The bigger each step is, the farther in front of your body your feet land. That increases shear force (when two parts of the body are being pushed in opposite directions) between your foot and your knee, explains Janet Hamilton, CSCS, an exercise physiologist and running coach in Atlanta who was not associated with the study. Shortening your stride—in other words, taking more steps per minute—reduces that force, protecting your knees and hips from pain and injury.
To determine your current cadence, run on a treadmill at a comfortable pace and multiply the number of steps you take over 60 seconds by two. It should be around 170, Hamilton says.
The bottom line:
If your cadence is below that, increase it gradually until you either hit 170 or you’ve upped it by five percent, whichever comes first. You can do this either by listening to songs that have the same beats per minute as your goal step rate or by making a conscious effort to take shorter strides. Adds Diana Katsikaris, a Boston-based Precision Run coach: The steeper the hill, the shorter your steps should be.