of stress fracture by 3% to 6%. Increasing running mileage increased the probability of stress fracture by 4% to 10%.

    Results suggest that strain magnitude plays a more important role in stress fracture development than the total number of loading cycles. Runners wishing to decrease their probability for tibial stress fracture may benefit from a 10% reduction in stride length.

    This correlates force with stress fracture (osseous) but of course if we consider injuries in general then soft tissues are more likely to be involved most times I would imagine and therefore soft tissue stress may not be directly related to peak vGRF of force integral/impulse at the foot- ground interface.
    Although (IMO) in ambulatory exercises and for a given kinematic action of interest, the injury probability is likely to be directly linked to change in GRF in one or several orthogonal directions. However, a change in cadence will result in a change of kinematic action of interest so varying cadences could not be directly compared in this way.

  8. Griff

    Griff Moderator

    My understanding is that individuals will tend to naturally pick the cadence (along with other linked running characteristics) which is the most metabolically efficient for them

  9. Here is another short paper by the same authors

  10. David Smith

    David Smith Well-Known Member

    For a given mileage, a decrease in running speed
    reduces the likelihood for tibial stress fracture.
    Strain magnitude may play a more important role in
    stress fracture development than the total number of
    loading cycles.

    Thanks Ian, this appears to agree with both Simon and I and is consistent with normal engineering criteria that high peak loads at fast loading rates = material fracture and failure. Although some research lately appears to indicate that it is the rate of loading and not the peak load that determines injury/pathology in biological tissues. (Can't find the ref to cite at present.)

  11. One of the most important points to consider in this discussion is that the step frequency for increased metabolic efficiency may not necessarily also be the step frequency needed to minimize injury production. So, when someone says that 180 steps/minute is the ideal cadence, we must first ask "ideal for what?"

    Secondly, one also needs to consider leg length in the equation for step frequency optimization. Individuals with longer legs will naturally run with decreased step frequency than individuals with shorter legs.

    Finally, one must consider the running velocity when talking optimizing step frequency. Faster running speeds will show increased step frequencies and slower running speeds will show decreased step frequencies.

    In other words, to say that every runner "runs best at a cadence of 180 steps per minute" is not only over-simplifying a complex neuromechanical-metabolic event for the bipedal human but may be absolutely wrong for many runners, leading them toward decreased metabolic efficiency and increased injury rates during running.

    Here is a nice posting from RunBlogger on the subject.

  12. Here is where I'm at: a spring mass oscillator (a human runner) has a natural frequency (cadence) which is determined largely by the stiffness of the spring (leg). When a runner runs they should aim to match their cadence to their leg stiffness + surface stiffness (lets call this the net system stiffness). When the frequency of oscillation (cadence) is mismatched to the net system stiffness then the metabolic cost increases and the likelihood of injury increases as the stress on the tissues is likely increased in this situation too. I'm also guessing the body naturally and automatically attempts to match the cadence to the net system stiffness, and this is how it naturally adopts the most metabolically efficient cadence; fannying about with cadence will probably lead to injury if not managed correctly- just guessing.

    This is all very Tom McMahon, but then he is one of my heroes. Perhaps he should be included in the "classic papers thread", Kevin?

    Wot no Verne T. Inman in that thread? ;)
  13. Craig Payne

    Craig Payne Moderator

  14. DaVinci

    DaVinci Well-Known Member

    I to have noticed this 180 come up recently to. Following some of Paynie's links and reading about both sides does it not strike everyone about the total lack of evidence of either view. Yet despite this, look at the strength of the claims being made for it. Clinically we are being forced more to an evidence based practice. What about the running coaches doing the same?
  15. Adam Fenton

    Adam Fenton Welcome New Poster

    My 2 cents on a topic close to my heart.
    I ran at a reasonable level through my teenage years and into my 20's. I eventually stopped after battling bilateral medial tibial stress syndrome for 9 years. Everything short of surgery including shoes/orthotics, ice/anti-inflams, stretching/massage, running surface, workload, was addressed with modest success.

    After 6 years away from running and now working as a podiatrist, I began training to compete in triathlons. Despite a gradual build up over several months, MTSS along with knee pain sufaced. My experienced physio examined my gait and said I "run like an elephant" (I weigh 67kg) and that I need to land more softly. Armed with this advice, through trial and error I found the best way to "land softly" was to reduce my stride length with a subsequent reduction in hip flexion, adopting a midfoot strike pattern and increasing my cadence. It probably took me around 6 months for the change in gait to start feeling normal and sustainable over distance. I did notice that initially it seemed to take more effort and like previous comments, I wondered about the body choosing a cadence that is most metabolically efficient.

