Cadence of a 'good' barefoot runner?

Discussion in 'Barefoot & Minimalist Running' started by Jaap Francke, Jan 15, 2018.

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What is your cadence on easy surface? Are you tall or short?

  1. <175 (length below 6 foot 1 inch)

    2 vote(s)
    9.5%
  2. 175-180 (length below 6 foot 1 inch)

    8 vote(s)
    38.1%
  3. 180-185 (length below 6 foot 1 inch)

    3 vote(s)
    14.3%
  4. 185-190 (length below 6 foot 1 inch)

    2 vote(s)
    9.5%
  5. 190-195 (length below 6 foot 1 inch)

    1 vote(s)
    4.8%
  6. >195 (length below 6 foot 1 inch)

    1 vote(s)
    4.8%
  7. <175 (length above 6 foot 1 inch)

    1 vote(s)
    4.8%
  8. 175-180 (length above 6 foot 1 inch)

    2 vote(s)
    9.5%
  9. 180-185 (length above 6 foot 1 inch)

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  10. 190-195 (length above 6 foot 1 inch)

    1 vote(s)
    4.8%
  11. >195 (length above 6 foot 1 inch)

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  1. dharmadan

    dharmadan
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    Maybe instead of overall height, consider leg length or inseam? (Paul NL mentioned above. My opinion? Each person is unique.)

    I enjoyed the metronome a few times, but usually just follow what was demonstrated in this video at 3:26:

    Too slow, or too fast cadence felt like more effort. (Goldilocks voice) "Just right."

     
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  2. Paul NL

    Paul NL
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    Have you heard of https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jim_Walmsley? He won the Western States 100 (2018 and 2019). Apparently he 'only' runs with a cadence of 160! And doing so for 100 miles.
    Source, at 2:20:
    So maybe if you want to run fast ultras and you are 6feet tall you should forget about the 180 rule ;-)
     
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  3. Chris C

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    I'm 6'5 and find it pretty hard to stay above 180 without using a metronome app. I've hit 182 once or twice but it actually felt harder to do. At the time I wasn't sure if it was fitness or not being used to the rapid turnover, but I did suspect it had something to do with leg length. Add in trying to keep my knees bent (ala Ken Bob Saxton) and you can have a strange pose/waddle going on, that really can get uncomfortable. Just my experience (i'm no master at BF running)
     
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  4. trevize1138

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    I'd say 180 is a good starting point if you are unsure about your cadence. Everybody should spend a good amount of time experimenting, though. It could be that your optimal efficient cadence is closer to 190 or even 200. Or you're closer to 170 or even 160.

    What I caution against is this: walking cadence is 100-120 and you've been walking every day of your life. A slower cadence can feel "natural" because your body is likely far more used to walking than running. If you spent a lot of time trying out a 190 cadence then a 180, a 170 and eventually found you perform better at 165 then your optimal cadence is 165.

    However, if you've just sort of passively assumed something like 150-160 "feels natural" you could be cheating yourself if you didn't do some thorough testing and trials at higher cadence. Any new movement is going to feel awkward if you only do it for a few days or a week. Stick to it for a month to really compare.

    I know there are elites out there winning races close to 160 but think about that for a bit. Elites likely have legs that are stronger and better trained than you. I've always been proud of my own strong legs thanks to biking but at 5'11" I find 160 a slog leading to heavy, tired legs compared to 175 which feels light, easy and efficient.

    What's important is knowing for sure what your optimal cadence is and I'd argue the only way to know that is to explore all the gears you can to test and definitively arrive at the right one.
     
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  5. Gordon

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    At the point in the race where they did the analysis, he was running at a 7:05 pace. Pretty darn slow, in context. Even in a long race, the marathon, WR pace is under 4:40. I suspect if Walmsley ran at 4:40, you'd see his cadence increase.
     
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  6. CharlieGreen

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    I don't count steps, for me personally that would just take the life out of bare feet running for me, I just concentrate on light stepping quickly i.e not putting my feet down to hard and putting the balls of my feet down first, not heel stepping.
     
