Overstriding and cadence/injury risk

This article was originally posted by Ryan at the original HillRunner.com Blogs.

Because I’m busy watching the Olympics and writing Seattle Marathon training plans this week and because I have a backlog of interesting research I’ve wanted to write about, I’m going to do a recap post this week. There will still be another one on the usual schedule next week.

I have two related topics for this post. Often, people talk about increasing cadence as a method to reduce overstriding. So I have a topic on each. First, what is overstriding? Second, what is the relationship between cadence and injury risk?

What is overstriding?

We all know overstriding is bad, right? We all know what overstriding is, right?

Are you sure?

What if we don’t?

I always looked for a runner’s lower leg angle as a way to spot overstriding. Roughly speaking, if your heel is in front of your knee as your foot comes in contact with the ground, that’s not a good thing. The more your heel is in front of your knee, the worse.

Well, here’s a study that found another method worked better. Essentially, the "favorite" method of the researcher was a measure of the proportion of the overall step that was in front of the center of mass.

That’s hard to measure in the real world, though. Hopefully, more research can be done to find whether other methods are reasonably effective.

Does cadence predict injury?

Another thing we all know, your cadence (or stride rate) affects your injury risk. We hear it all the time. 180 strides per minute is the number universally offered as ideal.

Personally, I hate "universal ideals" as we are all different. The concept of a "universal ideal" instantly has my BS monitor spiking. That said, I have been known to tell people increasing your stride rate might help in some scenarios.

Does it really, though? Two recent studies offer conflicting results.

So what should we make of these studies?

First, we simply don’t know. It’s possible increasing your stride rate does lower your risk of injury. However, it’s not a sure thing.

Second, I’d point out how nobody was talking about a stride rate of 180. Most of the runners involved were in the 160s, even the low 160s. 180 sounds nice but, in the real world, it is much more likely to happen at 5:00 per mile than the paces most of us are running most of the time. If you want to work to increase your stride rate, great, give it a try. However, don’t think you have to aim for some arbitrary number just because some self-proclaimed experts say that’s the "universal ideal".

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