6 Weeks to Barefoot Running – Part 4: Cadence

Written by Barefoot Dawsy

<<Back to Part 3: Lifting Your Feet or Start From The Top

4 weeks have passed since our first barefoot running session, and you should be starting to feel just a little bit like a barefoot runner. If you’ve been following along, you should now understand how to land and lift your foot, and the importance of bending your knees. Up until now, we’ve focused on drills for reinfricing these elements, but now it’s time to do some running!

This week, I’m going to introduce you to the king of barefoot running techniques – the 180 step per minute cadence. As Dr Dan Lieberman said at a recent clinic, “Cadence is King”. The reason for this is that if you get your cadence up to the 180 steps per munute level, you will automatically gain better posture, better form, and be able to tackle advanced running techniques such as downhill running.

So what is cadence, and why is it so important? In a nutshell, cadence is the rate at which you step as you run. By increasing your cadence, you end up spending more time in the air and less time with your feet on the ground. This reduces friction, which in turn will reduce the resistance against your bidy as you run, which will translate into better efficiency and faster times.

Session 1

As usual, we’er going to start with a run. Head out at a slow pace and run for around 10 minutes. Feel free to choose any route you like, but ideally you want to avoid grass as much as possible and pick a hard surface to run on. The last thing you need at this point is to step on something hidden in the grass, or pick up bad habits as a result of running on forgiving terrain.

As you run, focus on the lessons of the past few weeks: bend your knees, land softly, and lift your feet. Don’t worry about speed at this point, just run nice and easy, and breathe through your nose. You should be able to talk comfortably at this pace (though keep your voice down or people might give you funny looks!).

Check your feet for blisters and your legs for soreness. A little bit is ok, but if you have rock hard calves, sore achilles tendons, or sore feet, then take a couple days off and repeat this session until you can do it without pain. Listen to your feet as you run and try to keep the lessons in mind.

Assuming you’re ready, go on to the next session.

Session 2

Today we’re working on getting your cadence up. To do this, you’re going to need a watch, clock, metronome, or some other tool that you can use to measure seconds.

With your measuring device where you can see or hear it, start running in place. You want to aim to take 3 steps per second (eg; left, right, left). You may feel like you’re moving too fast at this point, and it can be a bit daunting.

To compensate for the speed increase, try lifting your feet only enough to get them off the ground. This should result in a sort of shuffle. Running like this is much more energy efficient at low speeds and will greatly increase your ability to run longer distances without injury.

Now, keep shuffling and push your hips forward slightly. You should get the urge to move forward. Go ahead and let yourself move. Shuffle along for about 30 or so steps then turn and come back. Do this a few times until you get the feel for it.

Session 3

Now that you have the basic shuffling motion sorted, we’re going to take it to the streets. Pick a nice 5-10 minute route for a run. Try to find one that is mostly flat as for now it will be easiest to learn on.

Head out for your jog, and focus on keeping your cadence up to 3 steps per second. A simple way to do this is to find a song to step along to in your head. The best songs for this are waltzes, which have a 1-2-3, 1-2-3, 1-2-3 sort of beat. I normally end up getting the Beatles’ song Norwegian Wood stuck in my head when I’m running because of this!

Sessions 4 & 5

This week we’re going to repeat the 4th session twice. All you need to do at this level is to keep practicing your running, focusing on all the different techniques we’ve learned so far. Try to go a little further than you did on your previous session, but don’t increase the distance by more than 20% at this point. As always, listen to your body and try to figure out what it’s telling you. If you feel any pain, slow down, adjust your style, and if you can’t make the sore bit feel better, then walk the rest of the way.


  1. 10 minute run complete
  2. Learn to shuffle
  3. 1k run complete
  4. Session 4 run complete
  5. Session 5 run complete
  6. No blisters/soreness

On to Part 5: Posture >>


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