Running has a lot to offer as a workout, but for an activity that doesn't involve any contact with other people, it has a surprising rate of injury. Depending on the research paper you read, one to four in five runners (20-80%) will experience a running related injury. There are several different causes for injury but perhaps the most common is overuse, or poor load management - running too much without enough recovery between runs.
Another way to prevent or reduce your risk of running-related injury is increasing your cadence. Cadence is defined by the number of steps you take per minute whilst you are running, for example 160 steps per minute. This is a simple measurement that you can take on your next run. By increasing your cadence you reduce the ground reaction forces your joints, bones and connective tissues are exposed to. Lower forces = Lower risk of injury. In addition to ground forces, a higher cadence actually reduces stride length. Evidence has concluded that over-striding increases the likelihood of stress fractures.
So what should your cadence be? There’s a lot of buzz about the supposed magic of 180 steps per minute, which can be quite misleading. There is no one ideal running cadence or running technique that is going to be suitable for everyone. The general consensus is that a running cadence should be between 160-180 steps per minute, but this will vary depending on speed, height, level experience and distance.
Like anything, you don't want to drastically change your cadence the next time you go for a run. A simple way is make a change is to follow the 5 for 20 rule, in other words increasing your cadence by 5% can take up to 20% of the joint forces away from your knee. This has huge implications for any runner. Slightly shorter, faster steps can potentially be the difference between running with or without pain.
If you have suffered from running related knee pain, or would like to experiment with your cadence, chat with a qualified running coach, Physiotherapist, Exercise Physiologist with an interest in running, or another allied health professional who can guide you in the right direction.