    After 2 years, three marathons and several half marathons later, I'm running relatively injury free. Changing gait has had the biggest impact on reducing my injury rate than any other measure I have attempted. Unfortunately, I don't seem to be any quicker... probably getting too old for this.

  16. NewsBot

    NewsBot The Admin that posts the news.

    Changes in muscle activation patterns when running step rate is increased.
    Chumanov ES, Wille CM, Michalski MP, Heiderscheit BC.
    Gait Posture. 2012 Mar 16.
  17. NewsBot

    NewsBot The Admin that posts the news.

    Step Frequency and Lower Extremity Loading During Running
    Hobara, H.; Sato, T.; Sakaguchi, M.; Sato, T.; Nakazawa, K.
    Int J Sports Med 2012; 33(04): 310-313
  18. Craig Payne

    Craig Payne Moderator

  19. JohnD

    JohnD Member

    It appears that stiffness is matched to cadence, not the other way around. Your spring-mass thought experiment is only valid if leg stiffness does not change with cadence (i.e. same spring, different frequencies) or if cadence is set in response to stiffness. But...


    The "180 is a magic number" is very old-hat, but don't throw out the baby with the bathwater. While you'll never see ANY runner cruising along at 4:30 mile pace with a stride frequency of 160 or 170, there are certainly some runners who have cadences that low at more moderate paces (7:00-8:00/mi). What interests me is not so much the individual response of cadence to changing paces (because of course cadence * stride length = speed, so to go faster one or both of those factors must increase), but the range of cadences amongst a GROUP of runners (of equal ability) at a given pace.

    So, given a group of serious recreational marathoners who train at around 8:00/mi for 50mi/week, are the runners with a low cadence at higher risk for injury than the runners with a high risk of injury?
  20. I never said leg stiffness doesn't change with cadence, what I did say was that for a given leg stiffness there is an optimal cadence, or if you like for a given cadence there is an optimal leg stiffness. I also said that if the cadence and leg stiffness was mismatched outside of this optimal zone then this may result in a decrease in metabolic efficiency and/ or an increase in injury risk.

    How does a runner change their cadence if not by manipulating their leg stiffness, so does the leg stiffness drive the change in cadence or does the cadence drive the change in leg stiffness? Farley's work that you cited doesn't answer this. Moreover, it doesn't really matter. My contention is valid regardless.

    Lets say my natural self selected cadence was 180 steps per minute, but I consciously over-ride this and try to run at 240 steps/ minute; sure my leg stiffness will change, but so to has the muscular workload. My contention is that this will decrease metabolic efficiency and increase injury risk.
  21. I thought that I might try to save some time in this discussion... How can cadence and leg stiffness be mismatched? I hear you say. When runners change their cadence their leg stiffness changes. Or, was it that when they changed their leg stiffness their cadence changed? Never mind...

    Because... variation in cadence does not explain 100% of the variance in leg stiffness, nor vice-versa. So, if other factors account for some of the variance in leg stiffness other than just cadence, then leg stiffness could be altered by these other factors irrespective of cadence? Yes. What about if it's the leg stiffness which "causes" the cadence? It might do, but other variables will also be predictors, so the same is true.

    Lets try to make some sense out of the other point "JohnD" wrote:
    I presume he meant to write something like:
    "are the runners with a low cadence at higher risk for injury than the runners with a higher cadence?"

    Not necessarily. I'm not aware of any study which has demonstrated cadence per se to be a predictor of injury. Even if such a study existed, I'm sure there are other predictors of injury that should come into play. Given the link between leg stiffness and cadence, you could make the argument that the risk for specific types of injury may vary between the groups. http://www.udel.edu/PT/davis/stiffness_update.pdf but again, leg stiffness in isolation is not a universal predictor of pathology. It also gets complicated because we have evidence to suggest that fatigue may be a predictor of some injuries. We have evidence which suggests that someone running outside of their subconsciously selected cadence is less metabolically efficient; increasing fatigue which might increase the risk of injury too- lets say someone did this and got injured. Was it their cadence that "caused" the injury, or the fatigue level induced by this, or some other factor?

    I guess it might depend on just how "serious" they are too along with how "recreational" they are :rolleyes:;):cool:
  22. JohnD

    JohnD Member

    I'm unconvinced of this idea that the body naturally adapts to its ideal cadence and stride. While you are correct in that there is no (direct) evidence that high or low cadences are associated with injury, there is some peripheral evidence that indicates your natural adaptation may not be the most ideal, at least from an injury perspective:

    Effects of stride length and running mileage on a probabilistic stress fracture model. Edwards WB, Taylor D, Rudolphi TJ, Gillette JC, Derrick TR. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2009 Dec;41(12):2177-84.

