I have been thinking about running form and specifically cadence a lot lately when I run. It always seemed to make sense to me that a runner with long legs and a long stride will be able to cover more ground and therefore be a more efficient runner. The more I have read and looked into this, that doesn’t necessarily have to be the case.
Cadence is the number of full revolutions per minutes by your two feet. So essentially how many times each foot hits the ground in a minute. Studys of Olympic marathon runners show that over 180 is ideal. Now if you have really long legs and a long stride it is hard to get over 180. Unless you have proper running form (or your legs are moving extremely fast).
Proper running form doesn’t look like I always thought it did. I would see my daughter running at cross country meets and think if she would just open her stride up and push a little harder she would be so much faster. What would have actually happened if she had done what I wanted is she would have been overstriding and landing on her heel instead of midfoot. Heel striking causes the body to miss aligned to absorb shock. That leads to more injuries. Learning to have proper running form not only helps you improve times, but make you less likely to suffer injuries that will slow your training.
Cadence has been my focus lately and it is hard to get changed. In general I think I do over stride and this had lead to a lower cadence. Keep in mind that above 180 is optimal, but cadence hinges on pace. So if you are a 11 min pace person you optimal won’t be the same as a 7 min pace person. The important thing is to get your foot landing under your hips so that your weight is above your foot to push off. Your foot can’t propel you forward (stride) if the hips and upper body is behind it. What happens is that your momentum lets your body catch up with the foot while the foot waits to get proper leverage to push off again. This is not efficient and slows you down.
There are multiple factors that go into proper running form and I am certainly not an expert. I like this article from Running Competitor about “The Five Most Common Running Form Mistake“. It talks about Cadence, Heel Strike, Mobility, Upper Body, and Speed. I think it is well worth your time to read if you are hoping to have less injuries and run more efficient.