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  7. trevize1138

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    That's an excellent way to put it. When I was first figuring things out my running was all about landing my feet and making sure I was striking with the front of my foot instead of my heel while I was out there pounding the pavement.

    Land, strike, pound, bam bam bam! Ouch. Harsh.

    Running isn't aggressively beating up the ground. The ground will win that fight. Running is moving your legs at a frequency fast enough to where it's hard to prevent them from popping up and bouncing along nice and easy.
     
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  8. trevize1138

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    This thread got me thinking again about a pattern I keep seeing when discussions about the 180 cadence come up. More often than not I see people doubting or debating the 180 cadence because "I can do 175 but 180 just feels too fast."

    Do people not know that 180 is an average and being +/- 5 or even 10 off of that is just fine? The point of recommending 180 is it's less typing than recommending 170-190. Even the poll results show most people here are closer to 175 than 180 and that's perfectly fine. Only one vote was for less than 170 which only proves that outliers exist but are always very much in the minority.

    If you're closer to 150 or lower that's when you should be concerned about all the efficiency losses you're likely suffering.
     
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  9. Gordon

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    I looked at todays run and I was anywhere between 170 and 200. Flat, easy running was around 175. I have short legs for my height, 6'0", with only a 32" inseam. I have friends six inches shorter than I who can wear my pants ...

    I think it's ill advised to force cadence higher. It's like your arm swing, a diagnostic. If you're strong, smooth, and over your feet, a higher cadence happens naturally. If you're not, whatever you do to get it higher is likely to hurt your running form rather than to help.
     
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  10. Janne

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    Daniel Lieberman explains the flat energy curve consumption for humans and that comes from the energy stored on tendons[1]. I'd argue that it is more about the insertions and origins of muscles that define what the most efficient cadence is than about how tall you are.

    Also found this article about running efficiency [2] and the found average cadence is 172 +/-7 1 standard Deviation. So as other have said, it is prudent to start around that number and train at different frequencies to check what works best.

    My experience is the same as others have mentioned. Depends on the temperature of the ground,if there are things I don't want to step into and if running with something on my feet. Barefoot cadence is higher. I do cadence check when my feet start to complain and check for form.

    [1] min 38:30
    [2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4482302/
     
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  11. Larry

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    I rarely pay attention to anything when I run, but according to strava and my garmin watch the average cadence in 3 of my last 4 runs was 187 and the other one was 186, and the cadence graph is very flat. My usual pace is around 4:45/km and I'm about 5'11". Looking back through strava, if I run on rougher surfaces than the beach I find my average cadence drops, but that's more to do with slowing down to pick my way through obstacles etc.

    I wouldn't try to change cadence though, I'd be looking for a feeling of smooth, relaxed running and light landing and letting cadence (and pace for that matter) take care of itself.

    Mind you, occasionally if I'm feeling flat and my running form just feels 'off' and I can't pinpoint why, I find myself playing "16 Military Wives" by the Decemberists in my head and I just run along to that until I can finally get it out of my head. :)

    -Larry
     

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  12. Tedlet

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    I tend not to pay too much attention to technical stuff as well while I'm running. I just trot along however it feels comfortable. The (basic) watch I wear always shows cadence topping 190...
    Guess we're all different...:)
     
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  13. trevize1138

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    The particulars of running form can drive people crazy because the following two things are true:

    * Don't think about it too much
    * Don't think about it too little

    So, think about things like cadence just enough! Easy! How much is "just enough" you ask? You know, not too much and not too little. But, how do you know that, you ask? You know ... just right in the middle! But, how do you define "in the middle", you ask? I mean ... you know! No, I don't know, you say. I mean ... [makes circular motion with hands] ... you know!
     