    Gait retraining to reduce lower extremity loading in runners. Crowell HP, Davis IS. Clin Biomech (Bristol, Avon). 2011 Jan;26(1):78-83.

    Effects of step rate manipulation on joint mechanics during running. Heiderscheit BC, Chumanov ES, Michalski MP, Wille CM, Ryan MB. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2011 Feb;43(2):296-302.

    All of which indicate, in a small way, that active interventions (whether that be altering stride rate, running mechanics, etc.) may be able to reduce the risk of injury. Now, you may say that reduced joint loading associated with a +10% change in cadence is not directly linked to any injury, and you'd be right. But given the proposed "engineering perspective" that large load cycles and loading rates (not total number of loading cycles) is associated more strongly with injury (re the Edwards paper), AND given that increasing cadence appears to decrease the maximum load on joints, you would need to explain why lower joint loading increased injury risk rather than decreased it, as predicted.

    The metabolic argument (higher O2 consumption --> more fatigue --> eventually more loading) is plausible, but given the rather small changes in O2 consumption at various stride lengths, I'm not yet convinced of that either. I would, however, like to see a study that examined changes in muscular fatigue (whether measured directly by strength testing or indirectly by EMG or similar) when comparing running at your natural cadence and an "adapted" cadence—as well as whether this difference in fatigue (if any) changes over time.

    Some researchers have suggested that the body evolved to maximize metabolic efficiency at the expense of mechanical integrity—meaning, given the choice between lowering oxygen cost or lowering mechanical stress, the body will choose the former. Indeed, it does seem that the body is (at least initially) more efficient at its natural cadence, but 1) it is quite possible that the body can easily adapt and become efficient at a new cadence and 2) changes in VO2 over a range of cadences are rather mild:


    Looking forward to your thoughts.
  23. I'm a little pushed for time and interest. Being unconvinced is your prerogative. The fact remains that self selected running seems to be the most metabolically efficient as you state yourself later here. There are probably different ideals, one for metabolic efficiency and maybe a different one for speed. But fatigue is linked with injury.

    Yep, let me say this again: cadence is ony one factor which may or may not be a predictor for injury.
    I don't have time to review these tonight, but I'm guessing that none of these demonstrated that cadence caused injury. Nor that cadence was altered without influencing any other factor. Just a guess.
    Do they really? As I said, I'll have to take your word for that tonight as I'm pretty busy. We can come back to this though- right? That someone gets better from an injury when cadence is altered does not mean that cadence caused the injury.

    I thought Nigg showed that increased loading didn't increase injury risk? If the load isn't on the joints, where has it gone? Increased cadence in association with decreased stride length = more loading cycles per metre- that might explain it, right?

    Or, could active interventions increase the risk of injury? Any evidence here? Why might lower joint loading increase the risk of injury? More steps per metre; Viscoelasticity; ZOOS; increased soft tissue loading etc.

    I actually said increased fatigue has been shown to be linked to injury. Given the reports of this within the literature, it's obviously plausible.

    Clinical effect size?

    Like I said, that's your prerogative. And you are an expert in exercise physiology? Exercise medicine? Or, just a keen amateur runner?

    There's also evidence that some people carry a gene which predisposes them to Achilles tendonosis..... The point is cadence is just one variable in a big old complex situation. Maybe if you introduced yourself properly, I'd be more inclined to spend more time answering you. Maybe if you referenced your contentions I might too. "You are not convinced" and you are? Meanwhile, I'm contributing my thoughts to a publication on foot orthoses tonight. It's my prerogative to not bother to respond here to keen amateur runners who are not foot health professionals, and to people who do not provide their real name. I'm sure you understand that too.
  24. Athol Thomson

    Athol Thomson Active Member

    Simon and John D,

    The papers are attached.

    I am in the middle of a lit review for tibial stress fractures so had them handy. The take home message from the review so far is that Stress fractures are multi-factorial in origin. (surprise!)

    There seems to be a recent focus on vertical loading rate from researchers but is this variable more or less important than any of the other known risk factors for tibial stress fracture?? Such as free moment, peak rearfoot eversion, peak hip adduction, tibial cross section or section modulus, muscle fatigue increasing bone strain, female sex etc.

