The Runners Guide to Improving Stride Length

how to run with Flat Feet

There are many things you can do to improve as a runner, and one of the most efficient ways is to improve your running technique.

One key component of running form is stride length, but it’s often overshadowed by the debate over foot strike and which part of the foot should strike the ground first.

That’s a shame.

Whether you’re a trail runner or an ultra-marathoner, finding your ideal stride length will help keep you running strong and injury-free.

In this article, I’ll explain what stride length is all about, why it’s important, and how to examine your running form in order to improve your stride length.

What Is Stride Length?

Before we get into the technicalities, let’s first get some definitions out of the way.

Most runners use the terms stride and step interchangeably—I’ve done that on multiple occasions, too throughout this blog. But, technically, these stand for different things.

Stride length refers to the distance covered when you take a set of steps, one with each foot.  It’s essentially the length, width, or amplitude of the distance you cover with one running stride that includes two steps, the right and the left.

In technical terms, stride length is the distance covered between the initial contact of your foot and the consecutive contact of that same foot.

Stride length varies from runner to runner, but most research suggests that the ideal running stride should be relatively short.

On the other hand, step length the distance you cover when you take one step.

In running terminology, step length describes the distance covered between the initial contact of the ball of the foot and the contact of the opposite foot.

That’s why in reality, a stride length is usually double the step length—assuming that the right step is roughly the same right left step. You’ll take twice as many steps per specific duration than stride. So stride frequency equals half that of step frequency.

See, it’s not rocket science.

What Is The Average Step Length and Stride Length?

According to research, the average walking step length is about 2.5 feet or 30 inches. This means that the average walking stride length would be roughly 5 feet or 60 inches.

This means that for the average guy (and girl), the rough distance from the initial contact of the right heel and the initial contact of the left heel is just over 30 inches.

But these are mere generalities as there are many variables that influence stride length, including hip joint anatomy

  • Height
  • Gender
  • Age
  • Illness
  • Injury
  • Terrain

Running Cadence

This where the stride rate becomes more relevant in the running world.

Cadence refers to the number of your time your feet hit the ground during one minute of running and is usually expressed in steps per minute (SPM).

Surveys show that the average runner takes about 150 to 170 steps per minute, whereas elite athletes have a cadence of about 180 steps per minute or higher. The variance in stride rate boils down to elements such as fitness level, height, running technique, speed, hip strength, terrain, etc. Thus, the perfect cadence doesn’t exist.

 

To figure out cadence, count the number of times your right foot strikes the ground while running for 60 seconds, then multiply it by two.

The Problem with Stride

One of the most common mistakes a runner can make is overstriding, which means extending the foot too far in front of the body.

You might be doing this because you want to increase your speed, but this may wear out your muscles and joints—and let’s be real, running is already taxing enough. This often happens when your cadence is below 160.

Overstriding also causes excess vertical oscillation, which wastes energy bouncing up and down instead of moving forward.

What’s more?

It’s also harder to maintain a stride that’s too long overextended mileage as your body has to work harder to stride further. This, and I hate to sound like a broken record, wastes your energy and increases your fatigue.

The easiest way to maintain is to try to keep your foot strike under your body.

And as a rule, avoid the urge to lengthen your stride when trying to pick up the pace. Instead, take shorter strides and quick your turnover steps.

That way, you can increase speed without reaching too far forward with your feet.

How To Improve Your Stride Length

The best way to improve your stride length, as well as your step frequency, is to simply move your legs faster.

This might sound simple, but it’s a skill that requires endurance as well as a lot of practice. You’ll need to perform a few running form tweaks over a long time in a progressive and slow manner.

How Long Your Running Stride Should Be?

To improve speed, you’ll want to increase your cadence, pulling your foot from the ground quicker.

The shorter the time your feet are on the ground, the longer in the air, which is where forward movement occurs.

If you focus on extending or reaching forward with your leg, you’ll actually limit your speed by keeping longer on the ground.

This also forces you to wait a bit longer as your body is catching up before you take the next step. So on and so forth.

You can also work on improving your stride length by training with a metronome.

Ideally, you should shoot for 180 steps per minute, and as you pick up the pace, so does cadence. The ideal SPM for 100-meter sprints can be as high as 230. If the metronome is too old-school, try constant upbeat music.

How To Practice the Ideal Running Stride

The best way is to practice it regularly by including speedwork intervals in your workout plan.

Begin by setting your metronome at 190-200, then perform short intervals, 30 to 60 seconds long, running as fast as you can while focusing on a quick leg turnover.

Take one full minute of rest between each interval, then repeat the process for 15 to 20 minutes.

There are also plenty of drills to help you get the most out of each step while running. This helps improve your muscle elasticity and joint range of movement, which, in turn, increases your speed and endurance while delaying fatigue.

Here are a few

Hops

Power Skips

Calf Hops

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XMQ_EmjELOQ

Intention of Falling

Conclusion

There you have it. If you’re trying to improve your running stride while training, then today’s post should be enough to get you started on the right foot—no pun intended.

Please feel free to leave your comments and question in the section below.

In the meantime, thank you for dropping by.

Keep training strong.