Cadence for Runners

Tempo v2.5.0 makes it easy for runners to analyze cadence data.

Cadence, also known as stride rate, is number of steps taken per minute (SPM). It is measured by counting number of times both the feet hit the ground in a minute. Back in the day, measuring cadence was a manual task done by counting number of times one of the feet hit the ground in a minute and multiplying that number by 2. These days, most running watches display live cadence on our wrist during a run.

If you think about it, at a very basic level, running pace (speed) is the byproduct of how fast the feet move (cadence) and how far they move with each step (stride length).

Pace = Cadence x Stride Length

So generally speaking, faster cadence would mean faster pace. That's easier said than done due to physical and physiological condition and limitations of our bodies.

In his book Daniels' Running Formula, legendary running coach Jack Daniels describes ideal cadence to be 180 SPM. He derived this number by observing runners compete from 800 meters all the way up to the marathon distance at the 1984 Olympics.

Apple Watch started supporting live cadence in the Workout app with watchOS 5.0. Doing some quick analysis of my past data, it looks like there is cadence data saved by the Workout app from pre-watchOS 5.0 versions as well. But the older cadence data was sampled at around 10 mins intervals vs every few seconds in the latest version.

Good news is that all this data is also saved and available in the Health app for us to analyze. So with v2.5.0, Tempo now supports a detailed view of cadence data. You can view your cadence (along with pace and heart rate) for every split, and interact with a timeline of your cadence tracked over the entire run on a graph. I have wanted this feature for a while now, and I am not alone; there have been a lot of runners who have made this feature request. And it looks like there are even more runners out there, waiting on other running apps to support it. Please do give Tempo a try while you are waiting :)

There's a lot more information about why cadence matters, how to improve it, and different coaches' advice and opinions on the topic. You should really first study your own data, learn more about cadence, maybe get some pro help, before experimenting to use cadence as the next make me faster trick.

Disclaimer: please do not take any of this information as running advice or coaching guidance. The data in Tempo is from your Apple Watch and should be accurate (unless otherwise due to software bugs). My explanation of cadence above is my understanding from reading various posts and books about running, and from my general training experience. Your mileage may vary.