How to Correct Overstriding

Short, quick steps are the most efficient way to run. Here's how to train your body to take them.

Jenny Hadfield |

In simple terms, your running cadence is the number of strides (or steps) you take in a minute. Knowing your running cadence is a little like knowing the tyre pressure on your car – keeping the number in an optimal range will help with efficiency.

What is optimal running cadence?

According to legendary running coach Jack Daniels, the general rule of thumb for efficient running is 90 strides per minute for one foot (180 for both), but there is variance based on leg length. If you’re too much lower than 90 strides per foot, you’re likely trying to cover too much ground with each step – a common newbie mistake. If this is the case, perform the following drill during the warm-up for one or two of your shorter runs during the week.

How to improve running cadence:

Walk two or three minutes briskly to warm up and follow with three to five minutes of easy-effort running. Then repeat the following drill four times before beginning your run:

– Jog in place focusing on taking light, quick, steps and landing under your hips and on the middle part of your foot. The goal is to run at a cadence of 180 for both feet, or 90-ish per foot.
– Next, take inventory of your cadence while running in place. You can do this by counting how many times your right foot hits the ground in 30 seconds and double it, using a device like an app or speed-distance watch that counts cadence, or even by running to the beat of a song that is at 180 beats per minute.
– Once you’re at 90ish, while maintaining the cadence, lean slightly forward from your ankles, open your stride slightly, and start to run forward. Advance for 15 to 20 seconds, then gradually slow down and walk for one minute to recover.
– Focus on keeping your feet quick and landing under your hips while extending your stride to cover more ground and run faster.

Performing this drill during your warm-up will aid in neuromuscular re-patterning and retrain the brain to first feel the difference (jogging in place with quick feet) and then change the inefficient pathways into more efficient ones on the run.

Like all new skills, dialling in your cadence will take time to learn. However, the investment of time and patience will have a profound effect on your energy management and running efficiency down the road.

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