Saturday, August 27, 2011

The transition to 180

Back in July I mentioned that I was attempting to move my cadence up by shortening my stride and transitioning to a mid/fore foot strike pattern. At some point in my past, I heard about Podrunner, but I had forgotten until Mark from Run in America reminded me and gave me an excellent suggestion. Rather than jump right into 180 strides/min he suggested gradually increasing turnover and using steadily faster music from Podrunner to help. It has worked like a charm and I feel great!

I started off primarily on the treadmill. As little as I enjoy it, that way I could be sure I was keeping the right pace while tinkering with the cadence. Over a few weeks, I slowly pushed up the same 7:30 pace up to 150, 160, and then 170. It seemed to work pretty well, but I soon realized that I was going to need to do something about my footwear. On a treadmill, it was pretty easy to keep my foot hovering low over the ground and have a midfoot strike, but I could feel my heel nearly scraping the belt. Even though the road is only slightly more uneven than a treadmill, I figured there is no way this cadence was going to work on the road and in these shoes.

The shoes are my Asics Enduros that I have been through about 12 pairs of over the years. I got to reading more about the concept of shorter strides and high cadence which led me back to Pete, (the Runblogger) who has tons of reviews and material about these topics and more. It turns out that my Asics have a heel-to-toe drop of about 12 mm, which seems to be a bit of an industry standard. This wedge shape encourages a heel strike pattern as I have come to use. Many manufacturers are now producing shoes with lower drops (4-ish mm) and some that are bascially zero drop (like Vibrams). Anyway, it is time for a change in footwear, but I will write more on my options later.

In the meantime, thanks for the suggestion Mark, and I highly agree with the recommendations. Not only to the notion of a shorter stride, but Podrunner! The beats are great and incredibly helpful in pace-keeping. DJ Steve Boyett gives the music away for free, so if you like it, be sure to hit up his Paypal page and make a donation!


  1. You're most welcome! Glad the gradual transition to an a 180 cadence worked so well (like you, my transition was similarly helped tremendously on the treadmill where I could better concentrate while listening to Podrunner). Ditto on the shoes as well, I transitioned from a comparable heel-to-toe drop shoe (the Brooks Adrenaline) to much lower drop shoes: the Newton stability trainer, the Nike Free and the Saucony Kinvara - all of which are excellent and help promote and maintain optimal high cadence mid foot landing. Nevertheless, you're bound to regress from time to time, particularly when you are pushing much higher mileage and your form gets sloppy. During these times I ask my running partners to listen to the tell tale loud slapping sound which results from my slower cadence heel-striking gait, and to remind me about my form. I find these reminders when promptly given are VERY helpful. Good luck!

  2. Dave - How has your higher cadence held-up in the ensuing months? If you've sometimes regressed (an inevitability, I'm afraid without continual effort) suggest also you buy and use a Garmin Forerunner foot-mounted foot-pod, which 'pairs' to your Forerunner and allows you to display cadence at a glance. Just as helpful is looking at the data collected on afterward as it becomes apparent how you adapt your stride to maintain a constant speed while you fatigue (typically via a slower cadence offset by a longer stride length.) Runners toys for us boys at heart! ;-)