    Of the attached studies:

    The Crowell and HEIDERSCHEIT studies were conducted using a treadmill

    The Edwards study was on 10 male subjects who ran overground in the lab. Discussion below:

    DiscussionTherefore, runners
    wanting to reduce their probability for tibial stress
    fracture may benefit from a decrease in running
    speed. This finding was a direct result of the
    reduced joint contact forces and therefore reduced
    strains associated with slower running speeds.
    Because a reduction in running speed was also
    associated with an increase in the number of loading
    cycles for a given running mileage, it appears that
    stress fracture development is more dependent on
    loading magnitude rather than loading exposure.
    This statement is of course specific to the
    parameters investigated in this study and may
    therefore not apply to different running velocities
    and mileages.
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 8, 2012
  25. Craig Payne

    Craig Payne Moderator

  26. NewsBot

    NewsBot The Admin that posts the news.

    The Effects of Running Cadence Manipulation on Plantar Loading
    Wellenkotter, Jedd P.; Meardon, Stacey A.; Kernozek, Tom; Suchomel, Timothy
    Combined Societies Mtg; American Physical Therapy Association; San Diego January 21-24. 2013
  27. Craig Payne

    Craig Payne Moderator

    These two papers just came across via Twitter. Obviously cycling is not running, but:

    The Relationship Between Freely Chosen Cadence and Optimal Cadence in Cycling
    IJSPP Volume 7, Issue 4, December; 2012, 7, 375 – 381
    Determinants of “optimal” cadence during cycling
    Les Ansleya & Patrick Cangley
    European Journal of Sport Science Volume 9, Issue 2, 2009 pages 61-85
  28. NewsBot

    NewsBot The Admin that posts the news.

    The Power of Auditory-Motor Synchronization in Sports: Enhancing Running Performance by Coupling Cadence with the Right Beats.
    Bood RJ, Nijssen M, van der Kamp J, Roerdink M
    PLoS ONE 8(8): e70758. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0070758 (2013)
  29. NewsBot

    NewsBot The Admin that posts the news.

    Influence of Stride Frequency and Length on Running Mechanics
    A Systematic Review

    Amy G. Schubert, Jenny Kempf, Bryan C. Heiderscheit
    Sports Health: A Multidisciplinary Approach October 23, 2013
  30. Craig Payne

    Craig Payne Moderator

    Here is a really good example of cadence vs stride length:

    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 22, 2016
  31. NewsBot

    NewsBot The Admin that posts the news.

    The Effects of Running Cadence Manipulation on Plantar Loading in Healthy Runners.
    Wellenkotter J, Kernozek TW, Meardon S, Suchomel T.
    Int J Sports Med. 2014 Mar 4.
  32. NewsBot

    NewsBot The Admin that posts the news.

    The Relationship Between Running Cadence, Performance, and Injury in Male and Female Collegiate Cross-Country Runners
    JeBasia Turner, Jaquelyn Fletcher, Olivia Stoklosa, Burcu Aydemir, Karrie Hamstra-Wright, PhD
    Journal of Kinesiology and Nutrition Student Research Vol 2 (2014)
  33. NewsBot

    NewsBot The Admin that posts the news.

    Influence of Stride Frequency and Length on Running Mechanics
    A Systematic Review

    Amy G. Schubert, PT, DPT, Jenny Kempf, MPT, CSCS and Bryan C. Heiderscheit, PT, PhD
    Sports Health: A Multidisciplinary Approach May/June 2014 vol. 6 no. 3 210-217
  34. NewsBot

    NewsBot The Admin that posts the news.

  35. NewsBot

    NewsBot The Admin that posts the news.

    Hip Muscle Loads During Running at Various Step Rates
    Rachel Lenhart, MS, Darryl Thelen, PhD, Bryan Heiderscheit, PT, PhD
    J Orthop Sports Phys Ther, Epub 25 August 2014. doi:10.2519/jospt.2014.5575
  36. mr2pod

    mr2pod Active Member

    Can someone please post the full article?
  37. NewsBot

    NewsBot The Admin that posts the news.

    The effect of a cadence retraining protocol on running biomechanics and efficiency: a pilot study
    Jocelyn F. Haferab, Allison M. Brown, Polly deMille, Howard J. Hillstrom & Carol Ewing Garber
    Journal of Sports Sciences
  38. NewsBot

    NewsBot The Admin that posts the news.

    Stride frequency in relation to oxygen consumption in experienced and novice runners.
    de Ruiter CJ, Verdijk PW, Werker W, Zuidema MJ, de Haan A.
    Eur J Sport Sci. 2014;14(3):251-8.
  39. NewsBot

    NewsBot The Admin that posts the news.

  40. NewsBot

    NewsBot The Admin that posts the news.

    The effect of a cadence retraining protocol on running biomechanics and efficiency: a pilot study
    Jocelyn F. Hafer, Allison M. Brown, Polly deMille, Howard J. Hillstrom & Carol Ewing Garber
    Journal of Sports Sciences, Volume 33, Issue 7, 2015

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