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  14. Tristan

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    I question if it would significantly hurt your form, you just may loose some efficiency by artificially running too high of cadence and taking lots more shorter steps. Perhaps long term it would cause the muscles/tendons/ligaments to get used to not having to stretch as far and cause functional issues much like how an elevated heel shrinks the calf/Achilles tendon but that would seem pretty extreme. The bigger issue I thought was keeping your cadence up high enough to avoid over striding, which most shoddies do and especially bad barefoot. You don't want to overreach those legs and tendons etc, nor do you want your outstretched forward leg to act as a brake absorbing your forward momentum as well as promoting heelstriking and excessive force transmitted up the leg.
     
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  15. BareFootHeath

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    Well said. I find that when I start ‘gliding’ at whatever cadence it is I’m at (seems like it’s high 170s according to my app) my form feels right, there’s no overreaching, and
    my body moves effortlessly.
     
  16. Tedlet

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    Well that’s that all cleared up then...:hilarious:
     
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  17. trevize1138

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    And those are all excellent indicators. That your cadence happens to end up in the high 170s is just another example of how being around 180 isn't so much a goal to strive for but where cadence will likely end up close to when everything else about form is working right.
     
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  18. Gordon

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    I ran across a good drill for improving cadence the right way. by tightening your springs. While running on comfortable ground, clasp your hands in front of you, level with your shoulders, and lock your elbows. Make sure you lower your shoulders away from your ears. Notice how your legs and trunk feel. Now swing your arms normally and notice what changes. Switch back and forth until your legs and torso feel the same in both conditions. Measure your cadence. I'll bet it went up if it was low before.
     
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  19. Acorn63

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    One thing affecting the "comfortable cadence" could be the ratio of slow-twitch and fast-twitch muscle fibers.

    I struggle to get the cadence in 190 or close to that. 180 is doable, but after a few km it will drop close to 170 if I don't pay attention to it. Of course, I'm not much of a runner, but I think I have taught myself a decent running form and I can run 4-5 miles barefoot on asphalt without pain or blisters. I've never been fast, even when young and more fit, and I think it could be (at least partially) due to lack of fast muscle fibers.

    Or that's just an excuse, and main reason is laziness ;)
     
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  20. Gordon

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    I think that this is unlikely. Marathon runners are mostly slow twitch and run at a high cadence for hours. Think about what's happening between the time you load your stance foot and the time it leaves the ground. There is very little changing of length of your leg muscles and with no change in length, your muscles are doing little actual work. Upon landing, your knee bends, which pulls on the quad and calf. But at the same time, your hip and knee are moving in a way so as to take tension off of those muscles. So they mostly stay the same length. The same thing happens after the loading phase is complete. Knee and hip extension together maintain the length of the major leg muscles. This allows energy to be stored and released in your tendons. But for that to work, the load/release cycle has to happen very quickly. You can feel this by jumping rope or pretending to jump rope at a 180 cadence and then at half speed or less. In the first case, you feel bouncy bouncy and in the second, flat as a pancake. The major muscles cross two joints. In running, those two joints move opposite each other. Now look at the soleus muscle, the other calf muscle. It only crosses one joint. And guess where new barefoot runners, and new runners in general, get calf pain? Bingo. The soleus is mostly slow twitch fiber, BTW.

    So what's the point of all this? In order for the tendons to store and release energy, two things have to happen. One is that the tendons need to get loaded. This requires tension in the appropriate leg muscles. The second is that rebound has to happen very quickly or the stored energy is lost. If that energy is going to move your body efficiently, it requires that the core muscles be properly activated. Your core muscles keep you balanced over your foot. If your torso is flopping around, the energy released by the your tendons won't push your body in the right direction. It may not push it at all. If your torso is limp and your leg pulses your hip upward, your hip and shoulder move closer together. That doesn't move you forward or upward and the energy you stored is lost. You're going to be slow and inefficient. That's why I liked the drill I mentioned above. It tightens your core and forces your legs to work properly. If you don't do both at the same time, you can't run smoothly like that. So the more awkward that drill feels, the more you need to dial in your technique.
     
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