Can Increasing Steps Rate Reduce Injuries?

Runners wearing Herron running shorts during a night race on city street.


Science of Running Performance Optimization 

and Injury Prevention

Running is not only a popular form of exercise but also an essential component of numerous sports and physical activities. Whether you are a seasoned runner or just starting, two critical aspects that should always be on your radar are running speed and injury prevention. The relationship between steps per minute (SPM) and step length plays a pivotal role in optimizing your running performance while minimizing the risk of injuries.

Understanding Steps per Minute (SPM) and Step Length

Steps per minute, also known as cadence, refers to the number of individual steps a runner takes within a minute. It is a crucial metric because it directly influences your running pace. SPM can be measured through various wearable devices, such as fitness trackers or running watches, that provide real-time data on your running cadence.

Definition and Measurement of Step Length

Step length refers to the distance covered in a single step. It depends on various factors, including your height, running speed, and technique. Measuring step length can be challenging without sophisticated equipment, but some running apps or wearable devices can provide an estimation.

The Impact of SPM and Step Length on Running Speed and Injury

The relationship between SPM and step length significantly influences your overall running speed. Many runners believe that taking long strides will automatically make them faster. However, in reality, increasing step length alone may lead to overstriding, which can increase the risk of injury and decrease running efficiency. Striking the right balance between SPM and step length is key to maximizing speed while minimizing injury risk.

The Science Behind Increasing SPM

Biomechanics of Faster Steps

Understanding the biomechanics of faster steps can help you comprehend why an increased SPM can enhance running speed. When you take more steps per minute, your foot spends less time in contact with the ground during each stride. This reduces ground reaction forces and energy loss, allowing you to propel forward more efficiently.

Optimal SPM for Efficiency and Speed

Research suggests that a higher SPM is generally associated with improved running economy and speed. While individual optimal SPM may vary, most recreational runners aim for a cadence of around 170 to 180 steps per minute.

Overcoming Challenges in Increasing SPM

Transitioning to a higher SPM can be challenging for some runners, especially those accustomed to longer strides. However, it's essential to approach this change gradually. Start by increasing your SPM by 5-10% during your easy runs and gradually incorporate it into your regular training.

The Benefits of Decreasing Step Length

By decreasing step length, you can reduce the impact on your joints and muscles. Overstriding, which often occurs with longer steps, leads to excessive braking forces that can strain your knees and hips. Shorter steps help minimize this impact and lower the risk of overuse injuries.

Enhancing Running Form and Stability

Smaller steps encourage a more upright posture and better alignment of your body. This enhanced running form promotes stability and reduces the likelihood of compensatory movements that could result in injuries.

Minimizing Overstriding

Overstriding occurs when your foot lands well ahead of your body's center of mass, putting unnecessary stress on your joints. By reducing step length, you naturally minimize overstriding and, subsequently, the risk of related injuries.

Finding the Right Balance: Increasing SPM and Decreasing Step Length

To improve your SPM, focus on increasing your cadence without sacrificing your stride quality. One effective technique is using a metronome or specialized running app that provides auditory cues for your target SPM.

Drills and Exercises to Improve Step Length

Incorporate drills and exercises that emphasize short, quick strides into your training routine. High knees, butt kicks, and fast-feet drills can help reinforce the habit of taking smaller, more frequent steps.

Integrating Both Changes into Your Running Routine

To optimize your running performance and injury prevention, aim to combine the benefits of increased SPM and decreased step length. Gradually integrate these changes into your regular training, keeping in mind that it might take some time to adapt fully.

Real-Life Applications and Tips

Consistently monitor your SPM during runs to track your progress. Most running apps and wearable devices provide cadence data, helping you stay on top of your training goals.

Listening to Your Body and Avoiding Overtraining

Increasing SPM and changing your running form may require additional effort from your muscles and joints. Listen to your body and avoid overtraining to prevent burnout and injury.

Seeking Professional Guidance and Coaching

If you are unsure about how to optimize your running technique, consider seeking guidance from a running coach or a sports professional. They can provide personalized advice and help you implement the necessary changes effectively.


In conclusion, increasing steps per minute while decreasing step length is a valuable approach to enhance your running speed and reduce the risk of injury. By optimizing your running cadence and stride length, you can improve running efficiency, decrease the impact on your body, and achieve better overall performance. Remember, progress should be gradual, and seeking professional guidance can greatly contribute to your success as a runner. So, lace up your shoes, focus on your cadence, and step into a faster and safer running journey!

Remember, running is always better, and more comfortable, in Herron Halcyon Running Shorts!

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