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Stride Length and Step Length: Measuring & Improving Running Stride

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Stride length is an essential measure in gait analysis, a segment of study within biomechanics.

While run training, it’s necessary to understand the elements of your gait, as each component can have varying impacts on your performance.

If you don’t know what are strides, make sure you read our article.

What Is A Stride Length?

Stride length is the distance you cover after one step from each foot.

A simple way to measure stride length is to stand with both feet together, placing a chalk mark on the ground in front of one of your feet. Next, take a single step with the foot you put a chalk mark before and then a single step with the other foot.

Then place a chalk mark on the ground in front of the foot you took the first step with.

The distance between those two chalk marks is your stride length.

What Is Step Length?

​Step length is the distance you cover after taking one step. 

Like measuring the stride length above, you can start with both feet together, placing a chalk mark on the ground in front of your running shoes. Next, take a single step with either foot.

Then place a chalk mark on the ground in front of the foot you just stepped with.

The distance between those two chalk marks is your step length.

The average step length while walking is 2.5 feet, so the average person’s walking stride length is 5 feet (1.524 Meters).

Measuring Run Stride Length

An easy way to measure run stride length is by using a pedometer.

By measuring the number of steps you take during a specific distance, for instance, 1-mile, you can calculate both your step and stride length.

If you’re not interested in doing the math, try using a stride calculator like this one.

What Factors Determine Stride Length?

Many things go into stride length, but a person’s height is one of the most significant factors. 

In addition to height, other factors include age, health, previous injuries, and terrain; all can be factors when measuring stride length.

Average Running Stride Lengths

Did you know that the length of a stride in elite athletes often varies based on the race being run? For example, in the 1984 Olympics, women running the marathon had a stride length average of 4 feet 10 inches.

On the other hand, women competing in the 800 had an average stride length of 6 feet 8 inches. That is a considerable difference!

How many steps/strides will it take to run a mile?

It takes the average person about 2,000 steps to walk a mile.

So, based on the factors that determine stride length and the speed at which most people run, the average number of steps a runner will take in a mile is between 900 and 2,000.

On the high end, a 5-foot runner hitting a 12-minute mile will likely take 2,000 steps (1,000 strides).

On the low end, a 6-foot runner hitting a 6-minute mile pace will likely take 970 steps (485 strides).

Based on a study that measured steps per mile by both men and women while running, this chart shows the average steps per mile based on their height and run pace.

Height12 min/mile10 min/mile8 min/mile6 min/mile
5ft 0in1997171014231136
5ft 2in1970168313961109
5ft 4in1943165613691082
5ft 6in1916162913421055
5ft 8in1889160213151028
5ft 10in1862157512881001
6ft 0in180815211234947
6ft 4in178114941207920

How To Lengthen Your Stride?

You certainly can lengthen your stride, and here are the factors that can help you.

✓ Increase Flexibility – Since mobility is an essential part of a stride, increasing your flexibility can help. Before running, all athletes should perform a dynamic warm-up. Much gentler on the body than static stretching, dynamic warm-ups keep your body in tip-top shape.

✓ Improve Technique – Over and over, you hear the importance of running form. Improving your running technique can help you to lengthen your stride length. When you are running with good form, you are likely to be running efficiently and effectively.

✓ Strength Training – As a runner, strength training helps improve many areas. Strength training is another way to build stride length. In particular, you want to work on glutes, hamstrings, and quads.

✓ Plyometrics – Jump training, doing plyometrics once or twice a week will also help increase stride.

✓ Drills – There are specific drills to target stride length. We outline a few below, but it may be helpful to hire a running coach at this point in your training.

Drills To Increase Stride Length

  • Steep Hill Repeats – If you are new to hill work, start by running up the hill at quick speed 6-7 times, then easily jog back down. After getting good at that, alternate sprints up the hill (then recover after) with bounding up the hill.
  • Hop-Up Hill – It sounds crazy, but one drill done by elite marathoners is to hop partway up a hill, rest a bit, then alternate and hop up with the other foot. For this drill, only do about 15-20 hops on each foot.
  • Hill Fartleks – Find the hilliest course you can find and run the loop.
  • Barefoot Toe Running – On grass only, run up on your toes with quick, rapid-fire action.

Should You Try To Lengthen Your Stride?

Okay, so just because it is attainable, should you really work to achieve a longer stride length?  The answer is maybe. 

If you aren’t making the most of your stride length potential, chances are you could be going faster and running more efficiently. However, if you try to change things up too much and are stretching beyond what you should in search of a longer stride, you can be using extra energy and putting unnecessary stress on muscles and joints.

Research shows that the effort to increase or optimize stride length can have measurable effects on oxygen uptake (V02). Put short, a comfortable stride pattern is important to optimize energy.

How To Determine Running Cadence

To measure your cadence, set a timer for 30 seconds and count the number of times your left foot (or right foot) hits the ground. 

Double that number to account for a full 60 seconds. Then double it again to account for both feet.

For example: If you counted 40 left foot strikes in 30 seconds, you double that to get 80, then double that for a total of 160. 

Therefore, your cadence is 160.

Running experts state that 180 is the optimal cadence for running. It can be a worthy goal if you are looking to increase leg turnover and can accomplish this without injury.

Should I Focus On Lengthening My Stride?

Okay, we have come full circle. If you calculate cadence and it’s on the low side, try to work on it. Unless you’re in pain or find that all the brain space it takes to do this sucks the joy out of running, keep trying.

Try some of the drill techniques suggested above, as recommended by Olympic and other elite athlete coaches. Then, if that seems to be improving things, do some Miracle Mile time trials. What is a miracle mile? That is where you do a mile time trial monthly to see if you are improving, staying static, or losing ground.

It boils down to that increasing stride length will help them run faster for many people. So if that’s your goal, give it a whirl. However, if you’re just trying to empty out your brain and stress release while running, it may not be worth your effort.

Improving Stride Frequency

Ideally, you want to improve your stride frequency in tandem with your stride length. The number of factors that contribute to an optimal running cadence is vast, and having a robust training regimen that addresses these factors will yield the best results.

To learn more about stride frequency and how you can improve it, click here to read our post.

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