The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

A Simple, Surprising Answer to Running Injuries: Pick Up the Pace

Posted by on Monday, December 7th, 2015


One of the secrets of the world’s most elite runners and triathletes is that a quicker pace does much more than simply win a race. Running faster is also a key component of injury prevention, particularly for the knees, hips, ankles, and feet.1 Recreational runners tend to hit a stride of about 160 steps per minute, compared to elite runners’ 180 steps per minute. What difference does 20 steps really make? We look to recent research to illustrate our point and give you a couple useful suggestions for improving your running cadence before injury strikes.

avoiding running injuries
Avoiding a running injury may be simpler than you expect. Some experts say running faster is the key. Image Source: Wikimedia CC

What Science Says About Quicker Cadence

A study of 45 runners published in the journal Gait and Posture found that, when runners increased their natural stride rate by just 5-10%, their glutes responded differently during the foot strike phase of the gait cycle. Experts concluded that the different muscle activation patterns removed stress from the knee to the glutes and created a stride that was less prone to anterior knee pain injuries.

As Colorado triathlon coach Ryan Knapp explains, “If a runner has a foot strike around 160, chances are that he or she is a heel striker and the leg is overextending. This can create a braking motion, which causes injuries due to the impact on the body. The over-extension leads to a different landing posture, which forces the glutes to work differently.”2

At least three other studies arrived at similar conclusions. In February 2011, researchers published their findings in the journal of Medical Science Sports & Exercise that “subtle increases in step rate can substantially reduce the loading to the hip and knee joints during running and may prove beneficial in the prevention and treatment of common running-related injuries.”3

In 2012, scientists wrote in the International Journal of Sports Medicine: “Adopting a step frequency greater than one’s preferred may be practical in reducing the risk of developing a tibial stress fracture by decreasing lower extremity loading variables.”4

In January 2013, a third unpublished study presented at the American Physical Therapy Association Conference found that “Increasing cadence by 5% in healthy runners decreases plantar loading associated with lower extremity injury.”5

5 Ways to Run Faster

Hit the track with a stopwatch and count how many strides you take in a minute. If you need to pick up the pace, here are a couple methods to help you improve your running cadence:

  • Check out, JogTunes, or to find music with 180 BPM to get your feet moving in sync.
  • Use a fitness metronome to help you focus on stride rate.
  • Try running exercises that will train your legs to move faster.6
  • Practice running on a treadmill to nail the stride rate you desire.
  • Add biking intervals to your runs to get your legs really pumping.7

Be sure to focus on a gradual increase in cadence to avoid feeling sore.

Avoiding Running Injuries with NYC Gait Analysis

Over the years, there has been much debate in the running community about the key to avoiding running injuries, be it a different foot strike pattern, variable cadence, or switching running shoe styles. The best way to see the stress your stride, foot strike, and cadence place on your individual body is to stop by one of the Manhattan or Westchester offices of The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine for a computerized gait analysis, which will reveal where your pressure distribution points are and shed some new light on how you can take steps to prevent future injuries. Contact us to learn more about gait analysis, injury diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation in New York City.




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If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports MedicineDr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.